10 Affordable Life-Changing Household Items I Wish I’d Purchased 10 Years Ago

published Aug 16, 2022
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I don’t know about you, but I have big “I’ll deal with this later” energy. While puttering around the house, crossing tasks off my to-do list, I notice moments when the simple addition of a tool or product could really enhance or optimize the experience. For instance, as I’m balancing on an ottoman stacked onto a chair, replacing a burnt-out lightbulb, I’ll think, “Hey, I should get a ladder.” But then down I tumble, disassembling the makeshift furniture mountain, and the thought is gone.

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The thing about changing a burnt-out lightbulb is that sometimes, you have to flip a switch: I’ve been reformed. After seeing in friends’ homes or on TikTok how life-changing a simple $5 to $35 purchase can be, I am now the optimizer. I have turned “deal with this later” into “confirm purchase” in the blink of an eye, and now here I am, testifying publicly that yes, a little bit of money can buy you a great deal of happiness. 

While I still don’t own a ladder (it’s on my list!) I just bought a few life-changing items that frankly, I wish I’d purchased a decade ago. If you’ve got some spare cash on hand and could use one of the 10 items below, heed my advice: Improve your life today!

Microplane Zester

I am neither a skilled cook nor baker. But I have one go-to dessert recipe that’s fairly straightforward and always wows the crowd (it certainly won over my future father-in-law, the dapper, handsome, and talented Scott Kappmeyer!). But the recipe calls for zesting some citrus, and the ancient cheese grater I inherited from my grandmother just wasn’t cutting it anymore. The first time I tried this microplane zester, I think I screamed — at myself, at the universe. How could I wait so long to know such efficiency? I’m never turning back.

Step Stool 

Once upon a time, a regular gal fell in love with a short king and they bought a condo with very high cabinets. Unwilling to risk my life every time I needed to crawl onto the counter to retrieve a casserole dish, Ryan and I bought a step stool the day we moved in. My goodness, how wildly irresponsible I have been in the past, crawling up onto the countertops like a spider monkey. Never again!

Contact Paper 

It’s truly incredible how versatile shelf liner can be. I threw a roll of this grip shelf liner into my cart on a whim during a recent therapy session excursion at Target, and now it’s all over our home. Our wine glasses are staying put in their cabinet! The tray resting on top of the toilet tank isn’t slipping off anymore! And the squishy liner makes a great buffer for cabinet doors, muffling the annoying banging sound. 

Extra Laundry Basket 

During a recent trip to my hometown, I noticed an unused laundry basket in my childhood bedroom closet. No one was missing it, so I took it. (Bonus: it’s the one I used when I was a little kiddo, so it’s from the late 1980s and is adorable). Now whenever I want to corral a mess or just need to do an extra load, I’ve got the space for it. It’s also useful for containing supplies for a car trip or nearby vacation — just shove all your items in there and toss the hamper into the trunk. Heck, I might buy a couple more!

Gardening Gloves

One thing about me: I’m not touching a bug. But now that I’m a new homeowner and gardening has become a self-inflicted and frustrating part of my life, bugs happen. Enter: gardening gloves. These help me get down and dirty with my landscaping tasks without my gorgeous little fingers touching some nasty wet old pile of leaves that’s home to God-knows-what. Not doing it! Plus, they prevent blisters. That’s not so much my concern as, like I said, bugs — but maybe this matters to you!

Amber Glass Containers

I would purchase these containers 100 times over. I bought this pack of glass pump bottles from Amazon on a hunch that it would make our kitchen more gorgeous and folks, it did. I’ve got hand lotion, hand soap, my gel Mrs. Meyers basil-scented dish soap, and my fiancé’s preferred Dawn dish spray (why compromise?) in our kitchen, and then use the spare two bottles for our bathroom’s hand soap. Our kitchen sink looks so much tidier without the mismatched containers. 

Poo-Pourri for Every Bathroom 

Just as you keep spare toilet paper rolls and tissues in your water closet, so too should you keep Poo-Pourri, a dream product for me, someone with IBS and a lot of personal shame. This will save your marriage — it’s cheaper than couples’ counseling! 

Cordless Handheld Vacuum

Do you, like me, have a corgi who sheds incessantly and also rolls her little furry worm-shaped body all over everything you own all the time? If you don’t have a cordless vacuum yet, my goodness, stop what you’re doing and order one. This. Will. Change. Your. Life. My pup Rodeo absolutely hates this thing, but it’s among the most important tools I own so they’re just going to have to learn to live in harmony.  

Wind Chime

During a recent trip to World Market — one of my favorite places on earth mainly because it’s like if EPCOT Center and Target had a baby — I snagged this solar LED lantern chime like a woman possessed. Some context: When I can’t sleep, I pop on some ASMR. Right now my favorite ASMRtist is “Miracle Forest,” who creates some really unique, enchanted ambient soundscapes. Now, I can hear the twinkle of my chime outside my front window and it makes me feel like I’m curling up for a peaceful slumber in an elf’s castle. 

Battery-Operated Table Lamp

I’m a night owl who is very picky about lighting concepts. While I’m creeping around the apartment late at night trying not to disturb my slumbering partner, I love having this little battery-operated lamp to move wherever I please. Sure, an old-school lantern would have worked, but I’m also not trying to look like I’m a cloaked, haunted keeper of a suburban-mythical graveyard or something. Pop it on the coffee table! Bring it to the patio! This thing is certifiably cute, and trust me when I say, it’s certifiably handy, too!