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Notes on living.


This section is about choosing, cleaning, and maintaining your clothes.



The four materials most commonly used to make clothes are linen, cotton, wool, and synthetic fibers.

Linen produces light, airy, and quick-drying fabrics that are best for hot weather. They tend to crease easily.

Cotton makes durable and comfortable general-purpose fabrics.

Wool makes fabrics that are warm and water-repellent without being heavy. Wool fabrics can be rough, in which case they are called woolens, or smooth, in which case they are called worsteds.

Synthetic fibers span a wide-range of man-made materials. They can be durable, lightweight, moisture-wicking, tear-resistant, stretchy, and soft. They are particularly good for underwear, athletic clothes, and weather-proof or tear-proof layers.

These four main materials are often mixed together to produce textiles that combine their properties. A garment’s tags will list the makeup of its textiles by percentage.

Some other common materials with useful properties include silk, which is strong, shiny, and often used for decorative clothing, and leather, which makes comfortable and hard-wearing shoes and outerwear.


The quality of a garment is also affected by how its constituent materials are turned into textiles. Most textiles used to make clothes are either woven or knitted. Woven fabrics are generally more durable but less stretchy than knitted ones.

In both weaving and knitting, raw fibers are first turned into yarn. The thickness and quality of the yarn has a significant effect on the produced fabric.

In a woven fabric, yarns are interlaced at right angles, with warp yarns held straight and weft yarns drawn through them. Weaves can be loose or tight, and they generally follow a pattern. The main weaving patterns for clothes are plain, twill, and satin. Plain-woven fabrics have a checkerboard appearance, twill-woven fabrics have diagonal lines, and satin-woven fabrics are glossy. Another important technique is pile weaving, in which a fabric is woven to contain a pile or nap of upright yarn.

In a knitted fabric, loops of yarn are interlaced with one another. There are many knitting techniques that produce different patterns.

A third way of making textiles is felting, in which fibers of material are pressed together into a fabric. Felted fabrics are less common in modern clothes, but you can still find them in some hats and shoes.


Clothes can be dyed, or colored, at any stage of the production process. With yarn dyeing, yarn is died before it is turned into fabric. With piece dyeing, undyed yarn is used to produce a fabric which is then dyed. With garment dyeing, an entire garment is produced before being dyed.

Dyes or pigments can also be printed directly to the surface of a fabric. These techniques allow for the creation of complex designs, but they often yield lower-quality and less durable results than traditional dyeing methods. You can check whether a garment is printed by looking at the backside of its fabric. Sometimes clothes that are printed with pigment are labeled as pigment-dyed.

Fabrics can also be finished with coatings to add useful properties like fire, water, or microbial resistance. Coatings can be natural, like wax, or synthetic.


When picking clothes, think about the fit and quality of fabric in addition to style.

Before doing any shopping, determine your body’s main measurements and write them down. These will give you a good starting point for choosing clothes in person, and they’ll also let you use detailed size guides online.

You can alter your clothes or take them to a tailor after you buy them. Some alterations are easier than others. For example, with a pair of trousers, it’s very easy to take length off of the legs, slightly less easy to take length off of the waist, and hard to add length anywhere.


A garment’s tags contain symbols that indicate how it should be washed and dried. It’s worth learning how to interpret these and paying paying attention to them.


Wash your clothes every few wears even if they aren’t particularly soiled. Doing so tightens up the fabric, making them more likely to keep their shape and less likely to develop holes.

Separate your laundry into whites and colors, and separate sheets and towels from clothes. Use the lowest temperature and quickest cycle that will get the job done; this is better for your clothes and uses fewer resources. Your machine’s shortest cycle on cold is likely good enough for regular use.

Use as little detergent as possible, which is often much less than the package recommends. Gentle, unscented detergents are best. If you have a machine without a detergent drawer, then add detergent to the drum while it’s filling with water and then add your clothes after the detergent has been dissolved. If you have a machine with a detergent drawer, remove the drawer when you aren’t using the machine to prevent mold.

Clothes that are particularly soiled should be washed separately at a higher temperature. Colors can usually go up to 40 degrees Celsius, and whites can usually go up to 60.

It’s best to wash particularly delicate clothes by hand in a bathtub or large sink. You can also try washing them in a mesh bag on your machine’s delicate cycle. Woolite makes good detergent specifically for delicates. Turning delicate garments inside out before washing can protect the visible side and, depending on the type of soil, improve cleaning.

To remove oil-based stains, rub some dish soap into the stain before washing. For other stains, spray on an oxygen bleach solution a few minutes before washing. Particularly bad stains can be soaked in an oxygen bleach solution for a few hours before washing.


To remove excess water before drying, use the max spin setting on non-delicate loads in the washing machine.

In general, hang-drying clothes makes them look nicer and keeps them in good condition for longer. Drying machines are useful for sheets and towels, in cold or humid environments, and for undergarments.

If you have a drying machine, don’t use a temperature setting above low on clothes. A drying cycle that’s too hot can cause shrinking and excessive wear. Higher heat can be useful for sheets and towels.

Delicates should always be hang-dried, and so should fast-drying clothes like athletic gear. Undergarments can be machine dried; it makes them feel nicer, and the way they look doesn’t matter. For other garments, you can machine-dry them on low for a few minutes before hang-drying them. This improves the way they hang-dry and reduces creasing from the washing machine’s spin cycle.

When hang-drying clothes, give them a shake then gently shape them and stretch out creases before hanging. Tops should be dried on normal hangers and bottoms on clamp hangers. Collared shirts should be dried with the top two buttons closed to maintain the collar shape.

Some delicate garments, like knit wool sweaters, should be dried horizontally on a towel. Hanging them on a hanger or line causes them to stretch out. Garments stuffed with down feathers can be dried in a machine on low heat with some tennis balls in the drum to fluff them.


In general, the best way to store clothes is by hanging them.

For tops, the best hangers are flat wooden ones in the shape of a complete triangle. They fit well into neck openings, and the bottom side of the triangle allows them to also hang trousers if necessary. For tops with small or delicate straps, hangers with notches on the upper sides of the triangle are useful. For other tops, they can deform the shoulder and should be avoided. Button-up shirts should always be hung with the top two buttons done to maintain the shape of the collar.

For bottoms, the best option is wooden clamp hangers. The clamp jaws should be wide and apply light pressure so that they don’t leave marks. Good clamp hangers have felt strips on the insides of the jaws so that they can hold clothes without too much pressure.

To hang trousers, fasten any zippers and buttons on the rise then lay them out front side up. The creases down the sides of the legs should line up with the seams there, and the fly should line up with the seam on the back side of the seat. Line your hanger up in the middle of the waistband and then close it.

The most important part of this method is to ensure that the clamp applies equal pressure to the left and right sides of the waistband. Otherwise, one side will be loose and the trousers might sag or fall out of the hanger over time. Most clamp hangers have a concave groove in the middle of each jaw; the space created by these grooves should go over the trousers’ button and rear seam. For trousers with bulky waistbands or belt loops, you may want to clamp them just under the waistband to get a good grip.

The above method is the best way to hang trousers in general because it minimizes visible creasing and marking. But it’s also possible to hang trousers by the hems, which may be better in certain situations. Hanging by the hems creases the bottom of the legs, but the weight of the hanging waistband pulls out small wrinkles.

To hang trousers by the hems, you need to fold them in half vertically. For most trousers, you should use the standard vertical fold. Fasten zippers and buttons on the rise and lay your trousers front side up as described above. Then fold them vertically at the back seam so that the seat is on the outside and the two legs are stacked up. All of the creases introduced by this fold line up with seams of the trousers, so they are less visible.

Some dress trousers are worn with creases down the front of the legs as a matter of style. Hanging by the hems using the front-crease vertical fold is particularly good for this kind of trouser. Undo the fly and fold the two sides of the rise inwards so that they face one another and the two legs are stacked up. This fold introduces a crease down the front and back of each leg.

With your trousers folded, clamp the stacked hems together and they are ready to hang. If the hems are too bulky, you may want to clamp just underneath them to get a good grip.

Hangers with clips can work in place of clamp hangers, but it’s difficult to find clips that are wide and gentle enough not to leave marks. If you don’t have clamp or clip hangers, you can use triangle hangers for trousers. Fold the trousers in half vertically using either the standard or front-crease fold and drape them over the bottom side of the triangle.

If your trousers slide off of a triangle hanger when draped simply over the bottom side, you can use the Savile Row fold to drape them. First fold the trousers in half vertically using one of the above vertical folds. Then flip the top leg over the waistline and pull it taut. Fold it in half over the bottom side of your triangle hanger so that its hem sits at the crotch of the trousers. Then take the bottom leg of the trousers up over the folded top leg and through the hanger. Pick up the hanger, allowing the end of the bottom leg to fold over the side that’s farther from you.

Some clothes, like knitwear and delicate tops, can get deformed on hangers. You may also not have enough space to hang everything. For these cases, it’s best to roll clothes and store them in drawers as if they were files in a cabinet. You can find videos online that explain how to roll different garments. Rolling and filing clothes makes them much easier to access than folding and stacking them. It also leaves fewer wrinkles and creases.

If you’re not planning to wash a garment after taking it off, air it out for a while before putting it back into a crowded drawer or closet. This keeps your clothes fresh for more wears.


The following tools are useful for maintaining your clothes:


This section is about managing your personal finances.


To get a handle on your spending and saving, it’s a good idea to make a rough monthly budget. Create a spreadsheet that includes your take-home income, known expenses, and the amount you want to save each month. Keep it updated as meaningful changes happen. This kind of budget gives you useful intuition about your disposable income, what kinds of recurring expenses you have, and how your savings will grow over time.

Put as much of your monthly spend as possible on a credit card. The main reason to do this is so that, in case of fraud, money is taken from the credit card provider rather than your bank account. Another reason is that you can get cash back or other rewards for your spending. Use a credit card as if it were a debit card and set up automatic payments to clear your entire monthly balance. If at all possible, avoid using a credit card to buy anything that you actually need credit for, because the interest rates are extremely high. It’s better to get specific loans for expensive essential purchases.

Always carry cash. It doesn’t require connectivity to work, and you never know when you might need it.

When you are making a large purchase, learn how the market works and consider at least three different options before making a decision. For example, if you need to replace a water heater, get quotes from at least three contractors. If you are interested in renting an apartment, determine key factors that influence price such as size, finish, amenities, and location, and look at at least three comparable options before choosing one. This will increase your chances of getting a good deal and make you feel more confident in negotiations.

Buy property and liability insurance. It’s cheap and protects you from catastrophic financial loss in case something happens to your property or you unintentionally cause damage to someone else’s.

When you make regular payments to a company for some service, you can often save money in the long run by avoiding long contracts with cancellation fees. This also gives you the freedom to change to a different provider if you are unhappy. Similarly, buying equipment related to a service rather than leasing it from a company will save you money in the long run.

If you are in the US, don’t prepare and file your own taxes unless they are trivial. Tax rules are extremely complex, and a good accountant makes it much easier to comply with them. An accountant can also advise you on large financial decisions and may save you money overall by taking advantage of deductions and credits that you wouldn’t otherwise know about.

Financial services

This section applies to financial service providers in the US.

It’s worth maintaining a low-balance checking account at a large retail bank so you can access services that require visiting a branch, like getting a cashier’s check, in any city. Otherwise, retail banks have worse products, terms, and track records than other options. For loans and savings accounts, local credit unions tend to be better than retail banks. For other financial services, I recommend Fidelity as an online one-stop-shop.

There are some other firms that offer similar services to Fidelity. The closest one is Charles Schwab. They offer nearly the same experience, but I prefer Fidelity because it has a slightly better fee schedule and a better credit card. It also has a strong track record and does not take payments for order flow.

I recommend setting up your Fidelity accounts in the following way:

Using a one-stop-shop in this way is extremely convenient, but you may want to keep some money with other institutions, such as a local credit union, a second investment firm, or an online bank with a high-yield savings account, for diversification.


This is not investing advice but general information about useful types of investments in the US.

Stocks theoretically represent part ownership of a company. You make money by selling them to someone else for a higher price than you paid, and some stocks also pay periodic dividends. Publicly traded stocks are liquid, meaning you can sell them for cash any time stock exchanges are open. Earnings on stocks are fully taxable and their value is not insured. If you aren’t experienced with stocks, your best bet is to buy an exchange-traded index fund that owns a broad segment of the total market. See A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel for more information.
When you buy a bond, you are effectively making a loan to some counterparty. The counterparty makes regular coupon payments to you as interest, and then your principal, or loan amount, is paid back when the bond matures. If you aren’t experienced with bonds, you should view them as illiquid, meaning that your money is tied up in a bond until its maturity date. Bonds are not insured, and counterparties can default, or fail to make coupon or principal payments. The relative size of coupon payments tends to increase with the riskiness of lending to the counterparty. US Treasury debt and other government bonds are considered to be risk-free. Coupon payments are generally taxable, but for bonds issued by the federal government they are typically exempt from state and local tax, and for municipal bonds issued by state or local governments they are often not taxable at any level.
Money Market Funds
Money market funds are mutual funds that hold low-risk, short-term securities like cash and short-term government debt. Shares of money market funds do not appreciate, but they pay interest that approximates the risk-free interest rate. Money market funds are uninsured but considered low-risk. They are liquid and tax on earnings depends on the specific securities that they hold.
High-Yield Savings Accounts
High-yield savings accounts are savings accounts with a bank that pay higher than average interest rates. They are liquid, insured by the FDIC, and their interest is fully taxable.
Certificates of Deposit
CDs are interest-bearing deposits with a bank that tie your money up for a fixed period of time. They are illiquid but tend to pay higher rates than liquid alternatives. They are insured by the FDIC and their interest is fully taxable.


This section is about cultivating fitness.


Fitness has a few distinct aspects.

Cardiovascular fitness is your body’s ability to handle activity that elevates your heart rate. You can train cardiovascular fitness with high-intensity or low-intensity exercises. High-intensity exercises raise your heart rate significantly for a short period of time, while low-intensity or endurance exercises elevate your heart rate to a middle level for a long period of time. Both are important. Different cardio exercises also involve different amounts of impact, or wear, on your body. In general, cardiovascular exercise reduces inflammation and the risk of chronic disease.

Strength is your body’s capacity to apply force. Strength training increases your functional ability, improves your physique, and makes you less prone to injury.

Mobility comprises flexibility, range of motion, and bodily alignment. Good mobility allows you to move pain-free and without inflicting unnecessary wear on your body.

Psychosomatic fitness is about the connection between mind and body. Mental activity governs much of the physical body, and physical experiences affect mental state. Psychosomatic exercises involve both directions of this relationship. In one direction, they train mental awareness and control of the body. In the other, they use physical stimuli to reduce mental chatter and focus attention on the present moment.

All kinds of fitness training improve mood and well-being, especially when done outdoors. Try to go outside, clear your mind, and move around at the start of every day.

A good way to approach fitness is to learn how your body works and then practice whatever aspect of fitness it needs at a particular time. Dedication to consistent practice, rather than a particular result, makes training fun and deeply satisfying. Improvements in physical and mental state happen gradually.

It’s worth aiming to do some kind of fitness practice every day. You may want to limit high-impact or high-intensity cardio to a few times a week to reduce wear on your body. Taking occasional rest days, getting enough sleep, and eating enough protein are important for recovery.


Mobilization exercises are low-intensity dynamic movements that warm up your body and get blood flowing. They help to maintain mobility over time. You should do them before any other kind of physical activity because they ease you into movement and make your body less prone to injury. It’s also good to do them any time you feel stiff or stagnant.

Mobilization exercises, ordered by the parts of the body they target from the top down:


Calisthenics is using your body weight to train strength. It requires very little to no equipment and has a lower risk of injury than many other strength training methods.

Always warm up with mobilization exercises or five minutes of low-intensity cardio before strength training. To increase the difficulty of body-weight exercises, you can perform more difficult movements in the same progression, like doing archer push-ups instead of normal ones.

I recommend getting a set of gymnastics rings. They facilitate all kinds of calisthenics exercises, and you can hang them from anything that can support your weight. A pair of wooden rings with cam-buckle straps to hang them are cheap on Amazon. Going over the rings with fine-grit sandpaper and getting higher-quality cam-buckle straps improves the experience.

The bodyweightfitness subreddit wiki has a lot of useful information for getting started.

Calisthenics exercises and movement groups, ordered by the parts of the body they target from the top down:


Running is a high-impact way to train cardio. Outside is the best place to do it, but if you do need to run inside then use an elliptical machine. Treadmills are higher-impact than running outside and are likely to give you blisters or injuries, while ellipticals are lower-impact than running outside.

Fellrnr is a website with all kinds of useful running information.

If you’re new to running, you can follow a couch to 5K program. For longer distances, Hal Higdon’s training plans are great. There are free PDFs for many of them on his website.

Fuel is important as you start to go for longer runs. I prefer real food to energy gels, but anything with a high energy density that sits well in your stomach is good. I aim to take a few gulps of water each mile and eat one-third to one-half of an energy bar every 30 to 40 minutes.

In terms of gear, I like Salomon Active Skin running vests. They have flasks that work well, a tight fit to the body, and decent storage space. The Garmin Forerunner 35 is an effective, no-frills running watch. You can get it cheaply secondhand.

To prevent chafing and blisters, you can apply an occlusive lotion like petroleum jelly to high-friction areas of your body before running. Feet, groin, and chest are common high-friction areas. If you develop callouses on your feet that get too thick, you can shave them down with a pumice stone. Soak your feet in warm water then gently rub the stone on your callouses in a circular motion.


Keep your torso and head aligned at a very slight forward bend from the hips, take short strides, and place your feet close to your center of mass. Strike on the ball of your foot and allow your heel to kiss the ground before taking the next stride. Instead of pushing off of the back foot, lift it up from the hip as if you’ve stepped on a nail.

To run faster, increase your cadence rather than your stride length.


There are all kinds of running shoes on the market, and the vast majority of them encourage poor form that can damage your body over time. Here are some characteristics that make a running shoe good for you.

The outline of a running shoe’s insole should be wide and foot-shaped. The toebox should have ample space for toes to splay and move without hitting the top or sides. The outlines of the midsole and outsole should not extend far beyond the outline of the upper; shoes like this make it easy to injure yourself while striking the ground. The upper should lace up such that, even without the laces tied extremely tightly, your heel stays firmly in place while you run. Foot movement in the shoe while running causes blisters, and tying laces too tightly can damage your feet.
Also called heel drop, this is the difference in height between the heel and ball of the shoe. Most current running shoes set the heel of the foot higher than the ball. This design is unnatural and encourages heel striking. Heel striking is fine when you’re walking, which is low-impact. But when you’re running, the leg position you assume during a heel strike makes your body less able to use muscles as shock absorbers. Your bones and joints end up bearing more of the impact, which causes wear over time. Because of this, you should strike the ground with the balls of your feet, and running shoes should have no offset to encourage this behavior. Shoes with no offset are also called zero-drop shoes.
All else equal, the lighter the shoe, the better. Less weight to carry around means less work you have to do.
The surface in a shoe that your feet actually stand on should be mostly flat. Many current running shoes present surfaces that conform to the foot’s arch or add other kinds of shaping. These are marketed as support or stability shoes. Shoes with this kind of interior surface are nice for relaxation and recovery, but they make the foot work less during activity, which leads to weakness and pathology over time. Shoes that present a surface like the base of a rocking chair should also be avoided because they encourage heel striking. On the other hand, running shoes with insoles, midsoles, and outsoles that present a mostly flat surface are more natural and keep your feet healthy. These kinds of shoes are also called neutral shoes. If you have a medical condition that does require special support, you can get neutral running shoes and use a custom-made insole.
A running shoe’s padding is usually measured in terms of its stack height, which is sum of the heights of its outsole, midsole, and insole. Shoes with stack heights above 30mm should be avoided because they mask the negative effects of bad form. Otherwise, the amount of padding a shoe should have depends on what you are using it for. Minimal running shoes have no or very little padding. They force you to run well because, with no cushion, bad form quickly manifests as pain. However, they come with a significant adjustment period, they are less efficient than padded shoes because they have less bounce, and they put more wear on your body. I recommend minimal shoes for practicing good form, for runs on soft terrain like grass, and for shorter road runs. For longer road runs, shoes with a moderate amount of padding are better.
Lugs are shaped elements that protrude from the outsole of a shoe. They provide traction on uneven and soft ground. Lugs are useful for trail running shoes and don’t make sense otherwise.

It’s a good idea to replace running shoes before their padding becomes ineffective. Around 300 miles is a good time to start checking. When you buy a new pair of running shoes, rotate them in with your current shoes for a while before switching over completely.

You can try the following modifications to improve running shoe fit and function:

My favorite running shoes are the Primus Lite III by Vivobarefoot, which is a minimal shoe with very little padding, and the Escalante Racer by Altra, which has a moderate amount of padding. I also like the Bedrock Cairn Pro II sandals for short runs on grass.

Injinji makes the best running socks. The individual toe-holes allow your toes to splay naturally and prevents skin-on-skin friction.


Cycling is a form of low-impact cardio and a fun way to get around. Bicycles are easy to maintain and relatively inexpensive, so it’s worth owning one and learning how to take care of it.

Get a bike pump, a set of hex keys, and some chain lube and degreaser. You can learn how to use these to maintain your bike using Park Tool’s Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair or their excellent YouTube videos. Park Tool is also the gold-standard manufacturer of bike tools.

I recommend putting fenders on your bike to keep it cleaner in wet weather. It’s worth getting waterproof gear too: a hooded jacket, pants, gloves, and shoes or shoe coverings. A rear rack with panniers is a great way to carry things around.

Sheldon Brown’s website has a lot of useful cycling-related information.


Yoga improves mobility and strength, but its most significant effect is on the mind-body connection. A regular practice facilitates awareness, relaxation, and a better mood, even when you are off of the mat.

There are many different schools of yoga. In my experience, Iyengar is the best for learning the practice and appreciating its benefits. It is a rigorous school that focuses on proper alignment and correct execution of postures and techniques. Regularly attending classes with the same teacher is the best way to learn. The Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York has produced sequences for home practice: level 1 and level 2.

Other forms of yoga, especially heated Vinyasa flow classes, can be a fun and social way to break a sweat. However, some inexperienced teachers cue poses that are dangerous when performed incorrectly. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

Yoga with Adriene and similar channels provide free guided practices for at-home use.

For Iyengar yoga and at-home practice, I recommend a medium-thickness, closed-cell, sticky mat. The 3mm Spezial by Kurma is my favorite. For heated yoga classes, I recommend a thicker mat with a smooth, wipeable finish. Place a grippy towel on top of it to catch sweat. I use a mat from lululemon and a Yogitoes towel. Other props I recommend for home practice are two cork bricks, four foam blocks, two cotton blankets, and a strap.

As you learn different postures and understand their benefits, you can use them to serve your body’s needs. Inversions, which are postures that place your feet above your head, are particularly beneficial. Going upside down is fun, and it’s restorative to put your body in a position that’s opposite to what it experiences for most of the waking day.

Trigger point release

The release of muscular trigger points, or knots, relieves tightness and improves mobility immediately. It’s beneficial to do any time except just before exercise, when it may reduce performance. After exercise, it’s especially useful for recovery.

One way to release trigger points is to get a massage. A deep tissue massage or sports massage from a good therapist is worth it every once in a while. They can perform releases that are difficult to do yourself and evaluate your overall muscular health. A massage is also relaxing.

It’s also worth learning how to release trigger points yourself. I recommend three tools to get started.

The first is the Grid foam roller by TriggerPoint, which has a hard plastic core that makes it feel firmer the more you use it. The second is the Grid X massage ball by TriggerPoint, and the third is a lacrosse ball. Each of them can hit different muscles in different ways.

Place one of these tools between your body and the floor or a wall and then apply pressure to release trigger points. To get an effective release, spend at least 30 seconds on an area. You can apply pressure statically, or keep the tool stationary while moving your body through some range of motion, or slowly move the tool around.

Nearly every part of your body can benefit from trigger point release. Search for instructional videos if you need help with a particular area. Kelly Starrett’s YouTube channel is a good place to start.


When combined with strength training, stretching improves mobility gradually over time. It increases range of motion by challenging muscles and other soft tissue at the limits of their flexibility.

Like trigger point release, stretching is beneficial to do any time except immediately before exercise. It’s also especially helpful for recovering after exercise. Warm up the area you want to stretch with mobilization or light cardio beforehand.

Stretching should feel uncomfortable but not overly painful. Ease into a stretch and spend at least 30 seconds in it for it to be effective.

To make stretches more impactful, isometrically contract the muscles being stretched in a cycle of five seconds on and five seconds off. This technique is called proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF).

Stretches, ordered by the parts of the body they target from the top down:


Breathing exercises deepen your mind-body connection. They reduce anxiety and give you a mental and physical reset.

Lying down for a few minutes with your eyes closed and focusing on your breath is often enough to find mental and physical space. If you experience interrupting thoughts, acknowledge them without frustration and let them go.

Box breathing, which involves cycling through a four second inhale, a four second hold, a four second exhale, and another four second hold, is an effective way to start practicing breathing meditation. Wim Hof’s breathing exercises are my favorite form of breathing meditation.

Breathing exercises are particularly effective when combined with temperature change. Spending the last minute of a shower with the water as cold as it will go and trying to keep your breathing regular will give you a clear head and a lot of energy. Performing breathing exercises in a hot bath, steam room, or sauna amplifies their relaxing effect.


This section is about keeping your body clean and well maintained.


If you’re interested in a hygienic or cosmetic product, you can look it up on incidecoder to see its ingredients, what their purpose is, and how safe they are. In general, products with a small number of well understood ingredients are best.

Most of the time, it’s fine to use your fingers to get a product out of a jar. You can use a small spoon if you want to avoid contamination.

When using a new product, test it to make sure it won’t cause a bad reaction. Place a small amount on one of your forearms and wait a day before using it normally.

The best way to apply a product to your face is to place dots of it on each side of your forehead, each cheekbone, and each jawbone. Then spread the dots out and rub then in until your whole face is covered and the product is not visible.



Good times to wash your body are in the morning to wake up, after exercise to stay fresh, and at night to get clean before bed. Water, soap, and physical agitation are what get your skin clean.

Simple soap does the job well and doesn’t contain harmful ingredients. I like the baby-mild liquid castile soap from Dr Bronner’s. It’s really concentrated, so a few drops are enough to wash your entire body.

In terms of physical agitation, cleaning gently with a brush is best. Loofahs and washcloths are also more effective than using your bare hands.

Doing a full-body clean too often strips your skin of its natural oils. You only need to scrub everywhere with soap once or twice a week. For regular bathing you can use your hands to clean the dirtiest parts of your body – hands, feet, pits, and bits – with a very small amount of soap.

If you have dry skin, you can apply body lotion after a full-body clean. There are three main kinds of moisturizing ingredients: humectants, emollients, and occlusives. Humectants, like aloe vera and hyaluronic acid, hydrate the skin by attracting water to it. Emollients, like oils and ceramides, help to soften the skin and repair its natural barrier. Occlusives, like beeswax and petroleum jelly, create a physical barrier on top of the skin that prevents water from leaving; they are particularly useful to lock in moisture after bathing or to prevent skin from losing moisture in a dry environment. Lotions often blend ingredients from all three categories, and you can pick one that suits your needs.

Skin on your face has different properties from skin on the rest of your body. Keeping it clean and hydrated is easiest with products designed specifically for it. Every morning and every night, use your hands to wash it with a cleanser and apply a moisturizer. I like the foaming facial cleanser and moisturizing cream by CeraVe.


Sunscreen limits sun damage and the appearance of wrinkles over time. You should apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to your face, ears, the front and back of your neck, and the backs of your hands every day. When you plan to spend a lot of time outside, you should also apply sunscreen to other exposed areas of your body. Lip balm with SPF is a good idea on particularly dry or sunny days.

I prefer mineral sunscreen, which sits on top of your skin and physically blocks radiation, over chemical sunscreen, which penetrates your skin and absorbs radiation. It’s gentler and less irritating to wear, especially on the face. To avoid visible residue on your face, you can apply a tinted mineral sunscreen after moisturizing. I like the one by The Ordinary.



The trick for keeping your hair in good shape is not letting it get too dry, which leads to frizz, or too oily, which leads to buildup and flakes. Most people clean their hair too often and with harsh shampoo. This strips oil from your scalp and leaves your hair dry. It also makes your scalp over-produce oil to compensate.

Find a gentle shampoo and conditioner that work for your hair. They don’t have to be expensive, just avoid products that contain a lot of harsh ingredients. When you apply them, massage your scalp with the pads of your fingers before rinsing well. Leave conditioner in for a few minutes before rinsing so it has time to work.

Use conditioner every time you wash your hair, which doesn’t have to be every time you wash your body. This keeps your hair moisturized and clean without stripping too much oil. You only need to shampoo before conditioning once or twice a week to get rid of accumulated buildup.

If you’re prone to buildup and flakes, you may also find it beneficial to reset your scalp with a harsh cleansing shampoo every few weeks. Many brands make expensive shampoos specifically for this purpose, but Mane ‘n Tail or Head & Shoulders work just as well.


To style your hair after washing it, first press it dry with a towel. Scrubbing with a towel will make your hair frizzy. If you haven’t washed your hair, dampen it with water before styling.

With your hair damp, apply some product to keep it moisturized, in shape, and not frizzy. Start by putting the product in one of your hands. Rub your hands together to warm it up and coat them with it. Then run your hands through your hair in all directions before styling it. After the product is dry, run your hands through your hair again to make it look less wet and more natural.

For longer cuts, styling creams keep your hair moisturized without making it shiny or sticky. For shorter hair, a texturizing putty adds hold without making it shiny or sticky. You can apply a light oil, such as argan oil, before other products to add moisture.

Use your fingers, a wide-toothed brush, or a wide-toothed comb to style your hair. A bristled brush will make it frizzy.


The following tools are useful for managing hair on your head, face, and body:


When it comes to the hair on your head, don’t be afraid to touch up your own haircut. Using a shaver and scissors to clean up edges at home can keep you looking good between cuts.

If you don’t wear a beard or moustache, you can just shave your face with your safety razor. Start by shaving with the grain of hair growth before going across or against it.

To maintain a beard or moustache, start with your face dry. Once you wet your facial hair, it gets heavier and looks longer than it normally does. First use your shaver’s precision trimmer attachment to make rough lines on your cheeks, neck, and upper lip. Wet the rough lines on your cheeks and neck and shave them into clean lines with your safety razor. Next, use scissors or your shaver to reduce the length of your moustache or beard. Touch up with scissors, tweezers, and the shaver as necessary. You can cup your free hand over the shaver to prevent hair from going everywhere.

Shaving lines before reducing length makes your previous lines easier to see. If you aren’t sure where to shave lines, ask a barber to do it and you can follow theirs. You can use a bristled brush to work with short or wiry facial hair.

Use scissors and tweezers to keep your eyebrows in shape.

Use your electric razor’s nose-hair attachment and scissors to trim visible nose-hairs.

To remove visible hair from your ears, pluck what you can with tweezers then use your shaver’s precision trimmer.

You can use your electric shaver to shorten body hair and your safety razor to remove it completely. Always use some kind of guard with the electric shaver on sensitive body parts to avoid cuts or irritation.


Keeping your teeth and gums in good shape is about cleaning them well without being too rough. Teeth and gums are sensitive, and many kinds of damage to them are irreversible.

Brushing technique

Electric toothbrushes are more effective than manual ones. I like Sonicare brushes because they clean well but are gentler than other brands. To keep your toothbrush clean, allow it to dry after use with the head removed.

No matter what kind of brush you’re using, get soft-bristled heads. Medium and hard bristles aren’t necessary for a good clean, but they do make it easier to damage your teeth and gums.

Brush all surfaces – outside, inside, and chewing – of your top and bottom teeth. Spend a few seconds on each surface of each tooth. Go slowly, gently, and without too much pressure.

To clean outside and inside surfaces, angle your brush at about 45 degrees from your teeth, with the bristles facing the gum line and just barely touching it. For chewing surfaces, angle your brush head to face the surface directly. With an electric toothbrush, just hold the brush head to the surfaces of your teeth. Don’t apply any additional pressure and let the head’s action do the work.

With a manual brush, you can scrub back and forth on chewing surfaces. For inside and outside surfaces, gently make small circles, focusing on the action that draws the brush away from the gum line.

Bacteria living on and around your teeth turn sugars into acid, which can erode your teeth over time. This erosion is what we call tooth decay, and the regular application of fluoride makes your teeth less susceptible to it. Use a fluorinated toothpaste to brush your teeth, and when you’re done, spit, but don’t rinse your mouth out with water. Try not to eat or drink for 30 minutes afterwards. This keeps fluoride on your teeth for longer.

Avoid toothpastes that contain small dots, squares, or other forms of microplastic.

Beyond brushing

There are a few useful things besides a toothbrush and toothpaste that help to keep your mouth clean.

One is a metal U-shaped tongue scraper. To use it, stick out your tongue, grab each end of the U with one hand, and run the bend of the U over your tongue from back to front with a light amount of pressure. Repeat a few times to be amazed by what’s hanging out on your tongue all the time.

Another is dental floss. Run it gently up and down all the gaps in your teeth, holding it first against one tooth and then the other. Avoid brands of non-snag dental floss like Glide. They contain toxic PFAS chemicals, and their slipperiness makes them worse for removing debris. Normal waxed floss is much cheaper, and it’s better for your teeth and your body. You can shop around a bit to find a brand that produces the right sized floss for the gaps in your teeth.

Interdental brushes are more effective than floss at cleaning between your teeth, but they don’t fit everywhere. Get the smallest sized brushes you can find and be gentle when moving them between your teeth. Don’t force them anywhere they don’t fit. Being too aggressive with floss or interdental brushes can damage your gums.

Mouthwash that contains alcohol is effective at killing bacteria, but it also dries out your mouth. I recommend using it sparingly and only as needed, like when your gums feel inflamed. Don’t use it immediately after brushing, because it will wash off fluoride and may react with other substances in your toothpaste.

When to clean

Brush two times a day. After we eat, especially acidic foods, our teeth are temporarily weakened. As a result, it’s best to wait 30 minutes after eating to brush so that doing so doesn’t cause excess wear. You can drink water or wash your mouth out to clean it right after a meal.

I recommend brushing in the morning, ideally 30 minutes after or before breakfast. At night, I recommend using an interdental brush, then flossing, then using a tongue scraper, then brushing. Just before going to sleep is a good time.

Other body parts


If your eyes feel tired, you can relax them by closing them and applying very light pressure to your eyelids with the backs of your index and middle fingers for about 30 seconds. You’ll see fireworks behind your eyelids as you feel your eyes start to relax. Open them again when the fireworks stop.

You can also apply a warm compress to relax tired eyes. Wet a washcloth with water, wring it out, fold it, put it in the microwave for 30 seconds, and then lay it across your eyes.

If your eyes feel dry, use lubricating drops. Preservative-free ones are best, but be careful to follow instructions on the packaging about how long you can keep an opened bottle.


If your ears get blocked with wax, you can unblock them by applying a targeted stream of water with a syringe. It’s best to use a syringe designed specifically for the job. Good ones have flexible heads that shoot multiple streams at angles to hit the walls of your ear canal. They also have holes for wax and water to pass through.

Use cotton swabs to clean your outer ears, but be careful not to push them in too far.


If you get tonsil stones, you can get them out by applying a targeted gentle stream of water with a syringe. Hooked syringes work particularly well. Do this in a dark bathroom and sine a light into the back of your throat to see them better.

Gargling salt water can also help to keep your tonsils clean and reduce inflammation in your throat.


If your body and level of activity can handle it, use a deodorant rather than an antiperspirant. Antiperspirants aim to reduce the amount you sweat by blocking pores, while deodorants aim to reduce the amount you smell by making your armpits less hospitable to bacteria. In general, deodorants are much gentler on your skin. To make them more effective, you can keep your armpit hair tidy by shaving or trimming it.


When trimming your nails, don’t cut them back all the way to where they attach to your nail beds. This can cause pain and, over time, nail detachment. Instead, trim to leave some space from the attachment points and use a file to shorten and smooth them out as needed. Metal files that come with clippers will get the job done in a pinch, but etched crystal glass nail files are both gentler and more effective. I like files made by Germanikure. Use a gentle bristled brush to clean under your nails without damaging them.


This section is about dealing with medical issues.


The UK’s National Health Service website is a good source of medical information online. It has comprehensive, searchable pages on a wide range of health conditions and medicines.

Your primary care provider (PCP) is your first point of contact for medical help, so it’s important that you find a good one. For adults, PCPs are usually internal medicine doctors, also called internists. They can treat common issues, help you to manage chronic conditions, and refer you to specialists as needed. If I need to find a doctor and don’t have a trusted recommendation, I look for ones that are involved in teaching trainees.

Preventative Checkups

Schedule the following regular doctor’s appointments to find and address medical issues early:

You may want to have additional periodic checkups based on your age and medical history.


For emergency medical care, there are a few options:

It’s a good idea to know where the nearest urgent clinic and emergency department to your home and workplace are. If you’re going to one, call ahead to let them know. It may reduce the amount of time you have to wait.

In the US, visiting an emergency department is extremely expensive without insurance.


There are often long wait times when making appointments with good doctors. If you have a wait with your PCP that you feel is too long for your issue, call the office and explain the situation. They can usually work you in more urgently. You can try the same thing with specialists, and you may have more success by asking your PCP to call a specialist’s office on your behalf.

Keep notes about your health issues as they arise. Before an appointment, write down what you want to tell your doctor and the questions you want to ask to make sure you don’t forget anything. Write notes about important developments and test results during your appointment. If your doctor’s practice supports it, periodically export a copy of your medical data to save on your computer.

If you are ever uncomfortable or not completely sure about what’s going on with your medical care, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Read up on relevant information so you can have productive conversations with your doctor and potentially catch mistakes. Your medical care team is probably much more experienced than you, but nobody will pay as much attention to your particular case as yourself.

If you have a complicated or rare medical issue, you can ask your specialist doctor how often they see it and how comfortable they are treating it. It may be better to visit a sub-specialist.


Below is some useful information about over-the-counter medicines that help with common ailments. See the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines for a much more extensive collection. When taking a medicine, always follow usage instructions on the packaging and from your doctor.

Generic medicines have the same effect as brand name ones but cost less.

If you feel generally unwell without any particularly bad symptoms, taking supplements for immune-system support that contain vitamin C, zinc, and other vitamins and minerals for a few days might help you to feel better.

Pain and inflammation

pill; general-purpose painkiller, first-line for mild aches and pains; doesn’t have significant anti-inflammatory or fever reducing properties
pill; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that reduces fever and mild pain; can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, take it with food
pill; NSAID that is most commonly used daily in low doses to prevent heart attacks and strokes; can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, take it with food
pill; long-lasting NSAID that is most commonly used to treat chronic pain and inflammation; can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, take it with food

If you have an acute injury or inflammation, use the RICE protocol of rest, ice, compression, and elevation. For chronic tightness or soreness, applying heat increases blood flow and relaxes soft tissue.


pill; sinus decongestant and stimulant
pill; sinus decongestant and vasoconstrictor; mixed evidence for effectiveness
nasal spray; sinus decongestant and vasoconstrictor; used for immediate relief
nasal spray; steroid sinus decongestant; used for chronic inflammation
pill; thins mucous so it can be coughed up more easily; mixed evidence for effectiveness
pill; reduces urge to cough

If you have congestion, irrigating your sinuses via the nostrils is a great way to get relief. I like the handheld squeeze bottle by Neilmed for this purpose. Use boiled, filtered, or distilled water at room temperature, and add salts to balance its pH level.

Gargling salty water is good for relieving sore throats or coughs. Cough drops are useful too; I like Fisherman’s Friend.

Gastrointestinal distress

bismuth subsalicylate
liquid; antacid, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diarrheal
calcium carbonate
chewable pill; antacid
sodium alginate
liquid; prevents acid reflux when taken after meals or before bed

Skin issues

topical cream; steroid for itching and inflammation
topical ointment; antibiotic for minor wounds that are likely to become infected

For minor skin wounds that aren’t infected or likely to become infected, irrigate them with soap and water and apply an occlusive like petroleum jelly. If the wound is in a place that’s likely to get dirty then put on an adhesive bandage. Once the wound has healed, apply sunscreen over it to prevent scarring and discoloration.


Histamine plays a key role in immune responses and allergic reactions. Antihistamines are drugs that limit the effects of histamine in the body. Symptoms that, when caused by an immune response, can be treated short-term with antihistamines include runny nose, watery eyes, gastrointestinal distress, swelling, hives, and itchy skin.

Some antihistamines cause drowsiness. These can be used to treat additional symptoms, even when the symptoms are not caused by an immune response, such as motion sickness, insomnia, nausea, and jet lag.

Antihistamines are commonly available as pills or liquids; liquids work more quickly. Antihistamine creams or gels can be used topically for relief from skin issues caused by an immune response.

non-drowsy first-line antihistamine
non-drowsy antihistamine, faster and stronger action with more drowsiness than loratadine
drowsy antihistamine

If you’re thinking about using an antihistamine to treat insomnia or jet lag, you may want to consider trying melatonin supplements first. Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body that is involved in the sleep cycle. Melatonin supplements may have fewer side effects than drowsy antihistamines, but they may also be less effective.


These are some pieces of personal protective equipment that help to protect your health in everyday life.

Ear plugs

When you’re going somewhere loud, bring ear plugs. They make the experience nicer and stop you from getting tinnitus afterwards. I like reusable ones that aren’t very visible in your ear and are designed specifically for listening to music. They don’t impact sound quality significantly and they make it easier to have conversations in a loud place.

Pollution mask

If you can’t avoid polluted areas, like busy streets or subway lines, you can wear a mask to limit your exposure to bad air. The best ones have silicone cups that seal to the face and straps that run both over the head and behind the neck.

I like masks, accessories, and filters by Respro. To clean a Respro filter, boil some water and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Add the filter, let it stay in until the water goes cold, then stand it to dry on a towel.

First aid

One important first-aid technique to know is cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). You can look up videos on how to do it correctly. The abridged version is to repeat a set of 30 chest compressions just under a casualty’s sternum to the tempo of the song Stayin’ Alive and then to breathe two breaths into the casualty’s open airway. The primary purpose of CPR is to circulate blood in a casualty whose heart has stopped. It also adds some oxygen to their system via your breaths. If you do not feel comfortable performing the breaths, you can skip them, especially near the beginning of a CPR session. The casualty’s blood will remain oxygenated for a few minutes.

It is also important to know how to deal with wounds. You can reduce blood loss by applying pressure to a wound and keeping it raised above a casualty’s heart. For grievous wounds, you should know how to tie an improvised tourniquet with fabric and a stick.

Another useful technique is the recovery position. It involves laying someone down in a stable position on their side so that their airway won’t be blocked by vomit or other potential obstructions.

If you come across an unconscious casualty, you can follow the following protocol:


This description applies to health insurance in the United States.

Having good health insurance is essential, but the system is extremely complex and difficult to navigate. Understanding how it works can help you obtain good medical care without going bankrupt.

When you buy a health insurance plan, you pay a premium to your insurance company every month for them to cover you. Being covered means that your insurance will be billed when you visit healthcare providers and mitigate some or all of the cost to you.

Your plan has a network of healthcare providers that have signed agreements with your insurance company about how much they will be paid for services. Some plans only cover visits to in-network providers, while other plans cover visits to any provider. Some plans also require a referral from your primary care physician or pre-authorization from the insurance company for a visit to be covered.

For example, Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans only cover in-network visits and require a referral from your primary care provider for visits to be covered. Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans cover out-of-network visits, albeit with some limitations, and do not require referrals.

Your insurance plan has a deductible, which is the amount of money you must spend in a given year before the plan’s coverage starts to kick in. For example, if your deductible is $1000, your insurance company won’t pay for your medical care until you’ve spent $1000 of your own money on it that year. If your deductible is $0, your insurance company will start paying right away. Some plans have separate deductibles for medical services and prescription drugs.

Once your deductible is met, there are some kinds of costs that you still have to pay. Copayments are fixed fees that you pay for services once your deductible is met. Coinsurance means that you pay a fixed percentage of the cost of a service once your deductible is met. Typically, your insurance company will send you a coverage summary document for your plan that contains a schedule of common services and what kinds of copayment or coinsurance they require.

Your insurance company may pay for some services even when you haven’t met your deductible. For example, many plans come with free preventative care, including an annual physical, so you never have to pay for it. Many plans also require only a fixed payment from you for office visits even if you haven’t met your deductible. However, these kinds of fixed payments usually don’t count towards the deductible.

Your plan also has an out-of-pocket maximum, which is a limit on the amount of money you will pay in a year for covered services. Once you hit your out-of-pocket max, you no longer have to pay make copayments or pay coinsurance. Premium payments and payments for services that the plan does not cover do not count towards the out-of-pocket max.

Plans that cover out-of-network services typically have separate deductibles, out-of-pocket maxima, and copayment/coinsurance schedules for in-network and out-of-network services. Payments for in-network services don’t go towards your out-of-network deductible or out-of-pocket max, and vice versa. Some plans also have tiered networks, in which there is a preferred or designated subset of in-network providers that have agreed to accept lower payments. This subset may have another distinct fee schedule, deductible, and out-of-pocket maximum.

One tricky thing about plans that cover out-of-network services is that they come with a schedule of allowed amounts, which are the maximum prices that the plan will pay for particular out-of-network services. If an out-of-network provider bills your insurance company for an amount that is greater than your plan’s allowed amount for the service, the insurance company will only pay the allowed amount. You will then be on the hook for the remainder, even if you have already met your out-of-pocket maximum for the year. This phenomenon is known as balance billing. For example, imagine you undergo an expensive procedure from an out-of-network provider that is billed at $400,000. You have already met your deductible and out-of-pocket maximum for the year, but your plan’s out-of-network allowed amount for this procedure is $20,000. You are then still on the hook for $380,000. Allowed amounts and balance billing do not apply to in-network providers.

The way health insurance works when you receive a medical service is as follows. At the time of service, your healthcare provider’s office will ask for your insurance information. Depending on your plan, they may collect an up-front payment from you as well. The provider then sends a claim, or bill, to your insurance company for the services provided. This claim contains a description, price, and code for each service. A service’s code identifies it in a standardized way. Based on your insurance company’s agreement with the provider, the provider accepts a certain price for each service code, which is often much less than the billed price. This difference between the billed and accepted price is known as an adjustment, or discount. Your insurance company then determines how much of the adjusted price they will pay based on the service code, whether your deductible and out-of-pocket maximum have been met, and whether there is any copayment or coinsurance. Even if you have not met your deductible and your insurance company doesn’t pay for any of the adjusted price, you still benefit from the potentially significant price adjustment. Your insurance company then sends you an explanation of benefits (EOB) document that details the adjusted price, how much they paid, how much you have paid already, and how much you still owe for each service. The EOB is not a bill. If you owe money for a service, you will likely receive a bill for the amount directly from the provider.

There are a lot of ways this process can go wrong: the provider may fail to bill your insurance and instead send you a bill directly, the provider may use the wrong codes, or your insurance may process the claim incorrectly. If you receive a bill from a provider that doesn’t seem right, call your insurance company and provider’s office as needed to resolve the issue.

You should be able to visit your insurance plan’s website to find detailed information about your terms, in-network providers, and past claim EOBs. There should also be a way to estimate what you would pay for specific services from specific providers. If there isn’t, you can call your insurance company or a potential provider to ask for an estimate. If you are in an emergency, go to whatever hospital is nearest to you, even if it is out-of-network. Your plan cannot legally require you to pay more for out-of-network emergency care than you would for in-network emergency care. Unless your plan specifically has provisions for international travel, get a separate short-term travel health insurance policy when you leave the country.

The characteristics that make a good plan, in decreasing order of importance, are as follows:

There are three main ways to obtain health insurance: using the healthcare.gov exchange, buying a plan directly from an insurance company, and getting coverage as a benefit from your employer. Sadly, as of 2023, there are no good plans available via healthcare.gov or directly from insurance companies in many states. The available plans come with limited networks and bad terms. This means that the only way to get a good plan is by participating in an employer’s group insurance policy. If you are going to lose access to an employer’s group policy, for example because you are leaving a job, you can temporarily extend your access to the policy under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). If you want to create a company for the purposes of obtaining a group policy, note that a company typically must have at least two employees that are not closely related on payroll to qualify.

While health insurance is essential, dental and vision insurance are different. They tend to provide limited coverage and they often don’t come with an out-of-pocket maximum. Truly serious dental and eye issues are likely to be covered by health insurance anyway. You should perform a cost-benefit analysis given your particular situation and plan options to see whether dental and vision insurance make sense.


This section is about taking care of plants.


Keep houseplants in pots with holes in the bottom – this allows soil to drain after it’s been watered properly. Put the holed pot on a plate or inside a decorative pot without holes.

Many people give houseplants a small amount of water every day or two, which grows frail plants with weak root systems. The water doesn’t get past the surface of the soil, so plant roots aren’t encouraged to grow deeply. It also evaporates quickly, leaving less for the plant to use.

To water a houseplant well, take its holed pot to a sink, bathtub, or hose. Use a gentle stream of room-temperature water to drench the soil completely, stopping when water starts to run continuously out of the holes at the bottom of the pot. Make sure that all parts of the soil have been watered. Wait for the water to stop running out of the pot, then gently move it up and down a few times to push out some of the excess before returning it to its plate or decorative pot.

Water a plant only when the soil feels completely dry to the touch. Once every week or two is about right for most plants and environments.

If a plant is too big to move, use a watering can to drench the soil. Try to be precise with the amount of water, especially if plant is in a decorative pot, because any excess will pool at the bottom. You may want to put some kind of spacer between the bottom of the holed pot and the bottom of the decorative pot so that the pooled water stays separate from the soil. Plates are slightly more forgiving, because water can move out from under the holed pot and evaporate.

To keep a plant healthy, make sure it is receiving the right amount of sunlight; different species have different needs. Regularly use sharp scissors or secateurs to prune withering leaves and branches. Move it into a bigger pot when it gets cramped, and replace the soil or add nutrients if it starts to look feeble for no obvious reason.

You can use sections of a thick cotton rope to keep your houseplants watered automatically while you’re away. Place a container of water next to each plant. Put one end of the rope section deep into the plant’s soil and the other at the bottom of the water container. Then cover the container. The capillary effect will cause water to travel slowly from the container to the soil over time. Depending on the size of the container, this setup can keep plants watered for quite a while. I have left plants like this for over five weeks with no issues.

Cut flowers

To keep cut flowers healthy, do the following when you first get them and then as needed, such as when the water becomes cloudy or the stems start to droop. Depending on conditions, this may range from every day to every few days.

Particularly delicate stems will last longer if you keep them in the fridge when you aren’t around.


This section is about traveling well.


The first decision to make when packing is what kinds of bags to take. Useful options include a tote bag, a medium-sized backpack, a large duffel bag, a garment bag, a carry-on suitcase, a large check-in suitcase that will last you about a week, and a gigantic check-in suitcase for when you need to move a lot of stuff. Pick the bags that will allow you travel in as light and modular a way as possible.

Totes, backpacks, and duffels are useful for moving around on foot, especially over varied terrain. If you are packing nice clothes, pack them in a garment bag to keep them looking good. If you are also bringing a big enough suitcase, you can pack your garment bag inside of it. Otherwise you can carry it separately.

The best suitcase designs have four caster wheels. Relative to two-wheeled suitcases, they are less physically taxing to move around and easier to balance things on top of. But they do have slightly less internal space for the same external size. The caster wheels should lock so that your bag can stay still on sloped terrain or trains.

For carrying things around every day, a small purse or sling bag is more useful than the pockets of your clothes. You can fit more stuff, it’s easier to keep your everyday items organized, and you don’t have to worry about remembering things if they live in the bag.

Maintain an inventory of things you might need on a typical trip. You can check against the inventory while packing to make sure you don’t forget anything. A good starting point might include clothes, toiletries, medicines, water bottle, technology and chargers, exercise gear, and games.

Pack clothes in packing cubes, which both protect your garments and keep your bag organized. Muji makes good ones.

Pack toiletries and medicines in a toiletry kit. Use travel-sized plastic containers and organizers to store products and medicines, and keep them in a clear plastic bag that you can easily take out to comply with flight carry-on security requirements. Screw-top containers are better than pump or squeeze tops because they are much easier to clean. Nalgene makes excellent travel-sized containers. It’s a good idea to keep your travel toiletry kit distinct from the toiletries you use at home, so you can grab it and go without much effort. Refill your travel-sized containers every time you return home. If you want to keep scissors in your toiletry kit, buy short ones designed to comply with flight carry-on security requirements.

Pack bags within your bag. You’ll want a few lightweight bags to keep things like dirty shoes and clothes separate from the rest of your stuff. It’s also useful to keep an empty day pack in your luggage so you can go out without having to repack.

Leave some space in your luggage rather than cramming it full. This makes movement less stressful because it’s much easier to get things in and out of your bags, and it also gives you room to pick up new things on your travels.

Buy insurance before traveling internationally. International medical insurance is inexpensive and well worth it. Look for a policy with primary medical coverage rather than secondary coverage to save some headache. Secondary coverage won’t kick in until any other insurance policies you may have have rejected the claim. Get a policy with at least a few hundred thousand dollars of medical and evacuation coverage. Your credit card may come with coverage for things like travel cancellation or interruption, but if it doesn’t you may want to purchase that kind of coverage too. Print your travel coverage documents, including contact numbers, and take them with you on your trip. If you don’t have a preferred insurer, you can use a comparison site like SquareMouth to find a good plan.

Pack food and a water bottle for travel days. Unexpected things can happen in transit, and sometimes you’ll end up in situations where you can’t buy good supplies.


When flying, try to get up at least every hour to stretch and move around the cabin. This is easiest to do with an aisle seat. Air on a plane is drying, so drink a lot of water. You can always ask flight attendants for more, even if they aren’t going around with a drink cart. On long flights, you can put an occlusive like petroleum jelly on your face to keep it from drying out.

For overnight flights, bring a neck pillow, an eye mask, ear plugs, and comfy clothes to change into. Mid-tier seats on long-haul flights often have armrests that can’t be raised all the way, but the seats also don’t recline fully. On a long-haul flight that isn’t crowded, you may be more comfortable leaving your mid-tier seat for a row of open seats in economy, raising the armrests, and lying down across them.

If you’re flying with a cold and your Eustachian tubes are inflamed, air pressure changes in a plane’s cabin when it takes off and lands can cause significant ear pain. To avoid this, you can wear earplugs with filters that lessen the rate of pressure change that your ears experience. You can buy these earplugs at most airport convenience stores. The brand name is Earplanes, but generics work just as well. Swallowing and yawning can also help your ear pressure equalize and reduce pain. During landing, you can increase the pressure in your middle ears by performing the Valsalva maneuver: pinch your nose and attempt to exhale through it lightly.

If you’re going on a short trip with a tight schedule, flying without a checked bag lets you move more nimbly through the airport. If an airport is congested, you can arrange to be dropped off or picked up at an uncrowded location. For example, you might arrange a pickup from the departures section of a different terminal or from a nearby hotel and use airport transit to get there. When you’re picking someone up from the airport, check their flight’s status before leaving to keep abreast of delays.


If you’re traveling for more than a couple of days, it’s a good idea to stay somewhere with a kitchen. Buying groceries and cooking for yourself is healthier, cheaper, and gives you more options relative to eating out. To find a good place, you can go to an aggregator site like booking.com and filter for kitchens. It’s also worth getting a place with free cancellation if one is available.