Upgrade Your Life: Simple solutions to high-tech problems

Jared Spurbeck

Sometimes, the best solution to a problem involving your gadgets isn't another expensive gadget, but a bit of know-how and workaround. This week on Upgrade Your Life, Yahoo! News' Becky Worley shows us some simple solutions to high-tech problems.

Keep your smartphone or tablet clean in the kitchen

Do you look up recipes on your phone or tablet? The plastic zipper bags you can get at most grocery stores work great to keep your iPad or smartphone splatter-free, while you're using it in the kitchen. You can still use the touchscreen through the plastic, and the vacuum seal keeps the smells of your cooking from getting on your gadget. Just make sure to keep it away from water and heat -- and no matter how much time it'd save, don't use your iPad as a cutting board!

Control cable clutter

Most of us charge a phone, a bluetooth headset, maybe a camera or an iPod too, and it makes for a big mess of wires. Instead of buying an expensive cable caddy, try foam pipe insulation; it only costs a few dollars at home improvement stores. You can cut a slit in it if there isn't one already, then run your wires through it and poke them out through the slit where they're needed. Stick the whole roll behind your computer, or tape it down where you charge all your gadgets.

Step-by-step instructions and photos are available on Unclutterer!

Keep your gadget stuff organized

Our gadgets come with all sorts of stuff, like remote controls and instruction manuals. You want to be able to access that stuff, but you don't want it cluttering up your home or office.

Here's where the rest of those plastic zipper bags can come in handy. Just put everything into a bag: manual, warranty, extra remotes, cables, even the receipt. Lock it tight, and use a marker to label the bag with the name of the device. Some bags even come with a strip for writing on them with markers.

You can toss these bags in your junk drawer, or you can set aside a separate space for them. Becky uses a shoetree, a sort of rack you can hang up in your closet that has a bunch of separate compartments; you can find them in stores that sell containers, including big-box stores. (The stores might call them "shoe racks," "shoe holders" or "shoe organizers.")

Amplify your smartphone's sound

You can buy an external speaker for your smartphone, or, in a pinch you can put it inside of a bowl! Just put it face-up, where its corners are touching the bowl's inside surface. The shape of the bowl makes your smartphone sound louder, which is great for when you need to use it as an alarm -- or just when listening to music. It's also great for speakerphone calls.

You can use this trick with tablets as well, but you'll need a bigger bowl. Try experimenting with different shapes to see which works best. We found that the steeper the walls of the bowl, the better the sound.

Keep your MP3 player steady while exercising

Ladies, you love to take your smartphone with you when you walk or jog, but you hate carrying it in your hands. Right? Here's a simple solution: Wear two jog bras and put the phone in between them. Becky says she's done this for short walks and long runs, and it really works!

You may have to experiment to find the perfect position for your phone, and you should definitely have a silicone case to keep your sweat off of it. Added bonus for music lovers; stick the earphone cables up through the back of your shirt, and you won't have to worry about trailing wires!

Make it easy to find your smartphone in your purse or handbag

If you're tired of digging for your smartphone in your purse, handbag or backpack, try using a brightly-colored case! Obviously you'll want it to be a color and a design that you can stand using, but the lighter color will make your phone stand out, especially in purses with dark linings.

Original article by Jared Spurbeck, published on May 10, 2011.