Review: Real Simple’s 869 New Uses for Old Things

The editors at Real Simple magazine have put together a hardcover collection of multi-tasking equipment and suggestions to honor their 10th anniversary. The book, Real Simple: 869 New Uses for Old Things, is an alphabetical listing of unexpected uses for wine corks, olive oil, old jump ropes, Q-tips, salt, soap and hundreds of other common household items.

The retail listing for the book is $27.95 (it’s 180 pages, and like a coffee table book it is mostly images and a lot of white space), but it is selling for a more reasonable $16.34 on Amazon. It’s a nice resource, but I’m looking forward to it being available digitally, so it can be more portable (on a cell phone, iPad, or Kindle) and more easily searched.

Here are some helpful tips I learned from reading the book:

  • Baking Soda / Rub tub stains with a paste of equal parts baking soda and cream of tartar and a little lemon juice. Let sit for 30 minutes, then rinse. (Green, non-toxic, and economical!)
  • Bobby Pin / Keep pleats folded while ironing tricky pieces.
  • Floss (unwaxed) / Safely loosen a photograph stuck to an album page or another photo by sliding a piece of floss between the two.
  • Penny / Prevent algae from growing in a birtdbath by tossing a few pre-1982 coins into the water. The copper keeps the organisms from multiplying.
  • Soap / Take the grit out of gardening. Scrape your nails along a bar so the soap gets under them and keeps everything else out.

I love the New Uses for Old Things column in Real Simple magazine, and the book is full of many ideas that have been featured in this column and hundreds of new ones. Like I explained earlier, it’s a good resource in book form, but it will be a great resource when it’s available digitally.

15 Comments for “Review: Real Simple’s 869 New Uses for Old Things”

  1. posted by Sinea on

    I’ve got to get this book! Thanks, Erin.
    The baking soda goes on my to-do list this weekend!

    Time change: Enjoy the extra hour this weekend, BTW. If I can get the cleaning done efficiently enough, I plan to use mine taking a well-earned NAP! LOL


  2. posted by Katie on

    My public library has multiple copies of this book, I’ve requested it and won’t have it cluttering my coffee table after I’ve read it!

  3. posted by ecuadoriana on

    Truth is: I hate this magazine. I hate it every month and I especially hate this issue.

    They sell it where I work so I have the chance to look at it occasionally. Talk about clutter!!! This magazine is so all about the “empty space” of its pages, and the endless pages of advertisements, that I can practically hear the cries of the trees that died to make it, as well as the sinking groan of the earth from the sheer waste of all that paper and ink hitting the landfills later.

    Also, I have some of my grandmother’s cook books and mags from 30s through 60s that contain recipes and household tips. So many of these “new” ideas are actually old. Real Simple is just really regurgitated basic info repackaged in a flashy updated look. We all grew up with these “clever” tips, but I believe that most of us have forgotten them because we got sidetracked by the disposable lifestyle.

    Bobby pins to hold pleats? Heck, I saw my grandmother use bobby pins as far back as 1963! The baking soda tips? C’mon, people! We’ve known the many cleaning uses for baking soda practically since it was invented!!! And I learned the “soap under the nails” trick from my grandfather. He used it for both working in the garden and working on his truck.

    Besides the above mentioned annoyances about the smug “Ah ha!, aren’t we so clever that we discovered these tips” attitude of the magazine, if you think about it a lot of the tips actually clutter up your time. There you are, staring at the algae forming in the bird bath. Now you have to go find, and sort through, your stash of pennies looking for specific dates! You’re in the kitchen struggling with the jar lid. Now you have to go look for that ball of rubber bands that you just remembered you threw away in your recent de-cluttering frenzy. Because, really, how many stuck jar lids does one encounter in a day to justify keeping a stash of dried out rubber bands in the kitchen drawer?! Dental floss for removing stuck fotos in an album? Now I have to stop what I’m doing and head to the bathroom to get dental floss, return to the foto album (unless of course Real Simple imagines that people keep their foto albums in the bathroom- maybe that’s why the fotos are getting stuck in the first place?), use the last remaining length of floss in the container to remove the foto, them return container to bathroom, or head to store to purchase more floss…

    See, already my mind is cluttered!

    So while the magazine is “pretty”, I sort of liken it to vogue, glamor, and those other “fashion” magazines- All shiny on the outside, but dumb as burned out light bulbs on the inside.

    Sorry Erin, this is one I can’t go along with. I agree with Katie- just get a copy from the library. Or better yet, peruse the stacks for old books on household hints and support your library!

  4. posted by D on

    @ ecuadoriana

    Chill out. Some of us don’t know these “basic” tips because we didn’t have parents or grandparents to teach us. Plus, there might be a tip in there that granny didn’t know.

    You are right that Real Simple sells a glossy package, but that can be inspiring.

  5. posted by Carolyn on

    You know, everyone is different with what they already know, what they personally will find helpful. With 869 tips, there is bound to be something I don’t know. Even though I grew up in the 60’s with some of these familiar tips, it is always good to have a reminder. I’ll either find the book in the library or wait for a digital edition. Thanks much!

  6. posted by Kathryn Fenner on

    The tips have pretty much been published in the mag before and last I checked, you could search, if you cared.

    I totally agree that they are not new, and frequently seem like a reach–for example, my birdwatcher mother exhorts us to change the water in our birdbaths as close to daily as possible, so the birds are made sick by it! No algae is growing in a properly maintained birdbath.

    I love the look of Real Simple, and they have great recipes, but so much of the editorial content is trying to get you to buy things–though they seem to have stopped with the “upgrade” stuff. The fashion spreads usually contain clothing that stops at size 12 and/or is too short or otherwise impractical if you are over about thirty. The makeup info is okay, but often uses ridiculously overpriced products, or products that dermatologists who aren’t selling anything would say are superfluous or even counterproductive, and certainly aren’t “real simple.”

    Fifty uses for a mini-marshmallow may float your boat, in which case go for it, but I never have them on hand and usually have no need to do any of the “uses.”

  7. posted by Kees Reuzelaar on

    You could just search the Internet when you encounter a particularly persistent household problem.

    By not getting this book you have already uncluttered it!

    On a related note, think about your recipe clippings, cookbooks, garden books. You don’t need them, all the info is already available in abundance on the Internet. For free and without taking up space.

  8. posted by Volker on

    The product description says:

    “New Uses For Old Things” is one of Real Simple’s most popular franchises. It showcases how to repurpose everyday items in clever ways. These ideas appeal to readers because they’re a) economical, b) green, and c) surprising.

    But does reuse really sum up the production and shipping of this book? Or is it about money?

  9. posted by ecuadoriana on

    Wow!! I thought I was the only one who thought this Real Simple magazine was really all about making money with their advertising, while tossing out a few tips on using Q-tips to apply eye shadow!

    When we talk about de-cluttering it means getting rid of the stuff that clogs up our lives by taking up space physically and emotionally. We also talk about how to have a collection of objects that bring us joy.

    My grandmother’s small selection of books & mags are kept on a nice shelf with a few old fashioned kitchen objects- two of which happen to be a can of Dutch Cleanser and a box of Church & Dwight Baking Soda (now known as Arm & Hammer) from the mid 1920’s! To me these objects represent my grandmother & her generation’s endless preoccupation with keeping the home clean & healthy meals on the table- without the convenience of microwaves, vacuums, food processors, clothes driers, etc. It makes me grateful for what I have and the choices I have!

    I concur with Kees Reuzelaar who wrote: “You could just search the Internet when you encounter a particularly persistent household problem. By not getting this book you have already uncluttered it!”

  10. posted by Erin Doland on

    @ecuadoriana — I’m really glad that you are so informed about new uses for old things. However, not all of our readers are as advanced at uncluttering as you are. Not all of our readers had mothers and grandmothers who showed them how to hold pleats with bobby pins. Sometimes parents die or people are raised in foster homes or people have parents who send the ironing out to be done by a professional ironer. Or, in my case, I just didn’t care to learn helpful things like this when I was a kid.

    This website is written for people of all different walks through the uncluttering process. Our comments section would be better helped by you adding your advanced tips instead of bragging about how much better you are than other people who still turn to resources like this. I learned many good tips from the book, and I’d like to believe that I know a good amount about this topic. If you were more open-minded, you might have even found a tip or two you liked in the book … but I guess you’ll never know. And, those of us reading these comments will never know what helpful tips are stored in your brain because you decided to dish your complaints in the comments instead of share the valuable knowledge you have. The rest of us really could have benefited from your tips.

    From this point in the comments forward, I’m deleting all of the complaining posts when I find them. In my book, negativity for the sake of negativity is clutter.

  11. posted by Sky on

    I have a tip for everybody….BE NICE!

    The better part of most magazines are advertisements but most of us enjoy sitting down and looking through our favorite ones. What’s the big deal?
    Thanks, Erin

  12. posted by Sarah on

    negativity is clutter.

    thanks, erin.

  13. posted by suzjazz on

    Does anyone iron pleats anymore?
    Or even iron?

  14. posted by J on

    My tips:

    Bleach – use instead of specialty toilet bowl cleaners of any kind – swish a half-cup around in the bowl, leave it to sit for a few minutes, then scrub the bowl, then flush – it breaks down quickly into harmless by-products and it’s very diluted anyway by the amount of water in one flush

    Soda – used with a small amount of elbow grease, removes rust stains from your stainless steel sink (which were left there by the cans you were recycling when you filled the yucky ones with water and then forgot about them overnight)

    Old fashioned spring clothespins – ladies, clip your skirts to wire hangers, one on each side of the skirt band; keep bags of chips, pet food, crackers, or pretty much anything fresh (roll down the top of the bag, making sure to squeeze out excess air, before clipping shut)

    Buttons – make a toy for older kids (warning – keep away from hair!): thread fine string or thick thread such as upholstery thread through a large-ish 2-hole button – through one hole, then right back through the other hole – and tie the ends together. To play: hold the loop of thread on both thumbs/forefingers with the button parked on the loop halfway between them, then using one hand to twirl the button in a circular fashion (away from you, down, toward you, up, repeat – quickly now) – this twists the threads – do about eight or ten circles. Now, still holding the loops in both hands, pull your hands apart and watch the button spin as the thread untwists and retwists in the opposite direction! Keep the button going by allowing your hands to move slightly toward each other as the thread twists, and pulling them apart as the thread untwists. Did I mention to keep this away from hair?

    Hey, I’d keep going, but I think I’ve used my quota of space for today . . .

  15. posted by Erin Doland on

    Okay … too many negative comments still rolling in … I’m closing comments to this post. G’night. Hope everyone sleeps well …

Comments are closed.