Helping You Help Yourself #19

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Did you know that if there’s a power tool you need for a home project but don’t want to invest in permanently — a power drill to put up a shelf, a disc sander to refinish a table you found on Craigslist — you can probably rent it from Home Depot? It’s true! It’s likely affordable! You may also be able to use a local tool library, a community resource that lets you check tools out like books (although the one in my area only rents to homeowners, unfortunately).

Now that you know how to get tools on the cheap, maybe you feel empowered to take on these home repairs that are easier than you think, promise.

Do you have challenging or intensive grocery shopping trips, or are just tired of coming home from the store only to realize that you forgot seven things you really needed? Here’s how on person uses Google Spreadsheets to make a masterful grocery list.

I have a humidifier for the bedroom and even though it’s kind of loud and annoying to refill with water every night it’s still the best thing that’s ever happened to winter; when I turn it on, leave, and walk back into the bedroom later I can feel how much more normal and full of sweet moisture the air is. You should probably have a humidifier; this is the one I have. If you don’t want to do that, Apartment Therapy has some ideas that aren’t humidifiers for adding moisture to your air.

When was the last time you watered your plants? What about the ones at work/on the far windowsill/somewhere else that you always forget about? Take two minutes now and set reminders for yourself in your phone or your calendar to water them a couple times a week (or however often they need it). Trust me, there are few things more depressing than finding a plant and realizing you’ve let it die.

I discovered this a week or two ago and can’t get over it. I have it bookmarked and listen to it constantly. It genuinely helps.

Is your kitchen sink or garbage disposal cruddy? How do you even clean those? Here’s how. Also, I wish I had a garbage disposal so bad! If you have one, please honor your good fortune by taking care of it.

These resourceful people on the Internet have thoughts on how best to handle snow removal if a layer of ice has frozen the snow into place.

If you are lucky enough to be blessed with fresh, malleable snow instead of old snow frozen hard as a rock, here are 23 very detailed tips on snowman building.

Tax time is sooner than you think (in the US)! Here are your reminders to gather any tax forms you receive online or in the mail and keep them together somewhere that you’ll remember, and to plan to file your taxes well before April 15th so that if something unexpected comes up or it turns out there’s a problem, you won’t be scrambling at the last minute. If there’s anything less than totally routine about your taxes — you’re a freelancer, something odd happened to you financially this year, you’re getting some new and confusing tax forms you haven’t used before, you moved a lot or have lots of new sources of income — it’s a good idea to consider working with an accountant instead of trying to file your taxes alone. Their fee will likely be preferable in the long run to getting audited or overpaying/getting back less than you should. If you do think you want an accountant — or free volunteer tax prep through your state — now is the time to start making arrangements! Everyone will fill up very quick. Here’s some helpful tax links, including how to find free volunteer tax prep.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. Yoooo speaking of taxes, does anyone here have experience with having tax returns that don’t match your current legal name? I changed my name this fall (yay) but since it went through during my last month at my seasonal job, I didn’t really let my employer know (mostly because all the legal forms being mailed everywhere to update the name on other things/one of the co-owners knows but he doesn’t really deal with the paperwork so I’m 90% sure things are still filled out as my birth name). Can I file with the name not matching or do I need to give my employer the heads up now so they can update stuff and send me the stuff for my new name?

    Aaaaaand if I have to do that I also have to contact my school because they have my birthname on file and I was still working there til graduation in May, many months before the legal name change.

    • I believe you have to let the SSA (social security administration), if you haven’t already. I’d ask a tax professional just to be sure, but I am pretty sure that is all you have to do. And had-correct the name to your legal name on your W-2’s. Again, though, check with a tax pro.

    • Hi! I’m your friendly (volunteer) tax preparer. The only thing you need to do is request a new social security card with your current legal name. Fill out form SS-5 ( and drop it off at your local social security office. Congrats on your name change and happy tax season!

  2. I in fact did NOT know that you can rent a power drill, I need to add more moisture to my winter apartment air, and I had a layer of ice over the snow that was blocking my car in for the last two days.

    Thanks, Rachel.

  3. Hey by the way the Apartment Therapy link is broken because “bedroom” is written before http on the URL. Classic lesbian mistake. Anyway, just look at your address bar and remove the “b” word to get the right link. Great article. Super helpful. Thanks!

  4. Giving the name of this section, it seems like a good place to share some information: according to the World Health Organization Zika virus is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile.

    I’ve seen a bunch of information about this virus all over the place but nobody seems to care about giving information to people about prevention.

    This virus is transmitted by a mosquito, Aedes Aegypti. This mosquito is particularly nasty because it can also spread Dengue, Chikungunya, Yellow Fever and other diseases. As I type this, several countries in Latin America are fighting against Dengue outbreaks (Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, etc.). Believe or not, Dengue outbreaks are normal for this time of the year (the period of November/April seems to be the “Dengue season” for Latin America).

    What I wanted share is that, as we all know, there are still no vaccines for these diseases (Mexico, Philippines and now Brazil are using a vaccine for Dengue but it’s still at trial bases), so the best way to fight against these diseases is to FIGHT THE MOSQUITO.

    The WHO is clear about this: “Preventing or reducing virus transmission depends entirely on control of the mosquito vectors…”

    Aedes Aegypti proliferates in many purposely-filled household containers such as those used for domestic water storage and for decorative plants, as well as in a multiplicity of rain-filled habitats – including used tires, discarded food and beverage containers, blocked gutters and buildings under construction. So, we need to eliminate or clean this kind of things in our homes. It also helps installing mosquito screening on windows, doors and other entry points, and using mosquito nets while sleeping during daytime. And, of course, the classic mosquito repellents.

    This information can be found in World Health Organization and Pan American Health Organization sites, but if you asked about prevention to a member of the GoP, he/she will say that the best way to fight these diseases is to close your borders and bomb Latin America out with tons of DDT. My choice, of course, is to fight the mosquito.

    • Mosquitoes lay their eggs in ANY standing water they can find. I’ve dumped water from something as miniscule a gather as a frisbee to see larvae and eggs come with it.

      3 parts of its 4 part life cycle is spent in water.
      Cannot stress enough how much preventing, reducing or mosquito proofing standing water helps.
      Also be kind to spiders, lizards, lil fishes and birds they eat mosquitoes.
      Geese and ducks can be mean, but they eat larvae and pupae.

      • In Latin America we’re having, at this moment, one of the worst combinations you can find: summer + el Niño, which means a lot of rain.

        So, to be save we’re cleaning like crazy people, standing water is a big NO NO.

  5. I’m going to fill my humidifier and listen to this meditation thing right now. I’m so excited??

  6. i just wanna say i have a humidifier shaped like an elephant and the vapor comes out the trunk and it brightens my life with its cute face and i recommend it highly!

    • Well now I’m looking at all these animal humidifiers and I CAN’T DECIDE. Yup, definitely an adult.

      (I’ve been meaning to get one for ages to fight winter nosebleeds.)

  7. I really want that humidifier! I use my cheaper one when I’m sick or have major sinus issues. Having a humidifier with cats is really fun. They don’t know what the fuck to make of it.

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