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Don’t Screw It Up: 11 Ways to Make Today Better

Try these tips from Don't Screw It Up! to save time, money, and dignity on everything from your laundry to your punchlines.


8:30 A.M.: Don’t Screw Up Your Tea

Mistake: Leaving the bag in until the tea is cool enough to drink

Instead: Keep the tea bag in the hot water for only two minutes, pour milk into the cup, and let it sit for another six minutes before your first sip so the mixture can reach the ideal 140-degree temperature. Abandon the bag in the cup, and you’ll be left with an over-steeped, bitter brew.

iStock/Stephan Zabel

9:30 A.M.: Don’t Screw Up Brushing Your Teeth

Mistake: Using a brush with natural bristles

Instead: While a natural-bristle brush may seem healthier, it actually traps germs inside. Buy one with synthetic-fiber bristles, which are nonporous and allow bacteria to easily wash away. Replace your brush every three months or after you’ve been sick (to prevent getting reinfected).


10:00 A.M.: Don’t Screw Up Sitting Down

Mistake: Crossing your legs

Instead: To keep back pain at bay, evenly distribute your weight: Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle, make your butt touch the back of your seat, and firmly plant your seat bone. And don’t work too hard: To accentuate the natural curve of your back, pull open your shoulders and then relax just a little bit … phew!


11:00 A.M.: Don’t Screw Up Your Eyesight

Mistake: Keeping computer settings constant

Instead: Adjust the brightness of your screen to match the brightness of your surroundings, and position the monitor so that the top of the screen is at eye level. To avoid eyestrain, practice the 30-30-30 rule: For every 30 minutes of computer work, gaze 30 feet away for 30 seconds.


1:15 P.M.: Don’t Screw Up Your Leftovers

Mistake: Just popping a plate of food into the microwave

Instead: Place a small mug filled with water, or a damp paper towel, in the microwave with your food to prevent dehydration. The result: a slow-release of steam that will keep your meal moist.


4:30 P.M.: Don’t Screw Up Office Banter

Mistake: Forgetting a joke midway through telling it

Instead:Write down the next funny joke you hear the way you would a recipe—a list of ingredients that includes key story points and perfect pauses—and commit it to memory by telling a few people. And never start with, “I heard the funniest joke …”— it sets the bar too high.


6:30 P.M.: Don’t Screw Up Going Outside

Mistake: Reapplying a floral perfume that attracts mosquitoes

Instead:Switch to essential oils like vanilla, lavender, and cedar, which act as natural bug repellents for female bugs (which are actually the only ones that bite—the males are satisfied with sugar and plant nectar). To really repel them, pour a mixture of one tablespoon of citronella oil, two cups of white vinegar, one cup of water, and one cup of Avon Skin-So-Soft bath oil into a spray bottle to spritz on skin.


7:00 P.M.: Don’t Screw Up Getting Gas

Mistake: Topping off the tank

Instead: If your tank is full at $9.98, don’t push it to $10. Putting too much gas in the tank may cause the gas to overflow and destroy the adjacent antipollution system, which is very expensive to repair.


7:30 P.M.: Don’t Screw Up Dinner

Mistake: Running out of ingredients and crying while you cut an onion

Instead: When baking, if you’re short an egg, replace it with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice mixed with 1 teaspoon of baking soda. And if you used up the last drop of milk, mix 1 cup of water with 1 ½ teaspoons of melted butter. To slice an onion without sobbing, chill it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before you start chopping. Why? The cells of a cold onion react slowly when cut, buying you more time to slice before the burning effect begins. Then turn the stove’s ventilation fan on—it will prevent the vegetable’s sulfenic acid from wafting in your direction and stinging your eyes.


8:45 P.M.: Don’t Screw Up Your Laundry

Mistake: Mistreating stains and shrinking clothes

If you have tough stains: Apply spot remover to the outer edges and work inward to keep the stain from spreading. If you do not have a spot remover handy, try a solution of two parts water to one part rubbing alcohol, or just soak your stained clothes overnight in warm water.

If your bleached clothes come out yellow: Wash them in hot water that includes a spoonful of cream of tartar.

If your bath towels lose their fluff: Fabric softener smells great, but it can make your towels less absorbent. If you already doused them before reading this, restore fluffiness by adding a cup of distilled vinegar to the rinse cycle.

If you shrank your wool sweater: Drop it in a solution of water and hair conditioner for half an hour. With any luck, the fibers will untangle, and your sweater will return to its original size.


10:00 P.M.: Don’t Screw Up Making Out

Mistake: Women say it’s an overly enthusiastic tongue, while men say it’s not opening your mouth wide enough (Can you say “gender divide”?!)

Instead: Scientists speculate that men use their tongues while kissing in an unconscious attempt to transfer testosterone, which would increase their partner’s sex drive. Meanwhile, women love to be kissed on other sensitive areas of the body like the neck and ears, not just the lips. The winning compromise: Combine soft lip and tongue kisses with kisses on the neck and ears for the most satisfying results.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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