Make life better with fun, simple life hacks Print
Youth Column
Thursday, Sep. 08, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

Last year, I attended an event featuring a roundtable discussion between teens and the top executive of a national nonprofit organization. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those young adults to discover firsthand the drive and determination necessary to become a success at the highest levels.

The teens were ready to listen. The CEO was ready to share. Unfortunately, the meeting was in a room with no windows during a violent storm and the power was out. What to do?

Proving age is no substitute for knowledge, one of the teens took charge. She turned on her cellphone light, placed it shining face up on the floor and set a full, sealed water bottle on top of the phone.

Problem solved. Teen ingenuity replaced total darkness with a glowing orb of light. Compared to a fully lit room, it wasn't much. But, compared to total darkness, it created an ambiance that set the tone for a truly engaging discussion.

Tricks like placing a water bottle on a cellphone flashlight to create a lamp are called life hacks. These tricks involve alternate uses for common materials to save time, money, frustration or a combination of all that and more.

Life hacks can benefit each of us no matter our age or how technologically savvy we are. I have friends whose jobs involve frequent travel. After a few weeks away from home, the smell released from a bag of dirty laundry could be considered a threat to our national welfare.

How do you avoid Homeland Security taking interest? Simple. Keep a bar of scented soap in your laundry bag.

Likewise, what if you're in college and your dorm room smells like a dorm room? Tape a dryer sheet over an active air conditioning or heating vent. No more smell, at least short term; however, I and everyone you've ever met still recommend washing clothes weekly and showering daily.

Once you've learned life hacks, you get a new perspective. You'll never be able to imagine a day when you didn't know the best way to clean a blender was to fill it with soapy water and turn it on.

Or, that you can prevent watering down your iced coffee by using ice cubes made of coffee.

Or, that those silly plastic clips on the end of bread bags are the most important pieces of plastic that you will ever own. They fix broken flip-flops when that piece that goes between your toes keeps pulling out of the sole.

They wrap around computer wires under your desk as a place to label each wire. They even attach to the end of a role of tape to prevent the tape from getting stuck to itself.

Bread-bag clips. Who knew?

Ironically, once you've learned a life hack, you'll never refer to it as such. Instead, it will simply be common sense. Why would you ever not do things that way?

All of these hacks make an effort of mild inconvenience a little more palatable. When looked at it that way, common courtesy is nothing more than a series of life hacks: Be kind to others. Hold the door for people when their hands are full. Help those in need. Offer compliments when deserved. Set a good example.

All of those actions are built on the idea of reciprocity. You do something good now in the hope that someone does the same thing for you when you face the same need.

Karma is the ultimate life hack. Who knew?

In the end, life hacks are about finding creativity in the mundane, kindness out of indifference. Not knowing a life hack doesn't make your life worse, but knowing it definitely makes your life better.

For example, Doritos make great kindling.

Who knew?

Erick Rommel works for a nonprofit youth organization. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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