11 Little Tricks That Make Life Better

Life can be busy and downright tough at times, so it's understandable that we all seek ways to simplify everyday tasks. If you're nodding your head in agreement, try these life-enhancing ideas and see if they don't help you enjoy the simpler pleasures.
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By Natasha Saroca, Houzz Editorial Staff

Life can be busy and downright tough at times, so it's understandable that we all seek ways to simplify everyday tasks. If you're nodding your head in agreement because you're always looking for ways to make your days less full-on and more fulfilling, try these life-enhancing ideas and see if they don't help you enjoy the simpler pleasures.

1. Eat at your dinner table. Rather than having a quick bite at your breakfast bar or eating on the run, tweak your schedule to carve out time to prepare a proper meal, set your table and sit down to eat. You can use this time to catch up, laugh and bond with family or housemates, an important ritual we can neglect when life gets busy. If you're eating alone, it can be an opportunity to slow down and relax. The simple act of sitting down to a home-cooked meal at your dinner table will encourage you to savor the food -- and might even help you be a bit healthier too.

2. Set up a tea station in your boudoir. If you enjoy sipping a cup of steaming-hot tea first thing in the morning or before you go to bed, why not set up a tea station in your bedroom? It'll save you from leaving the comfort of your bedroom before you really need to, as everything you'll want to make the perfect cuppa will be just a few steps from your bed.

Choose a spot that's close to a power outlet so you can easily plug in an electric kettle. You'll also need space for your tea-making essentials, including one or two cups, a few tins of your favorite tea blends and whatever else you like in your brew. Set these items on a breakfast tray to keep things tidy. The tray will also come in handy if you want to transfer cups of tea to and from the bed.

3. Scatter motivational phrases around your home. Some days it's hard to get motivated for the day ahead. Motivational quotes around your home can lift your spirits when you need a pick-me-up.

4. Pick out your outfit the day before. I don't know about you, but it takes me ages to work out what I'm going to wear every morning. Not because I'm trying to dress to impress, but rather because of the many variables that come into play, like my mood, the weather, what needs ironing and what I have planned for the day. Do yourself a favor and plan ahead.

5. Add the scent of cinnamon. If you love cooking but hate the smells that infiltrate your house when you use ingredients that have a heavy scent (seafood, garlic, bacon and curry, I'm looking at you), simmer some water and a few sticks of cinnamon on the stove while you cook. The fragrance will help mask pungent odors until they fade away.

If you don't like the smell of cinnamon, try citrus peels, a few drops of vanilla extract or a couple of tablespoons of baking soda instead. Boiling one or two cups of vinegar on the stove will also do the job.

6. Save your spare change. When you walk in the door, empty your wallet and drop your spare change in a jar or piggy bank. You might be surprised how much money you can save in a month, let alone a year. If you can spare $1 a day, by the end of the year you'll have saved up $365, which will come in handy during the holiday season.

Or try dropping a dollar in your change jar this week, then increase the amount by a dollar every week thereafter (so next week put in $2, followed by $3 the week after and so on). This sneaky trick will help you save $1,378 over a year. Plus, if you drop in any loose change that's jangling around in your purse or pockets at the end of each week, you'll get a nice surprise when you count the coins once the 52-week savings period is over.

7. Switch off. One habit that can hamper your ability to catch quality z's at night is using electronic gadgets or watching TV in bed, which is something I'm guilty of, and I'm guessing many of you are too. Electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops and TVs emit a blue light, which slows the production of melatonin, a hormone that controls your body clock and helps you sleep. The light also makes you feel more alert, which may delay your dozing off. Doing work and answering emails in bed can also cause stress and keep you up.

Power down your devices at least one hour before bed, and switch your phone to airplane mode when you do turn in. These tiny tweaks to your nightly routine will help ensure you can relax and wind down properly so you feel refreshed and raring to go in the morning.

8. Set aside an afternoon for cooking. If you'd rather not slave over a hot stove after coming home from a long day of work, set aside a weekend afternoon for whipping up meals for the entire week. Wrangle your family and get them to pitch in to make the process quicker and easier.

9. Toss old beauty products. If you've been using the same tube of lipstick for more than a year or are still working through a powder foundation compact you opened two years ago, it's time to throw it out. Like food, beauty and grooming products have expiration dates, and they can harm your skin and cause other health problems if they're used past their shelf life.

For example, mascara and liquid eyeliner tubes are breeding grounds for bacteria that can cause eye infections, so they should be replaced every three months. Face moisturizers and body lotions have a shelf life of at least six months (though, depending on the ingredients, some can be kept longer). If they're used beyond that, the creams can cause skin irritations and bacterial infections. Skin-care products like sunscreen and lotions that have anti-aging or anti-acne ingredients can also become less effective as time goes on.

10. Hang a hook for your keys. I'm one of those people who often lose their keys. I don't even want to think about how much time I've wasted going on search-and-rescue missions for mine, which always seem to go missing when I'm in a rush. Though I've been tempted to buy a high-tech app-operated key tracker, the simple solution of hanging a key rack in a can't-miss-it spot by my front door has done the trick.

11. Create a weekly chores list. If your family members or housemates often bicker about whose turn it is to vacuum or clean the bathroom, creating a household cleaning schedule is a simple strategy that will help bring peace to your home.

Position the weekly chores list in a handy location, such as on the fridge or in the laundry room, so no one can use the excuse of not seeing it. Paint a chalkboard area or buy a chalkboard so you can tweak the schedule each week.