Gretchen Rubin

This Wednesday: Tips for using Ziploc bags.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Tips…for using Ziploc bags.

For years, I hesitated to use Ziploc bags. I’ve always loved them, but it seemed very wasteful to buy a bunch of plastic bags, especially because so often they'd just be thrown away. (I knew I would never be one of those people who will wash and re-use Ziploc bags.)

Then, when we moved, we made a big run to a discount store to stock up on all sorts of supplies: cleaners, trash bags, light-bulbs, and Ziploc bags. We bought all sizes: the prototypical “sandwich” size, the cunning, small “snack” size, the gallon, and my favorite, the two-gallon.

With all those Ziploc bags in the house, I caved. I couldn’t resist all that handiness. Now I use Ziploc bags all the time. Some suggestions:

1. Whenever I get a new electronic gizmo, I start a special Ziploc bag for it. I label the bag with the name of the device (“Vaio laptop," “digital camera”) and the date. Inside the bag, I put all wires, disks, manuals—all the paraphernalia that come with a new piece of equipment. I keep all these bags in one large box in a closet. I rarely need this stuff, but when I do, I know exactly where to find it. Also, if I get rid of the device, I can also get rid of the associated equipment. No more mysterious power cords that I'm scared to toss.

2. I kept messing up travel toiletry bags, because bottles of sunscreen or saline solution would explode and coat the inside with goo. Now I use Ziploc bags when I travel. Not very elegant, but they do the job, and if something spills, I can just get a new bag instead of trying to scrub toothpaste off the interior of a proper toiletry bag.

3. My pet peeve is toys that don’t come with their own container. The loose pieces fly everywhere and drive me crazy. Now, I swoop down the moment a new toy is opened and make a labeled Ziploc bag to keep together the many pieces of the Barbie hairdressing set, the Legos that build a hospital, the puzzling yet clearly highly educational set of scarves and clips that my parents gave us.

4. Anything that scatters needs a Ziploc bag. Open packages of picture-hanging nails; magic markers, Q-Tips after I stepped on the Q-Tip container and crushed it…anything.

5. I made a “fun bag” for the Little Girl—a Ziploc bag filled with small toys to grab whenever we head out the door to a restaurant, a friend’s house, a car trip. That way, we always have a bunch of interesting things to divert her. Now, as it happens, someone recently gave the Big Girl a zippy, clear backpack, so I’ve transferred the fun bag from a Ziploc into the backpack; it looks so much more fun. But the Ziploc bag worked just as well.

6. I have a bunch of labeled little Ziploc bags filled with keys: “spare keys to my office,” “key to turn off the alarm,” etc. There’s nothing more aggravating than an unidentified key, and I was having trouble figuring out a simple way to keep them labeled and organized.

7. It may seem redundant to have several grades of Ziploc bags, but it’s far more satisfying to use them when the size is right (and I know that I, at least, am far more likely to keep up an organizational system that feels satisfying). Nothing’s worse than an overstuffed plastic bag that won’t seal properly, or a big plastic bag that takes up far more room than needed, for the handful of binder clips or thumbtacks it holds.

No, I’m not in the pay of Ziploc. And I have to admit, using the bags still feels illicit—especially the fancy ones with the zip-top. But I imagine that the sense of indulgence is part of the reason I love them so much.

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