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Got a problem? Find a ‘life hack’

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/21/18/13/1vddu2.Em.138.jpeg|316
    - BROOKSTONE
    The Virtual Keyboard turns a flat, smooth surface into a typing tool.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/21/18/13/173PUz.Em.138.jpeg|316
    -
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/21/18/13/1kRHJd.Em.138.jpeg|316
    - SHARPER IMAGE
    Wireless Bicycle Turn Signal lets you keep your hands on the handlebars and makes it easier for the vehicles around you to stay alert to your actions.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/21/18/13/NmfjP.Em.138.jpeg|473
    - SHARPER IMAGE
    The 12-in-1 Survivor Tool helps out in an emergency.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/21/18/13/Zh8iH.Em.138.jpeg|316
    - BED BATH & BEYOND
    Use 7-Inch Power Bed Risers (set of 4) to create a storage area under your bed. Use a bedskirt to conceal it. One riser has an outlets and USB ports for recharging mobile devices.

More Information

  • The bright side of being a hacker

    Life hack can be practical or philosophical. Here’s some of what you’ll find online:

    • Best multitasking smartphone cases: www.lifehacker.com.

    • 5 things you need to stop comparing to lead a better life: finances, body shape, employment, social skills and family.

    www.lifehack.org.

    • And in keeping with the season, find the best apps and sites for tracking holiday shopping deals: www.lifehacker.com.



They’re called life hacks – little bright ideas that keep you on track. Shave off a few minutes here, get better organized there, and you could find yourself moving through your day a little more easily.

Simple, time-saving tricks are a way of life in most busy families, but a few of us make efficiency an art form.

“Life hacks were the only way to survive,” recalls Mary Lou Maher, who worked full-time while raising seven children and earning a doctorate years ago.

She would fold laundry while playing with the children, grade papers while soaking in the tub, and feed the baby while meeting with her adviser.

Maher’s got a whole new self-made survival guide now that the children are grown and she’s chair of UNC Charlotte’s Department of Software Information Systems. She works out lectures and lesson plans while she runs. She’s got seven cords scattered around her home and office so she doesn’t have to stop and find one to recharge her devices.

Life hacks can be big or small, homemade or high-tech. Here are a few that might make a difference for you.

Smart storage

Bed risers

The 7-Inch Power Bed Risers will make the climb into your mattress a little steeper, but you get a roomy storage space underneath for drawers and boxes. The extra storage – best hidden behind a custom, decorative bed skirt – can keep important things within easy reach, especially in small bedrooms and apartments. One of the risers has two grounded power outlets, as well as two USB outlets. Comes with a 6-foot cord that plugs into an outlet. 29.99 at www.bedbathandbeyond.com

Protect it

Save time with a case that keeps earbuds and charging cords organized. The LokSak is airtight and waterproof, so sand and water won’t be a problem at the beach. The see-through material makes it easy to see what’s inside and what’s missing. Stuff it into your bag or backpack and you’re ready to go.

Three bags for $8 at www.containerstore.com.

Drawer illumination

Hang miniature, self-adhesive LED lights in your cabinets and drawers. You won’t need a flashlight, and you could spend less time looking for what you need. These Drawer & Locker Lights also work for a car console, below the dashboard or in the trunk. Includes two replaceable batteries. Two for $10. www.containerstore.com.

On the go

Bicycle safety

This Wireless Bicycle Turn Signal uses wireless technology to give cyclists illuminated signals similar to those on other vehicles. The LED turn signals and hazard light are controlled from the handlebars, which means you can stay in riding position. Beeping sounds help alert those around you to pay attention.

$60 at www.sharperimage.com.

Full-size keyboard

With a Virtual Keyboard, you can travel light and still take care of an office emergency that would be too tedious using the keys of a smartphone or tablet. A small laser projector turns a smooth, flat surface into a keyboard. The projector works with Android and Apple mobile devices along with Bluetooth technology. Turn on “virtual mouse mode” and use your pointer finger as a mouse when caps lock is turned on. The projector comes with a USB cord for recharging the battery, which provides two hours of continuous typing.

$99 at www.brookstone.com.

Light in your pocket

A flashlight is good, but the Credit Card Lightbulb has its own stand so you can work hands-free. This LED light stays in your wallet until you find yourself in the dark. Flip up the bulb and you’ve got light. Batteries included.

$5 at www.thinkgeek.com.

Fast fix

Multipurpose tape

Take care of a tattered hem or make other alterations as you get dressed with Do Everything Tape. Also use the adhesive strips to keep a tablecloth in place or keep curtains fully closed.

$6 at www.containerstore.com.

More SmarterLiving: www.charlotteobserver.com/smarterliving

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

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