5 Small Life Upgrades Worth Trying

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(1) Dr. Bronner’s Soap

Okay so it’s soap. What’s the big deal? Well a lot of the soap that’s out today is full of synthetics, fragrance, and chemicals that can cause a whole slew of problems. Even using brands like Method or 7th Generation, I noticed that I would get rather dry skin or irritation. My dermatologist recommended using Dr. Bronner’s.

Dr Bronner’s is a company out of Southern California near Vista. They make a variety of products but we are goign to talk about two of them:

18-in-1 Pure-Castile Soaps

This is their signature soap. It comes in unscented as well as scents like peppermint, lavender, and more powered by organic essential oils.

This soap can be used directly as a hand and body soap as well as in laundry or other household cleaning tasks. I add a small amount of peppermint to all of my laundry loads and run it along with ECOS laundry soap.

One challenge to be aware of with this soap is that it does get “hard” and “clog” if left out. So many soap dispensers are no good here as the hole will clog up and you’ll end up causing a mess. For this reason, we keep it in the original bottles and then opt for the sugar and Shikakai versions for when we need to use a dispenser.

For travel, you can get the small 2oz bottles for as low as $1.99 at most stores (online tends to be much higher unless you buy in bulk). The reason the original containers work so well (including the small travel size) is that the lid has a longer piece of plastic that clears out the dispensing hole every time you close it. So just make sure you click it tight every time you are done.

Where to buy?

You can buy 18-in-1 Castile soap just about anywhere. For the best prices we’ve found the following:

  • Costco – Often carries peppermint and either in a larger container or a two-pack
  • Trader Joe’s – Often carries peppermint at a good price
  • Whole Foods – Carries a wide variety of options and is a good price when on sale

Shikakai Hand Soap

As good as the 18-in-1 Castile soap is, the fact that it is challenging to use it in a dispenser can be problematic. Luckily there’s an option. Dr. Bronner’s Organic Sugar Soaps provide a great solution. This soap adds additional ingredients such as sugar and shikakai that create a softer soap that does not seem to clog dispensers. It has the look and consistency of maple syrup and creates a rich soft lather. While this soap is more expensive than the 18-in-1, we highly recommend it.

Where to buy?

For the best prices we’ve found the following:

  • Amazon – Generally a good price all the time
  • Whole Foods – If on sale, this is usually the best price.

Note: just be aware of the size you are buying. Often the 24oz is just a few dollars more than the 12oz.

(2) Argon Oil

Argon Oil has been an amazing find. It’s a lightweight oil that can be used to moisturize your hands, face, neck, body, and hair. It has natural anti-acne properties and absorbs quickly and does not feel greasy. I’ve replaced nearly every lotion and face aftershave with it. This oil comes from a Moroccan plant.

There’s a variety of brands and prices. Personally I have not noticed a huge difference relative to price but you may need to try a couple to find one that you like best. Here are a few that we have tried that are pure 100% Argon Oil:

(3) LED Retrofit Lights

On the surface, replacing your lighting fixtures can seem daunting. Maybe you have those older recessed lighting fixtures that takes screw-in halogen bulbs. These bulbs tend to run hot, use more electricity ($$), and wear out as frequently as 1-2 years. However, you may have an easier solution in the form of LED retrofits.

Here’s how it works. The retrofits have a standard bulb screw-in. So no wiring required. Basically you just:

  1. Unscrew the old bulb
  2. Remove the trim (the ring and back refelctor) but not the actual wiring
  3. Screw in the retrofit into the bulb socket
  4. Snap the new all-in-1 bulb and trim kit

The result is a nice clean LED light and a professional sealed look (light and trim is all one piece).

Things to keep in mind:

  • LEDs come in a variety of “temperatures” usually around 3000K (warm) and 5000-6000K (cool). We went with 2700K lights from Costco and are very happy.
  • The Color Rendering Index (CRI) is an indication of how well the lights will render colors. The scale goes from 0-100 and most of the lights you see will fall the range of ~80 or 90+. The lights we bought were rated as 91+
  • Trim size is the diameter of the hole. Make sure that you get the size that fits the hole cut our for your light. Common sizes are 4”, 5”, 6”. Some trims are made to work in 5” or 6” sizes.

Dimmers and Switches

If you want dimmable lights, there’s a chance that you will need or want new dimming switches. The lights may just work and that is great. However there are a lot of new dimming switches that contain added benefits for LEDs. These allow you to do things like set dimming range so that you can get low-low dims. They can also help prevent flickering or any noise. We ended up going with a mix of Lutron Maestros (~$20-30/each) as well as the Feit dimmers from Costco (~$15 for two-pack).


LED Retrofits generally will cost around $5 – $30 depending on where you buy and brand. We purchased the Feit branded lights from Costco which were around $6-10/each. The have been great. Similar priced bundles can be found on Amazon as well.

(4) New Toilet Seats

A new toilet seat may not be the most obvious upgrade. But it can really make a big difference for you, your family, and your guests. It’s amazing how many will have cracked, chipped, stained, or just flimsy seats that move around. This upgrade is easy, cheap, and provides a lot of benefit. For around $30 you can make this simple, luxury, upgrade to your bathroom and house.

Some choices:

  • You first need to know if you have a round or elongated toilet. Then make sure to buy that correct size.
  • Then you have choice of color and either plastic or wood. Normally wood is heavier and sturdier and plastic tends to be more flexible.
  • Then you have a slew of features like easy-clean and soft-close.

But really let’s try to simplify this here. We have recently replaced all of our seats with the KOHLER K-4636-0 Cachet and here is why:

  • Although it’s plastic, it’s very sturdy and has little to no flex.
  • It has a very soft-close. This means that if you push it to close it will slowly close and make almost no sound. No more late night crashes that wake everyone up.
  • It has a soft curve/edges which adds to comfort.
  • It has an easy to remove option. Basically you just flip up the back snaps and the seat just pops off and back on in seconds. This makes it really easy to clean.
  • It has rubber feet that keep it strongly in place when in use.
  • It comes in a variety of colors


KOHLER K-4636-0 Cachet white elongated runs about $30 online and maybe +$5-10 at a local retail store.

(5) Every Man Jack Face Wash

Some of us are plagued with the occasional break out on the face or scalp. My demotologist recommended use of a wash with _Salicylic Acid.

Finding an easy solution that does not break the bank or include a lot of toxic chemicals and fragrance can be a challenge. But we have found a solutions in Every Man Jack Skin Clearing Face Wash, Fragrance Free.

Here is why it’s good:

  • No fragrance
  • Has Salicylic Acid
  • Their products tend to get good ratings on EWG
  • Cost-effective (~$5-10)

I use it on my face and scalp and have had great results. They recently have added activated charcoal to their formula which means it’s now a black liquid instead of clear. I have not noticed a significant change in performance which is good.

Where to Buy

You can find these online at places like Amazon as well as in store at Whole-foods. You may also want to check out other products such as their SPF 50 Face Shield (also fragrance free).



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