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Katie Allison Granju is the married mother of five children, ranging in age from toddler to teenager. In addition to blogging for Babble Voices, she also publishes her own blog, Big Good Thing, and she works full time in digital media with a large cable network. When she isn't at work, blogging, or washing someone's socks, Katie enjoys working in her flower garden, riding her bike, and feeding the chickens she keeps in the backyard of her family's large and totally impractical, 113-year-old Victorian house.

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My Material World: 18 Things I’ve Discovered I Can’t Live Without

By Katie Allison Granju |

Recently, some of my Babble Voices compadres have been sharing lists of things people probably don’t know about them, and I’ve definitely enjoyed finding out things about my bloggy pals, like that time Tracey Gaughran-Perez got a full body hug from Bill Clinton. (Coincidentally, back in 1994, I had a very pleasant dream in which the exact same thing happened to me.)

I thought about writing up my own “10 Things You Don’t Know about KAG” post, in which I could tell you about how I have a proud personal history that includes things like winning the Bell Buckle Hog Calling Championship not once, but twice. However, I’ve decided to go in a slightly different direction.

Lately I have been simultaneously embarked on the twin activities of seriously de-cluttering my life with regard to stuff of all types, while at the same time adding some new material items to our household and to my personal briefcase/closet/life. I tend to be a pretty hardcore declutter-er anyway (just ask my husband or children how long I let things sit around before sending them to Goodwill), but it’s amazing how fast a very large house full of many people can re-accumulate yet another bag of clothes that no longer fit anyone who lives here, or a stack of books sent to me by publishers for review but that I never found time to read. Sometimes, it becomes necessary to do a turbo-declutter for a brief span, and that’s what I have been doing in the past two weeks.

As for the acquiring of stuff, well, here’s something people really may NOT know about me; I have a weird hang-up about spending more than $10 on anything. I will put off making much-needed purchases for long periods — even when I have saved up and can afford the item in question — because I can’t bring myself to whip out the debit card. But lately, I have actually spent several hundred bucks (plants, dirt, paint, new throw rugs, paper lanterns, etc.) on the big yard and porch overhaul I am working on this spring, and it’s felt pretty good. (I think it’s looking good too, as I will show you when I put together some photos of the latest progress in another blog post tonight or tomorrow.)

So with all this getting rid of and acquiring of stuff in recent weeks, I have been giving some thought as to what goods and services in my life are my absolute faves — my go-to, couldn’t give ‘em up things that I’ve learned through trial-and-error really work for me. I think that having such a list, and knowing what I can depend on in the way of stuff (even if some of the items on it are wants rather than actual needs) helps to simplify my busy life because I don’t waste time looking for alternatives. I already know what I like and what works. And if one of the products on my list runs out or wears out, I know that it’s worth replacing, even if that means spending money beyond my $10 anxiety-inducing threshhold.

So without further ado … here is my personal, tried and true, goods and services I cannot live without, life punchlist.

(Just click the arrow to the right of each photo to view the next one in the series)


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My Material World: 18 Goods & Services I Can't Live Without

Julie Apple Mobomini

The designer behind the Julie Apple line of "green" bags is one of my closest friends, and I swear, she secretly designed her Mobomini wrist bag especially for me. Before I began carrying my Julie Apple Mobomini, I lost my wallet ... and its contents ... A WHOLE LOT. Now, because the Mobomini stays permanently attached to my wrist in airports, at Target, and at restaurants, I have easily cut my losses by 87%. Seriously.


So how about you? Are there any items on my list that we have in common? Are there other goods and services that through trial and error you’ve discovered are your go-to buys again and again – the stuff that even if you are paring down your budget or decluttering your household, would still always make the cut? Tell me in the comments below …






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About Katie Allison Granju


Katie Allison Granju

Katie Allison Granju is the married mother of five children, ranging in age from toddler to teenager. In addition to blogging for Babble Voices, she also publishes her own blog, Big Good Thing. Katie also enjoys working in her flower garden, riding her bike, and feeding the chickens she keeps in the backyard of her family's large Victorian house. Read bio and latest posts → Read Katie Allison's latest posts →

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28 thoughts on “My Material World: 18 Things I’ve Discovered I Can’t Live Without

  1. mbmom7 says:

    I’m not one to spend money on personal services like pedicures and eyebrows, probably because I’d never have the time! My personal “go-to’s” are more boring: I will always buy Palmolive dish-washing liquid and Finish dishwasher tablets – the hard water we live in cakes up everything without these name brand cleaners. Real Cheerios (never generic) – for my kids and for me!
    Thanks for the hint about the Old Navy jeans – I’m perpetually looking for jeans that fit. The post-children, early-forties body of mine has completely changed how jeans fit – nothing in the chain stores fit the butt, waist, and stomach areas all at the same time. However, the tight fitting t-shirts are an anathema! For ladies without curves on top, and a post-baby belly, nothing looks worse. I want the baggy t-shirts of the 80′s back!

    Also, I have the conundrum of donating bags of clothes to Goodwill every few months, and without fail, I have more clothes to donate in weeks! I am definitely a declutterer – I’ve discovered saving a lot of clothes for the next kid in line isn’t always effective. Anymore, I only save the really special or high quality clothes. I can always get the younger kids something at the consignment shops, and not have to store things for 4 or more years (boys and girls alternate among my younger set).

  2. Katie Allison Granju says:

    Curious: why the real Cheerios over generic? We aren’t huge Cheerios eaters, but I feel that way about Pop Tarts. No generic Pop Tarts!

    Totally agree on saving clothes. I am baffled by how quickly our house refills with clothing after I’ve taken 25 bags to Goodwill.

  3. Tané Tachyon says:

    The only things I have in common with you here are the Sharpies and prescription sunglasses. I should try the Olay, though, as I’m looking for a daily sunscreen for my arms, which are much more sensitive than my face, and I also want some Crocs for myself.

  4. SajMom says:

    I can’t answer for MBMOM7 but I’ve tried store brand cheerios and they swell up in the bowl and just do not taste good. I came to the same conclusion-it’s a waste of $ to buy generic cheerios. Thanks for the jeans tip-post baby #5 I bought jeans at Old Navy that seemed to fit in the dressing room and got home and they kept falling down. I think I got “the dreamer” thinking the name was appropriate. Part of the problem may have been that I rushed through it, too horrified at the size I was having to buy. But it is hard to find something that fits all those areas when your shape changes after babies.

  5. jzzy55 says:

    Our only overlap is the iPhone. I enjoy pedicures but spend that money on a monthly massage instead because I’ve found that massages prevent aches and pains (and if I do damage any soft tissue, it seems to heal faster). I go to someone who does deep tissue therapeutic massage — $80/80 minutes.
    Can’t wear toe thong sandals. Ouch. But those are cute.
    One product I liked was Estee Lauder eyebrow crayon. Because I have light, spare eyebrows and need to beef them up. No tweezing or threading. Of course EL discontinued the product, but I found it on line and bought two. One lasts about three-four years so I’m set for a while.
    I never go outside without sunglasses (sensitive pale eyes, lousy retinas, and now cataracts) but I can’t manage going back and forth between prescription sunglasses and regular glasses so I just wear those geeky Cocoons on top of my regular glasses. They are not chic, but they work. Glad you bought yourself some, though. They are not a luxury item if your eyes are sensitive.

  6. liza says:

    i am intrigued by the idea of a netbook, but doesnt that mean you need to be connected to the internet in order to write anything?
    My impression was they do not have writing programs that work without internet.

  7. S says:

    Katie, have you heard of Zenni Optical for prescription glasses and sunglasses? They have unbelievable prices, great quality and fast shipping. I even get my prescription progressive bifocals there for under forty bucks!

    I completely agree on the indoor/ outdoor rugs. I got one at the Pottery Barn Outlet store (If you pass through Gaffney, SC on your way to the coast it’s worth a stop) and everyone thinks it was very expensive, and I do literally hose it down to wash it!

  8. mbmom7 says:

    Real cheerios taste great out of the box, and they hold up well in milk. The generic cheerios don’t have such a firm crunch – they seem soft and become stale very quickly. The generic taste isn’t as “oaty” – the nice nutty, yummy flavor of Cheerios. You can tell I’ve been a parent too long – I could write a dissertation on the taste of Cheerios!

  9. mbmom7 says:

    Hi Liza-
    Netbooks are just little computers! My family has two – an Asus (9″ screen) and an Acer (10″). Both have word processing programs (we tend to use open office, the Linux based freeware that looks a lot like Microsoft word). My daughters write papers on the Asus (and play games, watch movies with Netflix, etc) ; my husband uses the netbook for traveling and work- it fits easily into a backpack or large coat pocket, has the keyboard for easy typing, and enough power to do many tasks. They don’t have the touch screen of an iPad or iPod Touch, but the functionality of the keyboard has a lot to recommend them. I hope that helps!

  10. Buffy says:

    Katie, you have done it again! You motivated me to do something about which I’ve been dragging my feet: buy clothes that fit. (The voices of Stacy and Clinton in my head weren’t enough!) I am the largest I have ever been and every morning is a depressing fight to look presentable. While I WILL lose weight, it will be slowly; so, dagnabbit, in the meantime I really deserve to look good. Thank you for the reminder. Also, by the by, I second your ON purchases, the power of a wristlet, and pedis.

    The things I choose not to do without? Bare Escentuals mineral foundation, scarves, and … Crocs! Not the kiddie kind, but ones for adult life (e.g., Alice, Grace, Jayna).

    Keep on rockin’, wit your bad self. With much thanks, Buffy

  11. Raylee says:

    We have several overlaps, netbook, iphone, and I am intrigued by the wristlet. I love bags, but I would have to have a crossbody. I like my hands free for catching kids, talking on phone, or other things. I have the “MOM” purse with several wristlets/pouches to take out as needed to go. Doesn’t seem too far from the diaper bag though. So hard to downsize!

  12. Amy K says:

    Love the olay – it has titanium dioxide, which is what my dermatologist recommends. Also, the crocs for kids and the sharpies. Oh, and the wrap dresses; I’m embarrassed to say how many I own. (check out boden for sales…).

    My husband has prescription glasses that darken automatically. He loves them! I wear contacts and lose sunglasses constantly, so I stick with discounted pairs from TJ Maxx.

    I carry lotion and colored lip glosses everywhere! You’ve been to Salt Lake, Katie, so you know how dry it is here.

  13. Danni says:

    Netbooks are great. I’ve got a little Samsung one that I’ve had for years. However I’ve recently upgraded to a Sony Vaio that I am planning to use for my graphic design and stuff. The little netbook just doesn’t have the guts for that.

    I’m also a fan of Old Navy Jeans although I go for the new Dreamer cut.

    Stuff I can’t live without includes Eucerin face lotion with spf 30, nice handbags (cheap ones don’t last as long and aren’t as lovely and tactile), l’occitane hand lotion with shea butter and a good leave-in hair conditioner (constantly trying different ones of those, currently have a Redken one)

  14. Marianne says:

    So glad you are still loving the eyebrow threading! I am still a total evangelist for them.

  15. Marissa says:

    I LOVE Oil of Olay and used the Complete for years — ages 16 to about 27. But then I knew it was time to step up, and now I use Oil of Olay Total Effects. Everything you love about the Complete with some more wrinkle fighting stuff. It is more expensive, but I get it at BJs in a bottle about double the size sold in regular store for about $27 and BJs takes coupons, so I usually get $2-3 off that.

    Like you, this is the only party of my “daily” beauty regime that is actually daily.

  16. Suzanne says:

    Where do you go for eyebrow threading? The link doesn’t work. I’d like to try it.

  17. Clisby says:

    No items in common. I’m trying to think of things I really wouldn’t want to live without (I’m not going to say *can’t* – the only things I can think of that I can’t live without are some kind of clothing, some kind of shelter, water, and food.)

    Aside from those …

    I really wouldn’t want to live without baking soda, vinegar, Ivory or Kirks castile soap, a basic laundry detergent and toothpaste like Arm&Hammer, and either petroleum jelly or lanolin. That takes care of most home/personal washing/moisturizing wants. Cast-iron cookware – if I had to give up all other cookware, I’d want my cast iron. Tough sneakers and sandals – my Skechers sneakers and Teva sandals are 3 years old, and still going strong. I rarely wear anything else. Thrift stores – way better prices and selection than I could possibly find at any department store in Charleston. A (doesn’t have to be expensive) barbering set with a decent set of scissors. My husband is the only one in the family who gets professional haircuts, and that’s because I don’t trust myself with the barbering equipment. He cuts my hair, my daughter’s hair, our son’s hair.

  18. lolismum says:

    Wine! You forgot the WINE!

  19. Clisby says:

    Oh. sorry. Pinot Grigio!

  20. Scott says:

    Those spray-on sunscreens are convenient, but I worry about the toxicity of chemical sunscreens.

  21. Alesa says:

    Don’t know where Katie goes for threading in Knoxville, but I go to Aditi salon in the Downtown West area. Much less expensive than the threaders at the mall kiosk.

    Katie: I agree re: the RX sunglasses, and now my husband if FINALLY hooked after about 30 seconds of wearing his first pair (Oakley). They literally changed his outlook on life – LOL! I have two pairs of Serengetti that I love, but my Coach pair is my all-time fave. Dark green, not too big, not too small, not flashing that brand name conspicuously. Our wedding photog 10 hours away (who I had never met) showed up on the beach with the exact same pair. Good sunglasses are the way to go, and I, too, feel naked without mine.

  22. edie22 says:

    We have the iphone in common and I think that may be it. I´m not terribly attached to things.. that is things of specific brands or any services. I suppose that if I were to choose things i like they´d be:

    Clarks shoes – a great shoe store in the city I live in (Gasteiz) which is expensive but has great sales. I like them for both my husband and I because they´re somewhat distinctive, but not outlandish, and are great quality.

    Gocco – kids clothing store. Again quite expensive but they have AMAZING sales 3 times per year. It´s a really classic, almost old-fashioned, brand but still playful and cute. great quality.

    Snickers – can be the candy bar, the ice cream flavour, the ice cream bar, in a cake.. i don´t care where or how i get it but I need a snickers at least once per month!

    Zara – I especially love their basics.. inexpensive but decent quality and they look nice.

    There´s really nothing else that i´m brand specific on, just as long as it does the job lol. I just realized how boring I am.

  23. Alesa says:

    P.S. Soma Intimates vanishing edge microfiber panties. If your booty munches your undies, never again with these babies. I’m a customer for life and will never buy another pair of underwear without the rubber “booty grippers.”

    For those who don’t know what I’m talking about:

  24. Melissa says:

    I love Old Navy’s Flirt Jeans! Our body type is very similar and those truly are the most comfortable and the most flattering for me. I hate to admit, but I’ve got them in a size 8 from several years ago and a size 16 from more recently (I can still claim baby weight for a nearly two year old right?? ha. ) Point being – they are still flattering.

    I also can’t do without a good, perfectly fitting bra from Victoria Secret. They are worth every extra penny and the time it takes for an actual fitting.

    On the home front – I’d have permanent dirty floors without my Swiffer – haven’t used a real mop in years!

  25. AwwwTrouble says:

    Fun list – and funny to see our overlaps, as well as our categories overlap but brands don’t.

    For example, I LOVE Old Navy jeans. Get a ton of compliments on them – but my line is the Sweetheart (I am not really curvy, but do have a tummy). LOVE the skinnies and the boot cuts, and the Short length is the perfect length for me.

    I have mixed feelings on spray sunscreen – the only times my kids have gotten burns is when we’ve used it. I think it’s a good everyday choice, but for all day in strong sun (a beach day) I think you need the coverage of rubbed in lotion, to make sure all areas get covered, and those days we now use both – base of rubbed in lotion, touch ups with spray.

    I am curious what shoes you wear for gardening. When Crocs first came out, I got myself a (knockoff) pair, and am embarrassed to admit I did, back then, wear them out. SInce they are indestructible, I do sometimes wear them for things like gardening, sometimes walking the dog on rainy wet days. They aren’t great at the beach though because they are too bulky. Am still on the hunt for the perfect beach/pool shoe – something that holds up to damp and sand, but is easy to kick on an off, and really easy to just rest feet on as you struggle to pull on and off a wet bathing suit in the dressing room, and (the reason why no rubber flip flops) still looks like a decent enough footwear for stopping at an ice cream place on the way home! That’s my current quest, have never found a good solution.

  26. Clisby says:

    I can’t believe I left out the most important thing I wouldn’t want to do without. Obviously I could do without a twice-a-month cleaning service, but I sure don’t want to.

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