The things you don't need until you suddenly do
November 12, 2012 3:52 PM   Subscribe

On a scale of fire extinguisher to avocado slicer, what seldom-used household items leave a person the most screwed if they aren't around when they are required?

I'm establishing my own household, and I'm starting to feel like I'm actually settled. I've got my silverware pattern and my cookware and a big upright cabinet that I bought just for the junk drawer, and I'm looking forward to the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that I'm all settled in. But lately I've been starting to wonder--all of my immediate needs are met, but my acquisitions have mostly been based on immediate needs. I've got everything that I've already needed. What don't I have because I haven't needed it yet? And more importantly, which of those things do I desperately need before, well, I need it?

I've got a fire extinguisher, a small first-aid kit, and various particle alarms, so the big life-threatening emergency stuff is covered, I think. But what might I not have that will prevent a guilty 3 AM trip to Walmart?
posted by darksasami to Home & Garden (91 answers total) 160 users marked this as a favorite
Plunger. Plunger plunger plunger plunger plunger.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:53 PM on November 12, 2012 [82 favorites]

A good toilet plunger. (One that can make a good seal, that is.)
posted by cobaltnine at 3:54 PM on November 12, 2012

Response by poster: Ah yes, a plunger--a friend visited from out of town last month, and suddenly I needed one. So now I have one. But that's just the sort of thing I'm talking about!
posted by darksasami at 3:56 PM on November 12, 2012

This isn't a desperate, emergency-type need, but I really needed a hammer drill today. Thankfully a neighbor done the street let me borrow his. We were drilling through brick and with the hammer drill he did more in a minute than I had done in the two hours previously with a normal power drill.
posted by lharmon at 3:57 PM on November 12, 2012

Flashlight & spare batteries.

posted by perspicio at 3:58 PM on November 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

Great big wrench to turn off the gas.

Pry bar.

Hot glue gun. (that one might just be me)
posted by small_ruminant at 3:58 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Spare 9v battery (or whatever stupid annoying nonstandard kind it takes) for the smoke alarm.
posted by elizardbits at 3:58 PM on November 12, 2012 [7 favorites]

Ah yes, be absolutely sure to have a street key, or curb key, or whatever they call it where you live. One of these things, for turning off the water to the house.
posted by perspicio at 4:01 PM on November 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

A primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency corkscrew. They always go missing and none of the cool tricks for making do without them ever work.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 4:07 PM on November 12, 2012 [19 favorites]

What is the most likely natural disaster scenario for where you live? Prepare for that (for example, here in California it would be gloves, crowbar, and three days (minimum) of food and water, adjust to your location.)

A tool box with philips and flat head screwdrivers, an adjustable crescent wrench, duct tape, a staple gun, and WD-40. An eyeglass repair kit for the teeny little screwdriver.

An emergency stash of cash FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY.
posted by ambrosia at 4:15 PM on November 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

Depending on the configuration of your house, maybe a ladder -- one that will reach all the things that need reaching. My last place had unusually high ceilings, such that my ordinary stepladder did not allow me to reach a chirping smoke alarm.

Also, a spare house key in either a good hiding spot or with a neighbor.
posted by mhum at 4:16 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

CO sensor (if you're in a house).

Also, even though we have multiple copies of our keys, THIS THING has saved our bacon a bunch of times.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:17 PM on November 12, 2012

Spare set of keys that are not in your house or in your car.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:17 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

If your place has fuses you'll definitely want extras of those.
posted by ckape at 4:19 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Flashlight & spare batteries.

This. I'd just amend it to multiple flashlights, and add those little round battery operated lights that can stick to walls, and lots of candles.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:23 PM on November 12, 2012

peroxide and baking soda: ingredients to deskunk a dog!
posted by coevals at 4:24 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tooth-numbing gel in the first-aid kit or medicine chest. Because I've only had two dental "emergencies," and both times it happened on a Friday night. Awesome to have on-hand.
posted by heyho at 4:25 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, and battery operated radios. And depending on where you live, a shovel. You can't make the 3am trip to Walmart anyway if you're snowed into your house.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:26 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

A bottle of scotch.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:29 PM on November 12, 2012 [22 favorites]

A spare housekey/front door key.

If you have a cordless landline phone, a wired phone to plug in when the power goes out.

For later readers, there are two kinds of plungers: the simple cup-style is a sink plunger; the flange plunger is better for toilets.

A list of frequently called numbers, for the day when you lose your phone.

If you live alone, a stash of sick-day supplies, whatever that means for you. For me, that means a few cans of chicken soup, some saltines, a bottle of ginger ale, a box of tissues, some cold medication. When lived alone and was sick, that could get me through a few days without having to leave the house.

We also keep various other OTC medications on hand just in case: cough syrup, Benadryl, Nyquil. Even if we don't use it before it expires, for us it's well worth not having to stagger out and get it when we do need it.

A tooth-repair kit (though I admit the only part I've used was the oil of clove, and OH MY was I glad to have it).

Spare 9v battery (or whatever stupid annoying nonstandard kind it takes) for the smoke alarm.
For sure, and (less life-saving but just as necessary to stave off annoyance) whatever batteries your TV/DVD/Ipod-dock remote takes.

Needle and thread. Even if you just have a spool of white and a spool of dark thread, you can still sew a button on.
posted by Elsa at 4:33 PM on November 12, 2012 [12 favorites]

Generator, ask anyone on the east coast.
posted by HuronBob at 4:40 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

An assortment of light bulbs, including an appliance bulb for the fridge.

A spare extension cord.

Duct tape.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:44 PM on November 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm going to assume you have all the standard household tools to do basic tasks like hang a picture or screw something into something else. So I'm going to suggest something like this.

You might use it once a year, but when you need it it will save your bacon. I once saw a guy throw out his back shaking an HP Laser Jet 1 over his head trying to free a stray screw.
posted by bondcliff at 4:47 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Having an inverter is really handy. If you have one, you can run anything you need to off of a car battery.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:47 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dude. Condoms.
posted by ambrosia at 4:48 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

A manual can opener. Opening that donated chicken soup with a sharp rock after you've lost everything in a hurricane seems to make it suck just a little more.
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:51 PM on November 12, 2012 [18 favorites]

Flashlight & spare batteries.

Get a cranking flashlight. Saves you finding the batteries.
posted by pompomtom at 4:51 PM on November 12, 2012

Corkscrew and Benadryl.
posted by fshgrl at 4:51 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Things I've been caught without & vowed never again:

Extra fuses
The knowledge of how to turn the water off (at sink/toilet level & at house level)
The knowledge of how the various pilot lights in my household gas appliances appliances work
A lighter with which to relight aforementioned pilot lights when applicable
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:55 PM on November 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

If you are renting: renter's insurance. If you insure your auto, and your insurer also handles renter's, you get a multi-line discount that makes the added expense pretty small.
posted by nacho fries at 4:57 PM on November 12, 2012 [8 favorites]

Room 641-A: "A spare extension cord."

And not the wimpy kind either. Get the heavy-duty kind.

Extra toiletries for unexpected overnight visitors.

Crazy glue!

For the coming holiday season: extra scotch tape and good scissors. Or a sekrit hiding place for your existing scotch tape and good scissors, if there are other people in the household who like to borrow such things.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:09 PM on November 12, 2012

Ditto the renter's insurance. We didn't have it until our house was broken into, our Mac was stolen, and we went through some (admittedly mild) identity theft issues. Now we have renter's insurance.
posted by starvingartist at 5:11 PM on November 12, 2012

Depending on where you live, snow shovel and rock salt.
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:19 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Plunger is good, very good even, but you also need a toilet augur, especially if you have small kids who flush Aquaman figures and the like. I studied Latin in college, I hear you say, and I have never heard of this Roman eliminatory official, the toilet augur? It's a device that snakes down into the pipes and grabs on to things. Save on plumber visits or on removing a toilet from the floor.
posted by thelonius at 5:23 PM on November 12, 2012 [7 favorites]

Kitchen-wise, a good solid enameled cast iron dutch oven will never, ever go amiss.

White Vinegar. It is good for everything, and what it's not good for, baking soda is good for.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:28 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

One or two of those big blue or gray tarps.
posted by Swisstine at 5:33 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you are just starting your own household, you may not have a good collection of tools yet. I'd invest in one including a hammer, a tape measure, some screwdrivers, pliers (regular and needlenose), a vice grip, a set of allen wrenches, a socket wrench set, a level, a small saw, an electric screwdriver/drill with both kinds of bits, a putty knife, a paintbrush, a pencil, and safety goggles.

Stock it with various kinds of screws, screw sockets for drywall, nails, super glue, Gorilla Glue, some twine, some rope, some wire, some fishing line, and some duct tape.

Also, consider a snow shovel, depending on where you live, and consider keeping the tools and the snow shovel in your trunk instead of in the house if your car is usually accessible when you're home.

Also, as someone who was hit by Hurricane Sandy, I found the following really useful:
Eton Microlink FR150 hand-crank radio/flashlight/cell charger
Homemade denatured alcohol stove (My stove is electric)

Also, consider a hydraulic floor jack for your car. I got one very similar to the one linked after my car fell off its dinky OEM jack when I had to change a flat. It makes changing a tire a lot easier, and this summer it came in enormously handy when a friend had his tire flattened by a fallen tree limb while his car was parked on dirt.
posted by alphanerd at 5:33 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

A few extra pairs of scissors, and at least one spare pair of tweezers (for splinters and picking up tiny things).

A hook for your keys by the door you enter and exit most frequently (and a spare set hung by the other door, if there is one).

A small whiteboard for your freezer door, to keep track of what's in there so you don't have to open it and stare. I freeze homecooked stuff all the time, and this makes it easy to remember that I have eight quarts of soup but no brown rice in the freezer. (Also, in a power outage, it makes it easier to avoid opening if you know there's nothing you need in there.)
posted by catlet at 5:59 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wet/Dri Vac - you can use it for everything from a quick cleanup of a work area, flood cleanup, a leaf blower and an emergency suction to get the toothpaste cap (or aquaman toy) out of sink drain.

Speaking of floods buy yourself some $10 water alarms to put near your washer, behind your toilets and under your sinks.
posted by any major dude at 6:01 PM on November 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Duct tape. I'm not kidding. It'll do you good when you need it and it sucks rocks when you don't have it.

I have two or three of these screwdrivers around the house because they are the best thing whenever I need a screwdriver.

Also a good pair of kitchen scissors cannot be beat and they are lifesavers. I like the ones I linked to, but I've heard that there are others that will do everything but wash the dishes, so there's that.
posted by patheral at 6:05 PM on November 12, 2012

cordless drill
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:07 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding tape measures. The room/curtain/baseboard/distance retractable measuring kind; and the waistband/inseam fabric measuring kind.
posted by peagood at 6:10 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

A proper home for everything above. The only thing more aggravating then not having an item when you need it is not being able to find it. To wit, you don't want to be crashing about a dark corner of the basement during a blackout because someone decided that was the best place to store the flashlights.

Jumper cables and a working spare tire.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 6:30 PM on November 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh and yes theBigRedKittyPurrs is absolutely right - you need to know where everything is! Flashlight should always be returned to the exact same place.
posted by radioamy at 6:41 PM on November 12, 2012

Oh my god, a hot water bottle. One year my christmas stocking had a hot water bottle in it and we all laughed at such a dumb present but let me tell you... that thing is one of the most precious items in my house. It solves so many problems, from aches and pains to warming up your feet on cold winter nights when the heat is broken.
posted by silverstatue at 7:04 PM on November 12, 2012

Save a Tooth -- I was first turned on to this via Metafilter and it's comforting to know that if I do happen to knock out a tooth I can save it and reimplant it using this kit. Might be worth having in your first-aid kit if you have young kids or just especially clumsy individuals in your household.
posted by peacheater at 7:15 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

On flashlights: At least one of the style that plugs into the wall and automatically comes on when the power comes on. I suggest plugging it into the hallway outlet.

Cases of water. It doesn't matter the nature of the emergency water is always useful.

Large, well lit (back lighting is great) house numbers that can be seen from the center of your street. It'll help the pizza delivery guy and also the ambulance speeding to your aid when you break your leg. If you can't see your door from the street mount the number at the street where it ideally won't get blocked by parked cars.

If you take prescription medication pills save out a few days at your next renewal, put them in the old bottle and stick them in your freezer. It'll be a life saver when you accidentally drop the contents of a bottle into the toilet or something on Xmas eve. Check with your doctor but most pills have a shelf life of several years and really will be at least moderately effective for several years after that.

If you wear glasses get a couple pairs (cheap online ones are fine) and keep one pair in your house and another in your car.

If you are a single guy buy a box of sanitary napkins. Not only useful for their designated purpose if a guest needs them but also useful as a field dressing for serious bleeding wound. It'll save one of your towels.
posted by Mitheral at 7:18 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

In my experience the OTC med that is absolutely necessary to have on hand is imodium.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:31 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

One spare roll of toilet paper that is FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY
ditto one spare pad/tampon
ditto, some non-perishables that you don't like enough to eat in a non-emergency
ditto, a rain poncho
ditto, one spare garbage bag at the bottom of the garbage can

A flyswatter. Ugh.
Earplugs. If your neighbours decide to start being noisy at 3 am, you are not going to go buy some.
Scissors. Have LOTS of scissors, socks, and pens. In every room, if neccessary.
posted by windykites at 7:40 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Well, considering that I just spent a week in a house with no power due to Sandy, here's what I suggest: a flashlight kept somewhere so that you can find it in the dark. Actually, a headlamp is even better. Matches. A couple of those sterno fuel containers if you have an electric stove but want to cook when the power goes out. Spare batteries. A flashlight and radio that work by winding them up instead of with batteries. A few candles. Extra blankets. If you have the storage space, then get one of those 5-gallon gas tanks.

Non-emergency: keep cheap toothbrushes, so that if people want to stay over, then have that. Also, it's the most common thing that people forget, so it might be useful even if you have non-last-minute guests.
posted by at 8:07 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ditto immodium and cold meds.

If you wear glasses, a set of those tiny screwdrivers.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 8:11 PM on November 12, 2012

Drawing salve. If you ever get a deep splinter that tweezers can't reach then you will be incredibly glad you have this stuff. It was only $4 but we had to visit 4 convenience stores before we found it in stock; meanwhile my husband had a little piece of wood broken off way deep down in his nail bed and was fairly freaked. By the next morning the salve had sucked it completely out from under his nail. I've used it several times on splinters that weren't nearly so dramatic and it always works like a charm.
posted by gatorae at 8:24 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

I came back to say:

- an icepack. Either buy a freezeable icepack and keep it in your freezer (so it's cold when you need it) or pick up one of those fast-chill shelf-stable icepacks designed to go in a first aid kit. When you sprain your ankle, you'll be mighty glad to have it.

A few weeks ago, I saw the icepack taking up room in our tiny freezer and was tempted to take it out. Then tonight I overdid the weightlifting just a liiiiiittle bit. That icepack is worth every inch of potential ice cream space it takes up.

A heating pad is nice to have, too, but you can readily rig one up by putting a hot wet towel in a ziploc bag, or by putting rice which you will never eat into a clean sock, knotting the top, and zapping it in the microwave.
posted by Elsa at 8:30 PM on November 12, 2012

Hydrogen peroxide for forcing the dog to vomit. You've got a short window in which to do it, often not enough time to drive to the store or the vet (or the vet might be closed). I know way more about this than I should!
posted by HotToddy at 8:49 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by Under the Sea at 9:43 PM on November 12, 2012

Pictures of every room in your house with major contents. Great for identifying items if stolen, verifying for insurance purposes, etc. If you're renting, you should have photos of the place prior to moving in and after moving out and cleaning up. Include current newspaper for date.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:44 PM on November 12, 2012 [8 favorites]

Hey there! I'm on step zero to your step one!

A few days ago, I moved across the country to live in a new city with only the items I could carry on a plane or afford to ship via parcel post/media mail. I moved into my very first empty apartment that is not shared with roommates. While it is minimally furnished, it's in no way fully equipped to live in.

Here are the things I brought with me for immediate practical purposes (not counting clothing and electronics):

A towel
fork, knife, and spoon

Here are the things I brought for personal reasons that really came in handy:

A couple of bowls
Three tea towels
A set of juice glasses
A mug
Two rugs
A warm wool shawl
A wee cut glass salt cellar
A corkscrew

Here are the things I immediately went out and bought after settling on the apartment:

A bathmat
Shower curtain, rings, and rod
Dish liquid
A sponge
Can opener
Three small tupperware containers
A big tumbler and cheesecloth for cold-brewing coffee (wanted a mason jar, didn't see one anywhere, settled on big stupid plastic tumbler)
A small kitchen trash can
Toilet Paper
Paper Towels
A 2-quart saucepan

Here are things I sent parcel post that I was really happy to see when they arrived:

A cast iron dutch oven
Measuring spoons
(There are a million other things I wish I'd shipped myself, but out of the stuff I did, those were the best. Shockingly, I was also more excited to see my shoes than my books. Don't tell anyone, OK?)

Here are things I regret not buying right away:

Duvet/comforter (the shawl and other warm items help, but man, I really miss my big fluffy down comforter)
liquid measuring cup
Pot holders

There's also a long list of things I'd really like that I'm going to buy as soon as I can, but the above list is things I keep kicking myself for not thinking about right off the bat.
posted by Sara C. at 9:51 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Definitely flashlight, but I'm going to vote for an LED headlamp. Half the times I've needed it I've needed both hands to wrangle something.

Needle-nose pliers. Whether its fiddling with small screws in small spaces or pulling lost beads from a 3 year olds nose I just keep finding a use for them.

Graphite lock lubricant. Does wonders for any sticking lock, pretty good at mobilizing anything that you don't want dripping with oil.

A bucket or some similar way of collecting water from leaky plumbing (preferably two so you can switch them out for emptying); 'working' towels to deal with the overflow and other mop-up jobs where a mop can't reach.

A tarpaulin.
posted by N-stoff at 10:23 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

AAA when you are in Bumfuck, Egypt and need that tow.
posted by wcfields at 10:39 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

For when the power goes out--print out the number of your power provider, put account number next to it and tape inside a cabinet door.

I also put things like the non-emergency number for my local police, info of the closest emergency room and a reminder of how to get there, neighbor's number, that kind of thing . . .
posted by dottiechang at 12:48 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

- Hammer
- Screwdrivers (Philips and flat-head)
- Plunger
- Fuses, two of each type
- Crank flashlight, not battery-powered... oh all the battery-powered flashlights that died on me during power outages, with only my tried and true crank one still working beautifully years later...
- Earplugs, yes, especially if you live in an apartment
- Matches
- Candles
- One or more buckets. I have a small bucket and a large bucket. It's surprising how often you use them for unpredictable reasons.
- Nthing learn how to turn off the water to your place. This can also help reduce your need for buckets, though they're still good to have around.
- Extra sponges. They're a bit like buckets in their unpredictable uses.
posted by fraula at 1:31 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

You've got the fire extinguisher, which would be my number one thing to have and hope you'll never need. The next step is to make sure you know how long it'll keep if you never use it. Having a fire extinguisher that doesn't work is just about the worst thing I can imagine if an actual fire broke out. Keep it charged.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:56 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

- candles and matches/lighter
- bucket for collecting water in case of leaks (or large saucepans)
- extra towels for the same reason as above
- superglue
- a stapler can come in handy when trying to temporarily fix things
posted by drunkonthemoon at 1:59 AM on November 13, 2012

Submersible dirty water pump.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:29 AM on November 13, 2012

Every toolkit I have has a set of JB-Weld in it. You can use this to repair almost anything made of metal, if not permanently, then well enough to keep functioning until a permanent repair CAN be made.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:51 AM on November 13, 2012

One of those grippy things for opening stuck twist lids.

And it's direct opposite--a tube of Loctite in your tool box.
posted by anaelith at 6:35 AM on November 13, 2012

On flashlights: At least one of the style that plugs into the wall and automatically comes on when the power comes on. I suggest plugging it into the hallway outlet.
posted by Mitheral at 9:18 PM on November 12 [2 favorites +] [!]

I came back to say this, so I'm seconding it. The ones we have (we have about three) are similar to this one. I like that they work as night lights as well.

On the same note, rechargeable batteries are pretty nifty to have around if you can remember to keep them charged. I have two chargers, one for AA and one for AAA batteries. Because you never know when that thingamawhojit is gonna run out of juice, and fresh batteries are never around when you need them.
posted by patheral at 6:39 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is fantastic. There's just no point marking Best Answer when every answer counts.

What's American for a submersible dirty water pump? For some reason when I google that every single result is in Ireland.
posted by darksasami at 9:28 AM on November 13, 2012

What's American for a submersible dirty water pump? For some reason when I google that every single result is in Ireland.

Is this what you're looking for? I would also search "portable sump pump."
posted by zompus at 9:51 AM on November 13, 2012

A clean plastic basin large enough for use as a sick bucket next to the bed for those times when getting to the bathroom in time just isn't going to happen
Spare corkscrew
Manual tin opener
Rubber gloves
Trickle charger for a car battery
posted by talitha_kumi at 10:10 AM on November 13, 2012

Regarding the manual can opener, if you don't already own one (or even if you do!), buy the OXO one. Extra super cool isn't a phrase typically associated with can openers, but I'm here to tell you, it's the smartest design I've seen yet.
posted by heyho at 10:53 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

One of those long butane lighter thingies, along with some extra butane. (They're almost always refillable, but people treat them like they're disposable.) Mine crapped out this weekend -- same day that the heater stopped working -- and it's really hard to start a fire in the woodstove with regular old matches.

I also have a gas stove, but had PG&E turn off the pilot lights on the stovetop. I can still light the stove manually (with aforementioned lighter), just can't use the automatic start feature. This keeps my house much cooler in the summer, because the pilots give off a good deal of heat.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:02 PM on November 13, 2012

Best answer: So everyone is saying "Get a flashlight, you've gotta have a flashlight!" but no one has said *which* flashlight to get.

This is the one to get. It's only five bucks, shipped, it fits in your hand, it takes 1 AA battery, it goes from spotlight to floodlight or anywhere in between, and does it easy.

And it's brighter than any other flashlight I've ever owned -- I have always carried those big honkin' aluminum barreled three D cell battery flashlights in my pickup, but not any longer; I gave that away.

I've given a bunch of them away and everybody loves to get them, I keep a few of them around to pass out to people, one of the best little five dollar gift that there is.
posted by dancestoblue at 3:26 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is my favorite flashlight. They're $20 around here and there, rather than the $30 it's listed for on Amazon.

It's light weight. It's bright. It's waterproof. It floats. The solar charge lasts a LONG time between uses, and it has a battery for a secondary source of power.

(and now I see that the $30 is for 2 of them.)
posted by small_ruminant at 3:38 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

A big bucket for leaks. Way to light the home if the power goes out (oil lamps).
posted by ifjuly at 6:33 PM on November 13, 2012

A big bag of salt, it is great for sucking liquid stains out of the carpet and it is helpful to have a big bag of the stuff to pile on when needed, rather than trying to use the last quarter of the little plastic container of table salt when you've spilt a bottle of red wine.

Big bulk bags of baking soda are good too, for getting smells out of stuff.

One of those spiky plastic zip cord things for unblocking drains...these come in really handy for those gross big hair/shampoo drain blockages, even if you only end up needing them once a year. Better than pouring a big bottle of nasty chemicals down the drain.
posted by kwes at 8:45 PM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Old towels. Seriously, they might be too ratty to use in the bathroom, but they are lifesavers when it comes to leaks (house, animal and other). Sop up mess, and dump them right in the bin if it's a particularly nasty mess.

The old joke about WD40 to make things go and duct tape to make things stop is pretty on the money, only I'd add zip ties or low-gauge wire as well. There's a surprising amount of my house held together with zip ties, wire and string.
posted by ninazer0 at 12:38 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Smoke and carbon monoxide detector(s).
posted by quiet coyote at 5:53 PM on November 14, 2012

A toilet auger.
posted by Sara C. at 5:55 PM on November 14, 2012

Safety glasses. Often at the avocado slicer end of the scale if they aren't around, you won't know you really should have worn them until it's too late.
posted by yohko at 7:20 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Looks like I'm Nthing many things, but this is what I would have:

plunger - haven't needed it in my current home yet, but has come in useful in many rentals in the past.
spare toilet paper - we have a bathroom in the basement that is almost never used, and the toilet roll down there essentially functions as this.
spare toiletries - not only does it make house-guests feel more at home, but it can be good for emergencies, too. We spent $20 in the travel-sized section of Target for the majority (deodorant, disposable razors, shaving cream, etc), and augmented with things collected from hotels while on business trips (tiny soaps/shampoos/conditioners/lotions, sewing kits, shower caps).
smoke alarms - I think rentals have to have them by law, but when we bought our home, there were none present.
CO2 detectors
- we have a fireplace, and I insisted on getting these when we bought the smoke detectors.
fire extinguisher - haven't picked one up yet, but again, fireplace. Also, kitchen disasters.
kitchen matches or kitchen lighter - for fireplace and pilot light on water heater.
fuses - our house is circuit breakers, but if yours is not, then get some spares.
basic toolkit - I got a nice kit as a wedding present, but I still use my old $20 KMart kit I bought back in college as well (multi-floor home). Everyone says to have flat and philips screwdrivers, and that is a given, but both of my kits came with a number of bits which has come in handy many, many times (Oddly, my cheap kit from college had a bit I needed a month ago that wasn't included in my expensive kit!). Sockets and wrenches are also a must, as is a hammer. A variety of nails and screws is also useful, and a magnetic arm for dropped screws and the like is also useful. Less used but still nice to haves include a drill kit (at the very least, a dremel), and a hot glue gun (with glue sticks!). Safety glasses and mask are cheap and good to have for a variety of things (sanding, drilling through plastic, weedwacking, etc).
a lawnmower and weedwacker - Obviously, only if you have to do lawn maintenance. What you get depends on how much lawn you have.
flashlights - people have said much above about flashlights already...
spare lightbulbs - check all the sockets in your home. Many ceiling fixtures use odd smaller sizes which is annoying when you have to go back to the store 3 times to get the right size (protip: take one with you when you go to the store the first time :/). Either way, it doesn't hurt to have a small supply of them in the event that one goes out.
spare house keys - Where you put these (under a rock, in a keysafe, etc) is up to you, but incredibly useful.
stepladder - for obvious reasons such as changing bulbs or painting a room.
sidewalk salt - better to have it sitting in the basement and not need it than to need it and not have it.
snowshovel - same as above.
hose + spray attachment - useful for much more than just watering your lawn. If you do plan to water your lawn (e.g. with a sprinkler attachment), make sure you have enough hose such that you can reach all the way around your house.
a number of kitchen utensils that you may use one or less times a year - apple corer, potato peeler, garlic crusher, melon-baller, french fry cutter, whatever. Obviously depends on your needs (we use the apple corer and potato peeler much more often than the garlic crusher, for example). Okay, I suppose these aren't necessities, but they are useful items that one doesn't usually think about until they are needed.

Also, you mentioned home accessories, but you should have jumper cables and a gas can in each car. Many people would also advocate having an emergency toolkit, and I don't disagree with that.
posted by mysterpigg at 8:45 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

A soft ice pack. A hot/cold ice bag. Tensor bandage. Ibuprofen.
posted by srboisvert at 3:41 PM on November 15, 2012

Re: House number. If you live somewhere where the houses are very close to each other/touching (e.g.), an easy-to-read, easy-to-find house number on the back so the firefighters/paramedics can find it easily if they have to come that way.

If you lived in Canada, you'd want to make sure you have a set of Robertson (square) screwdrivers, as Robertson screws are very common here.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:13 AM on November 17, 2012

Depending on the genitalia of you and your loved ones, a spare kit of yeast infection medication can mean the difference between a two day and a two week infection.
posted by benzenedream at 8:22 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Kitchen strainer. (Curse you, lumpy roux! (Actually that has a pretty good pirate feel to it... Avast, ye lumpy rouxs and scallywags!))

A pastry brush can usually go in the drawer next to the avocado slicer, but it works a whole lot better than a spoon or a knife for pushing things through the strainer.
posted by anaelith at 2:55 AM on November 19, 2012

I live in a rural area. That means that my water comes out of the ground and goes back into it. I have to have electricity to run the pump to get it out of the ground, and to circulate the hot water heated by the boiler.

So mine includes, along with many of the foregoing

4-5 large TidyCat litter jugs, emptied of litter and filled with water, so that my toilets will flush when the aforementioned pump doesn't work.
2-3 bottles of spring water for drinking, with a hand-operated pump to pump it out when needed
posted by megatherium at 7:39 PM on November 24, 2012

This kind, not the 12-20 oz bottle.
posted by megatherium at 7:43 PM on November 24, 2012

When moving to a new area, I generally don't get around to finding a new GP/primary care physician (and gynecologist) until I really need one. It would be nice to have that set up before you get sick.

Small snow shovel and bag of kitty litter in the car. Ditto ice scraper. AAA membership.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:51 AM on November 25, 2012

I figure a lot of suggestions above can be overcome in a pinch with a Leatherman/Gerber multitool and it's digital counterpart, the smartphone. They might not be the perfect tool for the job, but they're a huge leap above nothing. And unless you're planning on making a living working with tools, they'll cover most of your needs.

In my experience, a sleeping bag is one of those things that will be in short supply when you unexpectedly need one. When we lost power for a week in a December ice storm, the roommate with a sleepingbag for a bed comforter was the warmest and happiest. Amusingly, he didn't know he had it until I pointed it out to him on day two! Walmart, of course was fresh out of sleeping bags. And flashlights, but even cheap prepaid cellphones come with bright LEDs.

With the advent of the microUSB charging standard, a microUSB cable is pretty fucking handy for power and data transfer, and we never have enough of them around the office. I'd willingly trade DVI/VGA cables 10:1 for microUSB. A UPS is certainly one of those things you need to have before you need it. Just make sure you keep the network gear plugged in as well or you'll find out just how exciting PCs were in 1993.
posted by pwnguin at 7:53 PM on November 25, 2012

The one thing I did not have for a long time but came in handiest in the last two years was a chain saw. IF you have a house and trees, you will need a chainsaw. When you do, so will hundreds of others.

I also have a neighbor with whom I sort of share some tools. He works on his cars a lot so has every wrench and car item you can imagine. I have power washer and chain saw and a few other larger type of items (air compressor with nail brad attachment, etc). We often borrow each other's tools. You need to have a good trusting relationship for that though.

Oh, my snow blower rocks! My back thanks me every time I use it.

I would also keep a set of jumper cables in my house or car even if I lived in an apartment. There is always the friend or relative whose battery dies because they left their lights on all day Thanksgiving.

Finally, this may sound silly, but having a supply of toothpicks can come in really handy for both cooking and fixing things around the house. (Screw too loose? Stick a toothpick in hole and rescrew in screw.)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:55 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cheap reading glasses:
Get them from the dollar store and put 3 pair in each room of the house. You'll end up with a 50/50 chance of having a set nearby when you need them.

Fair-quality magnifying glass:
One sliver in a sensitive area + presbyopia = gods, I really really need a magnifying glass.
posted by klarck at 12:07 PM on December 7, 2012

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