101 Tips For Home Chores

Laundry

  1. Most people know to wash white, black and coloured clothes separately, but washing each colour separately (or even by shade as well!) keeps your clothes brighter for longer.
  2. Put pillow cases and duvet covers on easily by starting with them inside out, then putting your hands in to each top corner. Hold the corners of the pillow or duvet, and shake the case right side out onto it without letting go of the corners.
  3. Get your sports injury or menstrual blood stains out by soaking your clothes in vinegar before washing as normal.
  4. Never lose socks in the washing machine again by washing them in one of those mesh bags for washing ‘delicates’ in.
  5. Jeans, designed to only need occasional cleaning, don’t need fabric softener and last longer without it – there are often denim settings for doing separate jean washes.
  6. If you’re the type to avoid washing your jeans, vodka elements odours and putting them in the freezer keeps them cleaner and darker longer.
  7. Sitting or crouching in front of the washing machine, if you can still see the back of the drum it’s not overfilled.
  8. Hanging t shirts, jeans and sportswear to dry prevents them getting wrinkled and saves ironing things that just need to be smooth.
  9. Clean your washing machine by putting a mixture of two parts vinegar, half a part bicarbonate of soda in as detergent on an empty, hot cycle.
  10. Hang brightly coloured items inside out to prevent colour fading.
  11. Avoid outdoor line drying if you have asthma or hay fever, as pollen and other things stick to the fabric.
  12. Dry items that might stretch, like sweaters, on a flat surface.

 

Bedroom

  1. Getting out of bed with some leg kicks not only wakes you up, but straightens the duvet out for making your bed.
  2. Fill your drawers like a filing cabinet rather than stacking things, to help you find things easier and quicker, and prevent making a mess by looking for certain items.
  3. Open the window while you tidy, even if it’s cold, to get fresh air circulating in the room and prevent that musty feet smell that can build up.
  4. Sit on the bed to change the duvet covers; there’s space for the duvet so there’s space to change the covers properly.
  5. To remember to change your sheets once or twice a month, line it up with the first of the month, payday or another monthly event, or any fortnightly event.
  6. It’s best to change your duvet and pillows with the seasons, so having a box under the bed with the light summer set, heavy winter set and regular autumn/spring set to swap makes it easy to wash (and remember) each change.
  7. Sort any clothes on the floor, bed or side into dirty and clean, with the clean pile sorted by type. Putting it all away at once, when you’ve finished, will make the task feel quicker and easier than putting things away as you find them.
  8. Dust plastic and wooden surfaces, and hoover fabric surfaces regularly to keep dust and dust mites at bay, as this is the room you’ll be breathing in for up to 8 hours straight.
  9. When you sort out your wardrobe, be ruthless. Get rid of everything that doesn’t fit, that you don’t like, and that has damage that you won’t or can’t fix. Bin things you know people wouldn’t want, and take the rest to charity shops, boot sales or friends and family that would want them.
  10. Make your storage part of your décor. A neat shoe rack at the end of the bed looks like a feature, not clutter; keeping things in a hang-rack on the back of the door looks nicer and is easier to use than a pile of things on a bedside table; putting your jewellery on an upright display shows them off far better than a box or tray full of bits and pieces.
  11. Keep a hamper or basket in your room and throw clothes you don’t want in it as soon as you decide it. Putting them in the wash with regular clothes or putting them back in the drawer to sort later just means you’ll forget you decided to get rid of them.
  12. Keep your mattress fresh by patting it down with a sponge, and laundry detergent in water. Dry it with a blow drier to stop it getting musty.
  13. Organise your bedside or getting ready table and keep it minimalist. This means you don’t accidentally keep things that are broken or out of date, and helps you find what you need quickly.

 

Bathroom

  1. Keep your toilet brush holder half-full of soapy water, so the brush is cleaned every time it’s moved or used.
  2. Avoid smudgy, smeared mirrors by rubbing them dry with newspaper.
  3. Wrapping vinegar soaked kitchen or toilet roll around metal taps to make wiping that grime and cloudiness off easy.
  4. Pouring cola down drains can help to unclog them when they’re draining slowly.
  5. Wiping your tiles off with a squeegee after a hot bath or shower to stop moisture build up and mould.
  6. Likewise, keep a spray bottle next to your bath or shower to give them a quick spritz after every use.
  7. Fill a plastic bag with lemon juice, tie it around the showerhead and leave overnight to get the residue off.
  8. Power clean the bathtub or tiles by attaching a scrubbing brush to an electric drill.
  9. Kitchen storage works fantastically in the bathroom; spice racks are great for your lotions and shampoo bottles, and those multilevel cake stands are fantastic for vertical storage.
  10. One way to clean the scum from your bathtub is by sprinkling salt on a grapefruit and using that to scrub the stains away.
  11. Get that mirror clean and perfect with black tea. Brew some nice strong black tea, multiple bags worth, and use it as your cleaner liquid. Go ahead and have a nice cuppa, too.
  12. Save one of your old toothbrushes to clean all kinds of things around the house.
  13. Give your no-slip bath mat a good clean by unsticking it and running the bath with laundry detergent. After a good soak, hang it to dry.

 

Kitchen

  1. If you have wooden chopping boards, get the ingrained dirt out by rubbing them with coarse salt and scrubbing the salty board with a lemon half.
  2. Lining the grill or toaster oven with tin foil before using it stops it getting dirty as quickly. Roll it up and take all the fat, spillage or other food mess with it to the bin or recycling.
  3. Clean the blender by ‘blending’ soapy water, rather than try to clean the sharp blades normally.
  4. Clean cheese graters by grating some raw potato, and just rinsing it off afterwards.
  5. Make it easier to clean food out of your microwave by heating a cup of water and chopped lemon first.
  6. You use the washing up sponge clean the plates you eat off of and cutlery you eat with, so give it a quick minute in the microwave to kill off dangerous germs.
  7. Designate a space next to your sink or near your dishwasher for dirty dishes, to make washing up and dishwasher loading quick and easy.
  8. Before you do your big shop, clear out the fridge and cupboards of old food and wipe down the shelves to make a clean space for your new food. It also helps you know what you need to buy!
  9. Even if you don’t feel like washing up right after your meal, run the water and put the pans and trays in to soak, wipe down the surfaces and scrape off the plates, so there’s less work when you do wash up.
  10. Don’t fret about cutting yourself cleaning up broken glass, use a piece of bread to safely pick up the tiny sharp shards.
  11. Empty the dishwasher or clear the draining board while you brew your morning tea or coffee. It’s time you’d just be standing and waiting, and it’s better to find a clean cup and tidy than to get one from the cupboard and leave the clean dishes to pile up.
  12. It’s easy to forget how dirty the tea towels get when they dry off our plates, but remember that they get warm and damp with every use. Swap them out every day if you can, to keep your cutlery clean.
  13. If you have a dishwasher, set it going before you go to bed. It’ll mean there are clean, dry dishes in the morning and not take any time out of your day.

 

Living Room

  1. You can buy microfiber cleaning cloths in high numbers for low prices. Don’t just use them to clean your specs, but wipe down your phone and computer screen too!
  2. If you have a ceiling fan, a pillow case is a nice easy way to dust the blades.
  3. To get rid of cobwebs on the ceiling or dusty ceiling lampshades, a regular broom will do the trick. If there are more fiddly parts, tie a fluffy tea towel to the broom.
  4. If you can’t realistically remove the sofa and chair covers to wash them, use carpet cleaner or a shampoo setting on the vacuum cleaner.
  5. Books, DVDs and the like can seem like clutter. Arranging them neatly in a good space, like next to the TV or beside the sofa, makes them seem more like they’re on a shelf.
  6. Using throw blankets and rugs makes cleaning quicker, as you can just pick them up and wash or shake them, leaving the carpet and upholstery underneath cleaner.
  7. If you have children, incorporating storage boxes and larger toys into the room’s furniture keeps tidying up to the same room.
  8. Baskets are the best thing to add to your living room. Suddenly the last few weeks’ worth of magazines are a tidy collection, the evidence of your stationery addiction is a useful stationery box, and your annoying amount of remote controls never go missing.
  9. Keep carpets clean if you have them by creating a ‘shoe space’ between the front door and the living room, and designating house shoes or slippers to keep your feet warm.
  10. Take everything off the shelves, dust or wipe them clean, then clean everything as you put it back. This not only gets everything very clean, but gets the shelf more organised and reveals anything that’s broken or unwanted.
  11. Keep a recycling bin in the living room so you can throw newspapers and magazines in there as soon as you’re done with them, to stop them piling up.
  12. Plump up cushions whenever you stand up to keep them fluffier and give the room that just-tidied look.
  13. Sprinkle baking soda over the carpet half an hour before vacuuming to get it extra clean. A spritz spray of vinegar or vodka helps with odour, too.

 

Office

  1. Keep your long term documents such as birth certificates, passports and contracts in one folder, by person, easy to find when needed and not cluttered by other documents.
  2. Keep everything you need for budgeting and tax in one place, easy to go through and in date order, so you can work quickly and without confusion.
  3. You only need bank statements, receipts and similar for 3 months, so go through them every few months and throw away old documents to stop them piling up.
  4. Clean keyboard with sprayed air. There are cans designed for this, with narrow plastic nozzles, but anything that sprays clean air like a bellows will blow dirt and dust from your keyboard keys. One thing that works is a condiment bottle.
  5. Empty out all your pens, check them on a piece of scrap paper, and bin every one that doesn’t work. Put the working ones back in a pen holder, and find a new home for anything else.
  6. If you have an overly cluttered desk take everything off of it, sort it though it all, and find desk and non-desk places to put everything. Even having neater piles of things on your desk will make it feel less cluttered.
  7. If you have a craft or art table, arrange it with the ‘in reach’ system. Lay everything out around a clear work space in the middle, with the most used things loose beside it and storage containers in height order.
  8. Take everything that isn’t work related out of the area; you wouldn’t sleep in the bath or cook in the living room, so don’t bring non-work activities into your office.
  9. Sort any physical work things into a classic “In” “Current” and “Out” filing system, so you don’t forget to do things, misplace finished things, or have too many projects on the go at once.
  10. If you use a lot of post it notes and make endless lists, collate them in a to-do notebook or even download an app or programme to type up your notes and lists in.
  11. Keep screen cleaner and a microfiber cloth by your computer screen, and clean it regularly. Use that time to clean your phone, glasses, and other screens too.
  12. Empty out your school bag or work bag every weekend, and repack it. It will mean you always have the things you need, won’t forget important things in your bag for weeks, and stops your bag filling up with unneeded items.

 

Pets

  1. Tape is great for picking up cat hair, saving time and preventing fluffy sofas and clothes.
  2. Sprinkle baby powder on your dogs matted hair to loosen it up so you can brush it out.
  3. Get fur and other fluff out of the carpet by using a squeegee, the thing you dry windows and mirrors with.
  4. Avoid ammonia based cleaning products, as its urine-like smell can stress pets out and cause them to spray and mark their territory.
  5. Dab out ‘accidents’ with equal parts water and white vinegar, then spray a little dishwashing liquid on the area.
  6. Vacuum pet beds before washing, and add baking powder to the washing machine to neutralise the odour
  7. Wash your pets’ collars with some pet shampoo and hot water.
  8. Use a spray-cooking-oil to make it easier to wash bowls out.
  9. Wash your dog sooner rather than later to stop the dirt on them getting all over the house. Use this time to trim their nails if they need it and remember to dry them off properly.
  10. Change any litter areas as soon as they’re pooped in, and keep air freshener nearby to stop smells lingering. Sprinkling baking soda in there reduces smells, too.
  11. Soak collars and toys in a pet shampoo and water mix to give them a deep clean, then rinse them off and leave to dry.
  12. Keep pet supplies near a designated space. Keep the food near the bowls, the litter near the trays and the spare bedding by the cage. This way they won’t get lost or spread unwanted pet mess into other spaces of your house.

 

Miscellaneous

  1. First thing first, get yourself in a motivated mood; put on music that makes your feel productive, roll up your sleeves, wear a headband or do anything else that makes you feel like you’re in cleaning mode, and don’t be doing anything else at the same time.
  2. Dust and even mop the floor with socks! Cheap fluffy socks make for great floor cleaners, picking up dust when dry and making a no-bending down mop. You will have to change them after mopping, though.
  3. Put some baking soda in your trainers after you wear them to freshen them up, pouring it out just before putting them on again.
  4. Get your trainers shiny white again by using some toothpaste to clean them.
  5. Take out the trash when you leave the house in the morning. You’re leaving anyway, so it takes an extra chore off the list.
  6. Clean your hairbrushes and combs with liquid dish soap mixed with water.
  7. Acetone-based nail polish remover is perfect for getting glue off of scissor blades and other non-painted things that might get all gummed up.
  8. Keep on top of your housework by setting aside a regular time to tidy. Ten minutes every day, half an hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays, an hour every week; however you sort it out make sure you keep at it to stop mess and dirt building up and overwhelming you.
  9. When you’re throwing things away, remember the William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
  10. Separating the ‘get rid of’ pile into bin, donate and sell type piles makes it easier to get rid of things. It’s not a case of keep or throw away, it’s a case of keep, donate, sell, or throw away.
  11. Keeping any bags or boxes that you need to take to the dump or charity shop in the way of your routine means you can’t forget about them, and you’ll have to take the time to take them there to stop them annoying you.
  12. Leave any sentimental items aside until last; trying to tidy up your gifts or photo albums is sure to distract you, and you’ll stop and look through, so do it after the other stuff!
  13. Take a step back when you’ve finished and admire the difference you’ve made. Appreciating the fruit of your effort and the way a cleaner tidier home makes your feel more motivated to do it more often.
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…And a Bunch of Things You Can Do Instead

[The follow up to this article, Everything Wrong With Gender Reveal Parties…]

1. Throw a birth announcement party

Instead of revealing the baby’s supposed gender, just reveal the baby. Throw a big party announcing the due date, or the day your caesarean is scheduled, or when you hit the nine months mark and are still waiting for the baby to decide it wants to be born.

Have cake and balloons, and tell people what names you’re thinking of – hell, you can even announce the expected sex at the party as long as it’s not the main focus of the party. You can theme the party around birth instead of gender, with tiny food or stork related decorations.

2. Have a christening/naming ceremony/other cultural or religious ceremony

Christian tradition has the Christening or baptism soon after the baby is born, ensuring that the taint of ‘original sin’ is blessed off of the baby’s soul and that the Church family is committed to help raise the baby properly. Some cultures have baby naming ceremonies, where people witness the baby being officially named. If your religion or culture has a ceremony like this, consider looking into it.

If you aren’t that involved in your religion or culture, this would be a good way to get back involved in it, and to connect with community. Instead of starting your baby’s life off with some damaging gender role enforcement, you can start them off by introducing them to their heritage.

3. Throw a name reveal

You want to reveal something, so reveal the name! Have a shortlist of names and get your guests to guess what name you’ve chosen. Give each name a colour and you can even do the balloon or cake reveal with the colour of the chosen name! The bonus is, you can even use whichever colour balloons you like. If the name is along a theme like flowers; Rose, Lily, or Daisy; or the Gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John; you can base the party on that theme.

The name is the most important thing about your baby, after all, and the main thing you have control over. Making the hype about the baby’s name rather than its genitals also makes the hype about your choice, and about the person you want to mould your child into.

4. Have a baby shower

More common in the US than the UK is the baby shower – a pre-birth party getting the parents baby-related presents. It’s good to be prepared, so throwing a baby shower is a great alternative to a gender reveal party, and as it’s a present ‘shower’ the focus is on buying you grocery priced gifts like nappies and childproof locks rather than expensive gifts and rather on you throwing a big fancy party.

And, if your plan would have been to have a baby shower as well as a gender reveal party, turn the baby shower into the big party; hopefully as you host a more scaled up party your guests might scale up their helpful presents from a pack of nappies to a changing bag, a changing matt or even just a multipack of nappies.

5. Throw mum a party

Mum, or whoever is actually the pregnant one, is the one doing all the physical work. While all of these baby parties focus on the baby and whatever fact about it you’ve chosen to celebrate, it might be worth throwing her (or him/them/etc) a party instead.

Throwing a party for the one that’s pregnant is just as supportive as the baby shower parties, in that there are gifts and things. The difference is that, especially as pregnancy is hard work and is followed by having a baby which is hard work, the presents are not about childcare. Instead of asking for nappies and talking about birth weight, the gift list is bath bombs and things, and the theme is giving mum a relaxing time.

6. Have a zeroth birthday party

Throw a birthday party for baby! Just like birthday parties don’t have to be on the exact day of a child’s birthday, this can be on a Saturday before the due date, or a Sunday after the birth. Instead of having a reveal of balloons or a surprise colour cake or anything like that, have birthday events. The day your baby is born is their birthday after all!

Like any birthday party, it can be as big or as small as you like, and at its most basic just involves a cake and some party hats. At zero years old, your baby doesn’t even have any friends to invite, so just have your friends and family like any other party, except they bring their children.

7. Throw a fake gender reveal party

The activist’s choice! If you’re feeling pressured to throw a gender reveal party and you really don’t want to, use it as an opportunity to make a point or a joke. The big reveal can be purple or white, the big announcement can be “The sex is… not something we’ve chosen to find out yet!” or you could even have a surprise lesson on the problems with enforced gender.

This is a bit of a risk – if guests are too invested in your reveal, they could be offended or upset that you’re ‘attacking’ their gender role beliefs and the party could get awkward. On the other hand, if the people in your life are against gender reveals and the gendering of babies, you might upset people before you even get to reveal your joke. It’s something that would be fantastic to see had happened, though.

8. Have a meet-the-baby day

Like an open house, take a relaxed weekend day to let people come and go, meeting the new baby. This casual all-day way of having a party means less stress and more party. You can just have some light snacks and drinks, people won’t all be there at once, and the atmosphere will be laid back.

It takes the focus of revealing anything about the baby and feels very mature and calm. There’s no need for a big cake, but you can have cake. It’s low key – there’s no pressure to do any particular thing. You sit around and people come to you, all nice and slowly, lasting all day.

9. Throw a “Wetting the Baby’s Head” party

A British tradition, this one doesn’t even really involve the baby. Typically an activity for the dad, it involves going out for a drink to celebrate a successful birth. In this day and age, however, it can be for both parents. After all, everything is going to be about the baby for a good few months, so one night out is probably a welcome break.

Leave the baby at home with a relative and have a nice drink at the pub; it doesn’t have to be alcoholic for those breast feeding or just wanting to avoid a hangover when they have a crying baby. For many people having kids, the social pressure to do certain things isn’t just damaging the child, it’s damaging them. Take a break and have a night out, you’re having a baby and you deserve it.

Everything Wrong With Gender Reveal Parties…

1. You don’t know if your baby is a boy or a girl

Yes, yes, yes, you’re sick of trans people and ‘woke’ cis people pointing out that gender isn’t the same as birth-assigned sex. But it isn’t! What you’re revealing isn’t whether your baby is a boy or a girl, but what genitals your baby has and the category they will be put in because of it. As adults, male and female look different, but before puberty, the only difference between ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ is the shape of their genitals. And that’s a creepy reason to throw a party.

Your child could grow up to be transgender, and the more importance you place on determining gender from genitals the more trouble you’re going to have with that.

2. Assumed gender is not the main fact about your baby

People always ask if your baby is a boy or a girl as if that’s the only thing that matters about a baby. The health of the baby, the health of the mum, weight, appearance, what you’re going to name them, whether they have any birthmarks etc; these are also facts about a baby you could be asking or announcing.

To be quite honest? You had a baby, and a new person now exists. That’s the main fact here, not what supposed gender they are. There is the amazing feat of birth, the fact that everyone has yet to meet this baby and while be excited they were born, and the sheer fact that they’re a human being not a one in two option. But yet, the gender is the big reveal.

3. It revolves around silly gender stereotypes

These parties are never just the announcement and then unrelated partying; the reveal is visual and the party that follows is connected to the gender announced. It’s a baby, and people are very complicated, so how do people and products reveal gender in these parties? Stereotypes. Using the dull pink or blue, or having some stereotypical interests the child might or might not have based on their gender.

None of the adults in your life has personalities based on one or two interests that are shared by everyone that’s the same gender as them. None of the women in your life only wear pink and none of the men only blue. Why is the baby being shoved into one or two gendered traits or revealed as pink-themed or blue-themed?

4. Enforcing gender roles is damaging to all children

It isn’t just transgender people who are damaged by enforcing gender on them; gender roles limit all children and cause them to limit themselves. It isn’t just saying that girls do A and boys do B, which pressures girls into A and boys into B, it pressures boys away from A and girls away from B. There is a serious lack of women in STEM careers, and it stems from gender stereotyping. If sports are for boys, girls feel like they can’t do it before they even try, and the idea that it’s for boys is ‘proven’ by the lack of girls who like sport. Likewise, if boys who don’t like sport are made to feel less than and pushed into taking part, and the idea that it’s for boys is ‘proven’ by all the boys who play sports.

It might not seem like a big deal, but putting one gender role on a child is just shutting off the other options from them. These gender reveal parties tend to have really narrow roles for boys and girls, and separating children into two groups and assigning things to one or the other is damaging for any child.

5. The gender roles for baby girls are misogynistic

All the pink… but it’s not just pink, it’s the activities and interests that people use to represent ‘girl’ in gender reveals. It’s always almost an aesthetic thing; a feminine item of clothing that is decorative, an accessory, something to make you look more attractive. To the gender reveal, a girl is a pretty thing, and a pretty thing only.

This narrow view is basically the dictionary definition of misogyny – women are capable, skilled and valuable as more than aesthetically pleasing objects. Women should be allowed to be unattractive.

6. The gender roles for baby boys are toxic

The pastel blue is the last soft thing in the gender stereotypes for boys that aren’t scarily violent. While girls are represented by aesthetic things, boys are represented by weapons or war. Guns, camo, army clothing… boys are trained to be aggressive from birth, and this is a huge part of a problem called “toxic masculinity” where men feel unable to express any emotion other than anger.

This not only makes them push joy, sadness, and worry inside them to eat them up, it causes them to define their interactions with other people via violence. Men should be able to have and express feelings, and this starts by not categorising boys as bullets.

7. It’s just one more pointless thing you feel pressured to spend money on

It’s a well-known fact that having a baby is an expensive decision. Eighteen years plus of expenses, with some very pricey necessities right when they’re born. Preparing your home, cots, clothes, nappies, pushchairs, food, medical bills, pregnancy clothing, the list goes on and on. Not to miss an opportunity, however, society has decreed you must have multiple parties and events where people have to buy you presents and you have to pay to host a good party. Pregnancy announcements with professional photoshoots, baby showers with pre-birth gifts, and gender reveals with huge reveal displays… and all before the baby is born.

The announcement needs to be in the form of a visual display, with a professionally made cake that’s pink or blue inside, a fancy box filled with helium balloons or a jack-in-the-box style confetti popper. These things are priced to match the supposed ‘need’ and replace a simple spoken announcement – the party itself replaces a card or even text to family and friends.

8. It only works if you pretend intersex isn’t a thing

Of course, these sex reveals rely on the belief that your newborn baby will one hundred percent have easily identifiable genitals and their hormones will develop in the expected way, with expected reproductive organs etc. It’s estimated that one in a hundred children are born intersex, and many of those will have “ambiguous genitals”. Even if the ultrasound technician can see genitals that they can categorise, this doesn’t rule out intersex conditions.

Intersex children may have ‘normal’ genitals of one sex category but the full appearance otherwise of the other sex category. One in a hundred may seem like a small chance, but when nearly 700,000 babies born each year in the UK, that’s nearly 7,000 intersex babies every year, or an average of 19 a day. Intersex people are real and cannot be ignored for your comfort.

9. It adds to the culture of ‘corrective’ genital surgery

Not only do intersex babies get born despite the insistence that all babies are either 100% male or 100% female, they are a much-mistreated group. For the babies that are born with ambiguous genitals, a sad truth is the idea that it’s abnormal means unnecessary surgery is done to ‘fix’ them. These babies often grow up with no idea they are intersex until puberty because they have been made to appear non-intersex and obviously this aesthetic surgery doesn’t magically make them non-intersex and their hormones and reproductive systems are still those of an intersex person.

In an era where religious people are criticised for circumcising their babies, and there is much debate on whether non-life-threatening medical issues should be dealt with via surgery when surgery on babies is so risky… The idea that performing such severe surgery on children to pretend they aren’t intersex is horrifying, and it all stems from this need to announce children as ‘boys’ or ‘girls’ before they’re even born.

[Follow up article: …And a Bunch of Things You Can Do Instead]

Your New Year’s Resolution Doesn’t Need To Be a Revolution!

Soon it will be January, and you know what that means. The gyms will be packed with slightly chubby people overexerting themselves, the health food shops will be stocking up for people who don’t even like green vegetables, and your workplace will be unbearable as most of your colleagues go through withdrawal for the caffeine, alcohol or tobacco they’ve gone cold turkey on with no preparation. Yes, it’s the time of year people desperately try to better themselves with New Year’s Resolutions.

Before you make your resolution, think about the one you made last year. Did you keep it up all year? Do you even remember what it was? That’s the thing, isn’t it? Everyone makes these grand declarations and puts their full effort in for a month or two, before dropping it like a lukewarm potato, and ultimately forgetting the whole thing until the next New Year.

The simple fact of the matter is, the reason most people don’t keep to their New Year’s Resolution is because they going too big and having a revolution instead, without any real plans to help them continue that major change. Without anything solid to support this big revolution, they revert back to their life as it was before. Take it from someone who’s getting ready for 2017 having kept their resolution all year; this is how to achieve your New Year goals.

The first thing is to think of something achievable. Yes, you want to be a better version of you, but if you never exercise is going to the gym twice a week for an hour anywhere near likely to be something you can keep up forever? Or, maybe, you could go at least once a month or join a fun sports class. Likewise, instead of quitting cigarettes cold turkey for the year, aim to cut down and end the year cigarette-free.

Similarly, if you don’t really want to do something you aren’t going to be motivated to do it. You don’t like ‘healthy’ food, you don’t really want to start that dramatic diet, and you aren’t really that worried about your weight. So don’t make that revolution, make a resolution related to a more enjoyable self-improvement: Read a book every month; Learn a new language; Take up a hobby.

Of course, it’s not as simple as just having an achievable goal; if only it were! Plenty of people make New Year’s Resolutions, keep to them perfectly for a month or two, and then just… stop. There are a few simple things you need to do to keep your resolution all year. The biggest barrier would seemingly be forgetting, so setting yourself reminders is a sure fire way to prevent that reason for resolution drop-off.

Depending on what your resolution is, there are a few good ways to keep it to mind. Put a picture of the activity in places you’ll see it often, such as on your fridge or as your phone background. Write yourself a note on your calendar, inside the cover of your notebook, or on a sticky note by your workspace. Subscribe to a YouTube channel related to your resolution so it’s uploads remind you, or rename your alarm to get daily reminders. As long as you can’t forget all about it, you’re doing well.

It’s not enough to just remember, you have to get into the habit. Once something is part of your routine, it’s easier to keep doing it than it is to stop. If it’s something you want to do daily, do it the same time each day and maybe add it to your morning routine – do your exercises as part of your getting up and ready for work or school, read a novel during your commute, or swap your breakfast for a healthier choice.

For other things, set aside a set time each week; go tidy the attic every Thursday after work, go for a jog on a Saturday morning, or watch YouTube tutorials for the skill you want to learn on a Monday night. Soon enough you’ll be into the swing of it and won’t even need to think about it. Joining a class or club can help too, giving you motivation while you’re still getting yourself in the habit.

The point of New Year’s Resolutions isn’t just to do them, of course, but to achieve something. Keeping track of milestones can help you stay motivated, whether you’re tracking how long you’ve kept it up or tracking how much you’ve changed or learned. Make a note in your calendar every month, marking how well you’ve kept your resolution that month and how far through the year you are. For a “Do X every week” type resolution, keeping a list of what book, film, etc you read, watched, etc not only helps you know what you’ve done but also show you have many weeks and months you’ve done it for.

If your resolution is weight or health related, it’s obvious to weigh or otherwise health check yourself regularly to keep track. For other body goals and skills, however, you can check in other ways to see how far you’ve come. Take an online test each month to see how much you’ve learned, make an item with your new skill every month and compare it to the previous months ones, or keep note of your exercise times and distances.

Achieving your goals might be reward enough, and between the life changes and watching your milestones pass by might be the best end result for you. It’s not always enough, though, and giving yourself other rewards can give you a bigger sense of achievement and celebration. Treat yourself whenever you reach a milestone!

You could relate it to your resolution; going out for dinner if its food related or buying a nice new novel if it’s something to do with reading or fiction. It doesn’t have to be related, of course, and you can treat yourself with a video game purchase or allow yourself as much TV time as you spend on learning your new skill, for example.

If you manage to keep your New Year’s Resolution until the end of the year, you’ll have that happy feeling of achievement, be improved as a person in whatever way you chose, and ready to carry on, upgrade or choose something else entirely for the next year.

Costume Creativity: Basic Hallowe’en Ideas… But With Some Twists

It’s nearly Hallowe’en, and you haven’t decided on a costume yet. Every year you just lump with a classic costume like ‘generic witch’ or a more cosplay style pop culture reference like a recently deceased celebrity as a zombie. Yawn. But don’t panic! It’s easy to make more of an impact at your Hallowe’en parties with very little cerebral effort (that means thinking) and impress people with one of these twists on the costume classics:

Werewolf:

A monster less popular these days, possibly due to the effort it takes, the lack of realism in many portrayals, or the lesser place of wild animals in our lives. Either way, a werewolf costume is a retro-feeling costume that’s easy to make feel unique.

Were-What?

Not quite as silly as the Wallace and Gromit film “Curse of the Were-Rabbit”, taking the typical werewolf approach to another animal makes a funny twist. Ripped and muddy clothes go well with big, furry, carnivorous animals for an old school scare. A were-rabbit could be scary; give it the creepy full-head mask look for an uncanny creepy feel.

Big Bad

A fairy tale twist on horror, or a horror twist on fairy tales? The wolf in granny’s clothing is easy to be funny, but that was done with high viewership in Shrek. Keep this one dark with blood or even evidence of eating Little Red Riding Hood herself. The other Big Bad Wolf was in the Three Little Pigs, so another scary tale costume can swap red fabric for some bacon…

Ghosts

It feels like a staple, but the simplicity of ghost costumes makes them feel boring. Despite the fact that it’s unlikely anyone you know has every cut eye holes out of a sheet and put it over their head to be a ghost, it’s a stereotype. Put some effort in, or don’t because ghosts aren’t as overplayed as they feel.

Accuracy

Step one: dress up in as accurate a historical costume as you can, be it Victorian or the 80s. Step two: make sure all of the clothes are white, paint your exposed skin white and use temporary hair colour to make your hair white. Boom. You now look like an accurate [into time period here] ghost! It’s high effort, but highly spooky and impressive.

Deadspread

Far less effort and far less spooky is this jokey option. Riffing on the classic bedsheet costume, take a coloured or patterned sheet or even a blanket and cut eyes in it. The deliberate fail of a basic ghost costume that isn’t even plain white is well worth the giggle, and you won’t feel like you wasted time and money if the laughs don’t last all night.

Witches

This classic costume is mostly confined to the ladies. It’s also one of the most common costumes with most of the more basic twists just as common. Characters, including Harry Potter and plain clothes witches like those in Charmed and Sabrina, done. Gothic or punky, making it more of a regular fashion outfit with a pointy hat, done. Good or cute witch, done. Luckily there are some untapped ideas.

Wet-ch

From the Slavic kikimora to the English Jenny Greenteeth, watery witches are a global terror. With a wet-look costume and some culturally specific accessories, such as a kikimora’s bare feet or Jenny’s big pointy teeth, this witch might be hatless but is definitely horrifying. You’ll definitely make a splash at a party, at least.

The Three Graeae

A group costume, yes, but a group costume to rival all others. The Graeae were the trio of witches that Perseus meets in his quest to kill Medusa. They sometimes took the form of hideous old women for those who want to wear fake warts and cloaks, and sometimes the form of beautiful young women, for those who want to sexy it up. Oh, and they only had one eye between them, which they took in turns to use and passed to each other by hand.

Skeleton

Watch out, there’s a spooky, scary skeleton inside you right now! The ever present fear of death not only hangs over us and makes us terrified of our insides, but gives us great amusement in Hallowe’en costumes (and decoration). Maybe it’s that deep down we know that it’s something that exists non-scarily in our everyday lives, or maybe it’s the ridiculousness of unconnected bones managing to stay upright in a human shape.

Muscle Man

While skeleton costumes are easy to make at home, ready made skeleton costumes exist to save you time and artistic effort. Likewise, muscle costumes exist. No, not those padded strongman tops, but another insides horror. Unsettling in a way skeletons can’t be, this probably isn’t safe for children’s parties, or safe from anatomical criticism from any doctors or medical students you might know.

Beast Bones

What’s a little creepier than a human skeleton? An animal skeleton, of course. With some different bone structures to play with, including wings, tails and legs, there’s space for creativity. Most obvious of all, of course, is the skull. Birds have beaks, deer and goats have horns, big cats have big teeth. Swapping the two tone face paint for a strangely shaped mask is a definite costume win.

Seven Surprising Things You Learn Working In a Charity Shop

People Shoplift from Charity Shops

This surprised me the most. The heartlessness of coming into a shop staffed by volunteers, raising money for a charitable cause… and nicking stuff. The pettiness of stealing things that are being sold for a pound. It’s not even like it’s poorer people stealing, either; it seems to be people who could easily afford the items at full retail price.

I walked in for an afternoon shift just as a full rack of jeans was discovered missing. There was just an empty rack, so whoever it was had just picked them all up with no regard for size or style and left with maybe ten pairs of jeans. More experienced staff said those jeans will likely end up on a market stall or on e-bay.

You Find Out All Kinds of Personal Things

Most people are aware that old ladies will happily tell everyone all about their latest surgery, but it turns out that all kinds of people will also happily tell charity shop staff the gory details of their personal lives. Women tell me at the till about their changes in breast size and point out the size of the bras they’re buying. People tell me exactly what reason they’re buying clothes for and exactly what they think of a relative who’s wedding it is.

The most interesting anecdote of all isn’t mine, but a coworker’s as they told me how weird it gets sometimes. An attractively dressed woman with a lot of make up on came in, and looked at revealing clothes and high heels, as she has done since when I’ve been in. This time, apparently, a man came up to her and asked her if she was working. After a moment of her panicked face, she told him to wait outside. Turns out she’s a sex worker. The funny part of the story is that my coworker says she carried on shopping for nearly an hour while the man stood around outside waiting!

People Act As If the Prices are Extortionate

It’s a charity shop. The things are mostly second hand and none of the clothes cost more than a fiver. There are some truly lovely, good quality items that seem to be brand new, and they’re priced higher than used and basic items while still being charity-shop cheap. Someone, people still try to sweet talk themselves discounts or complain about the price.

I helped a woman shorter than me, getting a handbag down off of the wall for her. We chatted about the designer label, the likelihood that it was real leather, and the as-new quality it was in. She took it to the till, but then asked in surprise if the price on the label was right; apparently £14.99 is a shocking price to ask for an as-new bag that is nearly £900 new, and she left without buying anything.

People Donate Brand New, Quality Items…

Having never really had a lot of money in my teens or adult life, I’ve only really given old clothes to younger relatives and more recently sold them on eBay, or binned them if they were too damaged. The things that go to the charity shop are things you don’t need to replace (and thus sell for money towards the replacement) and things that wouldn’t fit a relative. Seeing some of the great clothes and other things we get in the charity shop is a heart-warming reminder that people who are better off do actually donate their possessions rather than share and sell for extra money.

Just as the nearly £900, barely-used designer handbag, I’ve put out, neatened up or sold some items that it really reassures my faith in humanity to find donated. We’ve had brand new items, still in their packets, including mid-range shirts. I can tell many of the books donated to us have never been read, their spines stiff and pages pristine, and one or two even with the unfaded receipt still tucked into the back cover. Much of our nicest non-clothes items are PDSA items such as pet-themed décor, but even that gets donated; I’ve sold a painting and wondered who painted it, who donated such a lovely item.

…and Old, Broken Rubbish

Unfortunately, people also seem to see charity shops as a dump where you get to feel good about yourself, and we get people attempting to ‘donate’ all kinds of rubbish. We don’t take electrical items and things like bike helmets, as it’s near impossible for us to know if they’re in usable condition. We find that clothes are too ripped or that battery items have old, mouldy batteries in them, but that’s a judgement call.

It’s when people try to give us obviously cracked bike helmets that would be dangerous to use, puzzles and multi-piece toys with many pieces missing, or things that are blatantly of no use to anyone that’s most frustrating. I’ve even had to explain that no, we don’t take kitchen cupboard doors with no hinges or handles!

People Have Zero Common Sense

While it is a volunteering role for a charity, it’s also retail work in a high street shop. As such, you get all the same realisations of customer ignorance. There’s something about walking into a shop that makes people forget how to read, use logic and count, and it seems that charity shops are one of the worst for this.

The typical occurrence of people handing you clothes with labels on the top with huge £1 stickers and asking you how much they cost happens, as does people looking at a sign that says “3 items only in the changing room” then asking if the curtained area is a changing room or how many items they can take in. I had to repeatedly explain to a customer that while I personally did not know if the watch she was buying had a battery in it, it had been tested and did work. She walked over to a display while I rung her purchase up on the till, then asked if I had, in that time, tested the watch.

Charity Shops Are a Local Charity, Too

While the point of charity shops are already charities, raising money for animal, medical and international charities, the shops themselves provide a charitable service to the local community. In selling the things people have donated, charity shops are shops selling cheap second hand things that people can afford easier.

A woman came in to buy her kids some holiday clothes, as new clothes for 4 children can get very expensive very quickly. A couple of people come in regular, donating the puzzles they’ve completed and buying up new puzzles to do. In a conversation I had with a customer, I realised he was a homeless man buying an interview suit for less than £10. Working in a charity shop gives you a real insight into their role in the community.

Why Reusable Menstrual Pads are The Best Option and Not “Icky”

The logic of what is and isn’t socially acceptable can be odd; reusable cloth nappies are an admirable choice when you have a baby and ‘moon cups’, reusable plastic menstrual cups, are gaining popularity. Despite those two things being socially acceptable, reusable cloth menstrual pads just aren’t something people have positive reactions to hearing about.

While ‘moon cups’ are written about and shown off as THE reusable menstrual item, their insertable nature means they are only really comparable to tampons. For people who use pads for whatever reason they do, reusable pads are the alternative to disposable pads. After all, some people just don’t trust insertables not to leak, find them too invasive and upsetting, find them uncomfortable, or just don’t like the idea. Plus, it’s reusable pads that don’t get the praise they deserve.

All three products have the same main drawback. You have to clean them. Cleaning plastic cups only means a quick rinse, but cloth does has to be washed. Washing cloth pads isn’t too hands-on or laborious, as after a soak they’re fine to put in the washing machine. One little waterproof bin with a lid in the bathroom and it’s a small chore. Pouring the dirty water away and chucking the pads in the washing machine is far less unpleasant than cleaning the poop from socially acceptable cloth nappies!

There are many benefits to cloth pads, from the eco-friendliness of reusing them to the trans pleasure of them being infinitely less gendered a product. They work out much, much cheaper in the long run than disposable pads, too. While a full set can cost around £80, depending on what thickness you need, a month’s supply of disposable pads can be as much as £4. It doesn’t seem like much, but it soon adds up. £4 a month is over £200 a year! Even if you only spend £1.50 a month, it’s only a year before you’re saving money with cloth pads. If you’re handy with a sewing machine you could even make your own, meaning they’d only cost as much as the fabric itself.

The fact that they’re reusable is why they’re eco-friendly, too. Instead of binning at three or more pads a day for an average of five days a month, filling landfills with at least 180 pads a year, you could avoid that altogether. That’s the main appeal of cloth nappies too, and in this era of global warming and realisation that we can’t keep just binning everything, environmental choices are admirable. If you sort your recycling and buy products with less packaging, this should be just your cup of tea. Metaphorically speaking. Make sure your pads have some peace signs and flowers on them, you hippy, you’re helping to save the Earth.

Yes, peace signs and flowers. Cloth pads aren’t plain white with sticky backs, they’re coloured fabric with pop button wings. The lack of glue is fantastic for someone like me, as I have a skin allergy to glue. If you’re prone to sweat, itching or discomfort, the breathable fabric is a wonder. The colour choices take menstrual pads from function object you hide away to item of clothing. You can choose light fabrics to see how heavy your flow is being or dark colours to hide any staining, you can have them all in your favourite colour or match different colour pads to different colour pants, and you can choose patterns like flowers, skulls and cross bones or birds. You’ll want to hang them to dry in your living room so people can see how nice they are. You’ll want to store them in full view, and flash your pants at people when you are wearing them.

Those pretty and funky patterns are just the tip of the iceberg of how different an idea the people making cloth pads and the companies making disposable pads have of their products of menstruation itself. Far less ashamed of natural bodily functions, the product descriptions on Etsy don’t avoid saying what they actually are and use words like menstrual and blood. Feminist and hippy words like ‘moon’ for ‘period’ come up, too, but the euphemisms are positive instead of embarrassed.

For trans men and other non-women who menstruate, the lack of words like “feminine hygiene product” are great in that reusable pads are often completely ungendered. Some shops go on about womanliness, but many are gender neutral and some cater towards trans people. Those colours and patterns are good on this point, too, as you can completely avoid the pinks and purples and the soft girly packet patterns most menstrual products have, and opt for whatever makes you feel manly or genderless about your period. Having dark pads hides the blood, too, so is fantastic for anyone who feels dysphoric or just squicked out by seeing it.

One benefit that won’t cross your mind until you actually use them is the comfort. Allergies aside, wearing disposable menstrual pads aren’t as comfortable as not wearing them. They might rub or make you sweat, but they just aren’t made of soft fabric. Cloth pads, being cloth, are. The initial chill you might feel of the metal pop-clip on your leg aside, having pads made of fabric won’t feel any different to regular underwear. All those discrete and unnoticeable disposable pads have nothing on pads that feel like any other fabric. For people with heavy periods, the rustle of a heavy or night pad as you move makes it feel more like a nappy than the secret it claims to be. You know what doesn’t have a plastic-y rustle? Fabric.

Here’s hoping these wonders get more socially acceptable, and more people get to experience them. The downsides are few and the upsides are abundant; if you’re using disposables it’s the perfect time to switch!