Thursday, January 28, 2016

5 Easy Life Hacks that Actually Work!

Let's face it, with motherhood and life in general, sometimes its those little life hacks that come in handy. I know there are a bunch floating around out there. I've tried many myself. Some work, others....well I'll be nice and say back to the drawing board for those. This post shares the top 5 Life Hacks that I've found actually work and are pretty darn helpful!

Hack #1 Cereal Bin Turned Garbage Can- I was super skeptical about this one. Seemed too good to be true, but with two growing boys, ANYTHING that helps keep the van looking less like a natural disaster is an improvement. My one issue with it, the original source didn't make use of a bag inside. It was more of a toss things in and then empty as needed. For an adult only car, this would probably be easy to pull off on a daily basis. When you factor in kids, things change. I purposely got a container with a deep fit to the lid. It allows me to put in a plastic grocery bag and fold it over the outside of the  bin with the handles out. Put the top on after you've done that, and your mini garbage can now has a liner for easy garbage removal, and those handles on the bag help anchor it in place. I hook the handles over the arm rests of the driver and passenger side up front and the can sits between the seats just behind my console. We can all reach the can and throw out our bits of garbage as needed. Best part is the flip open top means you can seal the potential stinky stuff, like fry containers, until you are able to toss the bag. This hack proves most helpful when we are road tripping it to visit the grandparents. We can eat a meal in the car to keep the kiddos occupied and then toss the garbage into the can and get rid of it when we make our next pit stop. I'd even venture to say this helps cut down on those lost french fries or finding those random half eaten lolly pop sticks shoved between the seats ;) 

Hack #2 Dollar Store Shower Caddy Turned Snack/Meal Server- When do I like using this one? Well, on those road trips of course!! This little trick is the other reason why lost bits of food is drastically reduced in my van. Now, keep in mind, these caddies come in different sizes. I went with a smaller version for the time being because it is easier for little hands and laps to hold onto them without getting to be too much for them. The larger ones will probably come in handy as they boys get older and start eating even more. All you have to do is load up the caddy with the meal or snacks and pass it along to your child. They can take it from there! Leaky juice box? The caddy will catch it since there are no holes in the bottom. Nuggets still to hot? That's fine. Their little hands hold onto the caddy, not the hot food. A quick hand washing and they'll be ready for the next use. I purposely keep them in my van for any impromptu stops, too. 

Hack #3 Shoe Organizer Turned Snack and Pantry Items Holder- I'll be perfectly frank here. I actually have three of these in my house being used for items other than shoes. The pantry incarnation is the most recent and the most liked by the kids because it means easier access to their favorite snacks. I purposely fill it on the vertical so that my younger guy can still reach the various items. The great thing is that this frees up so much space in your actual pantry for larger items like cereal and large bags of chips. For the way high up sections that they can't reach at the moment, I rigged them for my plastic wrap, foil, parchment paper, and various takeout menus. If you notice, the parchment paper boxes are a bit longer than the other items. To keep them from flopping out, I cut the bottom of the pocket just above the pocket in which the boxes are placed. By doing so, you still have the upper pocket material to use as a strap instead of a pocket. I'm so pleased with how well this works. As for my other two, I have one in my linen closet for cleaners, toothpaste boxes, mouth rinse bottles, soaps, etc. The laundry room one holds our reusable water bottles, dusting pads, and the other various odds n ends you'll find in your laundry room, especially of the smaller variety.

Hack #4 Soaking Your Produce in Vinegar and Water- Yes, I know you can buy products that get your produce items squeaky clean, but, have you read those labels? Why do I like this hack? Because it's simple, it's food safe, it's cost effective, and it works. I make sure my sink is cleaned out (see Hack#5 for that cleaning tip) and then begin to fill the sink with cold water. While it fills I add in food grade white vinegar. Usually 1 cup will do the trick but a 1 part vinegar to 5 parts water works if you want to size this hack down to a bowl. I then add in all my produce and swish it around every so often while it soaks. Make sure to soak for a about 15 minutes. Then, I removed the produce and rinse it under cold water and then place on clean tea towels to dry. If you have a double sink, this is an easy way of doing it. If you don't you'll want to remove the fruit before you drain the sink, and then rinse the fruit once all the water and debris is down the drain. I also find this trick keeps my produce longer, especially my peppers and strawberries!

Hack #5 Citrus Peels in Cleaning Vinegar- I like knowing what I am using to clean. This means that I use my steam cleaner more often and love my baking soda for a good scrub down on my sinks and tubs. It also means I am a huge cleaning vinegar advocate. It really gets things fresh and clean without dealing with dangerous fumes like bleach. I actually have to avoid bleach because it triggers my migraines and asthma. (Fun combination that one, can't breathe with a raging headache.) Oh, but some people are gun shy because they don't want their homes smelling like a salad. I get that, I really do. So, here's a great way to get the power of vinegar AND citrus oils with little effort on your part. In a large jar put as many citrus peels as you have on hand. I've used anything from oranges, clementines, limes, and lemons and all do a great job of masking that vinegar smell. Once you put the peels in, fill your jar the rest of the way with cleaning vinegar. Cap the lid tightly and give it a shake. You'll want this solution to marry for about 2 weeks. I leave the jar on my counter near the sink so I can shake it every other day while things marinate. After two weeks, take out a fine strainer, a large measuring cup with spout, and a funnel. Put the funnel into your spray bottle and then in the large measuring cup, put your strainer on top while you slowly pour out your vinegar mix. The strainer will catch any rogue bits of peel and pith from the citrus. Then take your measuring cup and carefully pour your vinegar mix into your spray bottle. Fill it halfway and then add in water. Give it a swirl or a shake and your mix is ready to use! I use this daily for various needs around the kitchen and home. The citrus soak gives it a fresher scent than just as a straight vinegar mix. I store any remaining concentrate in a glass jar under my kitchen sink. 

So there you go! These are my tried and true and will not go without life hacks in my house. I do have some others, but those are for later on. Give these a try and see how well they work out for you!