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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

You 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

According 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

Women 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.


Personal info on your laptop

An 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

Schedule 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

The 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 and click on PHR Page.


Your tracks online

Just 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 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, 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 and


A tangle of wires

If 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 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

After 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.


Your most prized possessions

If 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, food storage containers, and especially ammo boxes (available at Army-Navy stores) offer the best weather protection. Go to to learn more. Here are other secret places where you can hide your valuables.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest