Upgrade Me!
December 2, 2008 9:03 PM   Subscribe

Can you suggest some replacements for standard, everyday household items that are far superior in terms of usefulness, luxuriousness and quality?

A while back I got some Egyptian cotton bed linens with a ridiculously high thread count, and now I sleep like a baby and wonder how I ever got a full night's sleep on anything else. Another time I bought an expensive water-resistant fabric liner for my shower curtain, because I needed a liner and it was the only thing they had at the store. Now I'll never go back to the yucky vinyl liners. A few months ago my shower head broke, and I replaced it with a removable hand-held massaging shower wand, which has drastically improved the quality of my shower time.

What other upgrades should I consider? There are some excellent ideas in these threads but money isn't necessarily an object, nor am I really looking for new items to add to my collection of stuff. Just top quality upgrades for ordinary household items. The more specific, the better. Thanks!
posted by Balonious Assault to Home & Garden (100 answers total) 807 users marked this as a favorite
The Herman Miller Aeron chair rocks.
Dimmers on lamps are better than switches, and dimmer extension cords are easy to install.
Pot lights in the ceiling give a much nicer light than any other kind of overhead lighting.
Down pillows & comforters & parkas (not "feather", you want 100% down).
Hardwood floors are way better than carpet, in my opinion. And silk persian rugs kick the butt of Ikea carpets, who knew?
Good skin care products are a pleasure to use & will make your skin nicer- I like $30 Proactiv much better than any $10 drugstore brand, both for its texture and effectiveness. I imgine it gets even better if you go even more expensive- Creme de la Mer is what all the Hollywood ladies use.
Great-smelling soap for hands & dishes.
A really good DVD player will skip less & fast-forward faster.
Macintosh over PC, and the bigger the screen, the better. Ultra wide screens are a pleasure to use.
Really really fast pulsing internet and big manly upgraded processing speed a huuuge hard drive, oooh, hot!
Also, a car with seat-warmers.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:23 PM on December 2, 2008 [6 favorites]

I can't tell if you're male or female, but if you're rockin' the Y chromosome, I highly recommend using The Art of Shaving's shaving cream with a badger hair brush. Other personal type upgrades may include designer jeans, Egyptian cotton towels and robes and make sure you're using good soap and shampoo/conditioner.

On preview, I second seat-warmers.
posted by squorch at 9:32 PM on December 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

Sharpen the knives you cook with.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:33 PM on December 2, 2008 [4 favorites]

I just replaced my old microwave with a convection microwave oven. It seriously rocks.

Try a curved shower curtain rod.

Tivo is even better with an expansion drive.
posted by acorncup at 9:49 PM on December 2, 2008 [4 favorites]

Miele vacuums.

Friedrich air conditioners.

High-definition TiVo.

Tempur-Pedic mattresses and pillows.

Panasonic Commercial Plasma displays.

Tear out your 1/2" shower body, mix pipe, and head and replace them with 3/4" pipes and a Speakman Anystream head.
posted by nicwolff at 9:54 PM on December 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure if I want to marry pseudostrabismus, or check my closets to see if she's been hiding in my house for awhile now.

So consider this a second to every freaking single thing she said up there. I'll also add:

A gas cooktop kills an electric one. And so satisfying to turn on and off. Foom! Poof!
One of those boiling-hot water taps. My tea/coffee/cocoa whims are addressed instantly.
A mixie instead of a food processor or blender.
A french press for coffee.
HEATED hardwood floors. Nothing like a toasty warm floor underfoot.
A bigger hot water heater/tank. Decadent and wasteful two-hour showers.
Bookshelves with glass doors. No dust and it just feels classier.
Two or three big monitors, as many as your Mac (ahem) can handle. Huge productivity/pleasure boost.
A laundry chute. (Okay this one might take some serious effort.)
Body pillow. Mmmm body pillow.

Or you know what, fuck it: just come over and crash at my place anytime.
posted by rokusan at 9:55 PM on December 2, 2008 [6 favorites]

A memory foam mattress. I really do hate sleeping anywhere else now.
posted by Joh at 10:00 PM on December 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Again, Roomba.

posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 10:25 PM on December 2, 2008 [18 favorites]

A nice set of flatware, something with good heft that feels just right in your hands.
posted by slowfasthazel at 10:29 PM on December 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Kitchen tips:

Get pyrex containers and throw out sketchy plastic containers for microwave use
Buy one really good knife for the kitchen and a sharpener
Throw out inaccurate measuring devices and buy good quality measuring cups and bowls
posted by benzenedream at 10:41 PM on December 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Following Benzenedreams lead -

If you do anything artish or craftish that involves cutting something, get the equipment and learn how to properly sharpen your tools. Even if you're talking power tools.

My enjoyment of woodworking and the quality of my work went up orders of magnitude when I figured this out. Hair on the back of your left arm is for losers.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:56 PM on December 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Throw away (or donate) all your socks and replace with SmartWools. Pricey, but worth every penny. They average around $15/pair, but wear like iron and occasional discounts can be found on teh Internets.
posted by DawnSimulator at 10:58 PM on December 2, 2008 [18 favorites]

One good chef's knife that you keep sharpened
A Dyson vacuum
A widescreen monitor AND a color calibrator (ie. Pantone Huey)
Handmade soap (Etsy has lots) - so worth it
Your favorite albums on vinyl
Custom ICC profiles for your printer
posted by bradbane at 11:02 PM on December 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

This has the makings of a great thread.

The Westin Heavenly Bed Pillow is a thing of beauty. It supports while still allowing give, it feels amazing and it makes it worthwhile to pick Westin for a hotel next time. Seriously, it's $75 but ZOMG.

The Logitech MX Revolution mouse is the smartest thing I've seen in ages. The scroll wheel goes from clicking to free-scroll mode, in a fully customizable way. (Program-by-program, or if you scroll to fast, auto-switch.) They blab a lot about documents being easier to navigate with the mouse which I thought was total shit until I realized how amazing it is to just flick your finger and have the wheel carry you all the way up or down a document. Can be had for relatively cheap on the eBay, or barring that, Amazon.

The Beats By Dre are shockingly good, if overpriced a bit headphones. They have amazing noise-canceling and better audio quality (to me and some others) than the Bose's. They do bleed a bit though, at high volumes, and you can ONLY listen to them with the active noise cancellation on. Still, absolutely amazing stuff I'd never heard before and crazy bass response while still being balanced.

I always spend the extra 40 cents on Kraft Mac & Cheese. Always. Always.

C.O. Bigelow brand Mentha Lip Balm (no-shine, for manliness sake) from Bath & Body Works is $7.50 a fucking tube, but it does amazing things for your lips; subtle mint, very very moisturizing, works for hours.

If you're not already, use Gmail. It'll feel like an upgrade, with how great the spam is and how brilliant the workflow mechanics are (conversation merging is brilliant) and it's free!

Lifehacks help. Lifehacker's book has cool compy-based things to help, and they link to almost every post from the book there.

Seconding dual monitors. I have dual 20" widescreens at work and at home. It's amazing how much easier things are when you have somewhere to throw things, and to leave chat windows.

Seconding TiVo... especially HD TiVo. They've figured out the cablecard issues and it's absolutely fantastic. You can now buy movies from Amazon unbox, stream them from Netflix, order movie tickets, check the weather, play music on Rhapsody or Live365, watch YouTube and fucking order Dominos Pizza. I really wish they had picked Pizza Hut, but comon. The future is fucking here: Pizza from your TV.

Seconding Aeron Chairs as well. The premium is insane but the amount of amazing it does for your back has to be felt to be believed. It encourages good posture in the utmost comfort. It's really amazing, the build quality is insane, the warranty to match and it *supports* you, instead of fighting you.

Subscribe to The Economist. It's great centrist commentary and news and worth every penny. Many times over.
posted by disillusioned at 11:03 PM on December 2, 2008 [10 favorites]

Oh, and Grado SR60 headphones.
posted by bradbane at 11:06 PM on December 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Kuhn Rikon Garlic Press. Easy to use, easy to wash.

Cooks Illustrated magazine (upgrade from Car & Driver magazine).
posted by artdrectr at 11:27 PM on December 2, 2008 [6 favorites]

Roomba. :) Yep.

Nice cookware. I freaking love my Cuisinart cookware- the Multiclad Pro set that I have is fantastic, without the huge price tag of All Clad.

Sharp knives- I luurve the three Shun knives that I have, but Kai also makes the Komanchi line which is affordable, yet still wicked sharp.

The Cuisinart convection/toaster oven- it's so easy to roast a decent size pan of veggies, cook pizza, reheat leftovers... I love having it, especially since the gas oven takes like 25 minutes to heat up. I can have things cooked in the toaster oven before my big oven even gets up to temp.

My Sanyo rice cooker/slow cooker just fucking rocks. It's a 10 cup, because I have a family. Rice for my stir frys? Perfect. Steel cut oats for an awesome hot breakfast? Perfect. Hard boiled (steamed) eggs? PERFECT! (seriously- 22 minutes on the steam cycle; hard, yet no grey yolk!)! Steamed veggies, slow cooked meat... mmmmm. Need I say more? I LOVE it!

A kitchen scale is indispensable. Not just for measuring ingredients, but very useful for household kitty weight tracking.

So, sorry these are all suggestions for kitchenware, but they are really the items that have made the biggest impact in my life, as far as useful gadgets go.
posted by andeluria at 11:46 PM on December 2, 2008 [7 favorites]

I love the 3/4" shower upgrade idea. I did kinda the same thing in my apartment by removing the restrictor valve LOL.

On a related note, I found the unit bath from my stay in Japan to be totally awesome . . . Japanese tubs are designed for sitting, and are the perfect size to soak in for many toasty minutes on a cold winter's night.

On a further related note, the tankless water heaters there were also pretty cool.

Extending the slow cooker, you can also get a Zojirushi bread maker -- makes about half a loaf, which is all I need since there's no preservatives to prevent the mold from appearing after 2-3 days. Zojirushi also makes excellent rice cookers.

On a cheaper note, this guy is ebaying a dozen (!) QE-405 pencils for $4 + shipping. The QE-405 is the perfect instrument, and I've ordered twice from this guy and am happy with the product. Don't know where he gets it but it looks new to me.

To go with the pencils, I recommend Kokuyo "Campus" notebooks. These come with a tighter ruling that makes it easier to take notes. The ruling is also very cleanly printed, not fuzzy like American notebooks, and the paper is off-white and nice to look at too. These are only available at Japanese stationery stores like Kinokuniya.
posted by troy at 12:31 AM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

nthing Aeron Chair.
Get a keyboard with mechanical switches ala the Model M.
posted by demon666 at 12:44 AM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

I freakin' love my Zyliss garlic crusher. I'm not sure a garlic crusher can ever exactly be luxurious, but it sure makes me happy every time I use it and saves a lot of time. You don't even have to peel the garlic cloves!
posted by Emilyisnow at 1:22 AM on December 3, 2008 [6 favorites]

manufactum has the tagline "the good things in life still exist". Wonderful department store in Germany that sells what you are looking for. Their german site is even bigger and please don't forget to order their paper catalog. Clothing, appliances, food, furniture, everything droolworthy.
As for the (refillable) pencils. If you like a frim grip, nothing, I say nothing beats the Pentel Sharp Kerry, the mechanical pencil with a cap.
posted by ouke at 1:41 AM on December 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

Trash can upgrade! Something that looks nice, has a foot petal, stays clean, and is wide enough to scrape a plate into without sending 1% of your food intake on the floor every day.

Single piece toilet paper holder--they're like a C shaped hook you just slip toilet paper on--no stupid sproingy thing to fumble with.

The awesomest alarm clock.

High end kitchen knives, at least one big chef's knife and one smaller knife--even if you don't cook much you'll love how nice it is to use the right tool for the job.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:44 AM on December 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

Also: spending too much money on socks is totally worthwhile. I'm not saying it will change your life but maybe it will.

I know you said specifics are better but in this case all you need to know is if you look at the price and go, $15 for a pair of socks??? then those are the ones.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:53 AM on December 3, 2008 [5 favorites]

Heated towel racks for the bathroom.
And oh yes on heated floors.
posted by needled at 2:48 AM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Seconding rokusan's french press, and disillusioned's Kraft Macaroni & Cheese--add minced garlic and fresh-ground black pepper, it never gets old and I still make little happy sounds when I eat it.
posted by Restless Day at 3:04 AM on December 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

Le Creuset cookware. Extra-large Cuisinart. Electric blanket for the bed.

Can someone tell me more about this non-mildewing shower curtain thing? I am intrigued.
posted by miss tea at 3:45 AM on December 3, 2008

An actual stereo system, rather than listening to music strictly through your computer/TV. It really does make a world of difference.
posted by girlmightlive at 5:30 AM on December 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

Also, real, original art.
posted by girlmightlive at 5:35 AM on December 3, 2008 [10 favorites]

A couch. Spend the money and get something long enough you can lie down on without bending your legs, with nice stiff cushions (or big fluffy cushions, whatever you prefer I suppose).

My parents have these awesome mattresses which feel like they were very expensive, and I never want to get out of bed when I go to visit. With the box spring they're about 4 feet high, but I just pass right out when I'm on them.

Other things I've splurged on over the past year or so and haven't looked back - high quality razor and shaving cream, kitchen knives, bourbon.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:43 AM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

A quality espresso maker. The La Pavoni Europiccola not only makes espresso that is order of magnitudes better than Starbucks but is a beautiful piece of art. It is by far my favorite possession.

Nth a high quality razor, TempurPedic mattresses, a rice cooker, and, upon the insistence of my wife who loves to bake, a KitchenAid stand mixer (the more wattage, the better).
posted by jtfowl0 at 6:07 AM on December 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

Interesting thread, and I didn't read every post, but I just thought I'd add a word of caution: this can be a slippery slope, because the more you raise the bar, the harder it is to go back, as you say, and the bar needs to be raised ever higher; satisfaction is temporary, after all.

BUT, it can be a really fun slippery slope.

Get one of those Screwpull corkscrew devices, or a wall-mounted corkscrew so the fulcrum is not your own body. Who knew opening wine could be so effortless and fun? Warning: may increase wine consumption.
posted by softsantear at 6:08 AM on December 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

-Wireless headphones (if your lifestyle requires them)
-surround sound system - do your homework first though
-floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, if you have enough books
-I don't care who you are or what you do, but get an all-new set of underwear. You'll have to probably poke around a bit to find what you find to be the best upgrade, but then get a lot of it. And throw out the old stuff.
posted by knile at 6:12 AM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Gosh, troy, even Campus notebooks? Sounds like you're trying to recreate the whole Japan experience or something :-)
posted by softsantear at 6:20 AM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

We just got a front loading washing machine-- it is wonderful. It uses less water but gets the clothes cleaner and with less wear and tear. The anti-wrinkle cycle is amazing for stuff like T-shirts and napkins. The real attraction for me is how the clothes come out barely damp so drying time is greatly reduced.

Speaking of napkins, there is a lot to be said for large, dinner-sized heavy damask cotton napkins. Paper napkins just seem so inadequate and cheap. Make sure you buy real cotton, however, as the usual polyester crap sold to the masses will only repel moisture, not blot it up satisfactorily.

My favorite gift from last year is my electric lap warmer. I don't just use it to take the chill off the sheets before getting in bed, I lug it from room to room. This way we can keep the thermostat lowered while staying toasty, and there is something decadent about watching TV with loved one while sharing the warmer. I've even used it on the porch outside.

My husband is crazy about his crystal whiskey glasses.

I will wear no non-Thurlo socks, nor will I bear any sweater next to my skin except ones made of cashmere. In fact, I am thinking of investing in some cashmere lounge pants.

Finally I could go on and on about the kitchen because that is where most of our luxury spending goes. Using real, unprocessed food-- like buying whole nutmeg and using a grater-- always pays off. Buy the best ingredients is my advice. Throw away the boxed Mac-N-Cheese and learn to make real Mac-N-Cheese with cream and gruyere cheese and ciabatta breadcrumbs.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:23 AM on December 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

I'm usually very cheap and buy generic whenever possible, but one thing I (a woman) regularly spend money on is my Schick Intuition Refills. They make shaving so much simpler and QUICKER, and I no longer have to buy shaving cream.
posted by kidsleepy at 6:40 AM on December 3, 2008

Matfer-Bourgeat copper pots and pans. If God could cook, that's what she'd use.
posted by Floydd at 6:53 AM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Im surprised nobody's mentioned fountain pens yet. Although ballpoint pens are generally cheaper and more convenient, they require pressure to make their mark. On the other hand, fountain pens flow without pressure, which means writing hands don't end up cramped and tired. By this virtue fountain pens also encourage better writing technique and an extra investment into the act of writing which can lead to aesthetically nicer handwriting.

Most ballpoints are also cheap, disposable and homogenous. Fountain pen bodies come in all shapes and sizes as do their nibs. With some luck (and maybe research) you'll be able to find a pen that suits your hand and writing style.

Obtaining the fountain pen is only the tip of the iceberg; those who catch the fountain pen bug will probably gain an interest in better quality paper, inks, notebooks and diaries. The idea is to enrich what is otherwise the mundane experience of writing.

What to do with all this expensive stuff? You can write hand written letters for important occasions, start a diary or a sketchpad. Some people start vintage fountain pen collections.

Where to start?

Of the modern pens, the brand Lamy is often recommended for the unintiated. They are ruggedly built and designs range from sleek to quite fun looking. The Lamy Safari range is a great first pen for around $40US I think. There's also the flagship Lamy 2000 for those who want a smoother nib. You should be able to find one for under $150US.

The Rotring 600 is probably one of the most over engineered pens ever. The old style 600 with the knurled grip is especially nice. Photos here, here and here. The old version isn't sold new any more but you can find them on ebay or pen forums. Got mine for $100AU.

Vintage pens can be really interesting but more than a few people will find them incredibly tacky. Prices vary according to condition and collectability.

Sheaffer snorkel pens are perhaps the most mechanically complicated pens you can get but are still very reliable. Details in the link above.

The Parker 51 was and is probably the most popular vintage fountain pen. They are comfortable, very smooth writers, reliable and can be bought in good condition for reasonable prices of around $70US.

These prices are all very rough indications. I checked around a year ago so prices may have risen.
posted by quosimosaur at 7:05 AM on December 3, 2008 [27 favorites]

Kitchen utensils (is that too mundane?). I'm specifically thinking of a top-of-the-line vegetable peeler. I finally replaced mine, and I am SO HAPPY about it every time I use the new one.
posted by robinpME at 7:06 AM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would think twice about a TempurPedic mattress-- they are said to be a buzz-kill in the sex department.

On the other hand, an easy way to improve the sex life is using generous amounts of a good lubricant. After years of R&D here at chez Gravy, we have found nothing that beats ID Millennium Lube-- pricey, but worth every penny.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:26 AM on December 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

Cast iron pans and a propane range on your oven. Way better than non-stick and electric respectively.
posted by ODiV at 7:42 AM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Luddite Filter: I've being going old school at my place and have found that often the older bomb- proof option is much better than the latest stuff:

Out: Mach-4 In: Merkur Double Edge Razor With a badger brush and a round of shaving soap is perfect.

Out: Stupid Dyson Vacuum In:Henry - The little Red Fellow will outlast 1000 Dysons

Out: Fancy floor mop In: £2 string mop with a wooden handle and plastic bucket.

Out: £60 Sonicare toothbrush In: 15p Plastic toothbrush.

Save your money on the basic stuff so you can afford more German toys:

Zassenhaus coffee grinder
Liebherr Fridge
Miele Washing Machine.
posted by Sturdy at 7:42 AM on December 3, 2008 [9 favorites]

The Waterman Edson is a sleek, retro-futuristic fountain pen that begs to be held.

Nthing Apple Macintosh for home computing, wonderful fit and finish, get a 30" monitor to go with it.

Apple iPhone, see above.
posted by Scoo at 7:49 AM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Heated toilet seat. Now that it's chilly here in the north eastern US, I wince every time I have to use someone else's bathroom.
posted by ellenaim at 7:55 AM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

A mac.

You will wonder why you ever put up with that other rubbish!
posted by lamby at 8:30 AM on December 3, 2008 [9 favorites]

I'm slowly accumulating kitchen utensils I won't ever have to replace. I have a really really nice set of All-Clad measuring cups so far. They're heavy, pretty, and won't rust.

People have mentioned it, but the most awesome thing I noticed at my v. luxurious stay at The Witchery in Edinburgh was heated floors and a heated towel rack. It was f'ing glorious.
posted by santojulieta at 9:45 AM on December 3, 2008

My Ugg boots. I LOVE not having to wear socks to go out in the cold. You can also buy replacement soles, which makes them feel like new. I'm sure there are plenty of wool filled boots, so it doesn't have to be Ugg per se. But get some if it snows near you. Keeps feet warm, soft and cuddly on your feet, absorbs sweat...I can't say enough good things.
posted by evening at 10:18 AM on December 3, 2008

Best shower ever: an arrangement that allowed me to set the water to a specific temperature. Turns out I like my shower at 111 degrees F precisely. It maintains this temperature whatever else happens plumbing-wise in the house (flush ?). It was installed in my parents old house. I may never see its like again - but I can dream.
posted by AuntLisa at 10:18 AM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

A heated mattress pad . Though with the nice sheets, it may make getting out of bed impossible.
posted by Faithos at 10:23 AM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

OXO/GoodGrips kitchen tools, like the peeler, are great. My wife just picked up a pair of square, airtight canisters for keeping flour and sugar in the kitchen: they replaced some cheaper canisters which simply didn't seal. Also, they're square, so they waste less room inthe cupboard than the round ones did.

Yes to real shaving equipment. (Art of Shaving is rubbish: get Mitchell's Wool Fat shave soap instead!)

Also, a real wool hat, like an Akubra, keeps your brains warm while good wool socks keep your tootsies warm.

A decent pocketknife (mine is a Benchmade Griptilian, but tastes vary) makes you feel handy and prepared -- and you are!

A down comforter is great, as long as you have the self-discipline to actually get up when the alarm clock rings.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:32 AM on December 3, 2008 [5 favorites]

I'll second the Merkur Double Edge Razor with a badger brush, and specify olive-oil based shaving soap and Merkur blades. Add an in-shower mirror, and you'll find the daily chore of shaving is much less of a chore.

And I'll add a Microplane grater and rotary cheese grater to the kitchen wish list.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:01 AM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Marvis Classic Mint toothpaste: Strong. Italian. Costly.
posted by Theloupgarou at 11:30 AM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: All wonderful answers so far. Thanks to everyone! It's going to be difficult deciding which things to try first.

miss tea: my shower liner will still grow mildew if I let it. What I love about it is that it's made of a polyester fabric so it keeps the water in the tub, but it never gets that gross, cold, slimy feeling that the vinyl ones sometimes do. It wasn't really terribly expensive, but I probably never would have thought to get it if it hadn't been the only thing in stock when I was at the store shopping for a new liner. If there is a truly non-mildewing shower curtain I'd love to hear about it too.

And not to be bathroom-centric, but another great household upgrade that I discovered by happenstance is the elongated toilet bowl that came with my condo. I'm a big guy, and I'm reminded of how much I really appreciate my commode every time I have to use one that has a standard, round seat.
posted by Balonious Assault at 11:38 AM on December 3, 2008

A Terrible Llama way up there put a link to the Simplehuman trash cans--I'm going to take it one more step and specifically suggest the butterfly-top style. There are "nondeluxe" versions of it that don't cost quite so much, fwiw--I got a fingerprint-resistant stainless steel one with a black top at Costco for ca. $70. I've seen them for more at places like Container Store. WELL worth it.

Now, I am an inveterate cheapskate and the prospect of spending that much on a garbage can was hard to swallow. But our existing can was white (bad idea, bad BAD idea) and didn't have a foot pedal, and needed to be replace for a few other reasons. I'd been looking at the SimpleHuman products for a while and the butterfly top was the first one I came across.

SO glad I did. It's weird to be singing the praises of a garbage can, but really, it's just about perfect. First, it's great to be able to open the can without using my hands--this ends up being way more convenient than I'd ever imagined. Also, the opening mechanism is perfect and works way better than any pedal cans I've encountered that have a single top (either round or with a rectangular top, hinged on the long or short end). I think that it just takes too much work/leverage/something to swing open a lid in one piece. And the closing mechanism is damped somehow so it doesn't clang shut. It's also really nice to have the bag tucked away invisibly.

My husband and I refer to it as our "middle-class garbage can". Strange to say but it really has made a huge difference.

Other suggestions I concur with: down comforters, original art.

Some things I haven't seen but would also recommend: Haflinger boiled-wool hut slippers, and good compost as mulch for the garden (feeds the soil *and* keeps down weeds---this is a big quality-of-life issue for serious gardeners!)
posted by Sublimity at 12:43 PM on December 3, 2008 [9 favorites]

Hope this isn't threadjacking too much: All of you who are mentioning shaving brush & old school shaving soap, can you also recommend a good mug/receptacle and soap knife, or however you get the soap into the mug? I have experimented with second-hand pieces of kitchenware and found little success, because nobody can tell me what to do this all with.
posted by knile at 3:01 PM on December 3, 2008

Tailors of Old Bond Street shaving lather (sandalwood), and accompanying aftershave.
Merkur safety razor.
Everything from Keihls.
400 count egyptian cotton sheets (higher thread counts are mostly a crock of poo).
Moskine notebook
Sennheiser headphones
real, actual expensive sea salt.
heritage tomatos.
posted by Freen at 3:13 PM on December 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

About a year ago I researched getting our plumbing fixed so we could have decent water pressure. The house I moved into a couple years back had the worst wimpy showers I've ever used. You could barely get shampoo out of your hair. Not wanting to rip into my walls and redo our bathroom, I eventually tried out the stuff at this high pressure shower head site on a whim, fully thinking it could all be a scam.

The heads aren't that expensive and they don't say anywhere on the site (I assume for legal reasons) that all they basically do is sell basic showerheads with removable pressure limiting valves. If you take the showerhead out of the box that arrives and install it, you will have the same wimpy shower with no pressure as you likely already had. There's a little wink-wink set of instructions on how to remove/replace the pressure reducer in the head (it's a tiny ring of plastic) but they'd don't come right out and say you MUST remove it to get any benefit, but you do have to remove it.

Now, I'll say this: I ride my bike year-round, including during some barely above freezing days that feature wind and rain. Part of the motivation to do it is fighting winter blues and part of it is that I like to think I can turn into an elite Belgian hardman bike racer destined to win Paris-Roubaix in those conditions, but the reality is I go out and freeze my ass off for a couple hours because I know I'll get redemption when I get home thanks to a ripping hot shower with all the pressure I need.

The showerheads there are really fantastic (I think I got the "supreme"). I didn't even know my shower was adjustable before I got this. I either turned it all the way on, or all the way off, but with this showerhead I have to keep the valve at about 3/4 on because full blast actually hurts my skin due to the pressure being so high. At around 3/4 of full, you get a satisfying hot shower that is akin to staying in a century old hotel with awesome piping.

I should mention the only downside to this showerhead is once you got it installed and you've used it for a few satisfying months, you will be disappointed the more you travel. I used to remember hotels having pretty spectacular water pressures, but I guess scaling back on costs means limiting things because I've only stayed in one hotel in the past year that had water pressure anywhere near the showerhead I have at home.

And yeah, it wastes more water and even though I have a degree in environmental science and I love Al Gore to death, sometimes it's worth a few extra gallons to feel right again with some decent water pressure.
posted by mathowie at 3:44 PM on December 3, 2008 [39 favorites]

It may be a bit of a stretch to include gym or exercise equipment that makes me so heppy, but here goes:

- Dri-fit synthetic wicking indestructible gym clothes. A cup of bleach in the wash returns them to pristine condition, and sweat dissipates easily. Under Armor makes some good stuff, especially the boxer briefs.
- Seal line dry bags for waterproofing/stinkproofing gym clothes. Prevents any funk or moisture from escaping.
- Get good hiking boots at REI, where you can return them if they aggravate your feet. I love Asolo boots, which have lasted many miles and years.
- Good quality leather boxing gloves.
- Shoes which actually suit your feet and stride. I go to Road Runner where they check your running style out before recommending shoes.
posted by benzenedream at 4:20 PM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Shaving: Nancy Boy cream, Taylors is good too, Merkur Futur razor or my Dad's 1950 Red Super-Speed, good badger brush, Feather blades.
From living in Norway: n-th vote for heated floors and especially heated bathroom floors, wood floors rock, heated car seats are the best.
Stovetop expresso/mokka maker, preferably Bialetti. Good coffee beans and your own grinder are a must.
Thermarest mats for camping, memory foam mattresses are awesome.
I have my eye on a Roku box for the tv/netflix.
Good gym/activity wear, wicking is the way to go. No sweaty cold cotton t-shirts please.
Good quality furniture - Eames, Arne Jacobsen, Vitra, Fritz Hansen.

A pet - pets enhance your life in so many ways (and trash all your nice belongings so you have excuses to buy more nice stuff). I hear kids do this too, but a cat doesn't need a college fund.

I love this thread.
posted by arcticseal at 6:18 PM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

I guess we got it for our wedding, but the Rosle Can Opener is about as life-changing as a can opener can get.

It's just a sexy stick, not like a clamp, and it somehow cuts along the side and bends the edge of the can so that the lid and the can both are clean and smooth.
posted by gregorg at 9:21 PM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm a little embarrassed.


Charmin Ultra Mega Rolls toilet paper.

Once I bought it the first time, I swore I would never buy cheap TP again. And I never have. I don't care how limited my budget is, I will do without something else before sacrificing on this. To put it as delicately as possible, it really adds to your quality of life to (1) not have to worry that a handful of cheap, thin, TP will dissolve into a spitwad and (2) not have to change rolls every few days.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:23 PM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

While this is more of a retooling than an upgrade, it's made me a much happier man, and saved me god only knows how many headaches.

Money was an object for me, but I still managed to get my grips around one of these. That's where it all started. Now, I've done completely away with DVD players, TV's (I just don't watch it period, you may be different), components, blahblahblahblah too much! I have a dumb server box that I runs opensource NAS software from a USB key (the beauty of NAS being that it can run torrents), a pc-as-media-control-center/gaming in the living room that runs my own special mixture of tinyxp, old laptop "repeaters" at media access points (TV's, stereos) around the house loaded with an image of the media pc's OS, and bluetooth remote control of it all from my laptop. It's really nice. It's all made possible with disk cloning and lightweight opensource software that can be imaged and reloaded, and even run, from a USB key in 2-3 minutes. Damn Small Linux is great when you pair it with a few media drivers. And old hardware is so cheap now that you needn't suffer any downtime - buy another unit, load your image, and you're up and running in no time. Keep a few extras around and tinker on them if that's something you like to do. If not, that's ok too.

But the beauty of this system is that any pc or laptop made in 2003 and beyond is basically expendable, and they all connect to your existing big dumb displays, be they monitors, TV's, a PC speaker set, whatever. You can spend as much or as little time futzing with it as you want. I prefer old pc's because I can poach hard drives from them for the NAS (hooray for disk mirroring) and add special connectors (the main media box has a nice sound card in it).

I can dial up my media anywhere in the house, clone any old game machine, stream anything I want, get alphabetic searches and tags on all my media, and I don't have to think about warranties, expensive breakdowns, or network down time. I'm building a huge digital library of books, movies, music, and TV shows, and I can access them anywhere at home. And it's really possible with just a weekend or two of tinkering, one for getting all your computers set up, and another for stringing up the wires (I don't recommend wireless, it's still too spotty, slow, and interference-prone for heavy network demands like this, but for your regular surfer it's fine). Then, of course, you have to build your library, but there are tools to simplify that. Once you've taken care of your backlog, what you already have, adding new stuff is a daily task that takes 10 minutes. And beyond the initial investment, costs are minimal.

- a water cooler with Midea filter (I'm in China, do some research on US filters). My setup ran me about $150, and I love the water. Plus, it's hot water on tap! You don't have to call anybody to get more water, pour in a pitcher every morning and you're set. Order a replacement filter core every 6 months, changing it takes 5 minutes, and you can use it for years.
- 2nding the glass doors for bookshelves.
- Handmade shoes. I have a guy, who will make a pair for $100, and it's like walking on pure sex. It's been 2 years and they're holding up beautifully. I hike in them, polish them, then put on a suit and they look perfect. Ask around, get them made locally. You might spend $5-600, not being in a developing country, but if you have the cash...
- a mogo mouse. I don't have the one with the built-in scroll, but I wish I did.
- tankless water heaters, the point burner kind, are beautiful. No tank, much lower electric bill, and yes, on-tap steaming water.
- I don't know what they're called or where to find them, but I have a pair of nail clippers with a sliding rail on the side, over the empty space between the hinge/spring. When you're clipping your nails, everything falls in there, and then you just slide the rail back to empty it. No more leaning over the trash can. I'm sure someone somewhere, maybe even in this thread, knows what those are called?
posted by saysthis at 1:07 AM on December 4, 2008 [13 favorites]

Ooh, Fuzzy Skinner reminds me: Kleenex with Lotion. You can have a whole cold and your nose won't even get pink.
posted by nicwolff at 1:22 AM on December 4, 2008

Oh and ! It's a washer, it's a dryer, it's a steamer, but, the most important thing, is that it can handle simple dry cleaning, and it's big enough to do blankets. You would never believe how many errands lugging big bulky bags of crap it's saved me.
posted by saysthis at 1:38 AM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

This sound hokey and it really isn't consistent with my character but...

Drop some coin on your garden. For the first time in my life I live somewhere with a great garden. Lots of flowers, shrubs, trees, birds and critters and it is a daily delight.

Over do it. Cram the plants in and forget the spartan mostly lawn style. Make it a little bit wild. Bring nature right to your door.

It's probably the biggest bump up in my quality of life I have ever experienced.
posted by srboisvert at 2:40 AM on December 4, 2008 [12 favorites]

Here's a youtube video of the can opener gregorg suggested in action. I'm sold on it.

I'm going to combine ellenaim, troy, and Fuzzy Skinner's suggestions (heated toilet seat, Japanese goods, and better toilet paper, respectively) and suggest a washlet . If you're getting a heated seat, chances are it's part of a washlet kit; there may be a cultural hurdle to overcome here, but this is really the next step in terms of uh, cleanliness, and is better than even the best toilet paper. (Toto is Korean, actually.)

This is another one of those things that you really miss when you find yourself away from home and having to deal with --shudder-- paper.
posted by softsantear at 5:28 AM on December 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

So much indulgence above this comment that I feel guilty just posting. But.

* I have spent a decade-plus loving life with a Bose Wave Radio as my alarm clock. Heavy audiophiles may sniff, and it won't do justice to rock 'n roll, but for crystal-clear music at bedroom levels--jazz, acoustic, morning radio shows--it's a true joy.

* GE Reveal light bulbs give terrific balanced color. I'm looking for the compact fluorescent equivalent, but in the meantime, Reveals are alternate with CFLs throughout my home.

* We have a set of Pottery Barn wine goblets as our everday glassware. They are sturdy, durable, and spacious, and they make every drink just a note more pleasant.

* Another vote for quality bathroom products. Don't overspend; there's nothing about $90 moisturizer that's particularly better than $40 moisturizer. But good product makes the day much nicer. Go to a store with smart salespeople, get suggestions based on your preferences, and bring home samples to find what suits you. (I will suggest good soap: I have L'Occitane Verbena in my shower and Dr. Bronner's at every sink.)
posted by werty at 7:22 AM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

I just bought this Chi flat iron, and I should have done it long ago. At $76 ($70 when I bought it), it is 3x more expensive than the last straightener I bought, and it's so much better. The supposed normal price is $190, and if I ever had to replace it at that cost, I probably would.
posted by peep at 3:55 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Track lighting.
posted by Demogorgon at 4:15 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Does those hot water taps a few people have mentioned provided 100c boiling hot water, or a lame sort of 90something?
posted by oxford blue at 10:40 PM on December 4, 2008

Mostly seconding stuff mentioned above:
Big metal safety razor
ICC monitor/printer profiles
Induction hobs (powerful, efficient, easy to clean[, expensive!])
Heated mattress pad
Down-filled coats
posted by primer_dimer at 7:45 AM on December 5, 2008

I have to second the idea of original artwork. Likewise, choosing furnishings that are investment quality -- antique, designer - the stuff that's made to last through the generations, and keep its value. Donate any particleboard or otherwise disposable-type furnishings.
posted by esunshine at 8:10 AM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cool and not-too-expensive things I've "upgraded" with:
-good kitchen knives (at least a good 9" chef's knife, maybe a smaller utility knife)
-good mattress, the larger the better (don't forget to haggle at the store - i just saved 40% off the "sale" price)
-high threadcount sheets, down comforter and high threadcount comforter cover
-quality earbuds (i.e. >$100) for said iPhone

Basically, I spend money on the things I use every day. Save on those rarely used items and splurge on your daily life.
posted by skechada at 2:34 PM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't have any specific advice, except to contradict the first comment here -- expensive skin lotions are a racket. Here's the article that Wolfie linked to the last time this came up. This myth needs to die now, so we use the money we save on luxuries that are actually luxurious.
posted by Coatlicue at 4:16 PM on December 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Some stuff I've upgraded to:
- Breville Juice Fountain Elite-- stainless steel, 13,000rpms, one mean juicer!
- Berghoff stainless steel cookware-- had to give away my Le Creuset cast iron skillet on gf's orders :( so I got a set of these instead
- TOTO washlet-- clean is happy :)
- Midea toaster oven-- not really an upgrade, but when it comes to toaster ovens, the simpler the better
- Zojirushi water dispenser-- get the energy saving model
posted by hardboiled at 5:54 PM on December 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

A good corkscrew. (And upgrading from $10 to $15 wine makes a huge difference, too.)

quosimosaur's pen survey is great. I'd say that the Sheaffer Admiral has more Mad Men cred than the tie-in Cross -- it was the workhorse of the 1950s office. Slightly less tricksy than the Snorkel. Or if you want something new and solid, you will get a lot of bang out of a Pelikan M200 from Richard Binder.

On mathowie's showerhead thing: the Alson's $3 head with the restrictor thing removed is scarily reminiscent of gym shower blast-pressure, but not in too bad a way. Oh, and Dr Bronner's.
posted by holgate at 10:49 PM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here are the products that have made my life so much better. Not all of them are that expensive:

-Air purifiers.We paid $300 for two of Honeywell 50250's and never regretted it. You can't beat being able to breathe better. Also these things constantly suck up cat hair and bad odors. They are worth the cost of replacing the filters and extra electricity they use.

-A natural latex/organic wool bed and pillows. We got ours from SavvyRest in Charlottesville, VA. This cost us twice as much as a conventional bed but we love it. Since getting this I have slept better and do not get as many headaches or menstrual cramps. I think this is especially important if you have a baby. After all my research and personal experience, I wouldn't want my kid sleeping on a conventional mattress.

-A bright light over the kitchen sink.

-Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser sponges. I think these are too expensive but for all the time they save me and the results, I keep buying them.

-Swiffers are a gift from the gods and I love them. I threw away my broom because after these it's a waste of time.

-Bialetti stovetop expresso maker. I appreciate my husband bringing this into my life. Way better than a regular coffee maker.

-Wool for sweaters and socks and leather for shoes and accessories. Feels nicer than synthetics and as they wear they develop character rather than looking cheap and frayed.

-Resole shoes that make a loud clopping noise as you walk. You'll feel less conspicuous and won't have people turning around to look at you.

-Nice flatware.

-Thick-walled drinking mugs keep drinks hotter longer and feel good in your hand.

-European butter.

-Fresh pesto. Not canned or bottled--never!

-The Cat. Despite all the cost of food, treats, pet sitters and vet bills and the onerous chore of cleaning the cat box, the joy she brings to our life is unmeasurable.


-Urban Decay Primer Potion. It's kind of expensive but if your eyeshadow won't stay on or creases, it's pointless.

-Purity facial cleanser by Philosophy.

-Real make-up brushes, not the cheap applicators that come with the make-up.

-Adding Vitamin C powder to my bathwater neutralizes the chlorine treatment in the city water and makes my skin soft and my hair really shiny and manageable.

-Also, I pay for ridiculously expensive Pureology shampoo and condition because it really works. It transformed my hair and I won't give it up. I save money per ounce by buying the really big bottles.

-A good haircut from a caring stylist is worth extra money. If I can find one who will listen and has real talent, I will that person what they ask.

Conversely, cheap things that work great:

-Revlon ColorStay Foundation. Much better than some expensive ones I've tried like Mercier, MFE and Smashbox. Also great is Revlon's ColorStay eyeliner and liquid liner. This is really a good product line.

-Milk of Magnesia to set your foundation. Put it on with a cottonball, let dry and put on foundation. Works better than commercial foundation primers.

-Bon Ami is better than most of the scrubbing cleansers. And it is cheaper and non-toxic.
posted by i_love_squirrels at 10:34 AM on December 8, 2008 [11 favorites]

I love these suggestions!

My favourite things are (1) my stovetop moka pot and (2) my organic spelt filled pillow. I hate to sleep without that pillow now.

I also love my DVD rental subscription service (Lovefilm - in the UK). Queuing up a load of great films beats the hell out of going out to the store and trying to find something to watch.

Fast wireless internet, a macbook, and a decent set of speakers that you can plug an MP3 player/computer into, are also high on my list.
posted by jonesor at 3:35 AM on December 9, 2008

I disagree with TheLoupgarou (Le Werewolf). Tom’s of Maine is the way to go with toothpaste. You have your choice of fluoridated or not, and of many flavours, one of which, fennel, is superb. But other toothpastes give you that. The big selling point for me is radical unsweetness. It’s just exactly sweet enough. (Mention on my blog.)
posted by joeclark at 1:47 PM on December 9, 2008

In fact, this is the best alarm clock ever. Get the mains powered version, not battery-operated.
posted by subbes at 5:00 PM on December 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Fight Club


(anything from Ikea, really)
posted by balinx at 7:54 AM on December 10, 2008

A commercial blender (I use a Blendtec).

Phil Wood hubs for your bicycle.

Museum-like art hanging system.
posted by Manhasset at 9:48 AM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

About trashcans.. my parents have a motion-sensitive one that opens and closes automatically. Sorry I don't know the brand or have a link, but it's GREAT when cooking - you never have to touch it or step on it! Now everytime I come back to my place after visiting them I forget that I have a regular boring trash can and hold my hand over it and nothing happens, and then I get really sad. The motion sensitive ones are great!
posted by KateHasQuestions at 12:07 PM on December 10, 2008

Dell WFP2408 or Dell WFP3008 are both excellent monitors for your MacBook or MacBook Pro.
Manhattan Portage bags are perfect for your Mac laptop of choice and are a clear upgrade to most of the bags under $100 sold at Apple Stores.
posted by vkxmai at 5:43 PM on December 10, 2008

>>> Swiffers are a gift from the gods and I love them.

Actually, they were invented by my brother and a couple of other folks at P&G ...

If you're a cat owner, I'd recommend paying the little extra for food that is better for your particular cat. In our case, a switch to Natural Balance dry food and Innova EVO wet food has made both of our cats much healthier, happier, shinier and less likely to yack at inopportune moments.
posted by grabbingsand at 7:17 PM on December 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

I don't know if you wear contacts, but if you do, the extra money for daily disposable lenses is worth it. I used to have them, but I've had to cut back to twice-a-week disposables because of money, and my eyes still haven't forgiven me.
posted by phaded at 7:49 PM on December 10, 2008

Nth getting a Mac, for certain.

Also nthing the KitchenAid stand mixer for anyone who bakes. My first one was a basic model and it *still* changed my life...but just another $100 or so for a better model is absolutely money well spent.

Definitely good knives too, but I'd recommend a Santoku-style knife as a starter. I've only had mine for a few months, but it makes it a lot easier to do things like chopping nuts, mincing a lot of garlic, or cubing boneless chicken.

On beauty: want to know what of the fancy stuff is really great? Start with Sephora; they're great about providing big samples so you can decide if a product is worth that pretty penny you're going to spend. Bumble and bumble make great hair products, well worth the investment. Ditto Philosophy's Microdelivery line (except for the cleanser, in my experience).

But my daily skin care stand-bys are fragrance-free, oil-free drugstore products: Dove bar for sensitive skin, Olay Complete All-Day for Sensitive Skin, and Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion and Intense Relief Overnight Cream.

Finally, things that I will be getting the next time I buy a car:

- Satellite radio
- Built-in iPod jack
- And most importantly...seat coolers. In a Houston summer, it's amazing how much of a difference it makes (I've tried them in a friend's car).
posted by plumtexan at 8:34 PM on December 10, 2008

The screwpull seems like a nifty gadget, but I'm convinced it's a fad. Go with a classic: A nice Laguiole waiter's corkscrew.

In winter, buy the expensive cherry tomatoes.

If you have any need of it, good cinnamon from Penzey's.
posted by IvyMike at 10:59 PM on December 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

Get one of those Screwpull corkscrew devices

$130?!?! Wtf? These are $25 in Toronto.
posted by Manhasset at 6:43 PM on December 11, 2008

Bath & Body Works Ultimate Silk Body Lotion.

A decent DSLR camera (mine is a Nikon D80 - but the D90 will shoot 720 HD movies with all the versatility of interchangeable lenses) vs. a point and shoot, though I have both for size/convenience reasons.

Microfiber anything. I especially like microfiber underwear and microfiber fleece blankets (Target has them every fall/winter).

HD DVR and a appropriately-sized for the room flat screen 1080 LCD TV. I'm now so spoiled I don't want to watch "regular" TV. Blu-ray is next.

I love my Magic Bullet - it's not one of those large, high-end blenders, but it works great for me and works better than standard blenders for all the things I use it for. I can put whatever I want in a totally custom smoothie I make at home for a lot cheaper.

I nth the suggestions about pets (cuddly cats in particular), macs and nice gardens packed with plants you find interesting.

Though I've never had one, a weekly (or even monthly) housekeeper would be nice - I'm terrible at keeping up with cleaning, especially the details.
posted by suzen at 1:38 PM on December 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Seconding the TP suggestion, although I'm a Cottonelle man, myself. I skimp/buy generic on a lot of things, but not TP.

I also highly recommend bypassing the 10-cent-a-pack ramen noodles found just about everywhere and going with higher-priced, better ramen. Or even better, good soba noodles. Still just as quick and easy, but heads and shoulders above the cheapie stuff.
posted by DawgterFeelgood at 2:54 PM on December 12, 2008

Organic milk. So much more tasty (and without the chemicals).
posted by starman at 6:38 AM on December 14, 2008

Kiehl's lip balm. Only thing that saved my lips from being a red cracked mess during the first winter I lived on the east coast and let me tell you I went through a LOT of lip balms before finding it.
posted by whoaali at 8:53 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

A Terrible Llama way up there put a link to the Simplehuman trash cans--I'm going to take it one more step and specifically suggest the butterfly-top style.

Interesting thing is that the simplehuman blog linked back to this page!

posted by smackfu at 6:58 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm still a paper person when it comes to scheduling - I use Google Calendar, but I copy everything down on paper. I'm not sure if it's the writing things down that helps me remember it more or the fact that I can take it out at a restaurant without looking like I'm checking my email.

The best planner notebook for me is the Muji Chronotebook- a good review of it is here. It gets rid of the usual problem of standardized time slots and days for those of us whose days vary.

And, this one sounds stupid, but I do appreciate the egg slicer, which I also use on things like garlic and tomatoes. I chop plenty of stuff with my kitchen knife, but this one makes a much nicer presentation. Ditto the apple corer. I didn't think it would work - but it's made eating apples a thousand percent easier.
posted by mccn at 11:00 AM on January 12, 2009

Seconding a Dyson vacuum. Very impressed.
posted by entropic at 10:08 AM on January 19, 2009

A whoopee cushion that is self-inflating is most definitely worth the extra little bit of cash.
posted by esunshine at 2:45 PM on March 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

Three mentions of the Aeron so far - I will counter-recommend Steelcase's Leap chair, for one important reason alone.

If you enjoy sitting with your legs crossed, the Aeron is no fun. The mesh Aeron seat is framed in a hard plastic edge that will dig into your ankle no matter how you twist it. Steelcase's Leap is a traditional padded cushion design and has no such flaw. I own two and love them.
posted by scrowdid at 2:26 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you consider online email/calendar services a household necessity (I do), my suggestion would be a personal domain name and a Google Apps account. You get to stand out from the *mail crowd, you get to pass email ids across to your friends and family, creating a small network of your own (useful you use google calendar, documents a lot). How much does a domain name cost these days - USD10-12 a year?
posted by epiphinite at 12:32 PM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm buying my folks and my brother Kershaw Taskmaster Shears. They're exactly the same as the Shun Kitchen Shears ($40). I bought a set on a whim, and they make every other pair of kitchen shears I've owned... feel like cheap imitations of these.
posted by talldean at 5:21 AM on November 12, 2009

I'd recommended the Kershaw Shears and thought a little more.

I own a Biobrite Alarm Clock. I choked when I first saw one and saw how much they were. It's honestly saved my job several times at this point; *nothing* gets me out of bed, but this thing works just fine, every day, day in, day out. It has a 15watt bulb that comes on slowly before the alarm is set to ring, so you don't get startled out of bed so much as very, very gently woken.

As far as kitchen knives go, screw getting "a full set"; the phrase is basically a marketing joke. Get a chef's knife, a sharpening steel for it, and a serrated bread knife, and whatever other knives you need for serving. (Steak knives, for example.) I have a Brieto Santoku and *love* it. It was a gift, and so far, it's had five or six years of everyday use. (A $100 knife, used 2000 times, suddenly seems a lot less pricey when it still is effectively very new.)

Watch a video on how to use a sharpening steel before ever touching it to the knife, and when it needs sharpened, probably find someone to show you how.
posted by talldean at 3:20 PM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

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