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

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)

 


  • Julie Apple Mobomini 1 of 18
    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.
  • Oil of Olay Sensitive Skin Lotion with SPF 15 2 of 18
    Oil of Olay Sensitive Skin Lotion with SPF 15
    There are a very few beauty rituals about which I am hardcore, but moisturizing is one of them. After many years of trial and error, a while back I discovered this inexpensive classic, which I now use not only on my face, but as my all-over body cream. Now that I am in my 40s, I am on the hunt for a more intensive facial moisturizer but this awesome, cheap (!) Oil of Olay lotion will remain a staple for both face and body, even when I find my new, wrinkle-minimizing, heavier-duty cream to add to it.
  • Wrap dresses of all types 3 of 18
    Wrap dresses of all types
    I loooove dresses for work and travel because you just throw them on and go, and over many years and many wasted dollars, I have learned that for curvy girls like me, you generally cannot go wrong with some variation on the classic wrap dress, like this one from Old Navy.
    They are generally made of easy-care fabric that doesn't wrinkle, and they really flatter just about anyone with my body shape. You can dress 'em up or down. Wear it with a light cami if you're worried the deep V could turn NSFW.
  • The iPhone 4 of 18
    The iPhone
    I could live without my iPad, but I cannot get along without my iPhone. I was an early smartphone adopter, carrying a Google Nexus and then a Blackberry Storm (terrible) for four years before I finally got my first iPhone (after everyone else in America had already gotten theirs), and I would NEVER go back.
    With the WordPress app for iPhone, I am even able to write many of my blog posts while waiting in the car line at school or during boring movies. Only complaints are that I wish the screen were slightly bigger and that it were sturdier. But other than that? Perfection.
  • Eyebrow threading! 5 of 18
    Eyebrow threading!
    Thanks to my friend and coworker Marianne (who always looks AMAZING) singing the praises of something called "eyebrow threading," and following her advice, I have now discovered the Mother of all Professional Eyebrow Shaping Services. While I don't completely know what it is the woman running the threads all over my brows is doing, I can tell you that the shaping results are far superior to waxing.
  • Flirt jeans 6 of 18
    Flirt jeans
    This was another trial-and-error find, and like the wrap dress, the Flirt line of jeans at Old Navy are just the best for curvy women like myself. (FYI: I am not using "curvy" as code for "overweight"; these jeans work great for size 4 or 6 if the wearer happens to have an actual ass.) They come in short, regular, and tall and in sizes 1-18. Of the styles offered, I like them in the mid-rise — they're still low enough to avoid any possibility of mom-jeans appearance, while high enough to avoid active promotion of any post-muffin-toppery action that's been an issue for me since having two C-sections in the past 4.5 years.
  • Spotify Monthly Premium Service 7 of 18
    Spotify Monthly Premium Service
    This may be the best $9.99 a month I have ever spent. Instead of maintaining, syncing, and moving around large amounts of iTunes data, I can just search the Spotify app on my iPhone or iPad and there it is — exactly what I wanted to hear. Spotify's library is vast, but if you are into super-obscure live recordings, you may still want to stick with your personal digital music library. I think a few biggies like The Beatles may also be missing from Spotify, but I find 99% of what I want to hear, and I don't have to worry about scratching anything, corrupting a file, or forgetting to sync.
  • Crocs for little kids 8 of 18
    Crocs for little kids
    Note the "for kids" part of my title there. You will NEVER catch me in Crocs, just as you will never see me wearing sweatpants or a baggy T-shirt outside my house. But for little kids, the classic "Cayman" Crocs are the greatest thing since sliced bread. It's pretty much all I buy G and C anymore. They come in cute colors that dress up well with ruffly socks.
  • Classic braided thong sandal 9 of 18
    Classic braided thong sandal
    This style of sandal is my go-to spring, summer, and fall shoe. I've had very expensive Italian leather versions and cheapies from Target and everything in between. I found this pair AT WALMART. They are Faded Glory brand "Amy" braided thong sandals. They come in classic brown or black and they cost TEN DOLLARS. I figured they would be super uncomfortable and/or fall apart in three weeks. I've been wearing them a month and they look brand new. They are THE most comfortable sandals I have ever owned, and people keep asking me where I got them because they look like I ordered them from some super fancy, expensive leather place.
  • Form-fitting, feminine T-shirts 10 of 18
    Form-fitting, feminine T-shirts
    I learned long ago that a well-made, form-fitting, feminine T-shirt with a scoop neck is the most flattering thing for curvy women, no matter their actual size. The version in this photo is J. Crew's "perfect fit" tee, but I find them at Target, Old Navy, and elsewhere. The key is quality, light cotton that clings without being too sheer, and cap sleeves that look feminine rather than sporty. I have this T-shirt in every color, and I wear them all year round.
  • The Sharpie Fine Point 11 of 18
    The Sharpie Fine Point
    Although I use my actual penmanship less and less in life, I like writing things, and when I do, this is the only pen I use. I carry one around wherever I go.
  • Outdoor rugs … indoors 12 of 18
    Outdoor rugs ... indoors
    This is a relatively new discovery for me, but I have learned that the new breed of "outdoor" area rugs (sometimes called "indoor/outdoor" rugs) look just as great as lower and mid-priced "indoor" rugs, and they cost one quarter as much, are ten times as durable, and when they get nasty, you can just take them outside and HOSE THEM DOWN. Now obviously, outdoor rugs aren't going to replace your high end, inherited Persian rugs, but other than that, they will replace almost anything.
  • Pedicures 13 of 18
    Pedicures
    This is the one beauty splurge I allow myself semi-regularly. If I get a pedicure every 2-3 weeks from March to November, I feel so much ... prettier. Just by getting pedis, I find that I pay more attention to the rest of how I look. If you have never gotten pedicures regularly, ask around before starting because prices can vary hugely — from $22 at a smaller strip mall place that may do an awesome job to $50 at a high-end salon where you may get a rush job.
  • The 10-inch netbook 14 of 18
    The 10-inch netbook
    I've now had my Asus 10-inch netbook for about a year, and it's the best thing ever. It weighs less than Paris Hilton's chihuahua and it doesn't have anything I don't need — like a CD-Rom drive. It's as small as my iPad but already has an awesome keyboard attached. It was cheap enough ($200 — $300 cheaper than an iPad) that I don't worry too much about being supercareful with it, and I can write anywhere. I just love it. I will never go back to a full-size laptop.
  • Hanna Andersson Journey’s End Jackets for Kids 15 of 18
    Hanna Andersson Journey's End Jackets for Kids
    My oldest daughter is 16 (almost 17) and my youngest is 22 months old. And guess what winter jacket my one-year-old wore this past winter? The same Hanna Andersson Journey's End jacket that my oldest wore 15 years ago. And since then, two nieces have worn it before passing it back to us. As I have written before, these gorgeous, light, and warm winter coats for girls RAWK.
  • Oxiclean 16 of 18
    Oxiclean
    Despite the persuasive power of the iconic TV commercials, I had never tried Oxiclean until the company that makes it asked me to review the product last fall. Since that time, I have become obsessively devoted to Oxiclean. Pretty much the only thing I don't use it to clean is wooden furniture and my hardwood floors. I use it in the laundry, to scrub rugs, to clean my bathroom, to scrub my painted wooden front porch, to soak out stains ... this stuff is unbelievable. I don't know how I got along as long as I did without it.
  • Mist spray sunscreen 17 of 18
    Mist spray sunscreen
    Being able to spray a fine mist of sunscreen all over children as they run away from me has made my life so much easier. My preferred brand is this Bullfrog kind, but other brands also now make the mist spray, and it's the delivery format that I am really devoted to, rather than a specific brand. Even for people with no kids, with this mist spray stuff, you can get sunscreen onto YOUR OWN NECK AND BACK without relying on anyone else to help you.
  • Prescription sunglasses 18 of 18
    Prescription sunglasses
    The photo above of my 16-year-old daughter J and me was taken last week just before she left for her prom. As you can see, I am wearing sunglasses. I am kind of addicted to them, and if I ever happen to misplace them and have to drive or be outdoors any time of day until sunset without them, I feel naked and cranky.

    Cheapskate that I am, I could never bring myself to spring for sunglasses with Rx lenses. Which meant I had never discovered the joy of sunglasses at all until I was packing for Bonnaroo 2005 and decided that sunglasses were a necessity. So I took the plunge, shelled out the cash for the prescription sunglasses, and now I would rather do without water on a hot sunny day than go outside without them.

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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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READ MORE FROM KATIE OVER AT MAMAPUNDIT (HER PERSONAL BLOG)

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