40 surprising little mistakes you're making that you'll wish you realized sooner

Solutions that’ll make your day-to-day easier.

ByChristina X. Wood
Originally Published: 
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For years, I grumbled and complained about the shower in my apartment. I even considered paying for expensive plumbing to fix it because a weak shower is no way to start the day. When I moved, the first thing I did was check the shower of any potential dwelling. Then I learned that this can easily be fixed with the right shower head. This was also during a time when I went to work and bought a take-out lunch every day, which led to a lack of funds (and a poor diet). I look back on the person I was and shake my head about all those mistakes that cost me money, made life less pleasant, and led to poor decisions and outcomes.

How about you? Are you making small mistakes that add up to hassles and expenses you don’t need? I’ll bet you’re making at least one of these 40 surprising little mistakes that you’ll wish you realized sooner.


Mistake: Wasting your weekend cleaning the oven

Fix: Using an oven liner mat to prevent the mess

Roasting meat or cooking a messy casserole right on the oven rack is a quick way to make a huge mess in the bottom of the oven. And you know who will have to clean that cooked-on mess when you discover that the “oven cleaner” function does nothing? No one if you put one of these oven liner mats on the rack below your creation before you cook. They cut to fit, clean up in the sink or dishwasher, and can be used repeatedly. This is a two-pack.


Mistake: Throwing away produce because it spoils so fast

Fix: These paper sheets that help preserve fruits & vegetables

When you stock up on fresh produce, you are setting yourself up to eat well. But when you discover it has all spoiled before you get around to eating it, it’s enough to make you quit on the whole plan. Drop a piece of these food storage sheets into your produce bins, bags, or crisper drawer, though, and it will all last longer. “What is this sorcery?” asked one reviewer. “I put a full sheet in with my bowl of tangerines. Three weeks later they were as perfect as the day I bought them. I put half a sheet in with a box of lettuce. Two weeks later, almost every leaf is still perfect.”


Mistake: Using paper towels to clean the counters

Fix: Wipe wet messes with these super-absorbent dishcloths

Paper towels are weak sauce compared to the strength and absorbent powers of these Swedish dish cloths that are made from a combination of cellulose and cotton. That powerful combo makes these strong enough to use repeatedly, machine washable, a bit gritty, and as absorbent as a big handful of paper towels. You will save time and money, in the long run, by investing in these instead of disposable paper.


Mistake: Buying chemical-y canned cooking spray

Fix: Put your own oil in a more precise oil sprayer

Lightly misting with oil — instead of dousing baking sheets and food with it — is more ideal for your health. But canned cooking spray oils are full of preservatives and who knows what. This oil sprayer bottle is an easy way to know what’s in your cooking oil while misting your foods with just the right amount. Every pull of the trigger delivers about 1/4 teaspoon of oil right where you point it.


Mistake: Throwing away jars that still have food in them

Fix: Get every bit out with this clever spatula

A couple of tablespoons of peanut butter. Some of that expensive jam you got as a gift. Enough mayonnaise to make another sandwich. This is what you are throwing away when you give up on attempting to get the last of your foods out of the jar. It’s not worth it, you reason. And it isn’t unless you have this long-handled jar scraper spatula that makes getting it out super easy. It also makes spreading things easier. The key is the firm nylon skeleton wrapped in flexible silicone.


Mistake: Tripping & getting injured because of a curled rug corner

Fix: Apply these rug grippers to keep corners in place

These four rug corner grippers are the perfect solution to your dangerous curled rug problem. Just peel and stick the rubber corners to the underside of the rug and it stops the curl without harming your floors. The adhesive works indoors and out and in all kinds of weather so you can fix all your rugs and make the house safer.


Mistake: Letting delicate garments get destroyed in the wash

Fix: Put them in these protective mesh bags

Instead of letting delicate garments and other frilly and not-so-durable washables fend for themselves in the rough and tumble world of the washer and dryer, put them into these honeycomb mesh laundry bags to protect them from zippers, getting hopelessly tangled and stretched, and other in-laundry assaults. There are three bags for all your fine washables.


Mistake: Letting the sponge get dirty along with the dishes

Fix: Put it in a sink-mounted basket to keep it dry

Letting the sponge you plan to wash the dishes with sit in the sink with all the dirty dishes is OK when there are only one or two dishes. But when the sink fills up, this plan falls apart. And eventually, someone has to fish around in dirty dishwater for a now-dirty sponge. Hang this stainless steel sink basket to the side of the sink and put the sponge in there, instead. It will always be clean, drip dry into the sink, and be much more sanitary.


Mistake: Letting people grope their way down a dark flight of stairs

Fix: Install these motion-sensing LED stair lights

It’s so easy to fix that dangerous lack of light on your staircase with this three-pack of LED stair lights that there is really no excuse for letting people feel their way down a dark stairway. They are motion-sensing so they turn on only when someone is actually on the stairs — and turn off a few seconds later. And they can be mounted with either screws or adhesive. They are battery powered so you don’t have to worry about running wires.


Mistake: Putting dirty dishes in a machine with clean ones

Fix: Use this sign so there’s never a question of dish status

How often do you pull dishes out of the dishwasher and study them before you know if you can add a dirty dish to the machine? This dishwasher magnet is the signal you need to avoid that annoyance. Stick it to the dishwasher and slide it from clean to dirty when you unload the dishes. Slide it back to clean when you turn on the dishwasher. It’s an easy habit and it makes this small thing so much better.


Mistake: Letting long-handled brooms & tools take over the closet

Fix: Snap them into this wall-mounted mop & broom holder

Instead of letting your brooms, mops, shovels, and rakes rule your storage areas with their propensity to fall down, bounce up and smack you in the face, and just grab all the open space, secure them into this handy, wall-mounted mop and broom holder. You can attach it to the back of a closet door, a wall, or anywhere convenient. It holds three brooms or mops in the clamps and another four hangable items from the hooks.


Mistake: Packing your lunch in a tiny paper bag

Fix: Use this big & durable insulated lunch box

If you pack your lunch in a little brown paper bag, you probably find that everything is a bit smashed, room temperature, and a tad skimpy when you sit down to eat. If you pack it instead in this roomy and insulated lunch box tote that looks like a briefcase, you will have plenty to eat, it will all be chilled, and no one will even notice that it’s a bunch of food you’re toting.


Mistake: Making lunch every morning

Fix: Use these glass meal-prep containers to prepare 3 meals ahead

If you are going to take the time to prep lunch, why not prep three? Line these glass meal-prep containers up on the counter, and fill them with leftovers, salad, sandwiches, or whatever you have. Then stack them in the fridge and grab and go in the morning. They seal tight and can go in the oven, dishwasher, microwave, or freezer so all your bases are covered. Eating from them is a pleasure, too.


Mistake: Using a standard, high-touch hand soap dispenser

Fix: Avoid touching a dirty pump top with this automatic dispenser

The top of the hand-soap dispenser bottle is very likely ground zero for a lot of germs and dirt because it’s the thing people with dirty hands touch when they feel the need to get clean. This automatic liquid soap dispenser eliminates that touch point by using an infrared motion sensor to recognize when a hand wants soap. Fill it with whatever soap you like. You can see when it’s full or empty and choose from five different output levels.


Mistake: Installing a screen door that’s hard to open & hits you in the back

Fix: Hang this screen curtain that’s so easy to open the dog can do it

Screen doors seem like a necessity if you enjoy your outdoor spaces. But they have problems if you have kids, adults carrying trays of snacks or cocktails, or pets that want to go through them. This magnetic screen door solves all of those problems. The two mesh curtain panels keep bugs out and the row of magnets that run down the inner seam closes them automatically when anyone goes through. No opening and closing a door all day or struggling through a door with a tray of goodies.


Mistake: Letting a hot laptop burn your legs

Fix: Set it on this laptop cooler with 2 fans

When a laptop gets hot, it can be very uncomfortable for the person whose lap it is on. It’s also bad for the components. Setting it on a pillow helps the lap but increases the heat for the machine. This dual-fan laptop cooler, though, saves both by moving the hot air away from the laptop and cooling both the lap and the computer. You plug it directly into your laptop to power it so there is no need to sit near an outlet.


Mistake: Letting all that space under the bed go to waste

Fix: Store blankets & clothes in these under-bed storage bags

When you are looking around the house for places to store things, don’t forget about that huge space under the bed. All you need to maximize it are these two zippered under-bed storage bags. The clear plastic tops make it easy to find what you have stored under there and the big handles make getting the bags in and out easy.


Mistake: Letting trash accumulate in the back of your car

Fix: Put this big in-car trash container in an easy toss location

When it comes to cleaning the car, prevention goes a long way. Instead of tossing your empty fast-food wrappers into the back seat, set this big car trash can somewhere convenient. It’s big enough to hold whatever detritus your road trip produces, is easy to wipe clean, attaches to anything in the car, and even has a few pockets to keep wipes, napkins, or other necessaries handy.


Mistake: Using regular coat hangers for pants

Fix: Hang them on these space-saving, pants-specific hangers

Hanging pants on a coat hanger can be done, but it’s irritating to both hang and retrieve pants that are stored that way. These space-saving pants hangers are designed for pants and make it easy to hang them, see them, and retrieve them. They start out horizontal so you can get your pants on them then they drop and hang those pants vertically to save space.


Mistake: Relying on disposable water bottles for hydration

Fix: This big & affordable insulated water bottle

Not only are plastic water bottles bad for the planet, but they also are not always available when you need one so you can end up dehydrated. Take matters into your own hands with this big, 32-ounce insulated water bottle. You can fill it at any sink or water dispenser and have water at the ready when you need it. It comes in lots of colors, has a wide mouth for easy filling, and has three types of lids so you can sip the way you like.


Mistake: Sleeping on an unprotected mattress

Fix: This mattress protector that’s waterproof but doesn’t feel plastic-y

If you are sleeping on an unprotected mattress because you believe that waterproof mattress protectors feel crinkly and like plastic, you have not met this one. With an absorbent cotton outer layer that feels soft and comfortable and a membrane under-layer that stops liquids from crossing through, it protects the mattress without changing the way your bed feels. Almost 181,000 people gave it five stars.


Mistake: Letting your shower drain clog with hair

Fix: Drop this weird hair catcher in before it happens

If you don’t take action against the build-up of hair in your shower drain, it will rise up and create a problem that will slow the water, then stop it, and could eventually require the services of an expensive plumber. The prevention is so easy. Drop this hair catcher into the drain and clean it out when you clean the bathroom. No more problem.


Mistake: Letting a low bed stop you from storing things under it

Fix: Raise it up with this 6-pack of bed risers

If you are frustrated that your suitcases, storage bins, or other bulky items won’t slide under your too-low bed, the solution is super simple. Set the feet of your bed into these two-inch bed risers to lift it up enough so everything fits. They work for a couch that’s too low or any other furniture that needs to be a bit taller. You can stack them for double the height.


Mistake: Cleaning up after a pet that’s a messy eater

Fix: Put the food on this easy-to-clean silicone mat

If your pet spills water, drops kibble, and leaves a giant mess on your floors every mealtime, this silicone pet food mat is necessary. It has a raised rim so all the food and water is trapped. It comes in lots of beautiful colors so it will brighten up the feeding area. And you can just lift it up and clean it off when things get bad.


Mistake: Enduring the chaos under your sink

Fix: Use this expandable shelf that’s designed to tame the area

It might seem impossible to get a handle on all the junk you have stored under the sink but it’s just a matter of fitting this expandable under-sink organizer into that space and making a place for everything and putting everything in that place. The shape fits around the plumbing and expands to accommodate the supplies you have stored there.


Mistake: Letting your plants kick it because you went away

Fix: Plant them in self-watering pots so they survive

After months of caring for your plants, you go away for a long weekend. When you return, they are dead. Whether you miscalculated or trusted the wrong plant sitter, this can be avoided by planting them in these self-watering pots that will help them last up to 14 days without attention. The inner pots sit in an outer pot that has a well of water in the bottom. Cotton wicks pull that water to the roots. The outer pot is clear so you can see when to fill them.


Mistake: Losing your keys because you leave them in random places

Fix: Always hang them on this wall-mounted key holder

Hang this clever wall-mounted key holder at a convenient place near your entry and get in the habit of hanging your keys, sunglasses, and the rest of your EDC on it and you will never again waste time looking for the things you need to leave the house. There are five hooks and two decorative shelves and it comes in three colors.


Mistake: Letting water accumulate around your kitchen faucet

Fix: Install this absorbent backsplash mat that catches it all

Splashes, drips, and spills all seem to accumulate on the counter surrounding the kitchen faucet. That water can cause mold and mildew to accumulate there. And someone has to clean that. Snap this absorbent sink mat backsplash around the faucet, though, and it will catch it all so all you have to do to clean that spot is throw the mat in the wash occasionally.


Mistake: Letting your good soap sit in a watery bath

Fix: Set it in this self-draining soap dish so it lasts longer

If you set your nice bar of soap in a standard soap dish it will start to melt and crack because it doesn’t dry out efficiently that way. This two-pack of soap saver soap dishes drains water into the compartment below so your soap lasts longer and keeps looking pretty. The water won’t get on the counter, either, because it is caught in the dish below.


Mistake: Waiting hours for your hair to dry

Fix: Wrap it up in this microfiber hair towel so it dries faster

Wrap your hair up in this super-absorbent microfiber hair towel when you get out of the shower to streamline your prep time. The microfiber pulls water away from your hair gently so you spend less time under the hair dryer or waiting for your hair to air dry. It’s gentle on hair, too, and minimizes frizz.


Mistake: Letting shower water get all over the bathroom floor

Fix: Install this seal at the bottom of the shower door

If water leaks out of your shower and creates a dangerous wet mess on the bathroom floor, you are probably going to slip on that eventually. And the fix is super easy. Cut this strip of shower door bottom seal to fit your shower and snap it on. The two gaskets at the bottom effectively keep water inside the shower. It takes all of five minutes to install, which is probably less time than it takes to clean up that water.


Mistake: Rearranging the furniture because of where the outlets are

Fix: Plug cords into this flat wall charger that’s super thin

Yes, you can put your furniture right where that outlet is and still have a phone charger there. And the furniture does not have to be a foot from the wall for that to work. Just plug this ultra-thin and flat USB wall charger into that outlet. Four USB cords run down from the plug, which just an inch thick. You can run phone chargers or whatever you like from it, and it won’t push the furniture away from the wall any more than the baseboards do. Plus, the prongs fold in in case you want to travel with it.


Mistake: Letting clutter take over the house

Fix: Stash it in this ottoman that’s also a storage bin

If you have toys, gaming accessories, shoes, books, or whatever cluttering up your living room or bedroom, the solution is super simple: Hide it in plain sight. This ottoman storage stool is a useful and decorative piece of furniture that’s aces at the foot of the bed or in front of an armchair. Lift the lid off, though, and there’s plenty of space to stash your stuff.


Mistake: Suffering under a weak & unsatisfying shower

Fix: Install this high-pressure rain-style showerhead

If the shower in your place is weak, pathetic, and leaves you feeling barely clean, the fix is so easy there is no excuse for continuing to suffer. Just unscrew your old shower head and screw in this rain shower head with 90 rubber jets that boost water pressure while dousing you, head-to-toe, with an amazing, soft-but-powerful rainfall experience of water.


Mistake: Sorting colors on laundry day

Fix: Use this double laundry hamper to sort as you go

Yes, it is a good idea to separate the whites from the colors when you wash your clothes. But doing it on laundry day just makes that chore harder. This double laundry hamper makes it easy to sort as you throw dirty clothes into the wash. The laundry bags remove easily when you want to do the wash and, meanwhile, a lid keeps smells and mess contained.


Mistake: Making a huge mess in the microwave

Fix: Use this vented lid to keep food splatters contained

If you’ve ever spent too much time cleaning tomato sauce off the walls of your microwave, you need this vented, collapsible splatter-proof plate cover. Set it over a plate or bowl before you start the microwave and your food will heat up just as well — the vents insure proper airflow — but any mess will be contained to this easy-to-wash lid.


Mistake: Leaving cords & plugs where kids & pets can access them

Fix: Stash them tidily in this cable management box

When you set up a computer or entertainment center, you often end up with a big power strip and lots of cords and plugs sitting on the floor. Those are a hazard to small children and pets. And they look messy. Drop the power strip into this cable management box, run the cables out through the slots, and put the lid on and all of that will be contained in a white and bamboo container that’s safe and looks tidy.


Mistake: Cooking tofu without pressing it first

Fix: Use this easy tofu presser that does it without the mess

Stir-frying or air-frying tofu is an easy, fast, and healthy meal. But it comes out better if you press some of the water out of the tofu first. This tofu press will remove the water from your tofu in just 20 minutes and it traps all the water neatly in the plastic container so you don’t have a mess to clean up afterward.


Mistake: Getting by with a weird assortment of coat hangers

Fix: Buy yourself this big box of matching velvet hangers

Putting the laundry away is a struggle if you are trying to get by with the strange assortment of clothes hangers you accumulated from buying clothes or going to the dry cleaner. It’s time to upgrade your closet with a big box of 30 ultra-thin velvet hangers that not only look uniform and tidy but also take up less space. The hooks swivel and there is a notch to keep sleeveless or slippery items from sliding off.


Mistake: Leaving the lights on because you are too tired

Fix: Install lightbulbs you can turn off with your voice

You get into bed, exhausted, and turn off your bedside light only to realize that a light is on elsewhere. Too tired to get up, you close your eyes and sleep, leaving it on all night. If you installed these smart lightbulbs into the fixtures you use most often, you could ask your AI (Alexa) to turn those off for you, set the lights to turn off automatically, or change the brightness or colors just by speaking.