Make life easier for the whole family with these handy household hacks
It’s almost time to put away the flip-flops, pick up the school bags and briefcases, and get back into our regular routines. And while it’s an undeniably busy time of year, juggling work, kids and meals doesn’t have to be a chore.
Here are 8 household appliances, gadgets and smart-storage ideas that can make your transition back to 9 to 5 a little easier...
1. Tablet-enabled fridges
Everyone in the house already has a tablet, so why not the fridge too? Samsung’s Family Hub Refrigerator has a connected touchscreen on the door, offering a number of features that make getting dinner on the table a lot easier. At the store and can’t remember if you need to pick up milk? The three cameras inside the fridge mean you can check the contents (and even expiry dates!) while grocery shopping. In addition to creating grocery lists and keeping track of recipes, the screen can also display photos, play music from your library, or stream movies and TV shows. Following along with Jamie Oliver has never been easier.
2. Smart washers and dryers
Laundry can definitely be a chore, but you no longer have to plan your entire weekend around doing it. Whirlpool is now offering its first Smart Top Load Washer and Dryer, both of which are Wi-Fi enabled. That means you can throw your laundry into the washing machine when you leave the house and then activate it remotely using the companion app. No more leaving wet laundry in the washer for hours on end or coming home to dry but wrinkled clothing. You can also order your detergent and fabric softener directly via the app.
“Brands like Whirlpool and Samsung are incorporating a lot of this technology into their higher-end models and it’s something that we’re seeing more and more of," says Scott Myler, branch general manager at Coast Appliances. "It’s not necessarily the top one or two things our customers are looking for in their appliances, but once they have them, they love the convenience they provide.”
3. Robo vacuums and mops
The last thing any of us has the time (or desire) to do is keep the floors clean. While robotic vacuums have been on the market for a number of years, it’s often been difficult to tell just how good a job they’re doing. The iRobot Roomba Vacuum with Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to schedule and track the vacuum’s journey across your floors and carpets, ensuring it gets into every nook and cranny. The newer 980 model also promises to do a better job on thicker carpets and is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. And if you need help with mopping, the iRobot Braava Jet 240 is designed to wet mop, damp sweep or dry sweep hard wood floors. Now we just need drones to do the dusting!
4. Closet organizers
Hanging organizers aren’t new on the market, but there are clever ways to make use of them for back to school. Make mornings simpler by planning out the kids’ weekly outfits in advance and store each day’s clothes in a corresponding cubbyhole. Some models even come with side compartments for shoes, like these ones from IKEA.
“Anything I can do to help get the kids out the door in the mornings faster, I’m all over,” says Trisha Isabey, interior designer and mother of two.
5. Connected bed lifters
When it comes to smart organization, it’s important to use every available space. The Studio 3B Lift Set raises your bed by seven inches, giving you additional storage underneath. Plus, one lift features twin 100-volt, 15-amp grounded power outlets and twin USB 5-volt DC outlets for charging devices. It also comes with a 6-foot cord to plug into the nearest wall. This is a great option for college dorm-dwellers who are fighting over outlets.
6. Thawing plates
Get home from work and realize you forgot to defrost the chicken for dinner? A thawing plate may be just what you need. There are a number of models on the market that promise to defrost foods twice as fast as countertop thawing. Ones like Thaw That Frozen Food Plate use heat pipes to maximize the rate of heat exchange between frozen food and room temperature, defrosting quickly without affecting taste. The line also includes a warming butter knife and ice cream scoop for when you’re experiencing an ice cream emergency.
7. Pressure cookers
Slow cookers are great for when you have the forethought to plan ahead—but when you’ve just arrived home and are under the gun to get dinner on the table, pressure cookers, like this one from Crock-Pot, promise to cook meals 70 percent faster than traditional methods. This model is also a slow cooker and allows you to sauté and steam. It's perfect for cooking everything from chili and stew to poultry and grains. And the best part is the interior non-stick cooking pot is dishwasher safe so you don't have to worry about scrubbing the pot.
8. Smart plugs
For when you want to automate everything from the pressure cooker to your living room lamps, go for a smart plug like this one from Belkin. The WeMo lets you control your smaller household electronic devices right from your phone or tablet. You plug it in and it connects with your existing home Wi-Fi, with no additional subscription or hub required. You then plug in your appliance to it and use the free WeMo app to control your appliance remotely.