Posts in Household
Sunrise/Sunset Smart Switch

My outdoor lights were controlled by an indoor switch with a programmable timer. The tiny buttons made it very difficult to program and the tiny LCD display was nearly illegible. I gave up and bought this Meross Smart WiFi Switch. Installation was easy (make sure you have a neutral wire, not just a ground wire, or it won’t work). My phone’s GPS told the switch where it is and it now turns the lights on at sunset and off at sunrise, adjusting automatically throughout the year. Brilliant. And I enjoyed forcefully throwing the old switch into the trash can. — MF

HouseholdClaudia Dawson
Wake up earlier, naturally

I wasn’t sure if I would like the Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock, but in one month it’s trained me to wake up earlier, naturally. I set the alarm for the time I want to wake up and the light gradually increases beginning about 20 minutes before the alarm is set to go off. During that time is when I usually wake up. When the wake-up light doesn’t work, I get woken up by the sounds of birds chirping. Either way, I’m never startled or grumpy. — CD

TV for cats

My daughter likes having our cats hang out in her room with her when she does her homework, but when they start to bother her by rubbing against her or standing on her papers, she told me she shows them YouTube videos made for cats. I didn’t believe they worked, but I tried one (it shows mice and birds eating seeds) and my cat was engrossed for the entire 14-minute video. – MF

A view for your cat

The best gift you can give your indoor cat is a great view and a comfy place to nap. I’ve owned both the original Kitty Cot ($50) and the less expensive version by Oster ($20), and they’re both great. The Kitty Cot offers more size options and the Oster Sunny Seat has a machine washable cover and can hold up to 50 pounds. Every time I witness my little furry Frida sleeping or lounging in her perch enjoying her view, I think about what a smart purchase this was. — CD

HouseholdClaudia Dawson
Best stain remover

Tipped off by the comprehensive research at America’s Test Kitchen, I’ve found that the best — really the only — stain remover for laundry that really works is sodium percarbonate, which is a powder you need to mix in water before each use. (No liquid spray works nearly as well.) You then soak garments for 6 hours and wash. It completely removes just about any food stain, even stale ones. There are generic versions available but a proven brand of percarbonate is OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover. — KK

HouseholdClaudia Dawson
Bathroom phone shelf

You are sitting on the toilet but there is no place to park your phone safely. This is an everywhere in the world problem, with a first world solution: this hefty, heavy solid metal, toilet roll shelf. The shelf is flat, dry, stable. The roll holder underneath is easy to use. Can also store book, wet wipes, etc. As a courtesy I replaced our guest bathroom roll holder with this, and I like it so much I may do the rest of the bathrooms. — KK

HouseholdClaudia Dawson
Alexa houseguest guide

You can program your Alexa with new skills. I just trained our Alexa to serve as a home guide for houseguests, babysitters, and petsitters. I used an Alexa Blueprint to create an audible guide for finding things, or giving instructions like “where are the bath towels?,“ "where does the trash go?” or “how to turn off the porch light?” Visitors just ask Alexa, after saying, “Alexa open the home guide.” — KK

HouseholdClaudia Dawson
Keep puppy distracted

I work from home most of the time and when I do I have a 4-month old puppy keeping me company. When he’s not sleeping he’s getting into trouble, so I’ve already spent a healthy amount of money trying to find things that’ll distract him. This burrowing toy by ZippyPaws works best so far. He doesn’t rest until all the squeaking giraffes are out from inside. ZippyPaws makes a lot of adorable dog toys, it’s hard not to buy them all. I just ordered this bucket of fried chicken. — CD

HouseholdClaudia Dawson
Potty training app for puppies

I was immediately overwhelmed when we brought our new puppy home two weeks ago. Puddle & Pile was a mind saver. I log when my pup eats, drinks, pees and poops and the app will predict when he’ll need to potty next and alert me. The more I log the more it learns about his habits and becomes more accurate. It’s not perfect, but it’s prevented a lot of accidents and I can’t find a better app for the job. Suggestions welcome! — CD