So this year was – well, it was a decade long. And nothing went as we had planned, for better or for worse. Meaning that I didn’t get to do my annual gift guides this year. So I thought I’d share with you all the things I bought and loved this year. Things to buy that made my life a little easier, more joyful, more comfortable and helped us survive the longest year ever.
All of these things would be perfect little gifts to yourself as a reward for surviving the year… just putting that out there…
Because of other health issues, we have spent almost the entirety of this year in self-quarantine. At home. And it’s not like we went out a ton before all this, but we did enjoy being served a nice cocktail or meal, an afternoon in a coffee shop, a live performance, shopping for our own groceries, or a sidewalk weekend brunch. So this first group of things were purchased only as a remedy to our new lives here at home, because of quarantine. And they helped, truly. But I cannot wait to re-join society in some small way, hopefully, sooner rather than later.
Things to Take Care of Each Other
One of the things I bought at the beginning of all this mess was a simple digital thermometer, and a fingertip pulse ox. Peace of mind for less than $40.
Things to Take Care of Others
Making regular donations to organizations out there doing the work we can’t was not only a necessary action this year, but a balm in some small way. We shared as much as we could throughout the year, and hope to do so much more next year.
Things to Support Farms
I like to keep a bundle of fresh eucalyptus in the shower, mostly because B likes the smell of it, but also because it adds a bit of softness to a room with a lot of hard surfaces. And I would usually just grab one at whatever fancy grocery store I had popped into when running errands. Alas, not this year. So this monthly delivery of a wonderfully fragrant bundle of fresh branches has been lovely. And I like that it’s farm direct.
Things to Open a Patio Cafe
Yes, outdoor dining in actual restaurants is a thing that is still occurring here in Florida. But I do not trust other Floridians. So I found a small enough table to fit our back patio, where we could fit a full meal and still move around. It’s perfect for a weekend coffee, an afternoon cocktail, or even a quick lunch, or takeout dinner. It’s where we celebrated Thanksgiving and has been a wonderful expansion to our home. And it’s held up really well in the FL conditions!
Things to Watch Birds
If you had told me this time last year, that we would become intimate with the fauna living in our backyard over the course of a year I would have laughed in your face. But it has been such a pleasure to build a place for the birds, bees, and butterflies to stop for a minute and let us watch their shenanigans. This little fountain is great, even in the shade, and the birdbath itself has withstood paranoid squirrels, jerk Blue Jays, and even a random neighborhood cat or two. We can both see it from our desks and it’s brought a lot of joy.
Things to Become Baristas
I didn’t realize how much I would miss a properly prepared coffee. One of the last dates B and I had before the lockdown was an afternoon at EPCOT, partially spent at the Italy pavilion with an Aperol followed by a lovely little espresso. It seems like a lifetime ago. Anyway, during a rather low point this summer, after watching a bunch of YouTube videos, we ordered this tiny little machine to be able to make our own coffees here at the house. And I tell, you, I teared up a little when I tasted the first cup. Because it tasted like a time gone by.
Almost everything I bought this year made me feel good because that’s how retail therapy works. But this category of things to buy made me feel good for a long time, not just an instant, and are the things I keep coming back to over and over again to soothe no matter what the day has brought me.
Elastic Smart Watch Bands
I started wearing an Apple Watch this year after B upgraded, and I took his old one. The plastic or metal bands available were so uncomfortable and itchy or came undone, and I really wasn’t wearing it because it was so damn annoying. But then I found these, and OMG, what a change. They come in hundreds of color options. I adore how soft these are, they don’t irritate, and you can get them custom sized to fit perfectly. Sometimes I totally forget I even have it one, which for me is huge. I also love that now I can match my band to my outfit for the day and change the face’s color. Because it’s been the little things this year getting me by.
Black Satin Clothes
I miss being fancy. Getting dressed up. Going out and seeing people. So while I can’t see people, there is NO reason why we can’t be fancy every day while still safe at home. So I gradually started to look for things to buy to add some black satin to my everyday wardrobe. These PJs were a revelation. Exceedingly comfy, I wear them as separates and as a base layer. Everything went through the laundry like champs, and like, why does no one talk about how soothing it is to wear satin? Because it’s so soft and non-irritating! This skirt is like wearing nothing! And this top makes my leggings feel like real clothes. It’s magical.
Mason Jar Coffee Mug
Listen, most days, an 8oz mug of coffee JUST DOESN’T CUT IT. Neither does a hand-wash only tumbler that can’t go in the microwave to warm up the milk. (Handwashing? NO THANK YOU.) So I started using Ball jars (which I also love for slim pantry storage) and then found this awesome faux leather wrap with a handle for easy carrying around the house in the morning. I love it. I know these specific jars can be hard to find, so if you see them somewhere, snap up a case or two. You won’t regret it. (Also, tell me where you found them because I always want more…)
Finishing Touches in One Single Room
I, too, fell prey to the Great Pandemic Redecoration Syndrome early in April. I just, IDK, wanted one single thing I could control and I wanted to see something turn out for the best. But looking back, I don’t know why I waited so long to finish this bedroom off. It’s just such a joy to go in there every day and see it looking pulled together. I should have done this so much sooner. Money might not be one of the things to buy happiness, but it can buy pillows and that’s almost the same thing.
Eating at a Pretty Table
Our small dining room table is absolutely shocked at how much it’s been utilized this year. Because I figured out early in April that a quick meal at the table, instead of lunch at our desks, or dinner on the sofa, was a simple way to break up the days’ monotony. This also meant I could really make use of the ‘fancy’ tablecloths, candlesticks, placemats, and napkins that had been sitting completely unused in a storage closet. And you know what? It worked. Eating feels like a nice break again instead of just going through the motions.
Again, another of the things to buy to break the monotony this year. But I’ve liked weird toothpaste for a long time (not a huge fan of mint). This year I treated it like a menu of flavors, using a different one every time I brushed. It’s also a great way to get a quick order from Sephories to burn some free sample points if you need a pick me up for not a lot of cash.
Washing My Damn Face
There were some real low points this year. Days completely blended, and my brain got the best of me more than once. But then, randomly one afternoon after a call, I stopped to wash my face. Like facial style, the whole shebang, like I used to do in the before times. And all of a sudden, I felt the tiniest bit normal again and ready to face whatever the day would throw at me again. This little kit is the only thing that has ever made my super sensitive, eczema-prone skin feel like a million bucks. I like that the small bottles don’t intimidate me into finishing a huge expensive bottle. And the weird smell has become a soothing reminder that things can still be good.
Making Peace with My Hair
I have never had a good relationship with my hair. It’s thick; it’s super curly, it’s got weird chunks of color, it’s just generally hard to deal with. But then I picked this hot tool on a whim, and HOLY CRAP. Like, I can look presentable in less than 15 minutes? I can feel human again? I can actually run my fingers through my hair without getting stuck? What? This, plus a pair of thinning scissors, has changed my entire perspective of the mop on my head.
I had absolutely zero patience for the little problems in our lives that became big annoyances this year. WAS NOT HAVING IT. And again, like, WHY do I wait so long to fix little things that make a huge difference! All of these things seem so banal on the surface but have made such big differences in our daily lives.
No More Forks Down the Disposal
What I actually bought these for was to raise the veg up off the floor of the drawer in the fridge and keep the air flowing in there, and it’s perfect for that, but since it was a set of two, I ended up using the other one for its intended purpose in our old-ass double sink basin to stop stuff from going down the disposal. And like, again, why didn’t I do this sooner?
A Recycling Center
If this were the single thing I bought all year, I would have been COMPLETELY satisfied. Our tiny old house was just not built for modern conveniences like sorting your recycling. So for 9 years, I’ve been wedging two bins that didn’t fit into a too-small cabinet and taking the trash out a LOT because it was constantly full. But FINALLY, Rev-A-Shelf made a version of this pull-out that is small enough to fit our cabinets, and OMG, it feels like a real modern kitchen! (Just ignore all the other cabinets that are held together with hope and super-glue.) Super easy to install, too! But seriously, this has made a problem that we were dealing with every day, multiple times a day, simply evaporate.
Stacks that Stay Stacked
I’m a big fan of random videos on the internet that make the little chores so satisfying. And this cheap miracle of a hinged piece of plastic created such a satisfying stack of B’s festival tees, and made folding laundry actually fun. 10/10 one of the things to buy that everybody should have!
Carb Containment Zone
2020 was defiantly a carb-heavy year. B started making Sourdough with everyone else back in March, and we have often comforted ourselves with a roll or a bagel. But again, this tiny kitchen was just not having it, and very early into the lockdown, I fixed this mess on the countertop with a modern bread box. I love the fall front, so I can still stack on top, and it fits 2 full loaves, plus a few bags of bagels and rolls. Also, out of sight out of mind was important – otherwise, we’d have been on a strict diet of only carbs.
This year made the professional organizer jump outta me, quite a bit. And I will admit, part of my peace of mind was keeping the pantry fully (overly) stocked at all times, not just during Hurricane season. So these bins came in SUPER handy to keep everything sorted, and easy to grab as we cooked over and over and over again this year. SO MUCH COOKING.
Again, our kitchen did the WERK this year, and pieces rapidly broke down under the increased use. I had a very old set of silicone spatulas, but they had wooden handles that started to break, and the heads kept slipping off, sometimes right into whatever I was cooking. And so these little one-piece silicone spatulas have become my new favorite tool – especially the little one! Feels great in your hand and goes right into the dishwasher. Love ’em!
I made an informal goal at the start of lockdown to do one physical project a week. Keeps my hands busy, and my mind occupied. And not only did it work for that, but it also made my house prettier and again, broke up the monotony of days. All good things. These were my favorite project things to buy this year.
Milk Paint & Natural Wax Sealer
This was very much a year of experimentation for me. Because why not? What else was I gonna do? And this paint was a revelation for me. I LOVED working with it, and the final finish is simply gorgeous. It also helped me breakthrough just getting some stuff done that had been sitting around unfinished for years, which was almost more important. But seriously, this paint and wax combo is great.
Why not? Wallpaper
I have always been incredibly intimidated by DIY wallpaper. But with all this time on my hands, I took the plunge late this spring and wallpapered the top half of our tiny bathroom with some peel and stick. I was so proud of myself, even though it hasn’t held up as well because I ignored basically every single recommendation when installing it! But I don’t regret it, not one bit. It’s crazy looking, but interesting, and I can’t wait to wallpaper something else. I’m looking at you, office ceiling…
A Machine That Works
This was one of the things to buy that I’ve wanted for quite a few years and am glad I finally bought for myself way early in the year. I have used it SO MUCH! Backdrops for an event (remember those?), pillows, clothing repairs, curtain hemming, our first batch of masks in March, and a bunch of Christmas gifts. Again, wish I had done this sooner, for sure. Also, I’m glad I went with the heavy duty version – it even handled heavy linen corners. And next year, I want to make more clothes!
And there you have it – my year in purchases! I hope you found some things to buy that will improve your life in this awful year, even a small amount. And if you ever need help finding the perfect item for your home, please let me know!
Wishing you a healthy and Happy New Year!
The things that made my life easier and more joyful this year. Treat yourself – you are worth it!