Helping You Help Yourself #23

feature image via shutterstock

Lately I’ve been trying to wean myself off my habit of buying myself things when I’m down or to celebrate accomplishments — I’m generally pretty fiscally responsible, but I also have debt equal to the mortgage on a small fixer-upper in the Midwest, and those $6 lipsticks and $10 new notebooks add up. Here are some things I’ve been trying to give myself that feeling of getting something new, special and exciting without, you know, paying for something new and exciting.

+ Change your phone’s background or lock screen
+ Follow a new podcast/YouTuber/webseries/webcomic
+ Get a new book from the library
+ Rearrange a room or your desk
+ Change your comforter/bedsheets
+ Dig out a piece of clothing you like but haven’t worn in a while/have forgotten about
+ Change your desktop background or screensaver
+ Pick some flowers (if you live in an area with them) and put them in a vase in your apt

Some neat uses for those tiny silica packets you get with new pairs of shoes!

How often should you wash these 10 common household items? Find out!

This weekend I heard a secondhand tale of someone who has finally cracked the code re: how to watch Netflix while laying down: they took a box, cut a hole in it slightly smaller than their tablet/smartphone, and lay down on the bed with the box/tablet combo balanced over their face. Disconcerting to walk in on? Probably. The best way to keep your phone from falling and hitting you in the face? Possibly!

Lifehacker compares different ways to get leftover sticker gunk off after removing a label. They say that rubbing alcohol is the winner, which I had actually never heard before! I’m trying it as I type and have to say it works pretty well, although it does seem to work best if you soak the gunky thing in question for a bit, which can be tough/require a lot of rubbing alcohol if something is a weird shape.

Seems relevant to your interests: the best way to make a huge batch of tacos.

Like this but more (via shutterstock)

Like this but more (via shutterstock)

Allegedly “no-fail” herbs to grow indoors. If you, like me, have proven yourself especially gifted at failing even with no-fail plants, you might be helped by this comprehensive guide to grow lights.

If you have a toaster or toaster oven, they almost definitely have a small pull-out tray in the bottom of them that’s meant to catch crumbs and other debris from food you cook in them. If you’ve never opened that and cleaned it out, today is a great day to do that! If you’ve been smelling a gross burning scent every time you use the appliance, this might fix it. I’ve gone ahead and wrapped the bottom tray of my toaster oven with tin foil so that when pizza cheese or other gross stuff melts onto it during cooking, I can just take off the tin foil and replace it.

Is that tax preparation ad you’ve been seeing everywhere a weird scam? Here’s how to tell. (Y’all, you need to get moving on your taxes if you haven’t!)

Lifehacker says you’d be sleeping better if you were naked.

HEY this is a gentle PSA that if you’ve been waiting for the perfect time/situation/context for doing a thing, you don’t have to. I don’t even necessarily mean this in a sweeping Apply For Your Dream Job way — although I also do mean that, it’s always the right time to apply for your dream job and otherwise pursue your best life — I also mean that, for instance, I have two full boxes of old shoes I want to donate to goodwill, but they’ve been sitting in my bedroom for six weeks because I thought “I also want to go through my books for stuff to donate, so I’ll wait til I do that and take them all together.” Obvs that hasn’t happened yet, and so I’ve spent six weeks walking around boxes of shoes every day. Think of one thing in your life you’ve been putting off or putting on the back burner because not everything about it is perfectly ideal yet, and ask yourself whether your life would be better tomorrow if you just went ahead and did it today.

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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. Growing herbs in doors is exactly what I wanted to learn to do this week! Thank you, Rachel!

  2. I have definitely failed keeping rosemary alive inside multiple times. It might matter that I was trying to transplant it from my front yard for the winter (because most rosemary varieties aren’t perennial in Minnesota)

  3. This is an especially helpful HYHY. I also buy stuff on Amazon or elsewhere online when I feel like I deserve a treat. What helps me is trying a new recipe or baking because I’m still shopping but I get to eat the results.

  4. I should really save getting a new book from the library as a treat / reward to myself. I have like 10 sitting in my apartment that I have to return, but I’ve only read like half on them!

    • i know what you mean! i had to make myself dial it back because i was embarrassed to go into the library because of how often i was returning things super late.

  5. I feel slightly short-changed by the taco thing, because it’s more of a tessellation suggestion rather than the end-to-end taco production line process specification that I was hoping for.

    This is particularly relevant to my interests, as I am about to go home and eat a large number of fish tacos (no euphemism), and I fear that without some Model T Ford levels of exponential assembly acceleration, I will be hungry for some time.

  6. Once I live on my own, I will def sleep mostly in the nude (I gotta have underwear on tho, ew otherwise). Because of the side effects of my anxiety/depression medications, I get super hot/sweaty really easily, so having a lot of clothing on when I’m in bed isn’t helpful. Right now I just sleep in a big, comfy tshirt with underwear and sometimes socks if it’s cold. I have huge boobs so sometimes even the tshirt is a nuisance. I kind of wish I could just sleep on some jello so I wouldn’t have to move/smoosh my boobs around so much when I’m trying to sleep. Sigh.

    You should only wash your comforter ever six months? And your hand towels every 2-3 days? I’m sorry, I wash my comforters about every two weeks; I LIVE WITH THREE CATS. They get their little cat dust and hair everywhere, not to mention the gravel from the litter box that mysteriously ends up in my bed!!!

    Thanks for this installment, Rachel!

  7. “ask yourself whether your life would be better tomorrow if you just went ahead and did it today.”

    oh look, another thing rachel said that i’ll be writing on a post-it and sticking on my wall so it, too, can change my life!

    • As a grade A procrastinator this is the most painful thing to read though. like THANKS I DIDN’T KNOW THAT.

    • I might require a whole pad of post it notes, which would then colorfully decorate my apartment…

  8. i just want to put my vote in for using any kind of oil (canola, veg, olive if you’re very fancy) and baking soda to get that sticky label goop off. i mix them into a paste, let it sit on there for a bit, and then use a scrubby sponge. usually the oil dissolves it and the baking soda helps scrub it off, i think. then wash with soap and water! works like a charm, doesn’t dry out your hands, not too messy. yay!

    • i’ve tried this and while it definitely worked i actually didn’t find it as effective as the rubbing alcohol method! it seemed to me like the oil/baking soda took longer, required more intense scrubbing, and made more of a mess. i’m glad that you’re happy with it though!

      • huh! maybe we have different kinds of label goops. or just different preferences! avoiding the smell of rubbing alcohol is worth it to me tbh. but if i have a stubborn one i’ll try it!

  9. This is super relevant this week- both the indoor herb growing and the “debt equivalent to a small fixer-upper in the Midwest”. I too have a fixer-upper in the Midwest with resulting debt, and it has been more of an adventure (in terms of renovation and expense) than I could ever have expected. Raising a glass to you and your fixing-up!

  10. I <3 the PSA so much, Rachel.

    While I almost but not quite took out the trash, it did make me go for a run, so kinda sorta worked-ish, hooray!

  11. Re: the last paragraph
    What if your “reason” for putting something off is anxiety? There are a lot of things I avoid because of anxiety. I try to balance being nice and forgiving with myself and being encouraging and motivating with myself about it, but it’s hard to find a balance.

    Advice? Thoughts? Maybe future Helping You Helping Yourself Topic?

  12. I just realized that the cover photo for the article is two seals, not a random blob.

    • Oh and the best way to make a big batch of tacos is buying like 12lbs of cooked barbacoa and store bought tortillas from a Mexican grocery store, it will always be freshly made! Bam! You are already done really. Do this method for tacos that have meat that is time consuming to make.


    Do you know of Danielle LaPorte? (If not, look her up STAT.) Among other awesome things, she makes these card decks printed with her own wise sayings, called Truth Bombs, which are, literally, the bomb. Check it out:

    The Autostraddle Team has written SO many quotable quotes over the years…y’all should put them onto a similar deck and sell that shit! You could have Rory Midhani draw portraits of each team member on one side, then print that person’s quote on the other. Here’s the first one: Rachel says, “Ask yourself whether your life would be better tomorrow if you just went ahead and did it today.” Love it! I wanna put that on my wall!

    I would definitely buy a deck of Autostraddle Wisdom-isms.


  14. Goo-gone for sticky goop! We always had a bottle of the stuff growing up and all you do is put a little on a cloth, rub it on the sticky residue and voila! It leaves a bit of an oily residue so you wash the thing after but it works like a charm.

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