10 Items I've Bought During Quarantine That Have Improved My Home Life

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"Retail therapy" is a cliché for a reason — it's normal for us humans to seek comfort and solace by hoarding new stuff during times of unrest. And hey, we'll be the first to admit, sometimes it works! Re-configuring a pantry with new shelves and organizers amid stay-at-home orders is a relatively harmless way to feel productive and in control of something when the outside world is swirling with uncertainty.

In that spirit, here's a list — part confessional, part prescriptive — of the things that I've impulse-bought in the past few weeks that have actually improved my home life during quarantine. Some are practical and some are full-on frivolous — listen, we all cope in our own ways.

1. MadeSmart Classic Medium Stacking Shelf with Holes, $10

This little piece of plastic and metal has brought me so much organizing bliss. First off, it's sturdy — far sturdier than it looks — and unlike most freestanding pantry shelves, it has a solid tray surface rather than slats or wire, so your spices don't careen into the dead space between the wires and get all off-kilter. Instead, items sit perfectly (mercifully!) level, contained by the lip of the tray. I set it up in my one weirdly-tall cabinet and virtually doubled my space in ten seconds. Also, now that my spice cabinet was organized, I discovered I had no less than three different open containers of cinnamon.

2. Compagnie de Provence Savon de Marseille Liquid Soap, $27

I've long been a believer that Compagnie de Provence liquid soap should be the next "status soap." It checks all the boxes: Cool typography, amber glass bottle, unique scents — but it wasn't until recently that I really started to appreciate just how much of a skin-saver it is. This hand soap is made with olive oil, sweet almond oil, and grape seed oil, so no matter how many hand-washing sessions you're up to per day, it won't dry out your skin. (Bonus: You can buy refills in plastic bottles for about $38, which will fill up the glass pump about two and a half times — making the price less objectionable.)

3. Manduka Cork Yoga Block, $20

Until recently — out of necessity, obviously — I was not a home yoga practitioner. Obviously now, I've got no other choice, so it's all virtual yoga, all the time. These are the cork blocks my studio keeps in stock, so I bit the bullet and ordered a set for home — and they've made those virtual classes feel just a bit more like my old routine. (They also coordinate with my favorite cork yoga mat, which is a thing I care about, because I am neurotic.)

4. W&P Peak Silicone Extra Large Ice Cube Tray, $14

Another part of my routine I'm missing? Craft cocktails. For anyone who's trying to up their game at home, what I affectionately refer to as "big ice" is a must. This ice cube tray from the geniuses at W&P makes four giant cubes, perfect for chilling your favorite whiskey drinks without watering them down. The silicone makes it easy to pop out just one, but the true brilliance of this ice tray is the steel interior rim that helps the tray hold its shape and lets you avoid spillage on your trip from the sink to the fridge. There's also a lid to keep wayward freezer smells out of your ice.

5. Spectrum Diversified Over-the-Door Lid Holder, $20

Another organizing no-brainer: Over-the-cabinet-door storage racks have quickly become one of my favorite ways to optimize kitchen space. This one specifically deals with everyone's most dreaded cabinet — the Tupperware cabinet. This rack holds all the lids in place, so you can actually nest the aforementioned jumble of containers and make them less, y'know, terrifying. Problem solved.

6. Project62 Windsor Metal Stack Patio Bench, $110

My obsession with this bench started last summer, which was when (I believe) Target first introduced it. By the time I became aware of it, it was sold out everywhere, which didn't stop me from compulsively refreshing the site every weekend or so in hopes of finding it restocked. It never happened — until earlier this year, when Target quietly re-issued it and it was suddenly available everywhere. It seems to have been popular again since it's now listed as unavailable at my local Target store, but it may still be available at yours! You can probably even do curbside pickup.

Long story short: It's small enough to be tucked into whatever outdoor space you're working with, and it's perfect for keeping your PostMates order up off the ground when your delivery dude does contactless delivery. Its sleek, vaguely Scandinavian design is nice enough to use indoors — say, in an entryway — when the weather turns. (I'll probably bring mine inside for winter.)

7. Household Essentials Cedarline Natural Cotton Storage Bag (Set of 2), $12.69

I, like David Rose, am waging a neverending war against moths. After extensive research, I've determined that moths don't like cotton canvas, which, unlike Rubbermaid bins, is breathable, so that's the best way to store your sweaters for the season.

These zippered canvas storage bags have a clear top so you can see what's what and they even have elastic sewn in so you can add your own cedar planks if you so choose (I haven't gone for that — yet). They're a bit less structured than how they appear here, but they hold quite a few pieces each, stack pretty well, and give you the put-together feeling of someone who has a day on her calendar set aside for proper knitwear storage, like Martha Stewart.

8. Overose "Aesthetic" Candle, $58

Overose's candles have long been pretty hype-y, but I hadn't committed to buying one until sheltering-in-place revealed that I was burning through all my candles at an alarming rate. I finally pulled the trigger on this absurd, purple, equally hype-y named candle, and I have to say — I haven't even lit it yet. What I didn't realize about Overose is that its candles claim to be (and clearly, are) 3x more fragrant than the average. Perched on my bedside table, this candle perfumes my entire room (again, unlit!) and part of my living room, too. It's a bit sweeter than what I'm generally drawn to, with a sort of gourmand fragrance that reminds me of tea cakes, but it really packs a punch. Not having to light it to enjoy it almost makes the $58 price tag seem sensible.

9. Oddbird Co. Emine Handwoven Linen Towel, $49

I'm a big fan of Oddbird Co. — those who know me have inevitably seen me swanning around in their Emine robe, which has become an integral part of my personal identity. During its recent Mother's Day sale, I bit the bullet and picked up two of their linen towels in the matching print, which are lovely, lightweight, and quick-drying. They're also extremely versatile for when we're all allowed outside again — my first purchase from the company, years ago, was their heavier-weight Redline towel which I've used as a picnic blanket, a beach towel, and a couch throw, at various times.

10. OYOY Lamella Notice Board, $220

Full disclosure: I haven't bought this yet, but it's next on my list. For anyone who has been searching for a way to make their WFH station look a little sleeker and streamlined, this is a beautiful solution. Unadorned, your houseguests — for they will return — might mistake it for a piece of modern art, but only you'll know that it serves as a place to corral all your receipts for business expenses.


Emily Bihl is a freelance writer and sometimes-songwriter who can invariably be found rearranging furniture in a domicile somewhere along the Mississippi River. She lives with her black labrador Selkie and a small army of homemade ceramics, and has not willingly closed a browser tab since 2011.

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