1. An Expanding File Folder
Label each section for a different room in your home. Every time you buy something new that comes with an owner’s manual, file it accordingly. This is super helpful when you’re in a period where you’re buying a bunch of new electronics (like the first time you move into your own place, post-wedding registry, after you buy a house, etc.) Not only does it keep the manuals from clogging up your drawers, but it’s really nice to know exactly where the vacuum cleaner’s manual is when you need to change the filter. (Because otherwise that filter probably isn’t going to get changed.) Buy one here or grab it the next time you’re at Target/Walmart/etc.
2. A Working Printer
We all know That Friend Who Has To Stop By A Kinko’s Before We Can Go To Benihana With This Birthday Voucher. And That Guy Who Has To Use The Office Printer To Print Out The Tickets Because He Selected “Print At Home” Instead Of “Pick Up At Box Office” But Turns Out He Doesn’t Actually Have A Home Printer. Small tasks like printing a resume or printing a W-9 to sign and send back to a client can become a huge ordeal if you don’t have a good printer. So if your home printer is broken — like so many of ours are because Big Printer is out to get us all — get rid of it and buy one that works.
3. Things Hung Upon the Walls
I recently noticed that after having parties or having people over, I’d get the same unexpected compliment: People always noticed how we have stuff (photos, prints, etc.) hanging on our walls. I didn’t realize this was a big deal — I’ve always considered hanging stuff up an extremely annoying but necessary step when I move into a new place — but I’ve since learned that people will let their framed items lean against their walls for a full year in a new apartment before they get around to hanging them up.
WHAT? You guys…Hang that stuff up! If you’re stuck in the “ugh but I need to find frames” phase…Go get some frames! If you’re not sure what to hang up…Pick something out! And then get some frames and hang that stuff up!
4. A Simple Tool Kit & a Drill
You don’t want to have to call a repair person if your toilet paper holder comes out of your wall; having basic tools can keep small problems like that at bay. Here’s a good drill, per The Sweethome, and they also have a good recommendation for a basic tool kit that’s only 20 bucks.
If you find yourself with more space (hello, friends tuning in from not-NYC!) and/or do lots of little projects that involve hanging things (like swapping out curtain rods or putting up framed images of varying sizes and weights), it’s very helpful to keep a box of nails and anchors in a variety of sizes around too.
5. A Workable To-Do List & Calendar
Whether you rely on paper lists or have an app you love, it really doesn’t matter. The most important thing is to figure out something you can easily access anywhere (so: home computer, work computer, places without Wi-Fi, and in line at the grocery store). Figuring out how to track work events, personal events, and errands is one of the best ways you can get your life organized and save time, money, and stress. My personal system is Google Calendar and Wunderlist; my co-worker Alanna swears by Sunrise. Just pick something and commit, and if what you’re currently using isn’t really working, come up with a new system.
7. A Fireproof Box
TBH, the best thing about having a fireproof box is not necessarily that it will protect your things in a fire (because that’s debatable; I actually keep mine in my non-functioning fireplace as an extra line of defense)…it’s that you immediately know where your important shit is. After several years of not knowing where my social security card was at any given moment, designating one centralized location for my important documents was a huge relief.
8. Extra Unopened Toothbrushes
It’s so easy to forget a toothbrush when traveling or shacking up, so do your houseguests a favor and keep some on hand. You can save the ones you get at the dentist, find them at the dollar store…OR you could buy a case of 144 (!!) of them for only $11 (!!!!!) if you want to let everyone know that you have a LOT of one-night stands.
9. A Glue Gun
“But, Rachel,” I hear you saying. “I don’t need a glue gun.”
Oh, no? Well then why does a co-worker come by my desk literally once a week to ask me if I have a glue gun they can use? (Note: This is not a passive-aggressive criticism of my co-workers and their lack of adhesive artillery; it’s just to make the point that all sorts of people have all sorts of uses for them that they don’t always anticipate.)
If you’re unsure of which one to buy, I really like this cordless one; it gets very hot so I keep these lil’ guys on hand for when I’m working on bigger projects. I also recently bought this one and this cool stand, and I will report back on how well they work at a later date!
10. Reusable Latex Gloves
One of the biggest light bulb moments I had in my twenties was when I realized I hate cleaning and gross chores dramatically less when I’m wearing latex gloves. It’s amazing how much easier they make it — mentally anyway — to do tasks like cleaning the bathroom, dealing with clogged drains or a fucked-up garbage disposal, scrubbing unspeakable things out of grout (PET OWNERSHIP FTW)… Latex gloves + an old apron is my superhero outfit for mega chore days.
Also let’s all take a moment to appreciate these low-key genius gloves with scouring pads built in (!!) that my co-worker Jess has/loves.
11. A Sponge Holder
Instead of having to unearth a wet sponge from under a pile of gross dishes in the sink, you can let it dry in a stick-on sponge holder like this one. (This suggestion is also from Jess, who does not have a dishwasher and thus has a lot of good advice on this subject.)
12. A “Just Got Home” Routine
Over the years, I’ve found that what I do in the first hour after I get home tends to be how I spend my night. So if I immediately flop down on the couch and start reading stuff on my phone, I will still be there, two hours later. If get into bed, I’ll stay there. So I’ve found it’s very helpful to decide in advance what I want my post-work routine to be. Some feel-good ideas: going for a walk, making a delicious snack, mixing a good cocktail, putting on music, listening to a podcast, or coloring. (Note: This all happens after you do the obvious first step of removing your pants and/or bra.) Your routine can definitely be something relaxing, but I’ve found that being more intentional about how I relax makes me feel much better overall.
13. A Plunger
If you have a toilet or a butt, you should have one. And if you plan to ever have even a single guest over, you should definitely have one.
Also, fun fact: as illustrated above, you can definitely use a plunger to fix a badly clogged kitchen sink! I learned this the same day that I learned that wearing latex gloves to do gross tasks makes them more bearable.
14. The Names and Numbers of Professional Problem-Solvers
A few years ago, my husband and I had a bug problem in our house, but the thought of bringing in a pro to deal with it was stressful and presumably expensive, so we put it off. Finally I’d had enough and called Orkin… and learned that 1) it wasn’t actually that expensive and 2) HOLY HELL, THEY ARE MUCH BETTER AT TAKING CARE OF OUR BUG PROBLEM THAN WE WERE. I’m all for DIY whenever possible, but there are so many times when calling the right people can save you so much time/stress/money in the long run.
Most people have one of those not-life-threatening-but-really-annoying problems that could easily be solved by a professional. So make this the year you finally get to know an electrician, plumber, or an accountant, or simply get comfortable enough to ask your super if you can borrow their ladder for a project you want to do.
15. Flashlights and/or Candles + Matches*
*Stored in a spot (or multiple spots) that you can easily navigate to in the dark.
A few years ago, a transformer near my apartment blew and my entire apartment complex lost power for three days. I did not realize just how dark an apartment got when ALL the power was out…or how hard it was to find candles and matches in the dark. So now we have flashlights in our nightstands and in drawer near the front door. Easy peasy.
17. A Stash of Cards + Stamps
Having a few birthday, sympathy, thank you, and blank cards plus postage will make it that much easier to be a good friend. And the stamps are really critical — your awesome idea to send a note to a person who needs it can easily crash and burn when you realize you don’t have the time/energy to go stand in line at the post office for a half hour. If it makes more sense to keep this stuff in your desk at work, do that.
Extra credit: Keep a small stash of emergency hostess/housewarming gifts (candles, fun bottle openers, a ceramic berry basket, etc). The world’s currently on clearance, so it’s a good time to stock up.
18. Cloth Napkins
Turns out, eating a grilled cheese for dinner on a pretty cloth napkin feels way more special than eating a grilled cheese for dinner on a paper towel. I made mine using IKEA dish towels (tutorial here), but you can also stock up on them for cheap at Target or estate sales. Also, let your family know you use cloth napkins; it’s a really good/easy thing for extended family to buy you as gifts.
19. The Name of Your Police Precinct and the Non-Emergency Number
There may be times when you want to call the police but you don’t need to call 911. Figure out what that number is and stick it on your fridge, along with the precinct number. Because there’s really no need to waste a 911 operator’s time just because your neighbor is playing loud music.
20. A Plant — That You Actually Know How to Take Care of
All those random succulents and green things actually have names and care instructions. So if you’re going to buy a plant — and I do recommend it, because having something to care for is really nice — take a few minutes to figure out what kind of soil is ideal, where to place it in regards to windows/sunlight, and how often to water it.
21. The Name & Number of the Nearest 24-Hour Emergency Vet
If you have a pet, you should have this information; you don’t want to find yourself waiting for the Google Maps app to load when your cat has just ingested poison. Seriously, look this up right now and put the info in your phone…I’ll wait.
22. A Library Card
Over the summer, a friend of mine and her husband mentioned that they illegally download bootleg books. I was gobsmacked. “Have you…never heard of a library?” I asked. Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve introduced a friend to this novel (heh) concept. I know a lot of people say they want to own all their books, but if you end up reading a library book and really loving it, you can still buy it after the fact. I usually request the books I want via the library’s website and then go pick them up when they are available, which saves time and also feels like magic. So locate the nearest library and go…check it out. (OK, sorry, I’ll stop.)
23. The Name of at Least One of Your Neighbors
Maybe I watch too much crime TV (I mean, I definitely do) but when I’ve lived alone, I’ve always appreciated having a few neighbors who know my face and name and can tell the cops if they haven’t seen me for a few days. Even if you have roommates, it’s still a good idea.
24. A Spot to Meet in the Event of a Fire
“Hey, roommates, if you accidentally set the curtains on fire, let’s all meet by the mailboxes.” So easy, right?
25. Velvet No-Slip Hangers That Match
OK, this is firmly in the “extra credit” category because not everyone cares that much…but I will say, finally starting to phase out my plastic hangers (at the age of 30!) has made my closet look rather pleasant. And you can basically always find velvet hangers at Home Goods for cheap. Choose a neutral/easy to find color and you can start phasing them in slowly.
- And people with disabilities are having their photos stolen and Facebook isn't helping them.