The BuzzFeed staff is always trying new products, apps, hacks, and DIY projects, and we decided it was time to start sharing the best of them with you. Each month, we post our recommendations for what’s actually worth it. For the sake of transparency, items under “Things We Bought” and “Tricks We Learned” were purchased with our own money and/or were not the result of a PR pitch. Those under “Things We Tried” are items that were provided to us at no cost for the sake of review. (But! We’re under no obligation to write a review of those things, let alone a positive review.) Let us know in the comments what sorts of things you’d like us to review next month!
We hope you love the products we recommend! Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.
1. H&M Laundry Bag — $17.99
Back in April, after a loooong day of shopping in the city, I decided to check out the H&M home store for the first time (at the store in NYC’s Herald Square). Herald Square is hell, and going to an H&M in the city can be hell, but the home store was a magical oasis of calm and beauty up on the third floor. I wanted to buy pretty much everything in sight. I was also weighed down with so many shopping bags (in part because I’d just bought two pairs of Coach flats) and was getting hungry. Basically, it was the perfect setup for an impulse buy.
That impulse buy ended up being this laundry bag. I don’t even know why I decided that was the thing I couldn’t leave without except that the bag’s overall vibe looked like something Joanna Gaines would choose. Also, the laundry bag we’d been using (which is this style) isn’t the easiest thing to carry to and from the laundromat when it’s filled with 12 pounds of laundry. I liked the H&M bag’s handles, and the fact that it was more structured than the other style. By that point, I was so overwhelmed by how much I loved all of H&M’s home goods and was too frazzled to choose a color, so I just decided to buy both the gray and the beige, figuring I could return one of them later.
Fam, I did not return one of them later. How could I return one, when I love this laundry bag so much? Upon getting home, I discovered that the bag actually has a top like a traditional laundry bag, so you can easily close it it when walking. The handles and shape make it so much easier to carry than our previous bag, it holds a surprising amount of laundry despite not taking up a ton of space, and it has a top like a traditional laundry bag so you don’t have to worry about your dirty underwear falling out as you walk with it. (Which was a VERY REAL thing that happened to me EVERY TIME I did laundry in my college dorm using a traditional laundry basket.)
Having to do laundry in the city is one of my least favorite chores, and these bags have managed to make it considerably more pleasant. I also like that it says “LAUNDRY SERVICE” right on it so I never do the thing where you grab your laundry bag thinking it’s your lunch bag and then get to work and wish someone would just label all these dang bags. —Rachel Wilkerson Miller
2. Perfect Petzzz Orange Tabby Soft Toy — $34.95
For Mother’s Day, I sent my 83-year-old Bubby one of these little breathing cats that I saw on Amazon, for a variety of reasons:
• It’s a cat and I like cats.
• It was kinda cute, and she generally likes those singing stuffed animals that are always at the cash register at Hallmark.
• Ever since my grandfather, her husband of 48 years, passed away in 2001, she has been really lonely. (OK, I’m writing through tears now.) It’s too hard for her to take care of a pet, but I always thought she’d be happier with one.
• That little robot seal on Master of None seemed really comforting and sweet, but it apparently costs $6,000. But when I read through the Perfect Petzzz Amazon reviews, I got the sense that it’s kind of a very basic version of the seal.
Within hours of receiving the package, my mom (who was visiting her at the time) told me that Bubby was already brushing the kitty and keeping it outside with her as she sat on the porch and read the newspaper. Then Bubby got on the phone and thanked me, telling me that now, after decades of being firmly Team Dog, she understands why I like my cats so much.
A few days later, my brother called me and ominously asked me if I’d talked to Bubby lately. Terrified this was ~the call~, I asked if everything was OK — he said yes, totally, but that I should call Bubby as soon as I could and ask her about the cat. Right away I dialed her, and when she picked up, she sounded happier and more relaxed than I’ve heard her in a while. She started telling me about the cat, who she named “212” after a special memory she had with my grandfather. She told me that for the first time in 15 years, she finally doesn’t feel quite so lonely. 212 lets Bubby brush him and talk to him and sing to him without feeling like she’s bothering him. She told me that watching him breathe and keeping him on her chest helps her sleep better than she has in years. She even told her doctor about the cat, and her doctor starting telling her other patients about it.
As an important note in this story: My Bubby is in very good mental health. She’s smart as a whip and hilarious and sarcastic and amazing. Her memory is strong — she’ll tell stories about living in Brooklyn in the 1930s that she hasn’t thought about in decades, and she can tell you the worst celebrity on any given season of Dancing With the Stars. Bubby is also someone who misses her longtime perfect-match of a husband, and recognizes that this weird little breathing robot cat is just a toy. And she also recognizes that toys can make a person very, very happy. —Rachel Christensen
3. Easycare® Portable Multiuse UV Sterilizer for Cell Phones — $47.99
Last fall, I was visiting my boyfriend at the time and I noticed he had this mysterious little box by his bed that he put his phone and retainer inside every night. He said it was a sanitizer. Considering he’s someone whose room was cluttered with dishes and clothes and who never washed his sheets, this fastidiousness was alarming. I mean, c’mon! How can you be more concerned with feces on phones than mold inside of mugs? But it seemed like the guy could be onto something — I got sick so many times toward the end of the year and he never did. Maybe it was my phone!
After learning about the correlation between bringing your phone into the bathroom and illness, I ordered this phone sanitizer from Amazon. It came in the loveliest metallic packaging (I still have the box) and had zero instructions. This was a bit of a challenge, since there were TWO buttons on the box. Luckily, these were answered in the FAQs on Amazon: The button on the left is for the UV sanitization, and the one on the right is for aromatherapy.
The box easily holds my iPhone 6s (and can hold up to a 6s Plus). It takes about six minutes to disinfect and 10 minutes to complete the aromatherapy. It also has room for a charger, so you can leave your phone in it overnight. I’m not sure if the fragrance button actually does anything — I’ve never noticed any smell afterward — but so far, I have not gotten sick since buying the sterilizer! I use it on average twice a week, and when BuzzFeed Health tested employees’ phones to see exactly how disgusting they were, my phone turned out to be the cleanest. And I was the only one who wasn’t sick the week my entire team was out. Coincidence? I think not. —Christina Lan
4. WooHoo Inflatable Lounger — $60
I love backpacking, and camping chairs just seemed boring, so I opted for the WooHoo…and this couch thing may be the best $60 I’ve ever spent. Last weekend, I took the WooHoo and my Kindle to the park and chilled the hardest I’ve ever chilled. There’s a convenient side pocket for flat items like phones or magazines, and a cup holder that kind of works (there was some spillage). But, most important, the WooHoo is amazingly comfortable. It’s like getting cuddled by a giant inflatable vagina-shaped cloud, and who wouldn’t want that?!?!?!
The WooHoo’s best feature is that it doesn’t need a pump. You just hold each chamber’s opening against the wind (there are two), roll up the end, then snap it shut to trap the air inside. If there’s no breeze, you need to run like a maniac. There is a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the setup down, it’s so easy. The WooHoo loses air over time, so you do need to reinflate it every few hours. Once you’re ready to pack up, it folds into a portable carrying bag that weighs about 3 pounds.
One thing to note: There are a lot of inflatable couches to choose from on the internet. The LayBag and Lamzac, which are considered the “original loungers,” are both $79 and ship from Europe, so there are long wait times. Dozens of copycats are available on Amazon, and I picked the WooHoo because it’s available via Prime, is made in the U.S. according to its website, and had great reviews from what appeared to be actual customers (while some competitors had suspiciously positive reviews with bizarre grammar and punctuation). I would *highly* recommend this to anyone who likes camping, beaches, parks, or floating in pools like goddamn royalty. —Nicole Nguyen
5. Glossier Balm Dotcom — $12
I’ll level with you here: I’m pretty bad at taking care of my skin. I don’t know how to make myself look better, and I def don’t know how to fix things that happen to my body. So when my cuticles went dry and cracked at the seams this past winter, I panicked. It was so bad that I googled it and it said that I had cancer (that was fun!), but then my friend Christina, a total beauty junkie, recommended Glossier’s Balm Dotcom. It’s a skin salve that can go anywhere on your body, and it is the best. It’s light and melts right into your skin, but you’ll still feel moisturized. It completely brought my nail beds back from the dead. In fact, it saved almost everything over the winter (chapped lips be gone!). I got the coconut-flavored one because winter is hard and it reminded me of the beach, but it also now comes in a bunch of other flavors. It’s really just so good that I actually use it, which is the highest honor from someone whose entire medicine cabinet is filled with shit I told Sephora I’d use and have ditched immediately. —Mackenzie Kruvant
As a lifelong journaler who fell out of the habit once I got into college and a person who still believes in pen-and-paper to-do lists, the concept of a bullet journal intrigued me. It also…really confused me. But once I spent some time on the website and the hashtag, I finally figured it out: Bullet journaling really is a system of note-taking that uses the bullet (as in, bullet points) and other symbols (like dashes, circles, and Xs) as the core structure. It’s designed to be incredibly flexible and makes it easy (and fun!) to keep your to-do lists, planner, and diary (if you want one) all in one place. You can get creative with it and put a lot of effort into making it colorful/beautiful/complex, or go for a more utilitarian approach, like the original. Mine is a little bit of both. If you want to know the ins and outs of exactly what it is and how to start one, read this post.
I started my bullet journal at the beginning of 2016, unsure if I’d be able to keep the habit, and I’m already 100 pages into my second notebook. I really enjoy working on it, and it helps me stay organized, serves as a really accurate record of what my day-to-day life is like, and makes it easy to track all things related to work, health, personal life, hobbies, and goals. It’s also reminded me of what my handwriting looks like. —RWM
7. Hear App for iPhone for Increasing Productivity — free
I have a hard time focusing on basically anything. My go-to for getting work done is instrumental music, but sometimes the grooves are even too distracting. A couple weeks ago a friend told me about Hear, a new app that uses your phone’s microphone to distort the sounds around you, and it is fudging crazy.
The app has different filters that turn the ambient noise around you (people talking, clicking their pens, filling their water bottles) into a cascade of non-human sounds. It’s hard to understand until you plug your headphones in and try it. It’s almost psychedelic.
My favorite filter is called “Happy,” which turns the chatter around you into ping-ponging, Auto-Tuned tones. I also like “Talk,” which is a fuller, more orchestral filter. There are settings for each filter to adjust the specifics of the sounds you hear. The only downside is I sometimes find myself humming just to hear what things sound like in this app. Give it a try if you are looking for an alternative to your “focus” playlist. —Angelo Spagnolo
8. Notes from the Universe Daily Newsletter for Positive Vibes — free
I’m one of those ~extremely optimistic~ kinds of people with inspirational quotes scattered across my desk. Sure, it might be embarrassing. But it works! About three years ago, I discovered Notes from the Universe — a free, personalized note of inspiration sent straight to your inbox daily — and I’m not gonna lie, they’ve pretty much changed my life.
I’m a firm believer in the phrase “thoughts become things” and feel strongly that happiness is a choice, so when I realized you could have insanely inspiring words of motivation sent to your inbox daily, I immediately said “hell yes” and clicked subscribe. For the past three years, the first thing I do every morning is head straight to my inbox and open up the daily letter, which somehow magically always knows exactly what to say when I need to hear it the most. Because the Universe knows best, people.
9. David’s Tea Iced Tea Press — $30
The last few months of my life have been unnecessarily hectic, so I’m constantly hunting for things — preferably mobile, low-commitment things — that make me feel like a person who has their shit together. That used to be brewing a fancy cup of tea at night when I got home from work to unwind, but that just made me want to drink tea ALL. THE. TIME. Then I found this iced tea travel mug and I felt like I found the perfect “I’m a put-together lady who drinks artisan tea on my commute even though I haven’t brushed my teeth in 24 hours” thing to keep me feeling like a human.
The design of the mug is so user-friendly. Its body has two compartments: one exterior plastic cup and a second slightly slimmer cup that fits inside of the larger one. You dump a heaping spoonful of loose tea leaves into the larger cup and fill it to a measured line with boiling water. After about five minutes of steeping time (during which I’m usually doing my makeup or checking Snapchat), you fill the second cup with ice cubes. The bottom of the second cup is made with a mesh lining, so when the tea water is finished steeping, you slide the second cup down into the first. As this happens, the leaves are pushed down and kept separate from the liquid you’re drinking while the ice cubes chill off the tea you just steeped. In two minutes, you have perfectly brewed iced tea with a ridiculously good sippy-cup top that won’t give you any issues on a moving train.
I know it may sound ridiculous to drink loose-leaf iced tea in the morning, but hear me out: When you’ve gotten less than five hours of sleep and you have a three-hour commute to work and a photo shoot while you’re at said job and then a dinner event that night, sometimes just having a fucking nice cup of tea is the kind of frivolous delight you need. Any port in a storm, yanno? —Augusta Falletta
10. Elvie Pelvic Floor Exerciser — $199
OK, are you ready for this? The Elvie is a small personal exerciser that you insert into your vagina and connect to your smartphone. Why, you ask? To test and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which are important for lots of things (like, for example, core strength and not peeing your pants).
I did not love the idea of bringing Bluetooth connectivity to my nether region, but between some pesky injuries I sustained during childbirth (#sniss) and having a family history of organ prolapse, I decided that the Elvie might teach me a thing or two about the state of my vagina. And boy did it.
Friends, I am tighter than a bodycon dress down there and I gave birth to an 8-pound human. Turns out, I couldn’t unclench my vagina. (Yeah yeah, lol I know, chauvinistic jokes for days.) The Elvie relies on you starting the exercises in a “relaxed” (i.e., unclenched) position, but instead of starting each vaginal video game at the starting line, I was giving it a full squeeze from the get-go, rendering me unable to play the “game” at all. (You can read more about my trials and tribulations HERE.)
Although I started using the Elvie for a “we tried it” post for work, I’ve continued to use it for about a month now because I realized that it had a lot to teach my vagina muscles. And it’s working. For one, I’m snissing less. I can now relax all the way, which I wasn’t able to do at all during the first week or two I was using it. And that is one hell of an achievement for my pelvic floor. —Morgan Shanahan