Helping You Help Yourself #24

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As mentioned in last week’s Autostraddle newsletter (everyone’s reading it! Get on board!) I talked about how I want to become a morning person despite this definitely not being my natural inclination. If this sounds like you, here are two things I’ve read on it that I thought were helpful in different ways! I think Laneia liked this one.

Hey here’s something I do: when I can’t find something and have to look in 25 different places before I finally find it, I try to remember to put the thing back in the very first place I looked once I’m done with it; since that was where I assumed it was this time, it’s probably where I’ll assume it is next time, and maybe next time I’ll be right!

I’ve been on this earth over 27 years now and I still don’t know what the little symbols on your clothing tags mean that tell you how you’re supposed to wash it! If that also describes you, let’s remedy that together.

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Here are some things Apartment Therapy is confident you can make from scratch. I would argue that there are some major omissions (bread!) and some things on here that honestly, you know, just buy them, but still, neat!

I always forget to do this smart, easy thing and always end up paying for bad $12 sandwiches when I fly. Don’t be like me.

We’ve discussed here before setting some stuff up in the evenings for the next day, like past-you paying it forward to future-you to make their life easier. I tried to look around for something to show y’all re: things you can do on Sunday nights (or the last day of your “weekend” if you work something other than a Monday through Friday 9-5) specifically to set yourself up more effectively for the whole week, but almost everything I found was either dedicated entirely to intense food prep, which wasn’t quite what I was looking for, or was outrageously intense and would, I think, take a real person who isn’t a lifestyle blogger about 16 hours to do. So instead, let’s make our own! Here are my suggestions for things to do the night before to make your life easier (not that I succeed in doing all of them all the time myself!); add yours in the comments!

Every night:
Set up caffeine situation for the morning (set the coffeemaker or set out a teabag and cup!)
Take care of any dishes in the sink
Clear surfaces like the kitchen table or bathroom sink that you’ll need in the morning
Write your to-do list for tomorrow

Additionally on Sunday night:
Take out trash/recycling/compost
Do a load of laundry
Throw out old food in the fridge
Make one or two meals that will keep well for lunches/leftovers (lentil salad, pasta salad, casserole)

I always wonder what to do with the leftover oil the two times a year I deep-fry something, and now I know.

I’ve mentioned different ambient sound makers/white noise generators here before, so today here’s one for you Trek nerds. (Trekkies? Trekkers? I forget the difference.)

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A service that helps you figure out what other people with your job are making, so you can know whether you’re being paid fairly.

Hey if you have a cup of coffee in a to-go cup without a lid that you got while you were out but think you might still want to drink later after you get home, don’t leave it on the kitchen table, lidless, because your dumb cat will definitely knock it over and cover everything on the table with coffee!!

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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. There will forever be a part of me that resists learning the laundry symbols because I know deep down that even if/when I know what the tags are telling me, I’ll STILL just throw everything into the machine on cold and hang it to dry because a) those are the cheapest options and b) it hasn’t failed me yet(at least not that often).
    While I know this strategy is childish and bound to end in tears, consider a) I am childish and b) I don’t even own an iron so probably there is no helping me.

    • This is how I feel.

      Except I throw everything in the dryer too because I have yet to grow the hell up and buy a laundry rack. I take out clothes I consider ‘nice’ and anything i bought super recently and would be upset if they were destroyed.

      This has worked very effectively for me except for the time the washing machine broke and held my clothes hostage for more than two hours. That was a disaster.

      • one of the first things I did when I moved away from home was buy myself a laundry rack and bring it home bungee’d to the back of my bike, breaking one of the support struts in the process. I was very proud.

    • Guys, really, I’m all for breaking rules and doing laundry however you please, you do you etc, but are those symbols really that difficult to read? I think they are pretty obvious.

  2. Someone once told me this as a way to train yourself to get up early in the morning (I often have a very difficult time getting out of bed in the morning – I usually decide that falling back asleep sounds better than getting up, so I lay there until the last possible second and usually feel drowsier than if I had just gotten up right away). So, during the daytime, you lay down in bed and set your alarm for 10 minutes or so (probably without the intent of actually falling asleep). When the alarm goes off, you immediately jump out of bed, so you learn to make that association between your alarm going off and getting up right away, instead of indefinitely hitting the snooze button.

    (I never actually got around to trying this, but it seems like it could be a useful way to keep a more consistent schedule)

    • Oh this is a brilliant idea! I use a light alarm so I’m not sure this would be a good fit for me but I bet it would be super helpful for people with sound alarms!

      • Right, I think it legitimately would be a very effective way of training yourself to get up early. I have a few weeks off until I start a new job, so I’m thinking I should actually try it now since I’ll have to start waking up early again for it (and I’m hoping I’ll like this job more than my last one, so the idea of getting up to go there will be a wee bit more appealing).

        I am curious about trying the light alarm, though! Ive thought about buying blackout curtains bc I get a little too much light coming from the streetlight, but I like the idea of waking up naturally with the morning light. If I used something like that so I was at least partially awake, and set a regular alarm shortly after and got used to getting out of bed immediately then, I feel like it could work really well. (even if it this now seems like somewhat of an involved process to get up in the morning).

    • I’ve heard this before too, but never made the time. However, there are strange men sporadically walking around my balcony which is killing my productivity today so maybe I’ll shut the blinds and give this a go.

  3. If you really want to wake up early, record some creepy sounds and use that as an alarm. Nothing says wake up like the sound of a burglar with a chainsaw.

    Or just use the beginning of a System of a Down song. Chop Suey might work.

    • My most recent ex–who had a lot of ideas about how I *should* do things and how I might magically become a morning person despite my actualfax circadian rhythm disorder–was horrified by my 2nd “no really get the fuck up now” alarm tone. Granted it does sound a bit like a fire alarm, and I can actually sleep through it, but like, gentle soothing music is not going to get my attention/make me enjoy waking up before 9am.

      I have a lot of feelings about alarms and mornings and the ways in which society rewards early birds/punishes night owls…

      • I love your alarm though. You sound like you are a pro at waking yourself up from eternal slumber. I should have you make one for my Gf. It is hard to wake her up.

    • I use really upbeat and hard to ignore sounds. My favorite is circus or carnival music. Very rousing

      • You have inspired me to record clown and circus sounds to scare myself with in the morning!

  4. The person who thought that visual instructions for washing was a good idea didn’t know what they were talking about

  5. I had a hard time adjusting to my job being at o’dark thirty every morning, but it got much easier when I made the same thing for breakfast every morning(or the same four things in rotation, that can all go in the microwave, this clearly isn’t healthy diet advice) I didn’t notice until I started doing overnights and was just as awake as regularly early morning, because that routine is what my body recognizes as morning. This becomes a problem if you try to sleep in too soon after, though, and that same body expects breakfast at midnight.

  6. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what Tomorrow Morning Me will want and how to make her life easier. I feel like there are only so many decisions I can make in a day, so I try to streamline everything. Here are my additions to Rachel’s awesome list:

    – Lay out clothes the night before. (Sometimes I don’t actually do this but I basically wear a uniform of black, gray, burgundy, and more black, so everything goes together)

    – Put all snacks/lunch to be packed in its own section of the fridge — that way I don’t accidentally forget my yogurt/apple/whatever

    – On the snack front — I eat the same 8 or so snacks in rotation. Literally just little baggies of nuts + dried fruit, popcorn, carrots, etc. Every Sunday I make sure to throw a couple of extra bags of non-fridge snacks into my backpack, so on Thursday when everything is definitely falling apart, there’s magically still something to eat!

    – Actually go through my work bag and check for the essentials (keys, wallet, floss, computer charger, etc)

    – Don’t respond to email after 4pm (Ok, so I’m a teacher and maybe you can’t do this, but I want to preserve those last hours of Sunday to take care of myself)

    • I also make sure there’s ingredients for PB&J sandwiches, because who knows what I’ll have time to cook later in the week! :)

  7. Maybe this is silly and everyone already has thought of it. But I love nachos, I typically would use a microwave to heat them up, cause the stove seems excessive. But I don’t have a microwave, and have gone without nachos for a long time. But I just realized with my toaster oven I could make a foil plate situation and have nachos again! Very exciting personal discovery!

    • Home made nachos make everything better! And your comment about waking up to carnival music seems very you, and I don’t actually know you. You just project happy even in your alarm choice.

      • haha thank you! circus alarm fits in very well with the googly eyes on the back of my phone, my clown horn text alert tone, and pink panther ringtone. Basically I aspire to be as goofy and happy as I possibly can be in all scenarios. :D


  9. I Lay out my clothes the night before. One less thing to think about in the morning

    • I use that “Do I even have anything clean???!” panic as an extra push to get me out of bed. Your way is surely more efficient, may I get there one day!

  10. SO the bit about checking you’re being paid properly reminded me of a thing that really really bothers me. In the UK a lot of people don’t know that they are legally entitled to holiday pay. If you work part time then its based on a percentage of how many hours you’ve worked but ALL COMPANIES SHOULD PAY IT. If you are reading this and going “but i am on a zero hour contract” IT DOESN’T MATTER.

    Know your rights and advocate for yourself- I believe in you!

  11. Here’s what I try to do every work night!

    *Make sure cats have fresh water and full food bowls
    *Clean out cat box
    *Make sure phone is plugged in and charging
    *Leave a note to yourself to grab lunch from the fridge if you are taking a lunch to work
    *Make sure iPod is charged for the morning/afternoon light rail commute
    *Make sure the book you want to read is by your keys/purse
    *Have outfit ready to go

    I always end up doing all this shit right before I go to bed which must annoy my roommates, who are already in bed, because of all the noise. Oh well.

  12. Gosh, I could never handle all these jarring alarms! My sun lamp is the key to getting up, really, and my alarm is Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter, because I need something gentle.

    The plane snacks post is super-helpful, because the film festival starts next month & I really am not into popcorn, but five movies in a row requires planning.

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