13 tips, tricks, and projects to start 2021 off right

13 tips, tricks, and projects to start 2021 off right

You may find this little seat has countless uses around your home.

You may find this little seat has countless uses around your home. (Courtney Starr/)

It’s been a tumultuous year, but we’ve learned a lot. Here at PopSci DIY, we started 2020 happily testing methods of reheating pizza and ended it trying to figure out how to prevent our glasses from fogging up while we wore face masks. Stories like that weren’t what we expected when we rang in 2020, but we hope this collection of some of the most useful stories we published this year will serve you well heading into 2021.

The best ways to reheat pizza

We love pizza at Popular Science, and naturally find ourselves eating a lot of leftovers. Preferred reheating methods vary from person to person, and we wanted to see which process got our refrigerated slices as close as possible to their original glory. So we bought a lot of pizza (for science), ate some (for dinner), put the rest in the fridge (for safekeeping), and spent days trying different strategies (for you and also for us). Then, we ranked nine popular methods for everyone who doesn’t have pizza to burn.

10 grocery store science projects you can do with your kids

Yeah, this is a list within a list, but these child-friendly experiments were too good to omit. The PopSci staff put their brains together (not literally—ew) and came up with something we hoped would lift the spirits of both remote-learning kids and stay-at-home parents. So if you’re looking for a bit of indoor family fun, grab some of these supplies on your next grocery run and get ready to do some science.

How to make your own hand sanitizer

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear that some people were going a bit overboard hoarding supplies, and hand sanitizer was suddenly in short supply. Assistant DIY editor and PopSci’s resident cleanliness guru Sandra Gutierrez rose to the challenge, demonstrating how to whip up plenty of homemade sanitizer with ingredients that may not be quite so in demand. You’ve got two options: an intense formulation preferred by the World Health Organization, or one that’s a litter softer on your hands.

Sun protection for darker skin tones

Everyone should wear sunscreen, but skincare advice isn’t the same for every skin color. In this comprehensive guide to taking care of your body’s largest organ, Jordan Blok busts myths, relays expert advice, and explains why the lack of information about how skin conditions affect people of color can have deadly effects.

How to build a campfire without sparking a catastrophe

Park staff have seen increased numbers of visitors during the pandemic, likely driven by the desire to leave home and stay away from other people. But when camping newbies hit the woods, they don’t always bring proper skills with them, and campfire safety is an important one. Everyone should enjoy the outdoors, and everyone should know how to build and extinguish a fire. Alisha McDarris has all the tips right here.

How to make a Memoji that looks like you

Fun is important, especially when times are tough. What seems like a superficial endeavor—crafting a digital character that matches your actual appearance—can offer a bit of levity when the weight of the world is upon you. Harry Guinness went deep on this one, from hat to chin, and everything in between.

Build a door-mounted cutting board rack for your kitchen

Cutting board storage was one of the most annoying struggles I faced in the kitchen this year. Yes, I know that that’s a small, highly specific problem in a year chock full of exponentially worse situations, but I can’t solve any of those larger ones in a few hours with easy-to-find materials. I thank my past self every time I use this simple rack that fits on the inside of a cabinet door, and now I have more time to focus on bigger problems. Hurray?

A motorized boat from the PopSci archives

When you work at a 148-year-old magazine, you have oodles of historical content to draw from and even try to improve upon. This isn’t a DIY project most people will be able to pull off, but we thought it was important to highlight Tom Riti’s work modernizing and motorizing a bicycle boat design we published all the way back in 1948.

Our favorite anti-fog strategies for wearing masks with glasses

Face masks rose to national prominence as one of the most effective tools we have for stopping COVID’s spread, but they can also cause an annoying fogging problem. Gutierrez personally tested five of the most popular solutions, then ranked their effectiveness. We haven’t hit upon a five-star, 100 percent-effective solution that works for everyone, but odds are one of these options (or a combination) will help you see clearly.

How to know if it’s safe to use a crashed hard drive

When a hard drive fails, it can feel like it’s game over. All that data: lost. Photos: gone. Precious memories: torched. But after the initial shock and despair subsides, know that all hope is not lost. Not every disk fails the same way, and you may be able to get some, most, or all of your files back. You might even be able to use the drive again. Whitson Gordon broke down the difference between corruption and failure, what to do about lost information, and why you should back everything up. Seriously, make copies of everything. Now. Do it now.

The best tips for working from home

As many workers stayed home, COVID turned offices into ghost towns; we imagine those abandoned places as now populated by spiders, succulents, and tumbletrash propelled by the lonely HVAC system. Finding a way to separate your work life and home life can be hard, especially when they all happen in the same space, so we turned to people who have excelled at working from home for years. Their time-tested advice worked for us, and we think it’ll work for you, too.

Build a three-legged stool

You probably don’t think you need a three-legged stool in your life, but you do. This little piece of furniture is useful for tying shoes, as extra seating, or for propping up your feet after a long day. Set aside a weekend day, spend about $15 on materials, and follow these directions from Courtney Starr to build one of your own. You won’t need tons of expensive power tools either—you can use hand tools if you want.

Put video calls on a TV

Video calling services saw heavy use in 2020, and it’s likely that many of us will need to keep using them into 2021. They’re great for face-to-face interactions over long distances, but seeing someone on a small phone or slightly larger laptop screen isn’t the same as seeing them in person. Putting them on a TV isn’t quite the same either, but they’ll be closer to actual size, at least. David Nield explains how to link Zoom, Google Meet, FaceTime, and others to the big screen.

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