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12 basic life skills you should probably learn off your parents ASAP

Imagine a scenario in which your lightbulb has bust, the buttons of your only clean shirt have popped off, you’ve got to meet your dissertation supervisor in half an hour and your phone is broken so you can’t use Citymapper.

This, my friends is adulthood – or at least, advanced studenthood. It creeps up on you. One minute you’re laughing the face of your mum/aunt/dad/uncle suggesting they teach you some basic stitches, the next you’re at uni and freaking out because you don’t know one end of the needle from the other and your favourite ever trousers have developed a really graphic hole. Your helplessness infuriates you. WHY didn’t you pay attention? And more pressingly, why isn’t anyone there to help you out?

Betty readers, I’ve been there. I still am there. Whole humans are made in less time than it takes me to hang a picture, or even iron a shirt. So if you’re wondering whether you should start learning a few more domestic skills before you leave home, the answer is yes. Here’s the stuff that as a so-called adult, I wish I had known a bit sooner…

1. How to change a lightbulb

‘Really? A skill?’ I hear you say – to which I’d answer: depends on the lightbulb. Sure you might be able to twist your bedside bulb in and out of place in a minute, but an Indesit E14 refrigerator lamp takes ‘tekkers’, as do bulbs for oven and cooker hoods (yes they’re a thing). Don’t assume your dad knows. I did, and my stepmum was livid – not because he didn’t know, but because she did too and I’d just accidentally done some sexism. “You think I lived in darkness until he came along?” Ouch.

2. How to make a spaghetti bolognese

Learning from my mistakes, I asked my dad for the spag bol recipe. He hadn’t the faintest – though he did show me how to make scrambled eggs in the microwave, should the need ever arise. It hasn’t yet, but the need for stepmum’s spag bol has so many times. (Vegetarians, replace bol with ‘decent tomato pasta sauce’.) Not only can the sauce be doubled up and bunged in the freezer for rainy/skint days, but when mates come round it’s a great go-to: comforting, filling, easy and – if your recipe’s like mine and chock-full of carrots and toms – pretty healthy.

3. How to put up pictures and shelves

It might seem ridiculous now, but believe me: when it comes to moving out, you’ll be richly rewarded. Few things are so simple in theory and so maddening in practice as nailing something to a wall in a straight line. One parent will probably claim to know; the other will beg to differ, and point out all the pictures and shelves across the house whose angle can at best be described as… jaunty.

4. How to make a béchamel sauce

Now, this I can do – though I’m surprised by how few of my mates can. It’s piss easy, and the bedrock of some of the best dishes out there. Macaroni cheese? Béchamel. Lasagne? Béchamel. Ditto fish pie, croque monsieur, haddock mornay and cream of anything soup. Get on board with béchamel, and the world is your soufflé.

5. How to put flowers in a vase

Again, this sounds a) obvious and b) middle aged, because no one’s ever bought you flowers, nor probably will for at least five thousand years BUT – it will happen. Believe me, at some point, far sooner than you realise, you’ll be clutching a bunch of gorgeous tulips and thinking, wtf do I do now? And you’ll wish you’d asked the green-fingered adult in your family because there’s more to it than just bunging them in water. You’ve to know how much stem to cut off, how many leaves to remove, whether they need feeding, and whether they continue to grow after being cut – which tulips do, as I found out over a bunch’s old, drooping and very woebegone heads.

6. How to clean an oven

The grim necessity of this task was brought to my attention the first year of uni. I’d made cupcakes for my housemates, but because I’d never learnt how to make cupcakes, had put them in the oven without a muffin tray. The paper cases collapsed, obviously, as a paper case does when it’s filled with expanding cake mixture, and spilled onto the bottom of the oven where it fried merrily away until we smelled the acrid aroma 20 minutes later. The next hour was a hard lesson in cleaning congealed, burnt cake mix off an oven, from the housemate who had actually bothered to learn how.

7. How to make cupcakes

See above.

8. How to iron a shirt

Or anything else for that matter, given the ‘used paper bag’ appearance of my outfit right now – but shirts and pleated trousers are the most complicated. How do you get the pleats in the right place without creating pleats on the opposite side at the same time? How do you iron a collar without channelling Count Dracula? It’s boring as hell, I grant you, but come interviews and meetings, this sh*t matters. Initiate yourself into the ways of the well-groomed early and you’ll reap the sleek, crease-free rewards all your life.

9. How to sew on a button and darn a hole

Yes you could just buy another one from Primarni, but with 235 million items of clothing hitting landfill every year, you’re doing the planet a favour by mending and making do. Besides, sod’s law dictates holes will always appear in your most favourite jumper – the irreplaceable one you bought from a tiny shop on holiday – not the grey V-neck your nan bought you from M&S. Also that buttons which pop off shirts are always the boob-covering ones, and they must always fall off halfway through the day. The law.

10. How to read bank statements and bills

These guys are suspect. If they can slip something in under an asterisk, behind an acronym, or beneath some corporate BS they’ll do it – and they’ll often assume you won’t notice. So don’t be that girl. Get the most financially savvy parent or adult in your life to talk you through their bills, and make some notes as they do so. This stuff is so boring it’s easy to forget.

11. How to read an actual IRL paper map

Because Google Maps and sat-nav, while fantastic, aren’t totally foolproof. Even in 2017 the possibility of your screen smashing, battery dying or signal failing is all too real. So get the ‘rent with the best sense of direction to locate an OS map and an A-Z, and show you the way.

12. How to make a roast dinner

The secret to your grandma’s perfect roast potatoes doesn’t come down through your genes. You need to ask her – or whoever it is that’s been entrusted with The Knowledge – what they do, what fat they use, and how long for. Ditto gravy, Yorkshire puds and stuffing. And spend some time with whoever the roast boss is in your house so you can work out the hardest part of it all: the timings. You’ll never regret it.

And if the parents/siblings/responsible adults in your life don’t know any of this stuff either? Well then, that’s what YouTube was made for.


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Image: Hailey Hamilton

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