How To Tackle Life’s Trickiest Tasks

Julie Subotky

Want a better seat on your next flight? Looking to sidestep a nasty hangover? Lifestyle management guru Julie Subotky gives five easy solutions to some of life’s common dilemmas

What if you could wave a magic wand and solve some of your most persistent problems? How great would it be to have tips up your sleeve that allow you to easily cross almost everything off your list in no time — from getting a stain out of your best blouse to dropping those last five stubborn pounds? Here’s some slightly sneaky advice for how to master a handful of life’s trickiest tasks:

1. How to get the best seat on an airplane. Scoring the best seat on the plane is as much a matter of luck as it is strategy. Still, there’s no need to be a wallflower. Ask directly for a seat upgrade when you check in. Also, giving up your seat when you find yourself on an overbooked flight can bring you seating bliss the next time around. And then there are the more creative (and less scrupulous) methods, such as getting your neighbors on the plane to move by listening to loud music or doubling over and moaning, barf bag in hand. All is fair in love and flying, but remember, karma’s a bitch 30,000 feet up.

2. How to return something past the warranty date. When you catch yourself in this pickle, there’s always a loophole to be found—all you really need is a receptive person on the other end. Your first move should be to sweet-talk the salesperson or customer service rep you’re dealing with. Mention how much you love the product, how you’d never buy from another store. If killing them with kindness doesn’t fly, just switch gears and say you’ll tell everyone you know how shoddy the product was and threaten to write negative reviews online. Most companies would rather make an exception than deal with a troublemaker down the road. Mission accomplished.

3. How to remove any stain. The key is to act fast — and stay away from the dryer! Here are a bunch of tricks that often work on common troublemakers. Ink — hairspray. Gum — ice. Wine — seltzer. Oil — dishwashing liquid. Saturate the spot, let it soak, then wash in the machine. Spit-up — OxiClean. (Helpful hint: Don’t wear black if you have a baby under six months.) Blood — hydrogen peroxide. Always test a small corner of fabric first and act as quickly! A couple other biggies: Grass — Soak the item in detergent for a few hours before tossing it in the machine. And for almost anything else — Baby wipes. For whatever reason, baby wipes or work like magic in a pinch (I don’t even want to know what they are doing to the little bottoms that they usually clean up)!

4. How to get rid of those last five pounds. Being this close to your ideal weight goal can be as detrimental as it is inspiring. It’s easy to slip up when you’re so close because you really kind of deserve a couple of doughnuts. If this sounds like you, the best strategy is to trick yourself from the get-go. If you want to lose 15 pounds, set your goal at 20. It’s kind of like setting your clock ahead five minutes so you’ll leave the house on time. You know the truth deep down, but a part of you goes along with the game. This way once you lose 15 pounds and are down to the last five that won’t budge, you’ve still really reached your real goal. Remember, the hardest part about dieting is that it’s all in your head, so stop thinking and you’ll likely stop eating.

5. How to avoid a hangover. There are plenty of hangover teas, pills, and powders on the market, but all of these treatments are just tricks to get you to take the real miracle cure: water. After all, a hangover is basically a symptom of dehydration. As you drink, you get thirsty, but you just keep thinking you’re thirsty for another glass of wine. So if you know you’re headed out for a night of overindulgence, leave out bottles of water for when you get home. If you think you won’t be able to stomach the water, trick yourself by leaving out a salty snack, too. Or, better yet, start drinking water before you start boozing, and continue as the evening goes on. One glass of water for every cocktail, and so on. Of course, the guarantee to no hangover is not to drink, but that’s no fun for anyone.

When you get creative and think big, you find unexpected solutions to the most troublesome tasks. So when your Google search for getting something done leads you to a dead end, take another road.  You’ll find there is a way to approach every issue and one way or another there is always a way to get it done.

Editor’s Note: Julie Subotky is the founder and CEO of Consider It Done, a lifestyle management and personal concierge company dedicated to solving problems, saving time, and making life easier. With offices in LA, New York, and Aspen, the company’s client list includes Tom Cruise, Halle Berry, and Mayor Bloomberg, as well as Fortune 500 companies like Revlon, the GAP, and Unilever. Her new book, Consider It Done: Accomplish 228 of Life’s Trickiest Tasks, comes out February 1.

8 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    Think I am going to have to get this book for the baby wipe part alone — if this really works I will be in seventh heaven!!!!

    And I agree — there are ways to do about anything — and confidence and a wealth of ideas is the key.  Never, never ask anything with a yes or no answer.  A great beginning is to say “I would like you to make an exception in my case” . . . and with a convincing follow-up, and voila! doors open. 

    My friends say that asking for wheelchairs at all airports eases long walks and open doors faster.  

    My husband adores me and often has his arm around my shoulder — it is just “us” – no put on — so it is not surprising for him to say when we check in at a hotel that we are here for our second honeymoon.  No lie actually — but young women behind the desk seem to melt at that and without asking, we are often upgraded free to a gorgeous suite.  We feel like we are in heaven.  You cannot believe how often we have a suite so lovely we are reluctant to leave it.

    I tend to hang out with the scientific lecturers on long expeditions I take, always staying up to listen or ask — just to learn.  Soon I am almost part of the team, and in more cases than you would believe, I am asked if I want to go up with them in a copter to do advance checking on new locations . . or go ahead looking for crevasses.  More time on ice for me is the best present I could get for one who lives for polar life as I do — and I end up in a dream world without having to beg.  And I have gained so much in knowledge!

    Probably these things are in the Consider It Done book that has it all, but for me it is enough to keep my life lively and fascinating.   

    • avatar juliesubotky says:

      I love how you ask people to “please make an exception in my case…. ”  people genuinely want to help when they can and this gives them good reason.  There are so many ways to get things done – great tips!

  2. avatar ann penn says:

    Another trick for blood spots is saliva. The enzymes in the saliva dissolve the components in the blood.
    I do a lot of sewing and hate to get blood on the work when I get a needle poke in my finger (not often, but it happens).  A bit of my own saliva will often take care of a small blood spot.  And I can act fast because it’s instantly available!

  3. avatar sueb1997 says:

    Tips #3 through #5 are fine — but #1 and #2 are just… wrong!  They are deceitful and unegalitarian.  You know Ivan Illich’s concept of ‘conviviality’?  Something that is truly a good solution would work, in concept, for everyone.  Well, obviously not everyone can have the best seat on the plane.  There is no reason other than arrogance why any of us would think WE deserve that best seat any more than any other passenger.  Same thing with warranties — what makes us so special that we think we should be granted special exceptions?  If you buy something with a warranty, and you expect the company to honor that warranty, you should also be prepared to honor it — including its deadline.

    Let me be clear — I don’t see anything wrong with someone covering something under warranty past the date, nor do I see anything wrong with being given a good seat on a plane.  But strategizing how to get these treats over other folks just turns my stomach, because it so reeks of entitlement attitude.

    • avatar juliesubotky says:

      It’s not so much a matter of strategizing as it is getting creative with how you ask.  The point is that there are many ways to get to the end result.

  4. avatar Anais P says:

    Thanks for the tips. I have also had good results on blood stains by simply soaking in ice-cold water. I never use warm or hot water on blood; it sets the blood in the fabric. Here’s a tip on removing candle wax, all too frequent a mishap during the recent holidays. Take the tablecloth, put the area of wax stain between two scraps of an unprinted brown paper bag, put an iron on a low non-steam temperature, and press. You will see an oily spot form on the top piece, which is the melted wax. Replace both scraps with fresh ones, and press again. Keep doing this until the wax is removed; use a pretreatment on the stain and wash. The wax will be gone.

  5. avatar ktussey says:

    Some great tips!   I am know for my laundry skills for getting stains out, but now I have some more knowledge.  This is wonderful!!