19 Random But Useful Life Hacks, According To Me

19 Random But Totally Useful Life Hacks, According To Me | Catherine Summers, AKA Not Dressed As Lamb - Life and Style for Over 40 Women

It’s Tuesday: want some fun – but incredibly useful – life hacks? Read on…

As I said this is a bit of fun, but here are 19 of the best life hacks I can think of, in The World According to Catherine. Some I’ve employed for years, others I’ve come across recently, but I swear by all of them. There’s absolutely nothing that links them to each other other than “life stuff”.

So from tips for using the dishwasher to tips on starting conversations with a stranger, they’re all here. Hopefully you’ll learn some great new ways to make life easier, smoother, more interesting or more enjoyable – or you might say, OH MY GOD SOMEONE ELSE DOES THAT TOO?!


[Reading time: 8 mins]

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Either way, let me know what you’ve found useful, what you might go and implement straight away, or which ones you perhaps do already.

And I’d love to know what stuff you do to make life better or easier, no matter how trivial or seemingly obvious. What may be obvious to one person may have never occurred to the next, so please do share your own life hacks in the comments, I’d love to hear them.

What life hacks can YOU recommend that you think others would find useful? Let us know in the comments…!


Stay safe XOXO

Catherine signature


19 Totally Random But Useful Life Hacks, According To Me


1. Never ask “And what do you do…?”

When you’re meeting someone for the first time, never ask “And what do you do [for a living]?” – I always think it’s such a dreaded (and uninspired) question. Instead, ask “And what do you love doing with your life?“. It gets you a far more interesting answer and gives people (with a job they don’t love) to talk about something in life that they DO love. I’m not interested in someone’s computer programming job, but I DO want to hear about their passion for keeping albino ferrets or the medieval festivals they go to in Cornwall every summer.

And if they’re totally passionate about their job as a marine biologist or dog groomer, they can choose to talk about that if they want.


2. Remembering someone’s name

When being introduced to someone, always repeat their name back to them: “Hi Persephone, nice to meet you!” – and then repeat their name to yourself (under your breath). You have a greater chance of remembering their name if you’ve said it “out loud” twice. Also, it gives you a chance to ask them to repeat their name if you missed it the first time.


3. Emulate the people you like most in life

Think of the nicest people you’ve ever met in your life, and think specifically why they made you feel good or why you liked them so much. Strive to be the same to other people or treat others the same way – make them as happy as your favourite person made you.

For example, a retail supervisor of mine years ago was a lovely girl – really nice to work for/with… she just had this wonderful way of saying “No, that’s okay!” if you apologised for something you did wrong. Since then I’ve always, always tried to say that in the same way to people. It was just super friendly and reassuring, like she really meant it, and you never felt bad for making a mistake because she had a genuine way of telling me it wasn’t a problem.


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4. WFH? Make a walk your ‘commute’ to work

If you work from home, go for a morning walk before you start work if you’re able. Treat it as your new “commute” – when you get in you’ve arrived at work, so make a cup of tea and start your day. Starting your day with fresh air starts you off in a better and more positive mood, and the health benefits of walking are massive. I’ve always said that if you only do one form of exercise, WALK.


5. Be super nice to those in the service industry, always

Be incredibly nice and well-mannered to everyone in the service industry, no matter whether you’re being a regular customer or making a complaint in person, on the phone, or online. No one ever gets treated well if they’re being rude or an arsehole (I worked for years in customer services, I know). Nine times out of ten you can get what you want – or more – even if you’re complaining about something… and you do it NICELY.


6. Learn to take flattering photos of yourself

When asking someone to take a photo of you, get them to stand back further back and zoom in. Most camera (phone) settings are on wide-angle as default, so you’ll end up with a big head and body and then tiny legs. You’ll look far more correctly/realistically proportioned if they’ve zoomed in, and you’ll stop hating photos of yourself.

As a side note, I recently read that if you constantly avoid having your photo taken, your loved ones won’t have any photos to remember you by. Don’t avoid the camera, someone else may regret it in years to come 😭


7. A brilliant conversation starter

If you’re stuck for a conversation starter with someone/a group of people you don’t know (e.g. at a table at a wedding), get people to talk about food… nearly EVERYONE likes talking about food. My go-to question is: “If you could only choose to eat pasta, bread or potatoes ever again, which would it be? So, you could have every type of potato from mashed to boiled to chips, but you’d have to give up pasta and bread“. In case you’re wondering, my choice would be potatoes. I’m not bothered about pasta and would find it hard to give up bread, but gaaaaad I love jacket potatoes, mashed potatoes, boiled baby potatoes, chips, potatoes dauphinoise… the list goes on.

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You can ask the same question as a “sweet” version: “If you could only choose to eat chocolate, cakes or biscuits ever again, which would it be?” Mine would be cakes: it’d mean I could have everything from chocolate brownies to birthday cake. Best of both worlds.

It’s a type of question that can be answered by anyone of any age, background etc. and gets people thinking (and often quite animated when deciding).


19 Random But Totally Useful Life Hacks, According To Me | Catherine Summers, AKA Not Dressed As Lamb - Life and Style for Over 40 Women

8. How to buy a gift for someone you don’t know at all well

If you want/need to buy a present for someone you don’t know very well, choose something for their house (let’s say flowers) based on their personal style. People who dress in bright colours often choose the same for their home decor, and likewise for minimalists who wear black and/or neutrals. Buy bold, bright bouquets for the maximalists and (e.g.) all-white roses for the minimalists.


9. Become a great gift-giver

Buy birthday and Christmas presents and birthday cards for friends and family throughout the whole year – don’t wait till the week (or day!) before. If you see something that’s perfect for somebody, get it straight away even if Christmas/their birthday is months away. It takes the stress out of shopping, spreads the cost and makes you an expert present-giver. (Just don’t do what I’ve done in the past and forget you already bought them something ages ago #Facepalm).


10. Avoid ironing altogether

If you hate ironing as much as I do (I hate it so much I’d rather clean the toilet), invest in an upright clothes steamer (this one comes with good reviews and is currently under £100). I can count the number of times I’ve used my iron on one hand since I bought my steamer eight years ago. It’s life-changing: no more piles of laundry waiting to be ironed (which is a WIN in Catherine’s Book of Life). I also bought a hand-held steamer that I take in my suitcase if I’m away and have packed something that’ll crease during travel. I find economy hotels rarely have irons and boards so a portable version is brilliant for me.


19 Random But Totally Useful Life Hacks, According To Me | Catherine Summers, AKA Not Dressed As Lamb - Life and Style for Over 40 Women

11. Have water before every meal

Drinking a glass of water just before every meal will stop you overeating as your meal will fill you right up, and will help you increase your water intake. If you really want to up your intake of water, get a water bottle with times of the day measured out on it to stay accountable for how much H2O you drink.


12. No more damp towels in winter

When you get out of the shower, dry yourself roughly with a flannel first. You’re then mostly dry when you use the bath towel, and it doesn’t get too damp and potentially smelly, especially during winter. Change the flannel every other day and you’ll always feel fresher when drying yourself. I know towel radiators dry towels fast, but you don’t want them on in the summer and it still doesn’t stop the towels from getting a bit smelly from being damp in the first place.


13. Call someone what they want to be called

Never shorten someone’s name without their say-so. Always call people what they want to be called, they’ll like you a whole lot more for it. If someone says their name is Peter, don’t start calling them Pete unless you ask if it’s okay to do so. Remember Pretty Woman?

Vivian: Can I call you Eddie?
Edward: Not if you expect me to answer…

As someone whose name can be shortened a multitude of ways, it grates on me when people just start calling me Cat or Cathy (and it makes me feel like a d*ck if I have to correct them).


19 Random But Totally Useful Life Hacks, According To Me | Catherine Summers, AKA Not Dressed As Lamb - Life and Style for Over 40 Women

14. Don’t pet without permission

If you want to pet someone’s dog, always ask permission first. Offer the back of your hand to doggo to sniff if the owner says yes. Some dogs who appear friendly may not be or they might be nervous, or vice versa. Some rescue dogs may have traumatic backgrounds and will react badly/unexpectedly to being petted without warning.

For example, Suki looks super cute and friendly but she is totally unpredictable with who she lets pet her and who she doesn’t. Unfortunately, when we first had her we had a couple of close calls when she decided she didn’t like being petted on the back of the head (always men for some reason), and they could have been bitten badly if we hadn’t pulled her back quickly when we saw she was about to go for their hand. We now say to EVERY stranger “Please don’t pet her” straight away. She chooses who pets her by going up to them and sniffing, or she’ll just back away. It’s not fair to force her into a situation where she feels threatened and – in her eyes – has to defend herself.

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15. Talk quietly in a confrontation

If you happen to get into an unfortunate situation where someone is having a go at you or shouting at you unreasonably, don’t ever shout back. Instead, talk confidently but softly and quietly back at them. It diffuses the situation quickly by preventing them from shouting again and gives you an air of authority that can be either intimidating or calming, depending on what’s required in the situation. Also, apologise and show empathy even if THEY are in the wrong. It’s then impossible for them to stay angry, and you get to keep your cool. My mother used this trick on me growing up and let’s just say she diffused the anger of my youth. Every. Damn. Time.


16. Say good morning to everyone

Say good morning/hello/good evening to people and/or wave hello. Whether they’re in a car, on the street or at your front door, just smile and greet them (this probably comes from me living in the country for nearly 20 years). Whilst you may run the risk of being a bit “Crocodile Dundee in New York” in a crowded high street, where it’s less populated just say hello to people and smile. EVEN if they don’t say hello back, or you think they won’t say hello back. No one’s day will be ruined by a stranger saying hello, and you might even cheer someone up who needed it.

And on the subject of them not saying hello back… I’ve learnt not to judge. I used to get pissed off if people didn’t say hello back, but you never know what sort of day someone is having or what struggles they’re going through. Just smile and say hello – be THAT person [that people are pleased to see], because you never know… you might see them again tomorrow, and the day after that – and if you didn’t say hello the first time, it becomes awkward, doesn’t it?


19 Random But Totally Useful Life Hacks, According To Me | Catherine Summers, AKA Not Dressed As Lamb - Life and Style for Over 40 Women

17. DON’T gossip, and DO keep secrets

I always like the idea – whoever came up with this expression – that what other people think about you is none of your business. And likewise, other people’s business is none of MY business. Gossiping is a horrible trait, and not keeping a secret (i.e. not being discreet, I’m discounting times where someone’s life is at risk or something similarly horrible, dangerous, harmful, etc.) when you’ve been asked to keep something confidential is inexcusable as well. I’ve found that the advantage of not gossiping is that you actually find out more by pretending you know nothing. So if someone says to me, “Ooooh have you heard about…” I always say no, even if I know all about it. You often get a bit more information than you already knew, or someone else’s side of the story. But again, you HAVE to then keep it to yourself. Treating someone else’s secrets or private matters with indiscretion is not the trait of a true friend (it applies to work colleagues as well).

Once again I’ll reiterate that I’m only talking about trivial, idle gossip here. Common sense should always prevail if the information being given to you means that someone may be harmed in some way, in which case tactful action MUST be taken in order to protect someone.


18. Save time washing makeup brushes

Take makeup brushes and sponges into the shower to clean. Doing one at a time only takes a few seconds and it means they get cleaned regularly. Far better than spending 20 boring minutes washing all your brushes in one go. Though I WILL admit I love my spinning makeup brush cleaner/dryer, which to be honest is just a lot of fun to use.


19. Label the dishwasher dirty/clean

Get a magnet that switches between “Dirty” and “Clean” for the dishwasher. This has been an absolute godsend for us, and my mother loves hers too (‘Santa’ put one in her stocking at Christmas)! Anyone in your kitchen knows when they can just pop a dirty mug or spoon in there, and likewise, it’s clear to everyone when the dishwasher is clean and needs emptying (as soon as we put the dishwasher on we switch the magnet to Clean, and once it’s emptied we switch it to Dirty).

It prevents those times when mix-ups have happened when a wash has long since finished but then dirty things start getting mixed in with the clean stuff… how infuriating is that?? This Pop Art-inspired magnet is fun and works on an integrated appliance, or this one is a little more utilitarian and slides between clean and dirty.


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19 Random But Totally Useful Life Hacks, According To Me | Catherine Summers, AKA Not Dressed As Lamb - Life and Style for Over 40 Women

Linking up to… Monday: Inspire Me Monday, Ageless Style Linkup (first Monday of the month), My Glittery Heart, On Mondays We Link Up || Tuesday: Style With a Smile, Trend Spin/Walking in Memphis in High Heels, Turning Heads Tuesday, Spread the Kindness, Confident Twosday, Happy Now Blog Link Up || Wednesday: Style Me Wednesday, WowOnWednesday || Thursday: Chic & Stylish || Friday: Fancy Friday, On the Edge, Fabulous Friday, Fabulous Friday’s Link Up



  1. Jill
    1 August 2021 / 1:37 pm

    Love this post! Thank you for the blog even if I don’t have time to read it every week. I am not a stylish person but hope to pick up a few tips from you every week!

    • Catherine
      2 August 2021 / 5:24 pm

      Jill thank you! And don’t worry about “not being stylish” as you’ve described it… the main thing is to have fun with what you wear and above all – MAKE SURE YOU LOVE IT! C x

  2. Liz P.
    5 July 2021 / 3:31 pm

    I got so much out of this, Catherine. This is ALL helpful information. I do put my wet towels out on my balcony to dry every day because the ultraviolet rays really do kill all the germs/bacteria and prevent mildew (even if I’m not going to use the towel again.) I always wanted to work from home, but now that I do I realize it takes some effort to not become a shut-in. I take “walking breaks” in the neighborhood now, and visit a coffee shop where I have acquaintances in order to chat and get a change of scenery. Also, very important, I put on real shoes at home instead of spending the entire day in pink fluffy slippers.

    I recently bought some items I wish I had discovered years ago, like an in-sink dish drainer (saves counter space) and those boxes for teabags so I could free up space from all the half-empty boxes of tea stacked in my cupboard. I really enjoy taking afternoon tea breaks now from 3:15-3:45 pm with proper teacup and saucer. It’s definitely a pick-me-up, and then I go back to my computer refreshed. I guess this is an obvious and ancient tradition in England but I only really started appreciating teatime here in America this past year working from home. It is so calming.

    • Catherine
      7 July 2021 / 1:25 pm

      I’m so glad you liked my tips, Liz!! The walking breaks sound like such a good idea… I get to walk Suki twice a day as well as doing my early morning walk so I don’t get that “shut in” feeling you mentioned wfh.

      And I am SO going to do the teacup and saucer thing for my afternoon tea! In fact, I’ll even add a teapot like you get in a nice cafe. Thank you for that suggestion…!

  3. 26 June 2021 / 9:12 am

    I absolutely adored reading this blog post. So many amazing things!

    Danielle | thereluctantblogger.co.uk

    • Catherine
      4 July 2021 / 9:17 pm

      Thanks Danielle my lovely x

  4. 24 June 2021 / 2:00 pm

    Some great tips here. I love the makeup brushes in the shower tip, plus, I always forget to drink enough water. My boys forever have water with them so I should take their lead.
    It’s awful when someone shortens your name or worse calls you a completely different one! Embarrassing
    for all!
    Alison xx

    • Catherine
      4 July 2021 / 9:19 pm

      Thanks Alison – I found that until I got the water bottle I just forgot to drink enough, I know it sounds daft but having to pour out glasses of water isn’t as easy/convenient as carrying the bottle around everywhere (plus it’s easier to keep track of how much – or how little – you’ve drunk…!)

  5. Mathilda Clothier-Pring
    24 June 2021 / 1:02 pm

    Hi Catherine

    This was great fun to read. Also some great tips, especially regarding how to start a conversation and never ask someone what to do. Being the sort of person who always finds these situations awkward I loved these ideas.

    My favourite has to be the dishwasher magnet, I wish I had thought of that one years ago, I am looking for a magnet as we speak.

    Thank you for making my day more fun.

    • Catherine
      4 July 2021 / 9:20 pm

      I’m so glad the conversation-starters helped, Mathilda – I’m not great at doing that either but I’ve honestly found that they’ve worked a treat with absolutely ANYONE…!

  6. 22 June 2021 / 10:54 pm

    Love the post Catherine, what a good one. Some I do already, others are new ideas and ones I will use. Thanks for sharing with us Hunny. Jacqui x

    • Catherine
      4 July 2021 / 9:21 pm

      I’m really pleased you enjoyed them Jacqui! x

  7. 22 June 2021 / 5:38 pm

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this Catherine, what a terrific idea for a post!
    And yes I did learn a trick or two, thanks lady

    • Catherine
      4 July 2021 / 9:21 pm

      So glad you liked them MT… thanks mate! xx

  8. 22 June 2021 / 3:26 pm

    Catherine, that was really fun to read! I am going to leave a very long comment because I took notes while I was reading! Haha.

    So I was always taught to repeat someone’s name 3 times and you will remember it and I always, always do that when I meet new people. It is especially helpful when you are meeting multiple new people at once. I make it a game to remember their names and they usually all jump on board and play along until everyone knows each other.

    Working from home, I make sure to walk my kids to school every morning (weather permitting) because it really does clear my mind and energize me before I start my work day.

    I am totally with you on nice complaints as well. You definitely make much more positive progress that way. And it is important to remember that the customer service rep who may be handling your complaint is absolutely not the person who caused the issue that you are complaining about!

    I love your food questions for breaking the ice. One of my favorites to ask is, “Which do you put in the bowl first, the cereal or the milk?” And it usually ends up in such a great conversation because it is such a silly question! I will also ask random things like, “Do you eat Kit Kats whole or do you break them apart?” and “Do you enter the shower from the front or the back?” Totally random yet they get the best responses!

    Asking permission to pet someone else’s dog (or other pet) is something I always emphasize with my kids! It is polite and much safer to ask before petting an animal you are not familiar with.

    Although I don’t mind ironing clothes, I do hate the process of hauling out the ironing board and the iron. My sister bought me a steamer about 6 years ago and it is seriously one of my most used appliances! I steam my clothing every day and it is so quick and easy to do!

    I think I will leave off there for now. Except I didn’t share any life hacks of my own that are different from yours! Oooh, here’s one…whenever I have leftover coffee in the pot that I am not going to drink, I pour it into ice cube trays so I have coffee ice cubes for when I want iced coffee. Then it doesn’t get all watered down when the ice melts!


    • Catherine
      22 June 2021 / 4:16 pm

      Shelbee I LOVE that you took notes, LOL!!!!! 😀

      Sounds like you and me are on a similar wavelength… I do like your Qs about Kitkats (I eat all the chocolate off first then eat the wafer that’s left) and the cereal, though I find it TOTALLY bizarre that anyone puts the milk in first!! Oh and I’d use the coffee ice cubes trick if I drank it, but unfortunately I can’t bear the stuff 😉

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