Oct 13, 2023
Amanda Ahlenius collects life hacks from grandmothers for TikTok
Amanda Ahlenius was feeling overwhelmed with her responsibilities as both a mother and a professional dietitian when she began thinking about her grandmother, and how easily and seamlessly she seemed
Amanda Ahlenius was feeling overwhelmed with her responsibilities as both a mother and a professional dietitian when she began thinking about her grandmother, and how easily and seamlessly she seemed to tackle household chores.
Ahlenius has gotten dozens of life tips from her grandmother to make household tasks easier, including immersing a resealable plastic bag of food in water to push out air pockets. This way, food keeps better in the freezer, said Ahlenius, 26, of West Lafayette, Ind.
“I remember watching her do these things as a little girl, and she’s still doing them now,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could all start sharing the advice we’d learned from the older women in our lives, like our moms, grandmas and aunts?’”
In February, Ahlenius decided to post a quick video on TikTok, asking, “How much could we learn from each other if we all shared the random things that the women in our lives have taught us?”
“For example, my grandma taught me to wash my scratchy towels with 1.5 cups of vinegar — no detergent — to make them soft and fluffy again,” she said.
Inside a 40-pound cat’s life: We chatted with Patches’s human
Overnight, the video racked up thousands of views and hundreds of comments from people offering tips from their own mothers and grandmothers, and the reaction has continued to build, she said.
That first video has been viewed more than 865,000 times, and another video with a tip about how to scrape tomato paste from a can has more than 9.3 million views. In another video, she said her grandmother has a solid set of tools and expertly knows how to use them all.
She now regularly posts life hacks contributed by her 330,000 followers from their own grandmas, including wrapping rubber bands toward the narrow ends of hangers to prevent clothes from sliding off, and adding a penny minted before 1982 to help tulips stand upright in a vase.
“After peeling an onion, rub your hands on a stainless steel sink to remove the smell,” advised one TikTok follower.
“My grandma always kept clear iodine next to her TV chair — she’d paint her nails with it once a week to keep them super strong,” another woman commented.
“My mama taught me to save my wrappers from sticks of butter in a bag in the freezer and then use them to grease baking pans with,” wrote another.
“I was stunned by all of the great tidbits floating around out there,” Ahlenius said. “I thought I might be on to something.”
Ahlenius, who works as a dietitian at Purdue University, said she never imagined she’d be in a position at this point in her life — a married mother of two young daughters — to give other people household advice as a modern day “Hints from Heloise” of sorts.
In four months, she has attracted a loyal following of mostly young people who appreciate her life hacks on Twitter and on Facebook, where about 1,000 people belong to her group, “Grandma Knows Everything.”
A steer ran wild on a busy interstate. A cowboy with a lasso gave chase.
Ahlenius also recently self-published a book of tips and advice with the same title, along with a book of her great-grandmother’s recipes — including for potato doughnuts (also known as spudnuts) and buttery caramels — located by her family during a kitchen remodel.
“These tidbits are really resonating because a lot of people have either forgotten how to do these things or never learned how,” she said, noting that she has received more than 3,000 tips people have sent in, saying they learned them from their own grandmas.
“When it blew up in the best way, I decided to just run with it,” Ahlenius said. “These are things we could all use to make our lives easier.”
She said that as a child she would sit at her grandmother Marcia Clupper’s kitchen table in the farm town of South Whitley, Ind., and watch her flawlessly move from one household task to another.
“She was born in the 1930s, so she knows how to save money,” Ahlenius said. “One thing she taught me is that when the price of milk is high, you can buy a gallon of milk, mix it half and half with powdered milk, and it will be cheaper and taste the same.”
Her followers — and several grandmothers — have flooded her with similar money and timesaving tips.
Several people told Ahlenius that putting an avocado pit in a bowl of guacamole will help keep the dip from turning brown, she said. And putting avocados in the refrigerator will keep them fresh for weeks.
Others have told her to run a bar of soap along a door frame to unstick a door and ensure that it opens smoothly, and sprinkle a teaspoon of rice inside a salt shaker to prevent clumping. Also, she said, she’s learned to line a trash can with several bags, so when you take out the trash, you’ll have another one already in the bin at the ready.
Other favorites of hers include using a dollar bill as a six-inch ruler, substituting olive oil for shaving cream and putting a closed tube of mascara in a glass of hot water to warm it up and get a few more uses, she said.
“One grandma said she actually sat on hers to do the same thing,” she said.
Baltimore couple, both nurses, save a man’s life mid-flight
Ahlenius also enjoys hearing grandmotherly advice.
“One grandma said to use dating as a chance to gather data, not fall in love,” she said. “And another wrote that wine and cheese is definitely dinner.”
Her own grandmother said she is thrilled that Ahlenius is sharing time-honored life hacks from her era of bread boxes and rotary dial phones.
“I love that she’s doing this because so many families are spread around the country now — maybe they don’t get to see their grandparents very often and learn about how things were done,” said Marcia Clupper, 85.
Clupper said she still uses some of the life hacks her own mother taught her, such as washing and drying aluminum foil so it can be used again.
“My kids laugh at me, but nothing comes into my house today unless it can be used at least twice,” Clupper said. “And instead of throwing things away, I try to repair them.”
Clupper said she doesn’t understand why ripped jeans are all the rage today.
“My mother taught me to mend holes, not wear them,” she said, noting that her granddaughter could add that bit of advice to her growing list of grandma tips.
That would be fine with Ahlenius, who said she now also hopes to gather advice from grandfathers for a second book, “because they deserve equal time.”
And there is something else that has been on her mind, she said, ever since she received a tip that the tag on a bedsheet should go on the bottom right of the bed when facing the baseboard.
“What I’m really hoping for now is a solid tip on how to fold a fitted sheet,” Ahlenius said. “I’ve watched all the videos, and I still can’t do it.”
“I roll mine up in a ball and toss them in the closet,” she said.