DIY

10 Life-Changing Things To Try In April

Because we tried them for you in March!

Posted on
Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

The BuzzFeed staff is always trying new products, apps, hacks, and DIY projects, and we decided it was time to start sharing the best of them with you. Each month, we post our recommendations for what's actually worth it. For the sake of transparency, items under "Things We Bought" and "Tricks We Learned" were purchased with our own money and/or were not the result of a PR pitch. Those under "Things We Tried" are items that were provided to us at no cost for the sake of review. (But! We're under no obligation to write a review of those things, let alone a positive review.) Let us know in the comments what sorts of things you'd like us to review next month!

1. Stasher reusable zip-top bags — $11.99 each

Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

Do you, like me, like to eat constantly? And do you, like me, tend to pack food to bring with you, because food is damn expensive? But do you (again, like me) feel a tinge of guilt anytime you pack food in a disposable zip-top bag?

And before you say "just pack it in a reusable container" — just, no. OK, sure, containers like this one work well to transport my sandwiches to work un-smashed. But when it comes time to pack some fruit, or cheese, or cookies, a zip-top bag just works so much better (especially when you have one reusable container in your work bag already). It takes up less space! It's so light! But it feels wasteful to use one and just throw it away!

That's where the reusable Stasher comes in. The silicone bag is just the right size for packing snacks (like apples and cookies) and fits perfectly in my work bag or purse. I wouldn't pack soup in one, but I did pack juicy pineapple pieces one day without any liquid leaking out. The only thing I wouldn't recommend it for is sandwiches — partly because sandwiches just generally get smashed in bags, and partly because the opening of the bag isn't quite wide enough for a slice of your typical sandwich bread.

The bags are easy to wash (and are dishwasher safe, if you put them on the top rack). They're also easy to seal and open again, and one of them comes with an adorable dog and cat doodle. I use at least one of the bags just about every day. —Natalie Brown

2. Squatty Potty — $25–$65

The exchanges I have with my younger sister are cyclical:

1. She tells me that she has been doing a thing — say, eating avocado toast for breakfast every morning, or using a Shark Tank-approved plastic-stool-looking thing to make pooping easier and more comfortable.

2. I scoff at the thing, because I am extremely old and impossibly wise and kind of an asshole.

3. I try the thing.

4. I love the thing.

And so it went with the Squatty Potty. I came home for a visit and in the bathroom I used to share with Moriah (the sister in question) was this purple...thing, nestled around the base of the toilet, clinical and vaguely sinister. It looked like it was meant for a toddler.

No, Moriah patiently explained, it’s for everyone who wants to improve their defecatory experience. (My words, not hers, because I am actually very squeamish w/r/t talking or writing about poop.) When you sit down, you place your feet on either side of the stool and, as the name suggests, squat. According to the product’s website, this motion “unkinks” your colon. Also according to the website, it “makes going #2, #1!” Haha.

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

The first couple of times I went to the bathroom, I ignored the Squatty Potty, kicking it off to the side before settling in. I’d been reliably expelling waste from my body for 25 years, I figured. I knew what I was doing. I was set in my ways. But then I figured, hey, even though I think I know everything about everything, there is a slim chance that I do not. And so the next time, I propped my feet, and I squatted.

As always, Moriah was right. It removed the grunting and the guesswork. It cut my time spent in half. It made me wonder about what other ways I’ve been living my life just below par, what other minuscule adjustments I could make to add minutes and meaning. It gave me an excremental crisis, if you will. (You don’t have to.)

If you’re not into the plastic version, it also comes in bamboo and teak. They're more expensive, but also look much more discreet. Whatever the material, I missed it when I left my family’s house to return to my Squatty Potty-free apartment. My sister sent me the above selfie (squelfie?). It was a brag, and a rallying cry, and a moment of connection. —Alanna Okun

3. CitriStrip Paint and Varnish Remover — $8.97

Like most Goop-reading twenty-somethings, "natural" matters to me. Sure, I bleach bomb my hair every six weeks, but I would rather have my kitchen stink of white vinegar than bring "harsh" chemicals into my home.

So when I went about refinishing the secondhand Broyhill Saga cabinet I got for $25 (which the previous owners covered in trendy gray paint), I didn't want to use a traditional paint peeler. I tried warm water and a scraper. I scraped harder and nicked a corner. It took hours to peel just a few square feet. Defeated, my partner and I hit the hardware store and picked up a few cans of CitriStrip. Biodegradable, noncorrosive, and nontoxic, it was a peeling experience.

Marisa Carroll

Spray on, leave for 30 minutes, and scrape away paint with little to no effort. I used it indoors and it didn't even reek: All it left was a pleasant, somewhat fake-smelling orange odor. —Marisa Carroll

4. Shyp — $5

Going to the post office, for me, is about as fun as going to the dentist. While I love to write postcards and letters and assemble care packages, that final step of spending any number of miserable minutes in a post office/snail-mail-corporation-of-choice is almost enough to take the joy out of the whole experience. I never have the right packaging or the right tape or the right amount of money or patience or time. When I heard about Shyp, I was barely even skeptical — even a lost package with good intentions seemed better than spending my pre-work hours grunting into a FedEx.

But luckily, Shyp was both painless and effective. You pay them $5 to come pick up whatever you need mailed, and they do the rest. You don't even need a box or a bag or anything! I literally just handed a genial courier a couple of cords and a wooden speaker in the lobby of my NYC office and kind of shrugged, and a week later it appeared in my colleague's office in San Francisco in one piece. —Jess Probus

5. YouTube Red — $9.99/month

YouTube // Brett Vergara

So, commuting sucks. Sure, I'm a fan of reading, listening to audiobooks, music, etc., to pass the time, but sometimes I just need a break. Something different I can do while I sit there like a mindless robot in the morning in desperate need of coffee. That, and sometimes I just prefer falling down the rabbit hole of watching YouTube videos. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Enter YouTube’s subscription service, YouTube Red. It allows you to watch videos without the ads, you get access to some YouTube original content and the ability to stream a clip to just play in the background, and also, most important for me, you can save YouTube clips to your phone to watch offline. Like, ANY YouTube clip. Praise the lordt. 🙏

YouTube

It’s been a damn life-changer for my regular commute, which can range from 35 to 45 minutes underground, depending on the day. I’ll personally use it to catch up on late night clips/interviews, TED Talks, stand-up specials, and, of course, BuzzFeed videos. *wink wink nudge nudge*

It’s not a huge killer of battery life either! That was one of my bigger fears trying this out, but it seems like the battery draining happens more when you’re actually downloading the clips to your phone over Wi-Fi, which also doesn’t take too long. My average clip takes around 20 to 30 seconds to download, depending on how long the video is.

Think of it a bit like Spotify Premium, and it comes in at a similar $9.99 a month. I’m such an advocate for being stingy, trust me, but YouTube Red is totally worth it. —Brett Vergara

6. Sun Basket meal kit delivery — $70/week for a two-person meal plan

I love to cook, but because we get home pretty late, my boyfriend and I have struggled to make time for meal planning *and* grocery shopping *and* cooking during the week. It takes SO LONG.

To save time, I've been trying out meal-in-a-box kits (or what a colleague of mine calls "Lego recipes"). There are a ton of options (Blue Apron, Plated, Purple Carrot, and HelloFresh, to name a few), and most of them suffer the same pitfall: insane amounts of packaging, which makes my Earth-loving heart hurt.

My favorite box so far is Sun Basket because a) it comes with a return label for you to ship back the box, ice packs, and insulation for reuse; b) it's an SF-based company that sources produce from West Coast farms (the others are based in NY); and c) the veggie recipes are actually filling, healthy, and INSANELY good.

At about $10.29 per dish for a two-person, three-meal plan, it's definitely more expensive than just throwing together pasta and sauce — but I find that it's not limited to just six servings, since we always have leftovers. Plus, I'm making dishes I'd only ever dream of ordering at a restaurant (think beet borscht or an udon salad with citrus) *and* I get to control its salt and fat content.

TL;DR: Help I've turned into an insufferable yuppie. —Nicole Nguyen

7. Bleaching Your White Laundry (I know, I know)

Rachel W. Miller / BuzzFeed

I wear white jeans pretty much every day. In New York City. Even in the winter. My co-workers often ask me how I manage to keep them so clean and the answer is some combination of "sheer willpower" and "I'm not sure I do, actually?" Because while they may look white from across the office, I'm acutely aware of all the bits of grub and grime they pick up on the subway or walking around on rainy days. I have two pairs that I wash every week, but I was starting to feel like some of the grime was just never going to come out, and replacing my white jeans at the start of a new season might just be the price I'd have to pay for my fashion choice.

Then during a conversation with a co-worker/fellow white jeans enthusiast, it came out that neither of us bleach our white jeans because we don't really get bleach. In my mind, using bleach is advanced-level laundering. It's something that the care instructions tag always advises against using, a product that results in ruined clothes for the sake of laughs on sitcoms. I could understand why people would be comfortable using it in loads of white socks or white underwear, but using it on my favorite jeans just felt like a disaster waiting to happen.

But buoyed by this conversation, I decided I'd try to crack the mysterious bleach code and report back. After spending a little time on the Clorox website and then a lot of time in the bleach aisle, I forked over $2.15 for a smallish bottle of Clorox Ultimate Care Bleach. (After much consideration, I found that the straight-up Clorox that one might use to clean up a crime scene was still too intimidating.) I read the instructions multiple times, then took it to the laundromat, where I read the instructions on the washing machine several times to be sure I was putting the bleach in the right compartment. Despite my reservations, it was as simple as using fabric softener. One hot cycle later, I took the jeans home and hung them to dry as I normally would. And even at that point, it was clear: The jeans downright sparkled!

Rachel W. Miller

The bleach didn't remove the small stains around the calves I acquired several months ago, but overall, the jeans were considerably brighter/whiter, and the grubbiness was all but gone. So if you, too, are a dumb adult-baby millennial who loves white jeans but who is too afraid to use bleach, I hope this will encourage you to face your fear, and to triumph. —Rachel W. Miller

8. Keeping Bread in the Freezer

Smileitsmccheeze / Getty Images

Has this ever happened to you? You have a nice, ripe avocado and you think, Hell yeah, I'm gonna make a nice avocado toast — OH MY GOD I don't even have any bread! So then you have to trek to the store to buy bread, you use a couple slices, and then you have this entire loaf of bread on your hands. And you're like, Great. Now I'm responsible for making sure this bread gets eaten before it molds. That's a lot of pressure.

But there's a better way to live: Just put the bread in the freezer. Then thaw out individual slices in the toaster or oven. Ever since I started doing it, my life has been filled with much more spontaneous avocado toast. The bread is always there for me. It's the only thing in life I can really rely on. Plus you don't waste bread! Have you ever thrown a loaf of moldy bread into the garbage? It's literally the saddest thing that can happen. It's like, hey, bread, why you mold so fast?

My mom has been putting bread in the freezer for years. I should've followed her example, but I just cavalierly assumed frozen bread would taste like garbage. But it tastes fine! Freezing it doesn't seem to affect the taste or texture at all, which is truly shocking. Sorry, Mom. I should have listened. —Joanna Borns

9. Apple iPhone Battery Case — $97.99

Jess Probus / BuzzFeed

Normally I wouldn't be happy about a large number of people asking me, "What is that tumor-looking thing on your phone?" But since the tumor-looking thing is my favorite phone case ever, I actually enjoy talking about it. At first I had the same reaction to the Apple Battery Case — it's heavy, weirdly shaped, and...kinda sticky? But after one full day's use, seeing my phone at 125% battery was enough to convert me. After a while the heft even became useful — I can always feel when my phone is in my purse or pocket, and I rarely forget it anymore. And the stickiness is actually the best part — it actually stays in my clumsy hands! And if (OK, when) I actually do drop it, this case is legitimately protective. I've had many other battery cases before, and they all either snap in half (when bounced down the stairs...) or just stop working after a couple months.

The price tag for this one is hefty, but for a battery case that can keep your phone protected, and charged for TWO FULL DAYS, it's totally worth it. I literally never worry about my phone dying anymore. And anything that can cure such a universal modern anxiety is worth a cool Benjamin in my book. —Jess Probus

Read a full review of the phone case here!

10. Mars Speaker by Crazybaby — $328.98 (lol)

My ultimate goal in life is to be untethered by cords, so when I heard about a Bluetooth speaker that takes it to the next level by FLOATING IN THE AIR, I had to try it out. And guys, the Mars Speaker by Crazybaby actually works! Below is a video of me actually playing music on it and it moves, even taking flight at just the right moment in the song (#BuyDangerousWomanOniTunes).

LOOK AT IT.

Matt Ortile / Via Instagram: @mattortile

AMAZING. The point is that the flying part — the "Mars Craft" — doesn't touch any surface, so the sound distribution is crisper. And it does make a difference! Even at just one volume bar, the sound is crystal and open; at full blast, it fills a whole floor of the office with Ariana Grande bangers. More magic: You can set up the corresponding app so that it automatically adjusts its playback volume relative to how far you and your phone are from the unit (i.e., louder if you're farther).

The Mars Craft sounds best when it's hovering over the cylindrical base that acts as a subwoofer. The bass is resonant, but not window-pounding. If you take the Mars Craft off the base, it can stick to any metallic surface using its super-strong magnet. I attached it to the fridge while I was cooking so it didn't take up counter space. You could also stick it to a bike, if you tryna. Or if you just hate money.

It's a steep buy at $329, but it's comparable in quality and price to that Bose tier of Bluetooth toys. If you're thinking of investing in a pricey speaker, go for this one if you want the cool, wtf-is-this-dark-magic factor. (FYI, they do it with magnets.) —Matt Ortile