Hacks for remembering hacks


Did you know that ketchup can clean copper and that mustard can be used as an exfoliating face mask? Also, they’re both really good on hot dogs. 

And did you know that you can keep carryout pizza warm on the way home by setting it on the passenger seat and turning on the seat warmer? If you have a passenger and they resent having to sit in the backseat just tell them the pizza called shotgun. 

These are all valuable tips I learned in an online article called 200 Hacks to Make Life Easier. If you waste as much time online as I do, you’ve noticed that what we once called “tips” or “hints from Heloise” are now called hacks. And there are a lot of them. There are life hacks, travel hacks, cooking hacks and personal finance hacks. There are car maintenance hacks, ballroom dancing hacks and rock climbing hacks. And there are hacks to burgle proof your home, hacks to prevent your computer from being hacked and writing hacks to keep you from being a hack. 

I’m a sucker for all of them—except the rock climbing hacks. I’d be hacking my way through life were it not for one problem. There are no hacks for remembering hacks. I can never remember the clever trick I read to solve the particular problem I’m having at the moment I’m having it. That could be a real problem for rock climbers. But even for those of us with less pressing issues it can be troublesome. Is it white vinegar you use to clean minerals off your shower door? Or balsamic? Is it peanut butter you use to get gum out of your hair? Or jelly? 

The next time I need to wash our blender, will I remember to fill it with soapy water and run it? And will I remember to put the lid on before I do it? 

When we run out of kindling at our next campfire, will I remember that Doritos make excellent tinder and not just the “flamin’ hot nacho” flavor either? And if we do bring Doritos to our next campout, will there be any left by the time I remember? 

I did come up with a hack for remembering one of the tricks in the 200 Hacks to Make Life Easier article. Here’s the hack: A strand of spaghetti can be used to light a hard-to-reach candle wick—as long as you don’t cook the spaghetti first. 

I have a few long matches that I occasionally use to light a candle or a burner on my gas stove when the igniter doesn’t work. I was pondering how I’d remember this useful hack when I run out of them. Then inspiration struck! If I store a piece of spaghetti in the box with the long matches, I’ll see it every time I use one. By the time I run out of the matches, the spaghetti hack will be as ingrained in me as all the hacks I learned back before hacks were called hacks—like how you should sweep the top step first and that you should always put the carrier back before you drive away from a drive-through bank. 

I went to the kitchen, got a piece of spaghetti and reached for the box of long matches on the top shelf of the cupboard. But as I did it, I bumped a votive candle holder and it fell off the shelf. Fortunately it didn’t break. Unfortunately the glass plate it landed on did, spewing shards of glass and wet cat food all over the kitchen and onto the carpet in the hallway.  

I went ahead and put the spaghetti in the box and then surveyed the damage. I wonder if there’s a hack for getting wet pet food out of carpet. 

Dorothy Rosby is the author of three books of humorous essays, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better. Contact drosby@rushmore.com.
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