Helping You Help Yourself #20

feature image via shutterstock

Here is an infographic about different ways to tie your shoes for different shoe-related concerns. Do they work? I guess we’ll find out!

A twitter account that enumerates chill situations. Laneia thought you might like this.

I feel sort of dumb saying this because maybe you all already know it? But in case you don’t: there are still people out there whose livelihood is repairing shoes, and it’s a great service! You can very likely find someone in your area who will refurbish and resole your winter boots for $30-50 instead of you buying brand new winter boots for $100; you don’t necessarily have to get rid your favorite pair of flats that are horrific-looking right now but you can’t replace because they’re discontinued! The best person on earth at this is Walter, an Amish cobbler near Bird-In-Hand in PA, but whichever shoe repair person lives near you is probably great too, check Yelp.

HEY do you have a Brita filter pitcher thing? When was the last time you changed the filter in it? They should be changed every 3 months or so, just FYI.

Last column I suggested you buy a humidifier! If you did, congrats on your more comfortable living space. You should know that they do develop dirt and gunk inside eventually, like anything else, so in a few months you should probably clean it. Here’s how!

They always say you should write a thank you note after a job interview, and it’s nice to send one after someone has you over for the first time or if they buy you a bouncy castle or something, I don’t know. Here’s some very detailed tips on how to write the best thank-you note ever.

This is an article about how to say “no thank you” to things and also how to respond when someone else says no thank you to you! It’s ostensibly about food, like saying no thank you to being offered food you don’t want, because it’s on the Kitchn, but I feel like it translates pretty solidly to the rest of our lives too.

If you are still a person who eats Chipotle (I am! Because I don’t eat meat and have convinced myself that you can’t get food poisoning/ill from eating vegetables; please don’t disabuse me of this notion even if I am wrong, let me dream), you can get a free Chipotle burrito this week.

If fancy intimate evenings at home are more your style than Chipotle, here’s five steps to a romantic Valentine’s dinner at home.

It’s still tax season! Taxes! They’re coming! Last time in this column we talked about finding an accountant and/or free volunteer tax prep help. Let’s imagine, for a second, the worst-case scenario and that you don’t get your taxes filed, because it’s always better to have more information than less! Mental Floss has a piece on what happens when you don’t pay your taxes on time.

I didn’t know that Lifehacker had monthly money challenges! Now I do. This month’s is about negotiating to lower your monthly bills.

The US Presidential election is still months away, but it’s never too early to register to vote. In some states you can register to vote online! Here’s how to look up whether you can and make it happen if you’re in the US, and here’s a resource for those living in the UK.

A long time ago I found a #lifehack somewhere that said if you keep unripe avocados in a paper bag with some bananas, the enzymes released from the bananas as they ripen will help hurry the unripe avocados along too. This week was the first time I happened to have both unripe avocados and bananas in the house at the same time, and I can report that the avocados did indeed ripen in about a day and a half of being in the paper bag. Unfortunately I forgot to leave one avocado out of the bag so I could see how fast it ripened sans banana, so this isn’t actually much of a tip, but I don’t know, maybe you want to try it too!


best friends (via shutterstock)

I do not listen to Note to Self, which I believe is a podcast, but they’re doing an interest project called Infomagical meant to help you cut down on information overload and be generally more well. Officially the challenge was Feb 1-5, so technically it’s over, but you can still listen to recordings explaining each of the challenges and try them on your own. Maybe you’ll find it helpful!

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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. Rachel-do you use your humidifier all the time-like 24/7? Only when you’re home? Only during certain months of the year?

    • This is a great question! I only keep it in my bedroom and only during the winter (it’s in the closet the other 2/3 of the year) and I turn it on about an hour before I go to sleep, so I’m sleeping in nice humid air. The tank on mine holds almost exactly that amount of water, so it works out perfectly, and I just refill it before bed each night.

      I know some people keep another one in their office room (they make mini ones that can go on your desk), and it’s tempting to do that in my home office but I keep a lot of succulents in there and I don’t think humid air is good for succulents so I just settle for drinking a lot of water and moisturizing during the day!

  2. Dear Americans, please, everybody, register to vote.
    I’m not even of your country, but I don’t want to live in a world where Donald Trump is president.

    • Every day I think someone needs to make this comment until all American citizens of Autostraddle are registered to vote.

      I know it feels helpless sometimes guys, but imagine the power of all of us voting — it’s something.

      I will bring CA reg forms to a-camp!

    • Yes! Do this! You should even be able to do it online! I just did it recently so I could caucus in Iowa, it took about 2 minutes. And when I got my voter registration card in the mail a few days later I felt like a Responsible Adult Citizen, which doesn’t happen that often and is for sure worth 2 minutes of time!

  3. Yay family friends sent me a few bottles of wine over the post and I just purchased the thank you card but still need to write something in it. This is perfect :)

    Also the banana tricks works with apples instead of bananas as well on any fruit :)

  4. It’s ethylene gas that causes ripening. I did an internship at a plant biotech company a million years ago. it was rad, i measured the shelf life of tomatoes engineered for delayed ethylene production — hazy summer days in the greenhouse that smelled like an italian garden, yellow pollen on my hands, tomato calipers and clipboard at the ready. the little tomato flowers look the same as the ones for deadly nightshade — respect.
    anyway, it’s true, the paper bag traps the ethylene released by ripe fruit, and signals the unripe fruit to hurry up and ripen.
    conversely, if you don’t want your bananas to turn brown as fast, separate them. Same for flowers, pick out the dead/wilted ones so the fresher ones will last longer.

    • I was just going to comment about ethylene gas! Plants produce it as a hormone, which is pretty rad, imo, because it’s a gas! That acts like a hormone! On plants! I didn’t retain much else from Intro to Bio II but I retained that.

      • I agree, it is rad! Plants, I appreciate you so. <3 Also my intro to bio class was crushingly dull as well hehe. Solidarity.

      • I appreciated your commitment to the scientific method: in the discussion section, ‘we did not include a no-bag control avocado for comparison.’ A+.

    • That’s awesome, thanks for sharing
      and you’ve reminded me that I still need to buy a Rey Star Wars action figure

  5. I just need to say that Bird-in-Hand is one of the best place names I’ve heard for a long time, and I grew up in an English village so I know from cute place names.

    (I grew up in Lumb, which is between Whitewell Bottom and Water, and near Ramsbottom and Waterfoot and many other adorably named places.)

  6. I’m with you on the Chipotle Rachel. I don’t eat meat either and it helps that there’s not a Chipotle in the state of North Dakota!


    So I always eat it whenever I travel. In my mind I have 0 chance of ever getting from it sick, even when I eat it twice in one week. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

  7. Whoa, Rachel, do you live near Bird-in-Hand? It’s so weird hearing Lancaster County toponyms randomly on the internet…

    Also, I swear by my cobbler. My wish for the world is that everyone can find a cobbler they love to repair their poor, worn-out shoes. Often the soles they put on your broken shoes are better than the ones that came with the shoe.

  8. I love this column so much.

    I use that exact same reasoning for still going to Chipotle. Thanks for the link!

    Also thanks for the tax article. I didn’t actually read it, but thanks to you I decided to go file my federal taxes now so I don’t have to deal with them later.

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