What tiny purchases have disproportionately improved your life?
November 1, 2020 4:11 AM   Subscribe

I bought some silicone spatulas recently. It has made me realise that trying to cook everything with that one slightly janky fishslice I has was suboptimal. What small things have you recently bought that have unexpectedly made your life unexpectedly easier? (Please do not limit your responses to kitchen things, these were just examples that came to mind).

I mean, that's basically it. I also got a garlic press and a new microplane grater and both have both made my life much easier.
But I'm thinking more broadly than that. Maybe you bought some magnetic hooks and now your towels don't fall down?

This is not so much clever lifehacks, but more, I spent £7 and suddenly something that was a slight annoyance everyday has gone away. That sort of thing.
posted by Just this guy, y'know to Grab Bag (117 answers total) 207 users marked this as a favorite
We bought an over the sink dish rack for our tiny kitchen and life changer.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:21 AM on November 1, 2020 [14 favorites]

As I mentioned in the tiny fixes MeTa, buying these widgets for corralling charging cables has been extremely worth it. Where is the end of the cable for charging my phone? Exactly where I left it.
posted by zamboni at 4:30 AM on November 1, 2020 [11 favorites]

A scraper thing for grating the dead skin off my feet.

Cushioned insoles.

A headlamp to use when sewing/mending.

A Small spatula to get every last bit out of small or narrow jars.

"Astonish" cookware cleaning paste. You really do find yourself using some synonym of "surprised" every time.
posted by runincircles at 4:44 AM on November 1, 2020 [6 favorites]

I bought these 50 plastic takeout containers in March. They're not the perfect size, but because I have so many, it's no problem to use one for something that I would usually consider "too small to waste a good container on," or to split up big batches of something across 2-3. They nest perfectly and take up almost no space to store at all. They're not great quality but since I have 50, when the rim cracks on one I just toss it. Although I'm conditioned to feel a little guilty about this, I've used way fewer single use plastics (like Ziploc bags), packed my lunch more, and wasted fewer leftovers since getting these.
posted by telegraph at 4:47 AM on November 1, 2020 [18 favorites]

I have a lanyard hanging from the doorknob, ready to clip on today’s mask for my daily walk. That way I don’t have to stuff it in a pocket or carry it in my hand for when I need it. I’ve also used a carabiner clip on my handbag when I walk to the store.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:02 AM on November 1, 2020 [14 favorites]

I bought this thing that I use to put lotion on my back, even that spot in the middle that I can't reach with either hand!
posted by wisekaren at 5:07 AM on November 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

Not relevant if you don't wear belts, but I bought this belt last year to help get me through the metal detectors at my internship last year without having to undress, and I will now never buy any other kind. It opens and rebuckles quickly, doesn't irritate my skin as metal buckles do, doesn't warp like leather can, and is fully adjustable so that it fits perfectly regardless of whatever my stomach is doing on a particular day. Multiple sellers on Amazon carry the same one, so there's always a good price (not that I've needed to replace it yet).
posted by notquitemaryann at 5:13 AM on November 1, 2020 [6 favorites]

A butter dish
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:14 AM on November 1, 2020 [11 favorites]

A magnetic knife holder.
posted by jmfitch at 5:15 AM on November 1, 2020 [11 favorites]

I did pull the elastic band off that's supposed to keep the free end of the belt in place, because I can't be bothered threading it through when my belt loop does perfectly well
posted by notquitemaryann at 5:18 AM on November 1, 2020

Re the butter dish, I use a "butter bell," which you can leave out on the counter and the butter stays fresh but spreadable. There are many, but this is the original.
posted by wisekaren at 5:19 AM on November 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

Seconding carabiners. You can never have too many carabiners. Attach the dog leash to your belt loop. Attach various sets of keys together, or hang a tool off your belt or whatever. It's almost like having a third hand.
posted by rikschell at 5:30 AM on November 1, 2020 [12 favorites]

Good rechargeable batteries and a good charger for them are a fantastic investment in removing obnoxiousness from one's life, especially now that nobody wants to run to the store for just one thing. Eneloop is the battery brand I settled on, with a Panasonic BQ-CC55 charger because someone who sounded like they knew what they were talking about said it was their favorite.
posted by teremala at 5:38 AM on November 1, 2020 [17 favorites]

Tiny little quick-release clips to attach my car and house keys to the main key ring, instead of those annoying cheap split rings. I only ever give my keys to people in weird stressful complicated situations, and this makes those situations a bit less stressful.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:39 AM on November 1, 2020 [8 favorites]

A cheap low-feature MP3 player, like they sell for $30 for exercising with. They have way longer battery life than a phone, so when you're traveling you can have music the whole time without risking draining your phone and getting yourself stranded somewhere.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:41 AM on November 1, 2020 [17 favorites]

A cheap knife sharpener. I've always done it the correct way with a stone and everything, but at some point my brother asked me why. Did I plan to get a medal for virtuous knife sharpening? Are my knives so precious they will go to a museum when I die? Nope and nope. Now my knives are sharper than ever because it's so easy I sharpen them several times a day and you will not believe how much easier food prep gets with very sharp knives.
posted by mumimor at 5:49 AM on November 1, 2020 [53 favorites]

Paper disposable to-go coffee cups with lids and the little cardboard sleeves, like the cups you’d get in a coffee shop. You can buy a large pack on amazon. We used these very regularly before the pandemic- a guest would come over, leave on a Sunday morning and we could offer them a coffee for the road without having to lend them a travel mug we might never get back. Also useful for when you are headed somewhere, want to take a coffee and know you won’t be in a situation where you can easily lug your travel mug home and want something disposable.
posted by slateyness at 6:01 AM on November 1, 2020 [10 favorites]

Also phone chargers. We bought a bunch of spares and have at least one in every room now, essentially. Keeps you from wandering and looking for one when you need it. Some with the 10’ cords so you can charge and still talk without being to tethered to the wall.
posted by slateyness at 6:04 AM on November 1, 2020 [12 favorites]

The Skrapr well, scrapes, doesn't damage kitchen ware, and really helps with clean up.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 6:04 AM on November 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

I got a silicone jar opener as a very weird and unexpected Christmas present about ten years ago and it is awesome. I have reasonably good grip strength to start with but this makes opening even sticky jars trivial.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:04 AM on November 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

These little magnetic knives/box cutters. I’ve got one on the fridge and one in the bedroom, and FINALLY don’t have to try to find the box opening scissors or use my keys or my teeth or something to open a package. They’re tiny but perfect for what they need to do.
posted by itsamermaid at 6:06 AM on November 1, 2020 [6 favorites]

My favorite small purchase ever was a few years back, but still makes me happy: it's a programmable light switch for our porch lights. For years I'd fumbled with my keys in the dark on arriving home, on every winter work day. With this switch, you can input your latitude and longitude and set your lights to turn on at certain intervals from sunrise and sunset. Today being the Day of the Early Sunset in the northlands, it seems a good day to advertise it (my extremely short and keyless commute these days notwithstanding).

Mr. eirias recently bought some nice anti-fatigue mats for the kitchen and they have been helping him avoid back pain when working in the kitchen. This might be too expensive to really qualify as tiny, I'm not sure.
posted by eirias at 6:08 AM on November 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

I had a guitar kicking around for years but never got anywhere with it because I thought it was a given that I needed to develop thick calluses to play. Just putting a capo on the second fret made the guitar immediately %1000 easier to play. As per usual, I was assuming any shortcomings were my own, when in fact the nut slots were too shallow.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:20 AM on November 1, 2020 [12 favorites]

Inexpensive Reading glasses. Buy enough so you have one in each room, car, backpack etc. that you own.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 6:30 AM on November 1, 2020 [17 favorites]

Tripod for my phone/iPad and a clip on ring light have improved my personal video interactions significantly, what with them being the only interactions I have at this point.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:45 AM on November 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

Once travel is a thing again, having a set of toiletries already packed and ready to go in your bag is great.

Are there any frequently used "basics" that need a refresh? I just got more underwear, and it's totally great, vs. holding onto the ratty old underwear. Consider also: towels, silverware, socks, bedding.
posted by ellerhodes at 6:48 AM on November 1, 2020 [7 favorites]

Very inexpensive: spray bottles so I can keep multiple sets of my serious cleaning stuff (I mix hydrogen peroxide, a bit of dawn dish soap, and a couple drops of peppermint oil in a spray bottle.) One lives in the kitchen, one in the bathroom, and one in the litterbox area, so there’s never even the slightest roadblock to quickly blasting the countertops or shower tile or floor around the cat box since it’s right there when I’m right there.
posted by kapers at 6:49 AM on November 1, 2020 [8 favorites]

I've got a bunch of these.

I will never again scrub mold off the rubber shower mat after buying these anti-slip stickers for the tub/shower floor.

A small document scanner has eliminated the stress of piling up paperwork. I have a lot of paper and the scanner is kind of expensive - iPhone scanning apps have gotten very good, and free ones come bundled with Apple Notes and Dropbox.

A Magnet mount for my phone. It comes with a couple powerful magnetized pucks with sticker back to mount to your wall, car dashboard, etc. A small steel plate, also with sticker, sticks to the back of your phone. I hide my plate inside a phone case and it still works, the magnets are very strong. This keeps the phone up an off of horizontal surfaces, but also establishes the One True Place that the phone lives. Hours of my life saved not wandering about the house searching for the phone. Also good for TV remotes.

Same as above but a hook for keys - I'm good using fasteners, and patching holes with plaster and paint, but Command Strip hooks and mounts are so easy it feels like cheating and getting away with it.

I like a few elegant trays/boxes to corral things on counters and desks. These Ikea KUGGIS ones look sleek and modern but are also very cheap. the small one hides a multi-usb charger and small notches cut allow cables to poke out. The top tray holds the battery packs, AirPods case, etc. while charging. A bunch of stuff piled together is depressing and an ongoing project (I'm looking at you, multiplying video game controllers). Same stuff in a tray or basket looks like completion.

A general theme - if you can do it - is nothing is allowed permanent residence on horizontal surfaces. Floors, counters, are all to be completely clear. Furniture, appliances, and the above mentioned trays are allowed, but "stuff" is not.

Once storage for little stuff is up on walls, tucked away in drawers/cabinets, or, if it must stay on a counter or desk, in a neat tray or basket, the whole atmosphere of the room changes. Cleaning and wiping becomes a 15 second thing, not an hour long ordeal of moving electronics and paperwork and feeling like a failure at adulting. Wet mopping can be done with impunity.
posted by sol at 7:00 AM on November 1, 2020 [23 favorites]

Laundry detergent sheets. Easier than pods. Weighs beaucoup less than liquid. Cleans as well as any detergent I have ever used. Comes unscented (or scented if that is your thing).
posted by AugustWest at 7:05 AM on November 1, 2020 [10 favorites]

A new shower head.
No particular brand or style. I just grew up in a house where I never considered getting a new one. Then someone got me one for an apartment about 20 years ago and now I really enjoy having a nice shower head.

Good wool socks.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:06 AM on November 1, 2020 [10 favorites]

I bought a couple of mini-measures on sale for a couple of bucks each at my grocery store. The intent was better control of drink o’clock, but they’re also great for cooking instead of measuring spoons.
posted by cardboard at 7:11 AM on November 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

Binder rings are great for attaching keys to key rings and keeping sets of things like measuring spoons together.

Salux towels work as a washcloth and exfoliator at the same time. Plus they're long enough that you can scrub your own back easily.
posted by DrGail at 7:16 AM on November 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

Multiple sets of earbuds for the car, for the room with the exercise bike, and for the bedroom. In the past, when I only had one pair, I would constantly be running around, looking for them.
posted by alex1965 at 7:20 AM on November 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

Leaf scoops! I always thought they looked so ridiculous, like gigantic plastic novelty baseball gloves for Wolverine, but they continue to surprise me with their scooping capacity.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:22 AM on November 1, 2020 [6 favorites]

I bought a set of four small stainless steel prep bowls - about 250ml each - which have made cooking so much easier. I cook a lot of stir-fries and I also bake, and it's so much easier to do when I can have all the ingredients in their separate bowls in the order they are added to the recipe. (I live by myself so these bowls are the ideal size for me but if you're cooking for a family, perhaps not.)
posted by essexjan at 7:54 AM on November 1, 2020 [6 favorites]

I haven't noticed anyone mention these Velcro cable wraps but they really help keep them organized. It's not just about gathering cables so they're not all spread out over the desk or table, they also help store extra cables (especially if you know the right way to store cables). I also use them for belts when I'm packing luggage, to wrap the power and HDMI cables around the monitor support or for anything I need to keep from getting tangled.

A couple of pro tips: overlap one or more to make a longer length wrap, and don't bother trying to thread the narrow end into the hole on the wide end, I just gather tightly in my fist then spiral wrap away and then back to my hand and it's usually plenty tight.
posted by forthright at 8:02 AM on November 1, 2020 [7 favorites]

This is very niche, but I finally gave in and bought a twin needle for sewing, which makes sewing stretch seams unbelievably easy. I also bought a rotary cutter, and honestly I've cut my sewing time by a 3rd.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:06 AM on November 1, 2020 [12 favorites]

A plastic funnel for the kitchen.

I started bringing a roll of a few napkins and some cutlery for the family on car/road trips so we always have a spoon, fork, etc.
posted by vunder at 8:08 AM on November 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

Magnetic jewelry clasps. Now I actually want to wear necklaces!
posted by humbug at 8:16 AM on November 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

I bought a cheap plastic storage container roughly the size of a 3 quart casserole to be the Home for All Cheese in our refrigerator. It solves a lot of cheese problems we used to have. For instance, someone would buy a new block of cheddar cheese when we already had a half-used one and then if the new one was in a more obvious place it might get used while the old one got older and eventually grew mold. Or I'd buy some interesting kind of cheese my kid wanted to try and we'd all try it and find it was pretty good but then it would get forgotten somewhere in the back of the fridge before we ate it all. Or I'd remember the cheese was there, but have to spend several minutes searching for it, opening up various plastic bags with unknown things in them, before finding it. Not only does the container corral all the cheese into a single obvious place, it also eliminates the need to find a wrapper or container for each opened block of cheese. I thought my family might object to the new system but it has been welcomed by all.
posted by Redstart at 8:20 AM on November 1, 2020 [25 favorites]

Tiny whisks! The bigger one is perfect for scrambling one or two eggs. Actually it's still a bit tiny, 7 inches long, this post reminds me I kind of want a bigger one.
posted by Nelson at 8:21 AM on November 1, 2020 [9 favorites]

I got a dedicated tofu press and now making stirfries , a regular dinner for us, is a much more pleasant process.
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:24 AM on November 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

This jar key allows me to just pop open jars on the first try without having to resort to trying 8 different techniques to get the damn thing open.
posted by corey flood at 8:25 AM on November 1, 2020 [7 favorites]

Ahh! I second scraper thing for grating dead skin off heels.

I don’t know how I managed nearly 30 years without it.
posted by moiraine at 8:36 AM on November 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

In-tub shower mat. Grips my feet when I step into the tub. Reduced my anxiety about slipping in the shower tremendously.
posted by SPrintF at 8:36 AM on November 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

I love wool dryer balls! No more weird Bounce residue on my clothes, keeps sheets from balling up together, scent-free and sucks up pet hair. Apparently they make some now that look like cute animal heads, but mine are white.
posted by matildaben at 8:49 AM on November 1, 2020 [15 favorites]

A silicone baking mat made my life a zillion times easier in terms of baking/roasting cleanup.
posted by thebots at 8:50 AM on November 1, 2020 [11 favorites]

I bought hand towels for my bathroom. (Well, 'hand towel', thanks to back-ordering, but oh well.) It feels much nicer than using my bath towel or a spare washcloth to dry my hands and no lie, it ties the room together. I feel like a grown-up, and it somehow makes my tiny, ugly bathroom just a lot nicer.
posted by kalimac at 8:55 AM on November 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

I bought a cheap 24-pack of white washcloths, individually rolled them and stacked them in an old loaf pan I wasn't using for one-use hand drying in the bathroom. Put a small bin below for people to drop used ones into. Back when we had a lot of people over at the house, it was amazingly well-received, I can't imagine going back to a communal hand towel, especially now.
posted by nanook at 9:04 AM on November 1, 2020 [28 favorites]

This garbage disposal strainer. You drop it in your kitchen sink drain over the disposal. It has gaps big enough for waste you want to go down to the disposal, but prevents cutlery from falling through.
posted by ShooBoo at 9:08 AM on November 1, 2020 [3 favorites]


Space heater for bedroom

Hot water bottle for everyone who might use them

Dedicated sick up basins- at least two so the queasy person can cuddle the spare while the person playing nurse can go clean the used one. Now nobody wonders if the bathroom pail has been used for something nasty and is dubious about using it, and now nobody wants to retire to bed with the pail only to find it is in use for soaking something.

Bulldog clips to hold music on the music stand

Scissors for every room of the house and at least three pairs for the kitchen

Dental floss picks for where ever people eat - a packet at the desk where people bring their snacks. Or dental floss for people that will use that.

Pills containers divided up by day of the week and time of day

Spare dish drainers. We turned out to need four in my household.

Square glass storage jars for powdered milk, cornmeal, curry powder etc. They fit shelves better and have less wasted space, are mouse proof and are easier to tell the contents at a glance. I find mason jars too small and sturdy for this and use lighter, slightly larger than one quart ones. Cooking instructions printed on the packet get cut out and tucked into the jar with the product.

Portable trays for stacks of papers. Those regular stacking trays don't come apart conveniently when you want the contents of the third tray down. I find that the kind of tray you use to serve tea to someone in bed works very well. It has low sides and is heavy duty enough to cope with a big stack.

Extra towel bars or short laundry lines for drying used towels and wash clothes that shouldn't go in the hamper until they are much dryer.

Individual water shut offs to each sink, tub or toilet in the building.

Microwave that does not keep dinging when it is done even though you already opened the door to take whatever you were reheating out.

Outside water bowl for the cat that prefers rainwater to any other fluid.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:13 AM on November 1, 2020 [9 favorites]

Automotive supply places often carry white cotton terry towels, which I use for all manner of grungy cleanup around the house. They've almost entirely supplanted fancy towels, except for skin-contact applications like in the shower.

These are not "display" towels that you hang somewhere visible, they're workhorse towels I use, then toss in the laundry, and then store in a kitchen drawer out of sight until needed. They're cotton, not microfiber, so they're absorbent, scrubby, and I don't feel bad about microplastics, plus they can be composted at the end of their service life (100% cotton versions only). Costco occasionally carries them as well in large bundles.
posted by aramaic at 9:17 AM on November 1, 2020 [7 favorites]

Scissors in every room.

Lens cleaning cloth for eyeglasses near every chair and in the nightstand.

Bin on the front passenger seat in the car for tissues, hand sanitizer, pens, paper, sunglasses... this one was such a game changer! Everything in one place! No reaching/fumbling!
posted by bookmammal at 9:20 AM on November 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

As others have mentioned here, I too have benefitted from a 24 pack of inexpensive white washcloths for basic household cleanup. We run them through the wash and once a month or two I do a soak with bleach.
posted by vunder at 9:24 AM on November 1, 2020

A silicone bottle brush for cleaning tall narrow vases and all those other vessels where the gunk is juuussst out of reach.
posted by The Patron Saint of Spices at 9:28 AM on November 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have long hair, my kindergartner has long hair, and our cat delights in batting hair rubber bands around the house. After finding eleven of them under the couch when I swept one day, I bought a plastic ring to keep them on - it now lives on the hand towel bar in the bathroom and makes our house vastly cleaner and less frustrating. See also the magnet strip I stuck to the wall in the hallway for magnetic hair clips.

I just bought a power strip with USB plugs on it and can't imagine why I didn't do this before.

Installing soaker hoses in the garden (which isn't necessarily SMALL, but I got these for free from a neighbor) has saved me SO MUCH TIME and lowered my water bill.
posted by centrifugal at 9:32 AM on November 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

I moved into a new apartment that has stainless steel hooks in the bathroom that are so slippery my towels flew off every time I tried to use them. So I bought small hair elastics and twisted them over the hooks. Now my towels stay put. This is something I learned from my brother-in-law who had the same problem with his fancy hooks.

Also, a pack of electrical tape in different colors. The kitchen faucet has an itty-bitty symbol that supposedly shows where to put the handle if you want warm water or cold water. I guess it would work if you were under 40 but anybody over 40 cannot clearly see the damn thing. Yesterday I put a bit of blue electrical tape on the bottom of the faucet and a bit of red electrical tape on the side of the faucet as a visual reminder for myself and guests. I also have a red colored star next to the stop button on my microwave and a green star next to the start button, which makes it much easier for me to use the microwave. Those two buttons are right next to each other and look almost identical.

Ditto when it comes to silicon or other jar openers. Super useful for some of us and not expensive usually.
posted by Bella Donna at 9:45 AM on November 1, 2020 [7 favorites]

Furikake powder.

And recognizing that zip ties are almost free and can be treated as disposable with less environmental impact than most items from the grocery store.
posted by eotvos at 9:45 AM on November 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

I live in a shared old house in which everything is outdated. In any group of lazy and immature people like ourselves, there will be passive aggressive conflict over putting a new roll of toilet paper on the old, springy, fussy to adjust holder. With a new pivoting holder more or less like this, one no longer has to deal with the springy pull out thing and because this is easier, passive aggressive failure to put in a new roll declines dramatically.

We also switched from our old, rubber-coated-metal shower caddy to an aluminum one like this - they seem to exist at slightly lower to much higher price points - and it's great! It doesn't rust! It's better-designed! It doesn't look depressing!

Some little shelves for our pantry shelves - pantry is better organized and looks less grim.
posted by Frowner at 9:46 AM on November 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

A drain weasel for removing hair/soap clogs from the shower drain. Dead easy to use, and it’s weirdly satisfying to see the disgusting masses you unearth.
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:50 AM on November 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

Also, I love my cast iron skillets. A regular sized one and a wee one.
posted by vunder at 9:58 AM on November 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

Dental floss picks got me to floss every day where decades of nagging by dentists failed - apparently for me the stumbling block was that floss required two hands and thus my full attention, while a floss pick can be used with one hand while I read or use the computer.
posted by Daily Alice at 10:06 AM on November 1, 2020 [11 favorites]

A set of white stoneware ramekins for the kitchen. You can get them at the dollar store. I'm surprised by how often I use them. I'll put a serving of dessert in them, or a snack, and I am certain that I eat smaller servings of either than when I used to put them in a cereal bowl. They also go with my everyday set of white stoneware tableware.

Having just the right containers for things is in general a huge help in keeping things orderly and accessible. My bedside night stand top drawer always holds a few notebooks, a few books, a box of tissues, and my older pair of eyeglasses in their case, plus a lot of useful odds and ends that would rattle around loose: pens, post-it notes, bookmarks, cough drops, a calculator, a tiny bottle of hand lotion, lip balm. After making a protracted and futile effort to organize that damn drawer in a way that kept those things tidy and easy to grab, I added a small plastic dollar store tray to the drawer. Now those little things stay neatly in the tray and are easy to access.

I have so many containers in my house that came from either the dollar store or a thrift shop and so were inexpensive, and yet serve their purpose so well and even in style. I use an Irish coffee glass to hold my toothbrush, toothpaste, and rubber tip tool. I use two quaint little lily pad painted boxes to hold my cotton swabs and cotton balls. I use a cut glass vase to hold my knitting needles. Sometimes I'll make my own containers. This year, I have made a little red satin-lined velvet bag to hold my set of checkers, and a brown jacquard folder to hold my receipts. I made the bag and the folder out of fabrics I had lying around left over from other projects, so they effectively cost me nothing. Having the perfect containers for things makes staying organized easy, and even a pleasure.
posted by orange swan at 10:11 AM on November 1, 2020 [9 favorites]

We have the Tile RFID finder and app on our keys and wallets and I can’t tell you how many times that has saved us.

We are soon to get the stick-on version for our remote controls.
posted by slateyness at 10:24 AM on November 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

I switched out my bedroom lightbulb for the highest wattage one I could find. Has made such a difference in my life (esp as I now spend 90% of my day in here).
posted by Gin and Broadband at 10:45 AM on November 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

A set of metal chip clips with strong jaws and springs (no link, they were a gift and I don’t know where he got them). So much better than the flimsy plastic ones that break if you look at them funny.
posted by liet at 10:48 AM on November 1, 2020

Lots of measuring tools in the kitchen: a scale, three sets of measuring spoons and cups and four Pyrex liquid measures. I never have to stop the dishwasher to get one out or wash something quick to reuse it.
posted by rebeccabeagle at 10:56 AM on November 1, 2020 [7 favorites]


Tiny decorating hooks for holding masks and keys next to the door so they're easily accessible when leaving the house or answering the door
Waterproof bathroom hooks for hanging my loofah in the shower so it doesn't constantly fall off the shower knob
General purpose hooks for creating a makeshift coat rack on the side of my entryway bookshelf and holding scarves in my closet
Metallic hooks for hanging robes and towels on the back of my bathroom door
posted by A Blue Moon at 11:01 AM on November 1, 2020 [9 favorites]

Muji makes nail clippers that are just...great? It never occurred to me that this would make a difference in my daily life until I borrowed some of these and realized a whole new dimension of nail clipping ease.

Muji also makes some really excellent pens - truly a joy to use.

I bought this budget/super easy to use Accusharp knife sharpener based on a review from Cool Tools (note Cool Tools is totally chock full of great suggestions for this thread) and it works great. Worth noting, I don't have fancy kitchen knives and almost certainly would never put in the effort to keep them "properly" sharpened. In the comments someone recommends a slightly more upscale Wusthoff knife sharpener that's sort of the same general deal.

Now that it's sweater season where I am, a sweater pill remover sparks joy for me.

Since we are spending a lot more time at home watching TV/movies we'll spring for a month of a new-to-us streaming subscription to mix things up a bit: BritBox, HBO Max, Mubi, Criterion Channel, et cet.
posted by forkisbetter at 11:30 AM on November 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

I’ve found ScrapeRite’s plastic razor blades to be super handy. Among other uses:
• You can use them to remove stickers and price tags from products without scratching them.
• You can use them as a pry tool to take out batteries from devices and to remove tamper-evident seals from vitamin bottles without chipping your manicure.
• And they don’t raise any eyebrows at TSA checkpoints or the like.

CoolTools also has a pretty good write up about ScrapeRite blades, but just as a heads-up, the link in CoolTools’ post doesn’t work anymore.
posted by Handcoding at 11:39 AM on November 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

Long mobile phone charging cables so I can sit on the sofa comfortably and have my phone charging and not be awkwardly perched on the end trying to get close enough to the socket.
posted by penguin pie at 12:17 PM on November 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

Zip up sweater with pockets. I am a Mr. Rogers who loves inside clothes, and especially in the covid-19 era, comfy but could work for a video conference meeting, a zip sweater with hand pockets is perfect. It completely covers up whatever random tshirt I'm wearing (currently a silly one that has a pigeon with text underneath reading 'Stay Coo'), the shallow pocket lets me discreetly collect my wadded up facial tissue, and it is as comfortable as a hoodie. I used to only focus on getting pants and skirts and dresses with pockets, but having a sweater with pockets is fabulous. Please note, the pocket will probably be too small for a mobile phone unless you have a Nokia circa 2001.
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:19 PM on November 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

I really like reading with magnetic bookmarks.
posted by Leontine at 12:19 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

1. Headlamps are too cheap and too small now days to *NOT* be purchased. They are the solution to fixing things under the sink, finding your keys in a parking lot at night, and otherwise - always useful. Given that they now use LEDs and can run off of 2 AAAs - having one in a backpack or a purse is wicked easy. Having one in your glove compartment - just as easy. If you are a camper or backpacker - having an outdoor one is awesome.

2. Have a variety of spatulas and equipment, but I'll focus on my most specialized.
2a. I use two silicone chef'n double-sided switchits for a bunch of tasks.
2b. My personal favorite is an inox rostfrei flexible plastic spatula from like 22 years ago (I picked it up from itchens Etc. in Fresh Pond back before they went out of business). I can find no equal to it. it is rigid enough to lift heavy items, thin enough to slide under most things, and flexible enough to bend in ways you wouldn't expect. It has a slight melt on one side from improper usage , but it is so utterly flawless that I cannot find its equal. Sadly, I can't find anything that even remotely looks like it.
2c. Oxo's flexible metal spatula. This is not used for cutting things in pans or dishes, this is used to get up and under things.
2d. A fish spatula - which is hard, but bends slightly - perfect for fish, crab cakes and anything that needs to be delicately moved in a pan.

3. The wand. those mixing wands are pretty awesome. Find one that lasts and holds up. Don't spend a ton of money on it because you will eventually burn out the motor or strip the plastic threads. Likewise, the cheap ones suck and won't mix worth a damn, but - if you can find a solid mid grade with some heft and some settings - I use mine probably every week in making sauces and soups and what have you.

4. A dedicated egg pan - that *never* is used for anything else. This is a hand wash only item. It never goes in the dishwasher. It lives on the stove because the surface needs to be kept from being marred in any way. I never use metal on it - this is where rubber / plastic spatulas come into play.

5. A tray for the coffee table. Having a coffee table is nice. Having a tray to put all the crap that accumulates in it is handy for when you need to quickly swap its utility. It also gives you a place where stuff can live and be found.
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:28 PM on November 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

Goo-Gone! The stuff is magical for removing price stickers and other adhesive goo.
posted by wisekaren at 12:29 PM on November 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

Someone gave us a Swedish dishcloth and they are excellent. I don’t use them to wash dishes; I use them in place of paper towels because they’re so absorbent. (We still use the occasional paper towel, but way fewer.) They are eco-friendly, work very well, and are super cute.

Other things: I bought a set of inexpensive dish pans and put three under the kitchen sink: one is where dirty dishcloths and tea towels go until there are enough to make a load of laundry, another holds our lidded compost bin (which fills up quickly), and another holds extra dish soap, new sponges, scrubbies. Now, to empty the bin I just carry the whole dishpan outside, and that way if any compost spills out, it’s not on the bottom of the cabinet or on the floor as I am walking to the door.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:39 PM on November 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

Three kitchen things. Y-handle peeler, microplane grater, spreader. About the spreader: a device designed to be a spreader works a lot better than a table knife for icing a cake. A pro will recommend one with an offset (bent) handle.

Walmart sells microfiber cloths in the automotive dept. They are excellent for windows, computer screens, even eyeglasses.
posted by SemiSalt at 12:58 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

  1. Lodge Pan Scrapers are a buck per, and great for the cast iron but also any dirty dish that needs a bit of leverage. I found out about them from Cool Tools.
  2. A timer switch for the bathroom fan, so I can set it to run for 20 minutes after I get out of the shower.

posted by revgeorge at 1:42 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I bought two different types of sensor light bulbs- one type that turns on when it gets dark- which goes in the lamp next to my front door. Another type that is motion activated that goes to the light at the bottom of the stairs I use to get to the landing before the door to the basement. The switch for that light is also at the bottom of the stairs, but now as soon as I start walking down the stairs the light magically goes on. Both of these make me really happy.
posted by momochan at 1:42 PM on November 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

I replaced my showerhead with an inexpensive hand-held one (one of these) to make showering easier when I was recovering from ankle surgery and couldn't move around much, and now that I'm mostly recovered I still love it and can't believe I ever showered without it. It's SO much easier to rinse my hair, my back, and my underbits; I can spray down the walls and the back of the tub after I've re-dyed my hair and they're splattered with purple water; and the massage setting is surprisingly good and nice on my constantly-tense shoulders.

I used to keep a microfiber cloth next to every sitting space in my home for glasses-cleaning. Because pandemic, I switched to a 200-pack of disposable lens wipes, which live on the entryway table next to the hand sanitizer and clean masks, and I also have a few at each sitting space.

An entryway table. :) Keys, wallet, and work badge (when I went into the office and needed it) live in a bowl for easy access on the way out the door (or easy-to-grab ID for when deliverypeople bring booze and need to check it), and the hand sanitizer, eyeglass wipes, and clean masks are right there to remind us on the way in and out.

Little baskets like this make keeping things organized on my nightstand and end table a lot easier, and a lot harder to knock off. And it looks a lot nicer, too! Similarly, clear plastic organizers for my medicine/makeup cabinet, makes things much easier to find and harder to lose sight of and accidentally buy duplicates of.

+1 to the large pack of reusable-but-disposable deli containers with lids, though I prefer the round version since I'm often storing soups, broths, dips, etc. I have two sizes, the lids are interchangeable.
posted by rhiannonstone at 2:04 PM on November 1, 2020

Our fridge has a bottom freezer drawer that we organized with a color-coded set of nylon bags. SO much less aggravating now, and unlike other organizing systems, still just as space-efficient as the chaotic pile we had before. (Our categories: red = red meat, pink = chicken, purple = pork and other meat, blue = seafood, green = veg, black = liquids, plus a big ziploc for nuts. Everything else lives outside of bags, but is easy to find once all that is corralled.)
posted by daisyace at 2:19 PM on November 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

A scalp scrubber for washing hair (e.g. this).
posted by airmail at 2:25 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I bought a bunch of thin, flexible cutting board things at Ikea that seemed at first like my usual ridiculous Ikea purchase, but then I figured out all the ways that they're great. I put a big thick cutting board on a folded terry towel to keep it from sliding around on the counter, and I put an Ikea board on top of that. I wash the thick board infrequently because it stays clean, since I'm always working on one of the Ikea "liner" boards. You can cut up a bunch of onions, then use the cutting board to transport them to the pan in one dump, roll out pie crust (very handy: you turn the board a half turn every couple of passes so that you end up with a roughly circular pie crust--and it flours well because it has a rough surface. And you can pick up the whole board to transport the crust to the pie), do many different messy jobs in a row and grab a fresh board for each one so there's no cross contamination. They're thin, so multitudes of them can go in the dishwasher together, and I'm never out of them because I bought six of them by mistake. I thought I was getting three, but they come two to a package.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:45 PM on November 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

PegBoard for the garage, you can hang up all sorts of things, and they hang right in your face--screwdrivers, wrenches, tools, brooms, snow brushes, tape, scissors--anything you want. Got rid of the tool box, and can now find everything...at a glance.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 3:12 PM on November 1, 2020

Not exactly a tiny purchase, but this drinking fountain is super cute and my cat is drinking a lot more water now.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:24 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Small dots of Sugru on my Hario hand-grinder so it doesn't spin in my grip when I am grinding coffee. I can hold it more loosely now and thus more comfortably.

Small dots of Sugru on the top of USB cables so I know which way is up.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:04 PM on November 1, 2020 [7 favorites]

No-buckle belts! You attach them with snap-fastenings to your trousers, adjust to desired tightness, and then completely forget about them until you take them off for the wash. No hanging ends or buckle lump, and they make my trousers vastly more flattering. I've been causing a revolution among my relatives with these, after seeing me wear them I had many requests for them as Christmas presents last year.
posted by Cheerwell Maker at 5:05 PM on November 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

A large pack of microfiber towels. We're using way way less paper towels since we have 48 microfiber towels that are super absorbent. Great for spills, wiping counters, washing cars, potty training cleanup, cleaning glass/mirrors, in place of kitchen towels (unless people come over then the nicer towels get put out).
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 5:14 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I keep a magnifying glass in my office and find myself using it surprisingly often. My iPhone has a magnifier function but having the physical object makes me feel more like a crime-solver.

As mentioned above, Cool Tools has a huge repository of little purchases that are extremely handy/useful. A really good mix of hobby-specific and a lot of general tools.
posted by Twicketface at 5:17 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Nonstick pans and a microwave.

I grew up in a hippie household where both were verboten.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 5:20 PM on November 1, 2020

I got a set of different-sized stretchy silicone lids that fit most containers (including square ones) and have completely replaced cling-film for me.

Also, a little bendy plastic scraper for getting the very last bits of batter out of the mixing bowl when I make cakes.
posted by Fuchsoid at 5:28 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Immersion blender.
posted by slateyness at 5:59 PM on November 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

Back scrubber; it feels great.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock at 6:11 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

For years, I had a laundry hamper with a broken wheel. It's only 10 feet from the washer, so I didn't replace it, because I thought it shouldn't bug me. I spent $30 to replace it and it made me much happier.

General lesson: If something annoys you, consider replacing or upgrading it, even if it seems too trivial to worry about. If it is actually annoying you, it's by definition worth worrying about.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:22 PM on November 1, 2020 [8 favorites]

The birdy box cutter is cute and handy, and we use it all the time.
posted by wintersweet at 7:29 PM on November 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

Right angle phone charger cables! And chargers in the rooms you spend the most time in.

A sinus rinse bottle (and packets), especially if have bad allergies or sinuses. I have tried everything for my allergies but the only thing that's consistently worked is a rinse every morning. If I start feeling congested I'll do every night too to prevent colds.
posted by mellophone at 8:48 PM on November 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

Lots of plastic clips to seal up bags of snacks, pasta, dried fruit, veggies, flour and so on.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 3:23 AM on November 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

A ratchet pepper grinder like this. You get so much more pepper with so much less effort. I use a lot of pepper so this discovery was great for me.

Also this credit card clip that sticks securely to the back of my phone. Wow! Now whereever I go I only have to keep track of my phone, not a phone and a wallet (I use another NiteIze type of clip and clip my keys to my belt loop so I don't have to worry about them either). I used to misplace everything all the time, now hardly ever. Thats HUGE!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 5:49 AM on November 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Ratcheting screwdriver!
posted by mosst at 6:06 AM on November 2, 2020 [4 favorites]

This adjustable laptop stand has been a game changer. Finally I can adjust my keyboard and screen angles such that I can both see and type without hunching forward. Combined with a generic back support pillow for my office chair and this foot cushion, I am much more comfortable these days working at my decidedly non-ergonomic folding table. And it makes it easier to get a decent camera angle for Zoom meetings.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:36 AM on November 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

I just bought a little tiny shoulder pouch for my phone, I use it when I'm hanging out around the house wearing cozy clothes that don't have pockets.

I use a carabiner for my keys so I can clip them to things easily and swap in and out keys I only need temporarily or need to give to someone else.

I keep binder clips, yes the ordinary black office clips, in the kitchen to close bags of cereal etc, they work much better than the more expensive clips sold specially for kitchen use, and I can stick them to a magnet on the fridge for storage.
posted by yohko at 12:20 PM on November 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

All mine have been obvious to other people for a long time. This year: just bought a new car after the last one decided it needed too much money to make it to its 20th birthday. My first automatic transmission ever (and I'm 50). Turns out that's pretty nice in stop and go traffic. Also my first experience with not having to even take my key out of my pocket to unlock the doors and start the car. Recommend.

Previous recent years' WTF-was-wrong-with-me discoveries:
Styptic pencils
posted by ctmf at 6:07 PM on November 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

This neat little thing that sticks on the back of my iphone and pops out so I can hold my phone between two fingers. Game changer.
posted by sundrop at 6:36 PM on November 2, 2020

Handkerchiefs: more useful than you'd think! Good for small messes, wrapping up small items to not lose them, padding on your hand if you have to carry a heavy bag with an inadequate handle, and so on. You can buy or make them, doesn't matter. Get a bandanna and you've also got a backup mask.

Safety razor: man, fuck any other kind of razor. These are a good close shave with no bumps and the blades are like $5 a dozen.

These specific containers in the "mini" size. Preserve round Mini. Cheap, genuinely leakproof even if it's upsidedown and on its edge, light, good portion sizes. Generally I'm all about the mason jar lifestyle but these are just great and have replaced ziploc bags for me.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:42 PM on November 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

Serene Empress Dork is exactly right about the kitty drinking fountain. The non-opposable-thumb member of my household loves it; his is this one. And honestly? Feeling like I'm helping to protect my little pal's kidneys is one of the very few marks on the plus side of the ledger for 2020. I know he's drinking from it because occasionally I have to pull hair from the motor; even in a WFH situation in close quarters, I never see him drink.

There's also the ToiletShroom Toilet Plunger. It fits right into the toilet drain at a low angle. Push and pull a couple of times, and soon you'll hear the happy sound of the water level in the toilet dropping instead of rising as the clog is cleared out.

Another fan of this plunger sagely points out: "For some inexplicable reason, toilet plungers are almost always perfectly round, and the drain at the bottom of the toilet is almost never perfectly round." The ToiletShroom, on the other hand, is designed to work with toilets as we know them, and its consistently excellent performance reflects this fact.
posted by virago at 9:17 PM on November 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Adding to the "silicone makes everything easier" chorus, I have a microwave-safe silicone cake pan that I use to make egg white frittatas. Egg whites are such a pain to clean up on any other surface, but it's a breeze with the silicone pan as long as I wash it with hot water.
posted by creepygirl at 9:28 PM on November 2, 2020

I got a few silicone microwave egg-poaching cups (like these) and they fucking rule.

Sprinkle with water and 41 seconds in the microwave, and then I have a lovely, warm egg on top of my bagel & ham & cheese every morning. They flip inside out so cleaning is simple. (Directions suggest spraying the cups with cooking spray before you put in the egg & water but I don't bother.)

Mine were a gimme, from a company called Mockins that sells on Amazon; just buy whatever, it's only silicone.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:55 AM on November 3, 2020

One more thing: a salad spinner, if you don't already have one. I don't just spin salads and herbs in it. I spin mushrooms I have washed, I spin cucumbers I have salted and potatoes I have soaked to drain out the starch. In an apartment, you might think it takes up too much space (I did), but it is so useful.
When I buy fresh herbs in big bundles, I wash them right away, using the bowl from the spinner to soak them several times to make sure they are clean. Then I spin them and put them in bags or containers, and they keep for far longer than if I just keep them as bought or if I wash them and dry them on towels as I did before. If you do this once a week, you don't need to bother with rinsing herbs during the week and all of your food benefits of fresh fragrant herbs.
My salad spinner cost the equivalent of 2 dollars.
posted by mumimor at 4:11 PM on November 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

ugh how did I miss this thread? Has anyone said car seat hooks yet? You guys. These were useful before COVID. Now that I need to keep masks in the car for me and the kids, they're indispensable.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:35 PM on November 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

Having many sets of measuring cups and spoons, and leaving the right size in the container. For example, I can leave a1/2 tsp measure in the cinnamon, or a1 C measure in the flour. Saves time looking for measures and washing them in between uses.
posted by Frenchy67 at 11:15 AM on November 9, 2020 [6 favorites]

I bought a cheap little rubber-band macro lens for my phone. It works! I can take photos of tiny spiders now! It has already given me more than £6 of joy, in just a few days.

I have long charging cables permanently plugged in everywhere I'm likely to want them, in different colours so that I don't try to charge the iPad from something lacking the necessary oomph.

I'm another of the scissors-everywhere people. There are probably about twenty pairs scattered through my two-bedroom-one-reception-room house. I've also got multiple tape measures and multiple black Sharpies. It's oddly pleasing to always have the thing you need right there to hand.

These clip-on loops for hanging tea towels, or something very like them, are my solution to the "towels fall off hooks" problem. They go with kitchen-cabinet over-door hooks, like these.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 7:43 AM on November 11, 2020 [5 favorites]

This Christmas, I gave myself a 1/2 sheet pan, after seeing how American food writers love them. They not easy to get here, so I jumped when our local supermarket had them for the equivalent of 5-6 dollars. And now, a couple of weeks later, I must say I'm impressed by how much it improves my kitchen workflow. It has been in use almost daily. I just used for grilling bell peppers under the broiler. I've used it for Welsh rabbits and other forms of grilled sandwiches. I've used it for a little batch of cookies. Till now, I've not had to clean it except when I unpacked it, I just put a piece of baking paper on top of it, and I reuse that baking paper more than twice, but if I want to clean it, that is easy too, compared with the full size sheet that comes with the oven. It's so easy to handle with one hand.
posted by mumimor at 8:51 AM on January 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Are we doing sex things in this thread too?

Get a Magic Wand-style vibrator. Cheap to find on Amazon or eBay, and provides hours of fun for you/a partner.
posted by osmond_nash at 4:20 AM on July 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

hours of fun

Warning: repeated overuse may cause damage.
posted by aniola at 8:51 PM on July 18, 2021

I figured out that you can have a separate checking account with the same credit union. So I can budget how much I want to donate and put that into the separate checking account. And then I can donate any time I want to donate without having to worry about whether or not I can afford it, because I already did the math for that!
posted by aniola at 8:55 PM on July 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

A plastic racquet for electrifying mosquitoes. A must for those 3am hunts around the bedroom. 5 euros, kills even gnats and flying biting things you can’t see with a satisfying ZAP, folowed by that burnt-insect smell. Stop itching, start winning!
posted by scrm at 1:58 AM on July 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Well I'm seeing this post way late, but I'm finding so many great ideas!!

runincircles, you mention a small spatula for getting the last bits out of jars? Let me introduce you to the most Dutch invention ever: the flessenlikker (bottle-licker). Duckduckgo-image-search it. It's genius.

If you like sprouts and you've fiddled with mason jars and discovered they don't actually work well as spouters even if you buy those specialised lids, check out the Easy Sprout. I have tried every sprouting apparatus in existence and this one is the one.

Another brilliant Dutch invention, perfect for taking to any outdoor gathering, Dopper water bottles. They open in two places, so you can have a small drinking opening, or open at the widest part of the bottle for easy cleaning. And the two-part lid is shaped like a little goblet so if someone brought a beverage to share you've got your own elegant non-disposable cup to use.
posted by antinomia at 1:59 AM on August 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

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