DIY

8 Life-Changing Things To Try In August

Because we tried them for you in July!

Posted on
Zoe Burnett / 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.)

We hope you love the products we recommend! Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page. Let us know in the comments what sorts of things you'd like us to review next month!
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1. Turtle Shell Water-Resistant Wireless Bluetooth Speaker — $79.95

Julia Furlan

Here’s a chill sitch for you: a hammock, a glass of rosé, a summer anthem, and a magazine. This, dear internet strangers, is my self-care routine and I highly recommend you give it a shot. (This is the hammock and this is the rosé, and both are 10,000% worth it, but we’re here to talk about one thing and one thing only: the OT Turtle Shell.)

This rugged little Bowser-ass-looking device known as an OT Turtle Shell is ready to accompany you into the shower, onto the beach, and basically anywhere you want. It comes in a plethora of colors. It can also be dropped down the stairs without missing a moment of whatever you’re listening to while waiting for the new Frank Ocean album.

Julia Furlan

Here is a list of non-chill sitches that my pink little OT Turtle Shell has survived (though YMMV): falling down a flight of stairs, sliding into a soapy shower, being the center of a physical scuffle about Whitney vs. Mariah, sharing a backpack with a leaky water bottle, and plunging into a bucket of ice.

If the OT Turtle Shell were an actual shell, it would probably be a fossilized shell from the Paleolithic era because it’s clearly a survivor capable of putting up with all manner of wild shit the world decides to put on it. If the OT Turtle Shell were a famous historical turtle, it would be a Ninja Turtle (probably Leonardo) because it’s powerful, but not afraid of a fight. This speaker isn’t going to melt your face off with its bass, but it has an attachment that allows you to hook it to your bike or tie it to a beach umbrella. And it has a microphone function that allows you to use it to call a human being on the telephone, if you’re into that kind of nostalgia. It's a portable, durable marvel that I can’t get enough of. —Julia Furlan

2. Plant Nanny — $20 for four

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

I’ve been a bad plant mom. Summer = weekend getaways = forgetting to water my completely baked tomatoes = crazy guilt. I spotted the Plant Nanny stakes at a gardening store and, after some research, decided that my plant’s health and happiness were absolutely worth $20.

The stakes are made of unglazed terra cotta clay, which is porous (albeit at a microscopic level). I bought the wine bottle version, but there's a plastic bottle version too. When a bottle full of water is inverted into the Plant Nanny, the water seeps slowly through the terra cotta, keeping the soil moist.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

The product claims that it can water your plants for up to two weeks. This is a lie. In my experience, the Plant Nanny is effective for about 10 to 12 days. Some crazies on Amazon suggest getting these "water-storing crystals" to slow down the water leakage. In fact, the crystals are shown under “Frequently Bought Together” on Plant Nanny's Amazon page — but they 100% DO NOT WORK. I know this because I bought them and it turned the water in my bottle into this insane clear jelly mush.

Since I started using the Planet Nanny, my herbs and veggies have been THRIVING and I can’t believe I ever planted without them. They just work. Period. Plus, it was a *great* excuse to down four bottles of wine. —Nicole Nguyen

3. iDevices Switch Wi-Fi Enabled Plug — $54.98

Jess Probus / BuzzFeed

There are a lot of things to love about summer in NYC: rooftop drinking, frozen cocktails, close proximity to beaches, free outdoor concerts, lots of dogs roaming around to pet. But all of that would be much more enjoyable if more places had central AC, most importantly my own apartment. Coming back from a lovely summer dinner to an apartment that feels like the inside of the devil's swampy butt is not something I'd wish on anyone. But neither is paying $300+ for one of those smart air conditioners that doesn't even have good reviews.

Instead, everyone should do this cool trick I learned, which is to buy a smart switch for your cheap window unit that allows you to turn your AC on anywhere via Bluetooth. You can either use it as a remote control to turn the unit on before you get home, or set "schedules" that automatically turn it on or off at certain times of day. It even shows you the average amount of power used, and the estimated electrical cost based on your current usage. And if you want to feel really fancy, you can connect the device to Siri or Alexa and have your virtual assistant turn on your device for you as a cool party trick.

4. Eliza Starting at 16 podcast — Free

Augusta Falletta / Via BuzzFeed

One night at dinner, a friend and I were swapping podcast suggestions. I mostly offered up titles that make you sit there and wonder, “Am I emotionally and mentally prepared for this?” before hitting play. Think Death, Sex and Money and Hardcore History. I never listen to just white noise.

My friend sat there graciously listening to me ramble on about my Very Heavy podcasts before I asked for her suggestions. “I just started listening to this one podcast called Eliza Starting at 16. It’s done by a teenager living in Manhattan and the episodes are only 10 minutes long. I promise, just try it.” I trust this friend, so I agreed.

The next morning when I downloaded the episode “Friendships on TV and Summer Stress” I had low expectations. What could a short, teen-driven podcast do for me, an adult-ish lady? Friends, I was wrong. Two minutes in, Eliza began discussing the lack of representation of healthy female friendships on television. In another episode, she talks about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She talks about the SATs and lack of sleep and the pressure to choose the right college. This girl was me 10 years ago, except she is leaps and bounds ahead of where I was in terms of self-awareness. I found myself reminiscing on my own time in high school, thinking about how much has changed — and how little has changed — since then.

Eliza Starting at 16 is quite the departure from my usual queue. The host’s perspective is different from the thirty- and forty-somethings I usually listen to and for any other podcast, I’d write off a 10-minute engagement. But while the episodes may be short, every minute is taken full advantage of. And hey, that’s what bingeing is for. —Augusta Falletta

5. Gamma Ray Cheaters Sunglasses – $7

Summer is here and by the end of this sentence, you will have probably already lost your sunglasses. There are usually two schools of thought on buying sunglasses. You either buy one really expensive pair because you like the brand/quality/you think you will keep better track of something that costs over $100 (lol)... or you buy them cheap by the dozen because you know you’ll lose them eventually. I'm in the latter category. And in my ongoing journey for cheap-but-good sunglasses, I’ve found a pair that fit the bill!

Jeff Barron / BuzzFeed

The lenses are polarized, block UVA/UVB rays, and will only cost you $7. That's damn cheap. But crazy thing is, they don’t feel cheap at all. The frame is pretty lightweight and durable, the hinges are made of metal, and the shades even come with a ~stylish~ neck strap and microfiber cloth bag. The polarized lenses are one of the biggest features for me when I'm driving; they cut down a ton of the glare that traditional tinted glasses can't.

The only downside is the actual brand emblem they put on the side. Cheaters? Really?? I don’t know why the company thought it was a good idea to run with that name. It doesn’t stop me from recommending them, but it might stop those with a guilty conscience from buying them. My solution? Sharpie. Fixed.

Jeff Barron / BuzzFeed

There’s nothing really special about them, but that’s what makes them great! (FYI, they are also available in a ton of different colors.) I’ve been using them for the past month and they have been thrown around in my bag and fallen off my face while I was longboarding, and they've held up just fine to the abuse. No bending, no scratches on the lenses...they are just amazingly solid sunglasses. 😎 —Jeff Barron

6. Carpet Tape — $8

Alanna Okun / BuzzFeed

I spent the last few months contending with what I thought were unfixable problems: minor heartbreak, major anxiety, and my front hall carpet. The edge of the rug suddenly began to curl up underneath the door jamb, maybe because of the heat or because of the entropy that plagues even the most beloved living spaces. In response, I developed a complicated foot motion whenever I entered or exited my apartment, tamping the rug down and stretching with the rest of my body to reach the doorknob. But it made me feel silly and helpless, and it didn't even fully work — the door could only open about halfway, and nobody else could really do it but me. I realized I was spending much more energy on the workaround than just dealing with the problem head-on.

So I bought carpet tape. I had been dimly aware that it existed but it seemed too boring and grown-up to be something I could acquire without, like, a permit. The tape did exactly what it was supposed to do, and still does, many entrances and exits later: keeps the carpet firmly stuck to the floor. Maybe there is other, cheaper tape that would have done the job; maybe the edge would have uncurled once the city cooled down. I don't care!!! To me right then it was the universe's most mundane miracle, and a reminder, however small, that some things can be fixed. —Alanna Okun

7. Rolo Travel Bag – $49

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

I live for the weekends. Camping trips, cabin retreats, boat getaways…if it’s outdoors, SIGN ME UP. I love the planning, the people-wrangling, the actual activities — but one thing I’ve *always* hated is packing. I’m a last-minute, pack-under-pressure type of person, which means that I usually just shove a swimsuit, some leggings, random shirts, and a fistful of underwear into a backpack and call it a day. Once I’m at my destination, my clothes are in either a giant twisted contraption or strewn all over my temporary bed.

That all changed when I tried the Rolo, a minimalist travel bag that keeps clothes organized, so you never have to unpack. There are two large mesh compartments for shirts and pants, and two smaller ones for socks and underwear. Here’s how it works: first, pack your clothes flat, put them in the appropriate compartment, then roll the Rolo up like a burrito to compress it, and secure the two buckles. If you really want to downsize the bag, you can tighten the buckle straps even more.

It's designed to be attached to the outside of a backpack or worn like a duffel with the removable carrying strap.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

My favorite thing about the Rolo is that you can use its hook to set up a portable hanging closet virtually anywhere. It allows me to see all of my clothes at once, so I can just take out the item I need.

There are, however, a few downsides: I wouldn’t recommend putting in a toiletry bag, because that would make it harder to use your knees to really compress it. Depending on how you pack, it can fit about four or five days’ worth of fresh clothes — but for bulkier winter items, even less. But the Rolo is roomy enough for a weekend warrior and is totally worth the $50. (Even though I was given one to try for free, I bought one for myself and my boyfriend bought another because he was jealous of mine.) —Nicole Nguyen

Check out some more incredible travel gear here.

8. Personal commissioned art on Minted — starting at $75

Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

Every day after I got home from high school, our two poodles would greet me in the exact same way: Gaston, the mini, liked to bounce on his back legs to get my attention, then run off to get his ball and insist we play fetch. Gigi wanted me to get down to her level on the floor, so she could lick my face and get a cuddly ear rub, and then flop over so I could scratch her tummy.

We still repeat this routine whenever I come home these days, except I only make it back to my parents' house about twice a year. And as much as I miss telling them goodbye in the mornings, I miss the poodle's enthusiastic greeting at the end of the day even more. Especially every time I arrive home to my apartment, which is frequently empty.

That’s why I love this custom pet portrait from Lauren Rogoff, which I got through Minted’s new artist commissions. There are many artists who work through this program, so you could get all sorts of custom artwork made. But pet portraits are great for kids headed off to college, to memorialize a pet that has died, or to create a fancy animal gallery wall, if that's your thing. The one Lauren created for me — which would cost you $225 and take her 3–4 weeks to turn around — is a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind art piece that I’ll frame and hang in my kitchen, and while I’ll still miss their in-person joy and love, I’ll at least be able to see their faces as I come and go. I also plan to hang it by the entrance of wherever I live in the future, even after I finally have the time to adopt poodles of my own, as a reminder of those happy after-school hellos. —Natalie Brown