How to Hide from 21 Pesky Problems That Everyone Faces

With age, not only do we lose our secret hiding places, but it becomes tougher to conceal our flaws, our opinions, our past, our emotions, our mistakes, and, of course, our treasures. These tips will help you preserve some measure of dignity in a world that wants to know and expose all. 

Kitchen problems

Maren-Winter/ShutterstockYou can hide everything from overcooked vegetables to stale rolls. Here is how you can hide that clutter with a few easy tips.

A few extra pounds

Kanashkin-Evgeniy/ShutterstockAccording to Stacy London, cohost of TLC's What Not to Wear, it's easy to look 10 or 15 pounds lighter by following this "clothes diet." Here are simple ways to dress to look thinner.

A few extra years

Subbotina-Anna/ShutterstockWomen don't have to resort to Botox injections or plastic surgery to look a little younger. According to Bobbi Brown, author of Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual, you can give yourself a "makeup face-lift." Although moisturizer, foundation, blush, and eye shadows and liners all play important roles, Brown says, under-eye concealer is key. Pick a yellow tone that's one or two shades lighter than your foundation. (If you're unsure, stripe several shades on your cheek and check the mirror in natural light; the one that disappears is ideal for you.) Apply the concealer along your lower lash lines and into the inner corner of each eye using a small-headed brush with firm bristles. Here are dermatologist's secrets to looking young.

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Personal info on your laptop

Monkey-Business-Images/ShutterstockAn estimated two million laptop computers are stolen, lost, or misplaced in the United States annually, and some 600,000 are lost every year in airports. To protect sensitive information stored on yours, there are two options. For $59.99 per year (or $109.99 for three years), Computrace LoJack for Laptops Premium software provides the backing of a "theft recovery team" that will track your stolen computer, report its location to police, and remotely delete personal data. Computrace LoJack has been a top seller for years. But a new, free program, from researchers at the University of Washington and the University of California, San Diego, allows you to track your laptop's whereabouts and even takes a photo of the thief (if the computer is a Mac with a built-in camera). The program, called Adeona, can be downloaded here.

Your anxiety when speaking in public

A-Lot-Of-People/ShutterstockSchedule a massage a few hours before your big presentation, says Susan Mackewich, an executive producer at Gizmo Enterprises, a media production company in New York City, who's seen her share of nervous performers. "Tell the massage therapist to focus on where you carry the most tension, like your shoulders, back, or neck," she says. Then, when you're at the podium, sip room-temperature (not cold) water to soothe your vocal cords, and, if you feel anxiety building, massage the pad of muscle between your thumb and index finger. It's an acupressure point, and it's something your audience won't notice. Also try adding in these magic phrases to help you nail public speaking.

Your medical identity

Stock-Asso/ShutterstockThe soaring cost of health care is spawning a new crime: medical identity theft, in which someone uses your insurance information and health records to obtain medication or even surgery. It happens to 250,000 people each year, says the World Privacy Forum. To protect yourself, the WPF recommends that you: 1) closely review all "explanation of benefits" letters from your health insurer, 2) annually request a list of benefits paid by your insurer in your name (sometimes thieves alter billing info), and 3) check your medical file every time you visit the doctor. Google, Microsoft, and dozens of other companies will also store your personal health records (PHRs) online. While there are advantages to having a complete medical history in one convenient location, some companies have "de-identified" these records and sold them to marketers. Pam Dixon, executive director of the WPF, does not generally recommend PHRs that are not maintained by health care providers. She stresses looking for a service that is "HIPAA covered" rather than "HIPAA compliant" in order to retain confidentiality. Look for that exact wording in the privacy statement. (Electronic health records, or EHRs, are maintained exclusively by health care providers.) For more information, visit worldprivacyforum.org and click on PHR Page.

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Your tracks online

Africa-Studio/ShutterstockJust as your computer's browser maintains a history of the websites you visit, your Internet service provider (ISP) may keep an electronic log of the ones you peruse. Until recently, this was all just worthless data. But now some ISPs are considering selling these lists to companies that analyze them and then send targeted ads back to you. If you're bothered by this, there are three things you can do:
  • Go to vancouver.cs.washington.edu and let the site automatically check whether your ISP is using monitoring devices.
  • Since this check is not comprehensive, call your ISP and ask if it's contemplating selling browsing data; if so, object.
  • Download a free software program called Tor from torproject.org, which will help block those prying ISP eyes.
Similarly, when you type a phrase into a search engine, you're broadcasting your interests and personal information. Like ISPs, some search companies routinely gather, store, and sell analyses of such data strings. That's why you should never search your full name and Social Security number or your name and password. Some other tips from the WPF:
  • Don't sign up for e-mail with your favorite search engine. This makes it easier to link you and your interests.
  • Use a variety of engines and computers for searching. This makes it more difficult to profile you.
  • Find out if your ISP uses a static IP address system, and if it does, periodically request a new IP address (essentially your computer's address).
  • Use software that masks your computer's address, like anonymizer.com and anonymouse.org.

A tangle of wiresFlegere/ShutterstockIf your computer station or entertainment center looks like the dressing room at an '80s hair-band revival, tame those wild strands with the XL Cable Organizer ($14.99) or a few smaller Cable Turtles ($6.99 or $13.99) from containerstore.com. Or for an inexpensive (albeit less stylish) fix, simply buy a few different-size utility hooks at the hardware store, screw them underneath the desk or unit, and drape the cords over them.

A water stain on the ceiling

Dave-Nelson/ShutterstockAfter fixing the leak, if you don't want to repaint the whole ceiling, try touching it up with Kilz Upshot, an aerosol ceiling primer that's tinted to more closely match an aged white ceiling. Or if you prefer to redo everything (and entertain yourself in the process), try Sherwin-Williams Visible Solutions ceiling paint. It goes on violet and dries bright white in 20 minutes, which ensures you don't miss any spots. You can also remove water stains from wood, here's how.

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Your most prized possessions

kkolis/ShutterstockIf you want a fun outdoor hiding place for your valuables without the risk of forgetting where you hid them, use a GPS device to save the coordinates (it's called geocaching). Looking to give your heirs some fun after you're gone? Include the coordinates to a sentimental stash in your will, or lead your beneficiaries on a treasure hunt by supplying a series of coordinates to various things you've stowed in different locations. Never hide anything too valuable, though. Plastic film canisters, Tupperware containers, and especially ammo boxes (available at Army-Navy stores) offer the best weather protection. Go to geocaching.com to learn more. Here are other secret places where you can hide your valuables.

From telemarketers

file404/ShutterstockThe Federal Trade Commission manages the National Do Not Call Registry. If you add your home and/or cell number (sorry, no work numbers) to this list, you should stop being bothered by telemarketers within 31 days. Charities, political organizations, and telephone surveys are exempt, as are businesses you have called or dealt with in the last 3 to 18 months. It's most convenient to opt out by phone (888-382-1222), since calling from the number you want added to the registry requires less information from you than opting out online at donotcall.gov.

From junk mailers

Arina-P-Habich/Shutterstock
  • To stop those annoying "preapproved" credit and insurance offers, call 888-567-8688 or visit optoutprescreen.com (you'll be asked for your Social Security number).
  • To reduce the number of catalogs and marketing brochures in your mailbox, visit dmachoice.org. At the same website, you can elect to reduce the number of e-mail solicitations you receive.
  • To sign up to stop the delivery of unsolicited phone books, go to yellowpagesgoesgreen.org.

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Your e-mail address

Stokkete/ShutterstockIf you're ordering something from a website and want to avoid future spam, or if there's someone you'd really like to be honest with but only if you can remain anonymous, then register for a temporary e-mail account. It's free, and you'll be able to use the address to receive messages for 15 minutes and send them for 60 minutes. After that—poof!—you never existed.

Your financial information

Africa-Studio/ShutterstockFinancial institutions can share information about your saving and spending habits with marketers and other banks and businesses. This makes you more vulnerable to bothersome solicitations and even fraud. Although banks are legally required to notify you of their policies, fine print disclosures are often difficult to read and interpret. If you have accounts with any of the following companies, here's how to say no. (If your bank isn't listed, visit its website or your local branch to review its privacy policy. Bank of America: 888-341-5000 Chase: 888-868-8618 Citibank: Call the number on the back of your ATM card or statement Wachovia: 866-203-5722 Wells Fargo: 888-528-8460

Your scent from a blood-hound

PolinaBright/ShutterstockSorry, but if you're on the run from one of these, enjoy your freedom while it lasts. Your scent can be tracked through shed skin cells and even exhaled breath, according to Jack Shuler, author of Training the Mantrailing Bloodhound. Therefore, changing clothes, crossing water, or using scent-masking products will not deter a well-trained bloodhound.

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Bad breath

brickrena/ShutterstockInstead of nibbling on a sprig of parsley or lemon rind, have a cup of black or green tea. According to Christine Wu, PhD, who organized the 2007 conference of the International Society for Breath Odor Research (what, you missed it?), green tea in particular contains high levels of catechins, which "chemically bind to smelly breath compounds and mask them." For the greatest effect, have the tea without sugar and swish it around in your mouth before swallowing. When drinking tea isn't an option, chew a piece of cinnamon gum for 20 minutes. Wu's research team found that the gum killed 50 percent of bad-breath bacteria. Try these other proven cures for bad breath.

From all those people in your past you never want to see again

leungchopan/ShutterstockIf your home phone number is publicly listed, there's a good chance that by typing it into Google or any popular online people finder, your name, address, and even a map to your house will pop up. To hide this kind of information, first unlist your number with your phone company (or cancel your landline entirely and use your mobile). Then contact each of the data vendors or sites listed below and follow its opt-out instructions: Acxiom or call 877-774-2094 AnyWho Google Switchboard WhitePages.com

Your identity from thieves when traveling

Death's-Pixel/ShutterstockNewer credit cards, driver's licenses, and passports increasingly contain radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. This technology is similar to bar coding, but the information contained is about you rather than a product. Armed with an RFID reader, a thief could pick your pocket of information without your cards ever leaving your wallet. To help protect yourself, Kena Kai offers "electromagnetically opaque" DataSafe wallets ($39.99 and up) and ID sleeves ($11.99).

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From a bolt out of the blue

John-D-Sirlin/ShutterstockAnd finally, if past sins have you ducking in thunderstorms, then consider the StrikeAlert Personal Lightning Detector ($79.99; strikealert.com). It's the size of a personal pager and will notify you of approaching cloud-to-ground lightning up to 40 miles away.

How to find your employees and children leungchopan/ShutterstockPopular new mobile phone services, like Loopt and Google Latitude, use GPS and other technologies to beam the user's location to friends, and vice versa. While the technology makes for a fun social-networking tool, employers and parents may want to co-opt it and use it on the phones they provide to employees and kids. (Note to those being tracked: To find out if any of these services has been installed without your knowledge, look in your phone's applications menu or watch for messages that it sends periodically to users.) Of course, tracking people this way isn't perfect. Your assistant could cover up the fact that he's on a golf course by activating the Hide feature or, even more deviously, by programming in the home address of his "sick auntie."

How to find a liar

Augustino/ShutterstockThe story of Pinocchio may not be entirely mythical when it comes to spotting a liar. When someone is lying, the cells lining the inside of the nose swell and release histamine, which causes itching. As a result, liars are more likely to touch and/or scratch their noses, says Alan Hirsch, MD, founder of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, who has studied this Pinocchio effect. Other lying tip-offs include leaning forward ("liar's lean") and using words such as would not or could not rather than wouldn't or couldn't for extra emphasis ("expansion of contraction").

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