How To: Measure Without a Tape Measure or Ruler

Our tape measure is strangely one of the most precious items in our daily kit: along with cellphone, wallet and keys, it gets deposited and retrieved on our landing strip, and we feel somehow unprepared for the day without it. But on the rare occasions when we do forget it, or in situations where it would be somehow gauche to bust it out, we rely on a few handy tricks.The key to measuring without a standard instrument is knowing in advance the length of, ahem, certain body parts (okay, no naughtiness intended) and very common everyday items.

  • Your hand — measure from the line at the base of your wrist to the tip of your middle finger. This is helpful for measuring larger surfaces you touch with your hands, like tables and cushions.
  • Your pinkie finger — though not the longest, this finger is handiest because it's on the outside of your hand and has a clear start and end, unlike thumbs.
  • Your stride — for measuring room lengths. When measuring your stride in advance, lay a measuring tape on the floor and have someone else watch you walk at a normal, natural pace. You might have to do it a few times to make sure you're not changing your gait wildly each time.
  • Your foot — with this one it helps to know your European shoe size: 35 = 9', 40 = 10" and 45 = 11". This is more accurate but more time consuming than using your stride to measure a space, as you must walk toe to the heel of your next foot.
  • Your height — we have compelled a perfectly 6' tall person to lay on the floor to get a room dimension before, but it's not necessary to go to that trouble. The distance between your fingertips with your arms stretched to the sides is roughly the same as your height.
  • A dollar bill — is exactly six inches long and 2.5 inches tall, and can be folded to get the smaller measurements within those.
  • A piece of standard paper — paper, such as that you'd use in a printer, is 8.5" x 11". But make sure the piece you're using is American standard, or that you know its specific measurements if not.


While handy, these tricks aren't enough to make us ditch our trusty sidekick (the Komelon SELFLock is our favorite — it automatically sticks where you extend it, and you use the button to unlock it, instead of vice-versa) on a daily basis. But they do keep us from panic when we forget it.

Image: akhater

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