At this point, you may feel that staying inside—and all the things that go along with it, like vacuuming the crumbs from bread-baking experiments and enduring those seemingly endless video calls—is getting a little old.
But staying inside is a necessity. So what is there to do? Right now, you might as well make everything you have to do easier, from chores to eating well to getting sufficient sleep. This way, you can focus on the things that make being cooped up feel more bearable, such as playing board games, getting really into knitting, making frothy coffee, and getting through as many movies and TV shows you can before quarantine ends. Here are some of our favorite things that make day-to-day life a little more pleasant when your days seem to blend together.
1. Long charging cables so you can stay on your phone while lounging
Let’s say you’re lounging in bed, browsing Instagram, texting your pals, and giggling at TikToks with nary a care in the world—until you realize your phone is about to croak. You could let it die and give your eyes a screen break. Or, you could get up and plug your phone in, but with your device tethered by its cord, it’s difficult to continue whatever you were doing and stay prostrate. Fortunately, the solution here is a simple one: A long charging cable, like the Anker Powerline+, which extends six feet and connects to either iPhone or any device that takes a USB-C. Reviewers say it charges devices quickly, feels sturdy, and prevents feeling restricted when you’re charging your phone.
- Get the Anker Powerline+ USB-C Cable from Target for $14.99
- Get the Anker Powerline+ USB-C to Lightning Cable from Target for $21.99
2. Earplugs and sleep mask to make daytime naps easier
Right now, there shouldn’t be anything between you and a daytime nap (well, unless you’re working from home). But if there is something stopping you—perhaps a TV in the other room, loud roommates or family members, or REM-impeding sunlight—some earplugs and an eye mask should help.
For earplugs, we love Hearos Xtreme, which provide “blissful” silence and feel comfortable in the ears. For a sleep mask, we love the Nidra Deep Rest Eye Mask. It provides a blackout curtain effect on the eyes without putting pressure on them, so you feel comfy, cozy, and in the dark for the entirety of your slumber.
- Get the Nidra Deep Rest Eye Mask on Amazon for $13.95
- Get Hearos Xtreme Ear Plugs from iHerb for $4.41
3. A pre-made meal kit to stay healthy without too much work
It can be fun to devote your energy to cooking, whether from a meal kit or cobbled together from a hodgepodge of items in your fridge. But on days when you just don’t want to cook—and running out to your favorite restaurant isn’t an option—consider a pre-made meal kit, like Freshly. It provides generous servings of healthy, filling entrees such as cauliflower Bolognese, chicken parm, and pork carnitas. Our tester loved that the meals were easy to make—all you have to do is pop them in the microwave for a few minutes—but, once plated, tasted so good that it didn’t seem like they came from the microwave at all.
4. The Roku Ultra to stream anything with ease
There’s a lot of stuff out there to watch right now. Make your viewing process as streamlined as possible with our favorite streaming device, the Roku Ultra. We primarily love it because it’s so easy to use—its interface is intuitive and its remote control is the best we’ve tested, with voice-control capability for searching for the show or movie you want (instead of having to tediously spell it out, or mindlessly browse and be unable to make a decision) and programmable “shortcut” buttons that allow you to click directly into your favorite streaming service, whether it’s Netflix, HBO, or Apple TV.
5. A pod-based coffee machine for a fresh cup right when you wake up
That morning caffeine fix is a lot easier to acquire with a single-serve coffee maker. We like the Nespresso VertuoPlus by Breville, which has a sleek, space-saving design and makes a rich-tasting brew with a layer of foamy crema on the top.
If you’re feeling fancy, you can use a milk frother—but all you really need to do is pop in a pod and add in your creamer or sweetener, if desired, to slurp down your java in minutes.
6. A sponge that actually clears away crud, so you can finish your dishes faster
If you have to hand-wash dishes, you might as well do it efficiently. Enter the Scrub Daddy, a Shark Tank-born sponge that switches textures from soft to firm, based on the water temperature you’re using. This soft-to-firm transition really works, according to our tester, who was able to clean everything from wine glasses to rice cookers without leaving scratches or food residue behind.
7. Smart plugs to make your house work for you
For some people, the idea of a “smart” house is something out of a sci-fi movie. But if you like the idea of telling your home what to do and didn’t know where to start, let us present: smart plugs. These devices act as go-betweens between your wall outlets and whatever you plug into them—such as lamps, speakers, and nonprogrammable cooking appliances, like a slow cooker. This allows you to set a schedule to turn items on or off or to make them responsive to voice commands (for which you’ll also need an Alexa-enabled or Google Home device). Some smart plugs also track energy usage, which can help you better understand your power bill. Our favorite, the Currant Smart Outlet, earned high marks for being a cinch to set up and use.
8. The Revlon One-Step hair dryer for the perfect at-home blowout
Feeling the urge to replicate your pre-quarantine blowout bar visits? Get the Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer. We tested it and loved that it gave users’ hair that coveted bouncy, shiny, fresh-out-of-Drybar look without the labor-intensive process of using a blow dryer, round brush, flat iron, and curling iron. Even better, it does it quickly—timing differs based on the person’s hair, but you can count on it being faster than your normal blow drying speed—so you can be ready for anything, whether it’s a conference video call or a FaceTime date, in record time.
9. A robot vacuum to clear up dust before you know it’s there
Not every home device can tidy up crumbs from the food you’ve dropped and feel like an additional companion or pet in a lonesome home. Our favorite affordable robot vacuum, the Eufy Robovac 11s, is more than up to the task. The Robovac is quiet, has excellent navigational skills, and picks up more particles than any other robot vacuum of its caliber. If you feel budding affection for the Eufy building up, just embrace it. After all, it’s helping you out a lot.
10. A WiFi system that doesn’t lag
There are only so many blurry, hard-to-hear Zoom calls a person can take. If you’re on the brink of a meltdown, consider the eero Home WiFi System. This setup involves placing small units around your home to provide a stronger, more reliable internet connection than you get with a traditional router. This prevents dead zones and ensures smooth connectivity with whatever you’re doing, from playing video games to streaming music to paying close attention to that company-wide conference call.
11. A popcorn maker to have movie theater-worthy snacks in your den
Hey, you need nourishment while you burn through everything Netflix, Disney+, HBO, and Hulu have to offer. And what better to snack on than popcorn, the quintessential movie-watching snack?
This Cuisinart device makes it easy to have popcorn on demand without an air popper, microwaveable bag, or even oil—all you need to do is dump some popcorn kernels in it, put it in the microwave for about two minutes, then top those fluffy kernels with whatever you want.
12. A microwave cleaner that’s as fun as it is effective
Eventually, all those microwavable snacks leave their mark. When the grime inside your microwave becomes more than you can bear, get an Angry Mama. You fill this small plastic figure in the shape of an crabby-looking woman with a mixture of vinegar and water and zap it in the microwave for a few minutes. The steam emitted softens dried-up splatters and food residue, making them easy to wipe off with a few swipes of a sponge.
13. Wireless headphones to make household tasks go by faster
Keeping yourself company while you putter around the house is a lot easier with some wireless headphones. You can tidy up, cook, and organize while you listen to a podcast or some tunes without getting tangled up in wires or having to keep your phone on you. We love the Beats Powerbeats Pro, which have an excellent battery life of nine full hours per charge (plus a charging case, which gives them an extra 24 hours), easy pairing with smartphones, and a crisp, balanced sound.
For a less expensive option, we’re also big fans of the Mpow Flame earbuds, which aren’t truly wireless (there’s a short cord that connects them to each other), but are waterproof and offer about nine hours of battery life per charge.
14. A device that gives you the perfect egg right when you need it
In the mood for a hard-boiled egg? How about a poached egg? How about several eggs, in any style, all at once? If the thought of unlimited, unconstrained eggs has your mouth watering, you’ll get a lot of use out of the Dash Rapid Egg Cooker, which poaches, hard-boils, or soft-boils eggs in minutes with no mess and minimal prep. Fill the base with water, put on the lid, and flip a switch. A buzzer sounds, letting you know that it’s time to indulge in your eggy meal.
15. A Magic Eraser to clear up your messes in seconds
You know how the more time you spend in your house, the dirtier it seems to get? Make the clean-up process easier with one of our favorite tidying tools, the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. After moistening it, the durable foam sponge can slough off crayon marks, countertop scuffs, food residue, and grime that collects on bathtub rims and shower tiles, so you can quickly get back to whatever you were doing before you started cleaning.
16. A wearable nail polish holder for the easiest DIY manicure ever
Painting your nails can have a soothing, almost meditative effect—but not if you accidentally knock over the nail polish bottle, thus disrupting your calming reverie. One popular solution is the Tweexy Wearable Nail Polish Holder, a silicone ring with an opening for a nail polish bottle and a wide base to catch drips, so your polish bottle stays close by, steady, and drip-free as you paint.
17. A jar opener for those tough-to-open lids
That jar that no one in your house can seem to pry open? It’s no match for this OXO jar opener, which has two easy-to-grip parts—one that holds the base firm and one that twists the lid—to make jar lids pop off in the blink of an eye.
18. An Amazon Echo to have a personal assistant on hand
Perhaps you’re all for time-saving gadgets—but what you really need is a personal assistant. We can’t help you with that, but we can recommend our favorite smart speaker, the third-generation Echo. With it, you can voice control your music, smart home devices like light bulbs and thermostats (and those new smart plugs you just picked up, above), and even use it as an intercom system with other Alexas in the house to communicate with family members without getting up.
19. A food processor to minimize your meal prep
Cooking can be fun. But the lead-up to cooking—the chopping, the slicing, the dicing—isn’t always as fun, particularly if you’re using onions or shallots and don’t love tearing up in the process.
One solution? A food processor, like our favorite, the Cuisinart Custom 14-cup processor, or a one-shot chopping device like the Ninja Express Chop. Both do the hard work of slicing up veggies for you with the press of a button (the food processor does more and holds more, while the chopper is cheaper and more compact) so you can enjoy the fun parts of cooking without having to focus too much on the labor.
- Get the Cuisinart Custom 14-Cup Food Processor from Home Depot for $199.99
- Get the Ninja Express Chopper from Target for $19.49
20. An Instant Pot to create gourmet meals with minimal effort
Ah, the Instant Pot. Our favorite pressure cooker has a lot of things going for it, like a wide range of cooking options that allow you to make soups, curries, cakes, and more, an easy-to-control steam release valve that prevents the likelihood of getting sprayed in the face with hot steam, and a stainless steel, dishwasher-safe interior. It’s also one of the easiest ways to cook with just a few ingredients—all you have to do is throw your ingredients in and let it go while you do something else.
21. A shower caddy so you don’t have to stoop while you bathe
Showering is an important part of maintaining a sense of normalcy, routine, and personal hygiene (which is especially vital if you live with other people). And the actual act of showering is a lot easier if you don’t have to bend down to grab your shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. This caddy loops around your showerhead to keep everything you need at eye level, and hop in and out of the shower with ease and efficiency.
22. Pizza scissors to serve neat slices
Pizza—whether it’s frozen or homemade—all too often falls prey to the misfortune of inefficient cutting, in which the cheese gets bunched up under the knife, leaving only a soggy, barren crust with ragged edges. (You understand, I’m sure.) Prevent this with a pair of pizza scissors, which have a sharp blade up top and spatula on the bottom, to create even, easy-to-serve slices. Plus, they’re dishwasher-safe.
23. A beard trimmer to keep you looking sharp
Keep that quarantine beard in check with our favorite affordable facial hair trimmer, the Philips Norelco. It has sharp, precise blades and a variety of accessories that trim hair neatly and quickly, making it easy to transition between different facial hair looks.
24. Tube squeezers to ensure you use every last drop of product
Running out of toothpaste, sunscreen, lotion, ointment, or any other kind of product that comes in a tube requires a trip to the store—unless you have a tube squeezer. This device allows you to eke out those last drops you otherwise would have tossed, giving you more time in between product re-ups, and, thus, much more bang for your buck. It also helps squeeze out ointments even if they aren’t nearly empty, which reviewers say is helpful for anyone with arthritis or lack of mobility in their hands.
25. An apple slicer to make snacking easier
Sure, you could slice an apple with a knife or (gasp!) bite into it whole. But this KitchenAid corer makes it a lot easier to get eight uniform slices in a much quicker time than it would take with a (potentially injurious) knife. Reviewers love this corer’s handles, which curve down to make pushing down on it feel more natural.
26. Fruit, vegetable, and meat delivery services to always have fresh produce
If you’re trying to limit your grocery store visits, it can be difficult to keep perishable goods like meat, seafood, and produce on hand. But you can have such items shipped to your door with dedicated delivery services.
For meat and seafood, one great option is Crowd Cow, which allows a la carte or subscription orders of beef, chicken, steak, pork, and fish. Each box comes with information on where the meat or fish came from (yes, just like that that gag in Portlandia) so you can find out more about the farm or ranch, if you desire.
For produce, try Imperfect Foods or Misfit Market. Both deliver boxes full of organic and conventional fruits and vegetables that have been passed over by grocery stores for cosmetic imperfections but still taste great and contain all the same nutrients as fresh goods you’d get in a grocery store.
- Sign up for Crowd Cow starting at $8
- Sign up for Imperfect Foods here
- Sign up for Misfits Market here
27. A printer that helps you get the physical documents you need
An unexpected COVID side effect: You can’t rely on your office’s printer anymore. But if you still need to do some printing, you can do it with style and ease at home with our favorite multifunction printer, the Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4740. The device packs everything you may rely on in an office printer into one compact desktop package, such as scanning-to-the-cloud, faxing, and copying capabilities, an easy ink installation process, and the ability to switch paper between photo and letter sizes.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.