What product(s) changed your life?
June 28, 2017 8:45 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in products that will help make my life easier. Hit me!

Recently, I've realized that buying one good product to solve a need is WAY better than trying to make do or piecemeal a solution. Often, they are products I'm not even aware exist. Recent examples include:

-- bug lotion instead of spray. Eliminates getting it in my toddler's mouth.
-- cord tacos to control my unwieldy cord collection.
-- a beach wagon to carry 700 pounds of stuff and a cranky kid, instead of trying to stuff crap in various bags.


Any and all suggestions welcome -- I'm interested in categories like toddler/preschooler, cooking/kitchen, travel, organization, cleaning, wardrobe/fashion/organization of such. But all suggestions welcome.

Bonus points for available to order online and products that do multi-duty or eliminate multiple lesser products.
posted by mrfuga0 to Grab Bag (61 answers total) 127 users marked this as a favorite
Velcro cable straps for keeping earbuds and charging cables wrapped up neatly. They also end up being useful for other odds and ends pretty frequently, and they're very inexpensive.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 8:50 AM on June 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

The nylon mesh sacks that grocery stores use to hold small produce items are the best pot scrubbers in the world. You need to find ones that are pretty thick. The thin ones fall apart, but the thick ones basically last forever, they scrub very well, and they rinse out much more easily than commercial pot scrubbers.

I've seen good ones on garlic and avocados. I'd imagine they might also be used to package up limes, or other small items like that. I've been unable to find them sold online, so I can't find link. But if you shop for groceries you'll come upon them eventually.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 8:54 AM on June 28, 2017 [10 favorites]

Sleep phones legit changed my life. My husband got a pair, after he noted my slumbering bliss. They're great for being a light sleeper or someone whose anxious monkeymind likes to take over when trying to fall asleep, but they really really excel during times of bedridden illness. So many feverish hours too uncomfortable to sleep but too sick to get out of bed and watch TV, listening to soothing podcasts to at least sort of take my mind off my misery.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:02 AM on June 28, 2017 [14 favorites]

Car stereo with Bluetooth. Before a long trip I load up the phone with podcasts. Makes a 10 hour drive go by like nothing.
posted by bondcliff at 9:04 AM on June 28, 2017 [9 favorites]

Cruet for olive oil that lives on the kitchen counter. A second one for high-temperature oil. Makes things go a lot faster when dressing a salad or preparing a cooking surface, which encourages healthy eating.
posted by amtho at 9:13 AM on June 28, 2017 [8 favorites]

This for if your toddler freaks out about getting water in his/her eyes during hair washing. One of my kids didn't need it, but for the one who did, it was worth its weight in gold.

Also, I'll be the first person to say Instant Pot. I love, love, love mine.
posted by FencingGal at 9:13 AM on June 28, 2017 [11 favorites]

On the toddler shower cap, I can't speak to a specific brand. I had mine 35 years ago. So if you want to get one, I'd check out the reviews.
posted by FencingGal at 9:16 AM on June 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

One of these literally makes the best keyring ever. Cheap and unbeatably convenient. You can change up any configuration of sets of keys in a second. Going to 1) your office to 2) get out library books by 3) car? Office keys + library card clip + car keys, sling onto carabiner and go. Not going to office? Unclip office keys. Never carry any more keys than necessary.
posted by idlethink at 9:17 AM on June 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Here are the things that have changed my life and/or can't go back to living without:

1. YNAB for personal finances -- we now plan and know where every dollar is going, this has saved my butt in situations that would have put us into lots of debt previously.

2. Automatic ice maker in the fridge door -- OMG so handy, I didn't realize how much I hated filling ice cube trays until I didn't have to anymore! When we had to buy a new fridge recently, that was my only requirement

3. Programmable thermostat -- once it's dialed in to your preferences and habits, you literally never have to think about it anymore, it's so great.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:18 AM on June 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

Things that have made my life easier:
  • Smartphone. I guess that's pretty obvious, but needs to be said. There are specific apps on my phone that have made my life easier too: a grocery-list app that syncs with my wife's copy; a receipt-scanner app. And so on.
  • A good dishwasher.
  • A nice alarm clock that lets me set an alarm just for weekdays.

posted by adamrice at 9:27 AM on June 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

A vise for your workbench. It's your friend that holds things and never gets tired.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:28 AM on June 28, 2017 [7 favorites]

I love those Command hooks that you can put up and take down without ruining the paint. We have a bunch in the shower for hanging up poufs and letting our swimwear dry after we go to the pool, we have some by the kitchen to hang up our aprons, stuff like that. It's nice to be able to use wall space for storage.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:31 AM on June 28, 2017 [10 favorites]

1. A good, structured, regulation sized clear travel bag for toiletries instead of using a ziploc bag. (Also - having a separate set of toiletries for travel, so it's easy to throw my toiletry bag in my backpack and go. This includes a razor, hairbrush, etc.)

2. Also travel related - packing cubes!

3. Mint.com - hooking it up with all my bank and credit card accounts so I can search across all of my transactions (and turn on their multifactor authentication for your security). Before I did this, I always had to remember what card I used, or if it was a bank transaction, and wade through PDF statements, to find anything.
posted by beyond_pink at 9:33 AM on June 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Nitrile gloves for cooking. Not very expensive (like, $5-$10 for 100) and you can use them when you're chopping garlic (yes, I know about the rubbing on stainless steel trick but it doesn't always work for me) or when handling raw meat, sticky/messy stuff, etc...
posted by mhum at 9:33 AM on June 28, 2017 [6 favorites]

Eero wifi router thingies that set up a mesh wifi network if you have places in your house that have crappy reception.
posted by thursdaystoo at 9:37 AM on June 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

An apple cutter, if you have kids.

The CARES harness was a godsend for flights when our son was young and we already had a car seat where we were going.

And laser hair removal.
posted by Mchelly at 9:37 AM on June 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Having a portable battery for charging my phone while traveling has been nice.

"I love those Command hooks that you can put up and take down without ruining the paint."

They're really great for ruining framed photos as well. They fail so often that, if I wake up at 3:45am hearing crashing glass, I just go back to bed, because I know nobody is breaking in to our house. It's just another picture frame that was hung on (multiple) command strips that didn't work. Seriously, of all the products I've ever used in any category, command strips are the ones I would recommend the absolute least. I would rather stick needles in my eyes than use these again.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:43 AM on June 28, 2017 [7 favorites]

Sock glue has been a life changer - it's great for keeping the little footie socks in place all day, but also good for costume body adhesive needs. It's on the list of things I take with me when I travel and am really sad without.
posted by needlegrrl at 9:44 AM on June 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

OMG SleepPhones. Life-changing.

I also recently discovered Eagle Creek packing cubes. Made my trip so much better!
posted by radioamy at 9:45 AM on June 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

I see someone beat me to it but it cannot be said enough: SLEEP HEADPHONES. They save me all the time.

A few months ago I bought a super plushy memory foam mat for in front of the sink. Doing dishes is never anyone's favorite activity, but I can't tell you how much more pleasant it is when you're not standing on freezing cold tile.

For travel, the trtl pillow is A+. I hate those stupid donut ones, they give me a terrible neck ache, but the trtl pillow is so awesome. I'm also a big fan of Lush shampoo bars for travel, but I know that depends A LOT on your particular hair, so it's not a universal recommendation.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 9:45 AM on June 28, 2017 [6 favorites]

Evernote. It is my external brain and my life would fall apart without it.

My Casio watch. Really simple steel watch with numbers on the dial, and you'd think a watch wouldn't be that big of a deal but it's so much nicer to be able to just glance at your watch for the time rather than mess about with a phone, especially in class or in meetings. Bonus: it makes you look more professional and put together.

Really good knives and something to sharpen them with. I fucking hate cutting onions but borrowing my roommate's super-sharp knives made it slightly less of an ordeal.

A USB battery pack (Anker makes nice ones), preferably enough to charge my phone and my iPad. Especially as a single woman who travels a lot, not worrying about my iPhone dying on me has been huge.

For people who wear makeup: Simple micellar water to cleanse the stuff off, and rose water patted on with a cotton round after. So good, and pretty darn cheap. Also, find a lipstick shade you love (preferably a bright) and that and eyeliner will get you through most days.
posted by Tamanna at 9:49 AM on June 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

Oh one other travel thing: a Turkish towel, like this one. It's a scarf! It's a head covering! It's a towel! It's a picnic blanket! It's a CLEAN airplane blanket! It dries in like half an hour!

Also Bandelettes (only the lace ones, the other ones roll down) for thigh chafing in the summer. I can walk fifteen miles on a 95° day in a sundress and never regret it.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 9:54 AM on June 28, 2017 [10 favorites]

backup camera in the car.
posted by mullacc at 9:54 AM on June 28, 2017 [7 favorites]

One of those little cases that holds my cords, plugins, chargers, and assorted electronics doohickeys. It is satisfying just to look at.
posted by Mr. Justice at 10:00 AM on June 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

posted by humboldt32 at 10:00 AM on June 28, 2017

Apple Cider Vinegar and the knowledge of how to use it. I use it for cleaning, hair conditioner, laundry (natural fabric softener), and about a billion other things.
posted by LinneaJC at 10:02 AM on June 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Plastic microwave food cover and USE it. I rarely have to clean my microwave and when I do I just wipe it abs wash the tray. It's super easy to rinse or wash the cover every once in a while. Life changing. Seriously.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:10 AM on June 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

Buying multiples of things that I will frequently use so that there is always one clean, nearby, and/or ready to go

- 4 kitchen spatulas, all exactly the same
- 5 identical tank tops for layering in black, white, and nude
- 4 half-sheet baking pans (with a lip) for roasting/baking/cooking projects
- dedicated travel toiletries
- scissors in the front of the house and the back of the house
- 4 phone charging cables (work, home, purse, travel bag)
posted by asphericalcow at 10:29 AM on June 28, 2017 [17 favorites]

Packing cubes are a great idea, but if you'd like to save money and get the same effect, 2-gallon Ziploc bags work just as well.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:35 AM on June 28, 2017 [7 favorites]

Two more:

- One of those sticky card holders that sticks to the back of your phone. I always have my license, credit card, and bus pass with me. This is convenient in so many situations - a quick walk, bag-free concerts, gym workouts...

- An electric hot water kettle. I use it for coffee and tea, but also when I'm boiling water for, say, spaghetti. It is a lot quicker and less steamy/hot than boiling water on the stove.
posted by beyond_pink at 10:53 AM on June 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe specific to my needs, but there's a simplehuman slim dish rack that fit perfectly in the narrow space between the sink and the wall in our old apartment. When we bought a house it turned out to be the perfect size to fit between the sink and the wall in our new kitchen. I am happy about that thing every damn day. Their regular rack is enormous.
posted by fedward at 10:59 AM on June 28, 2017

A label maker. I have this one from Brother, but really any machine that takes the same tapes will do. I just love having things labeled (why yes, I am a bit of a freak about organizing things, why do you ask?) and those tapes go through the dishwasher without fading or peeling off, yet leave no residue when you decide to remove them. Brilliant.
posted by DrGail at 11:02 AM on June 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oh, and when we had a tiny kitchen and a non-stainless fridge, having a magnetic paper towel holder was the best
posted by Mchelly at 11:04 AM on June 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Menstrual cups and a Tado thermostat
posted by PardonMyFrench at 11:07 AM on June 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I purchased a set of Envirosax shopping bags years ago. I've gotten loads of use out of them, and plenty of compliments. I just toss them in my purse and I always have a large, sturdy bag if I need one. They even came in handy that one time when my kid got car sick and needed a bag to catch her puke. After she was done, I just gave it a good washing and it was good as new.
The only thing you must do is be disciplined about rolling them back up and stowing them back in your purse or car or wherever you want them when you're done with them.
posted by cleverevans at 11:11 AM on June 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you have a Mac and do stuff with it, Hazel is a game changer.

If you have a PC, do stuff with it, and have a couple of hours to get the hang of it, AutoHotKey is supremely, amazingly, life-changing.

Bluetooth car sound system. Don't know how long your commute is, but having hands free access to audiobooks, podcasts, my music, and my phone while driving has been absolutely life-changing.

Nthing Instant Pot. I can make family dinners (beans, soups, pot roasts, etc) while we're eating dinner so I only have to heat them up to serve. Also, making a pot of greens and beans for my lunch for the week saves me $50 a week in overpriced, boring cafeteria lunches.
posted by bluejayway at 11:28 AM on June 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Wet Ones Antibacterial Hand Wipes. I use that sh*t on everything. Kiddos messes on body and clothes, my sloppy eating accidents on hands and clothes, car dash, steering wheel, and upholstery, living room carpet, you name it.
ExOfficio travel underwear. Comfy and seriously, if you wash them out before you go to bed, they're dry when you get up.
posted by PJMoore at 11:29 AM on June 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

On the topic of Bluetooth audio for cars, this little $15 Streambot is my favorite gadget of the last couple of years. When I got the iPhone 7, it was making me crazy that I couldn't listen to music in the car and charge my phone at the same time. This guy clicks on, automatically connects, and plays music like a champ.
posted by AgentRocket at 11:51 AM on June 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Here's a related previous Ask that might also be helpful.
posted by FireFountain at 12:51 PM on June 28, 2017

Not a product, but along the line of convenience + better quality of life: If you have Chrome, the Curie extension is pretty good. It keeps track of how long you've been sitting, and reminds you to stand up every 30 minutes, and do stretches every couple of cycles. (It's not as annoying/intrusive as it sounds. It's helped me relieve some back pain and aches from sitting at my job!)

Unbranded insulated thermoses are pretty great (can be bought on Amazon). A hot drink calms me down, and it's great to have it be portable.
posted by typify at 2:01 PM on June 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Baking paper and roasting bags for cooking: baking paper can be cut to fit your trays and re-used after a good wipe, and roasting bags are excellent for bulk-cooking. I throw in pre-chopped veges, some meat or tofu, spices, and a dash of oil, cook, and there's practically no clean-up.

A 'lip sleeping mask' gel from Korea which has cured my perpetually chapped lips. How? Witchcraft, I suspect.

The IDoneThis app. Free! Has made me so much more productive!

The stopwatch function on my phone, for interval training/pomodoro technique.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 2:37 PM on June 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Half the reason I hate vegetables is because of chopping. THIS Vidalia Chop Wizard CHANGED MY LIFE.

An entire onion chopped in 30 seconds. Kerchunk. Red, green, orange bell peppers chopped in 30 seconds. Kerchunk. When you're done, throw it in the dishwasher. It even measures - one cup, two cups, etc. Works for other things like bananas, mangos, avocados, etc.

Whatever I don't use up, I stick in a zip lock bag and put in the freezer and use later. In just a few minutes, I have enough chopped veggies to keep me going for quite a long time.
posted by HeyAllie at 4:10 PM on June 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Someone just gave me a Butter Bell and it's amazing. Spreadable butter that hasn't picked up flavors from the fridge!
posted by BibiRose at 4:47 PM on June 28, 2017

I also love the Vidalia Chop Wizard--so easy to use and so easy to clean.
posted by bookmammal at 5:18 PM on June 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

One of these cost me $6 and means I do not have to rummage for my keys, ever.
posted by Gwendoline Mary at 8:13 PM on June 28, 2017

Password manager - it's nice to know I have random, secure passwords for almost everything. I use KeepPass.

Keystroke launcher - basically, lets you open programs / folders / documents from the keyboard instead of faffing about with a mouse. I've used Launchy for years and years and it's free and customizable (tell it which folders and file extensions to search). You can even run it off a USB storage drive if your work won't let you install things. So helpful when my boss has ten minutes and I have a list of questions to run through, I can pull up the files almost instantly.

InstantPot - I mostly use it for cooking meal ingredients (beans, brown rice) and soup, and it's so nice to dump everything in and then wander off indefinitely and come back to food. I hated being chained to the kitchen to make sure things weren't boiling over. The saute function works surprisingly well, I actually fried things with just that when I was in an apartment without a stovetop.

More of a concept, but routinizing clothing. I have to be exacting about what I want once, and then I can buy the same black unders / well-fitting bra / jeans / t-shirt style over and over. Sometimes this is a specific model, sometimes it is a specific store (I have silly good luck buying jeans at a particular Goodwill).
posted by momus_window at 8:14 PM on June 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Evernote and religiously using Google Calendar. I have some degree of ADD and bad memory and I literally wouldn't be able to accomplish 10% of what I do without these tools. With them, I can keep a busy schedule and contacts with hundred of people and almost never slip.
posted by miyabo at 9:05 PM on June 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

MS OneNote 2010. I have several notebooks—thousands of pages of information, including several years worth of genealogy research.

However, I hate the current free version. Especially hate that it cannot be used as a stand-alone program installed locally. So, eventually I'm going to have to find a substitute and then deal with the no doubt difficult process of transferring the material. (Iirc, OneNote can be exported to Evernote. Unfortunately, I don't particularly like Evernote.)
posted by she's not there at 9:36 PM on June 28, 2017

Came back to add heated mattress pad. Get whichever one the Sweethome recommends. So luxurious.
posted by radioamy at 9:53 PM on June 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

I love my beach chair with built in backpack pocket; beach, concerts, picnics, camping, awesome. Baskets and pretty boxes for lazy but attractive organizing. Neither exactly life changing, but nice. My new bed however, so worth it. Good sleep is precious and life changing.
posted by soakimbo at 10:52 PM on June 28, 2017

Battery powered tool sets (IE: Drill + impact + hackzall + flood light + skilsaw + Radio + etc. etc.) Milwaukee (the system I selected) has a couple hundred different tools that all use the same batteries.

Cheap wireless flash controllers like the Yongnuo. Studio level control at no-name kraft dinner price. It's enbled me to do the studio work I always wanted to but could never afford.
posted by Mitheral at 11:08 PM on June 28, 2017

I keep a Sharpie in the kitchen, and whenever I open something perishable, I write the date on the outside of the package. No more finding something in the back of your fridge and wondering how old it is...
posted by yankeefog at 3:25 AM on June 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Those nylon/plastic vegetable sack thingies... throw vegetables/meat in, toss on top of rice in rice cooker, double-duty steamer basket and scrubber.

Kitchen shears and binder clips for those bag-like things, also keep cutting the top down as you use the product so you're not reaching way down into a bag of chips.

Motion activated toilet bowl light. Don't turn on those lights, stumble down the hallway into the bathroom and *poof* there's the bowl. I have the 2nd one propped up under the bed so I can see to get out of the hall and back into bed.

* Lysol/Clorox wipes for the occasional wipedown of remotes, keyboards, toilet seat, phone, whatever.
* Canned Air.
* Recycled squeeze bottles for oil, vinegar, any other saucy thing you mix up.
* Vacuum sealer.
* Metallic Sharpies everywhere.
* Teflon coated aluminum foil to line baking sheets, wipe it down and use over and over for a while.
posted by zengargoyle at 6:58 AM on June 29, 2017

We got a small magnetic whiteboard and put it on the refrigerator. I divided it into columns, headed with the stores that we frequent most (Costco, Trader Joes, Target, etc). We keep a whiteboard marker in the kitchen drawer, and whenever we open the last of something, we write it on the whiteboard. Once or twice a week we take a picture of the whiteboard with our phones. Then, when we're out about town and happen to be near that particular store we can pop in and get whatever is on the shopping list. No more paper notes that get lost or that only one person has in their possession. No more trying to remember what we need but always forgetting one thing. No more calling each other to ask if we've forgotten anything. It really has taken some of the frustration out of the task of shopping.
posted by vignettist at 8:46 AM on June 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

* Refillable k-cups, if you use a Keurig coffee machine -- $10-15, durable (except against garbage disposals), use any coffee and as much coffee as you want.
* Refillable "food pouches" for kids - a bit of a pain to zip some times, but then you hand a little person some yogurt, apple sauce, or anything semi-liquid and know they're more likely to get it in their mouth than everywhere else.
* Stick-um hooks in the closet - so far, so good, none of them have fallen off, despite holding a variety of heavy-ish bags full of things.
* Sturdy "ottoman" storage cube (link to a specific folding type, which I can't personally recommend or dissuade; ours are more like this one, where the lid can flip over and serve as a tray) - our boys each have one storage box, and it's sturdy enough that they can climb in and step on the lids.
* Phone case with rubbery back or edges, so your phone doesn't slip off of smooth surfaces.
* Car with USB ports - charge your phone and play music off of it, or just play a USB thumbdrive full of music

* Note-taking app for shopping - I use Evernote on my phone, and occasionally update it via my computer, but if we wanted to be really fancy, we'd share an account between my phone and my wife's, so we can sync lists for shopping, packing, and anything else. Evernote is only free for two devices on an account, but there are other similar services, or you can pay a bit each month to use more devices.
* TenClips is a great, free Windows Vista-10 clipboard manager, with the bonus feature of stripping formatting from text with a slightly different paste hotkey.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:58 AM on June 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Buckwheat hull pillow. I no longer clench my jaw at night.

Jojoba oil for my face. No more acne or dryness!
posted by Comet Bug at 8:26 PM on June 29, 2017

I don't love chop wizard thingies for chopping onions (too much trouble to clean), but I do love wearing safety glasses when I do. I am super sensitive to onion fumes, and these eliminate that problem. They also fit over my glasses.
posted by FencingGal at 8:57 AM on June 30, 2017

Fitbit, bullet journal (simplified version), teeny pocketknives (get a bunch, once you get in the habit you'll find you use them ten times a day), minivan.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:09 PM on June 30, 2017

Coming back in to say that making use of online services like Netflix and Pandora or Spotify has been so great as it has cut down on the clutter in our lives, which has in turn added a bit of serenity to our mental health.
posted by vignettist at 1:12 PM on July 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

A lacrosse ball, to massage your back. You lean on it, with the ball between you and the wall, and you can modulate position and pressure very finely. I cannot think of a better bang-to-buck ratio in any domain of my life; I am angry that I didn't find out about it ten years ago. IT FEELS SO GOOD.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 5:47 PM on July 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you wear glasses, the Carl Zeiss lens wipes are awesome. You can also use them on any type of lenses or screens.

If you self medicate and take injections, the BD alcohol wipes are a convenient way to sterilize an area.
posted by rippersid at 9:10 PM on July 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

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