Poor Gwyneth Paltrow.
In the latest issue of Elle Décor magazine, she was asked to describe the 10 household items she just couldn’t live without for their monthly “Shortlist” column. Not luxurious items she likes having or every-now-and-then splurges, but items she simply couldn’t be apart from.
It wasn’t good.
I don’t mean to bad-mouth Gwyneth, but really? You can’t live without oversized Darren Almond photography? Or that $3,000 bathtub you have smack-dab in the middle of your bedroom? Or that bookshelf that places all the religious texts on the same level because that “is how I like to think about religion” – that’s a life necessity? I realize this was for a magazine – a rather snooty design one I rather enjoy in spite of it’s snootiness, at that – but this all seemed a tad extreme to be labeled “can’t live without”.
Celebrities often seem to complain about the trappings of famedom, wishing that they could be or claiming that they still are, just like you and me. But this article certainly didn’t give off that vibe or do her – who is already often criticized due to her somewhat preachy blog, Goop – any favors. (To be fair, she did throw in a couple cheapies – fresh flowers and cloth-bound books – but really, with items like $1,000 Charles Edwards star lanterns making the list, who cares about the frickin’ flowers.)
Still, it got me to thinking – what items could I not live without? Here is my list of my most loved and used items that I think/hope are more easily grasped by the average American girl. (I’ll forgo the obvious computer/ phone/ television since clearly – life would be rough without those.)
1. Vinegar – Vinegar is seriously a wonder food/cleaner, because…well, it’s a food and a cleaner! I keep a steady stock of white, red wine, and apple cider on-hand at all times. The white has proved to be a stellar cleaner, especially for all the calcium and rust build-up that I get from my water (my boyfriend used it to clean our shower head by securing a plastic bag full to it with floss – 30 minutes later and it was brand new!). Red wine is used in almost all of my salad dressings. And I started using apple cider (the organic kind) in a little tonic I take every other day to help balance out my skin. Studies have shown that it can help regulate blood sugar and it acts as an anti-inflammatory – the root of so many issues.
2. Storage cubes/poufs – I have been obsessed with Moroccan poufs for years now and while I still haven’t had the nerve to splurge for the real deal (which average around $300 a pop), I have found quite a number of cheap alternatives that serve a multitude of purposes.
The gold one I found at Target this summer as part of their line with Calypso-St. Barth’s (I also got a silver one). At only $60, they are super sturdy – you could definitely set a drink on there without worries – and offer extra seating or a handy step stool.
The turquoise cubes are also from Target – and these I got for only $15 a piece! They’re a seasonal staple for the store and come in a variety of colors. They, too, are also quite sturdy and work well in a seating pinch, but the best part is their storage capabilities. I use mine to store games, DVDs, even exercise equipment!
3. Sweater de-fuzzer – When you live in a climate cold enough to require a sweater 9 months out of the year, this one is a no-brainer. I found mine at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but I know they sell them everywhere and they work so much better than a razor or picking off pills by hand. They give even the oldest sweater a little facelift in only a matter of minutes.
4. Good mirrors – Fashion editors and decorators have said it a million times, but I’ll say it once more – own a good mirror. The bigger the better and the more the better. It may sound vain, but I have a mirror in almost every room of my house. It’s not that I sit and stare at myself, but it’s helpful to have a quick look conveniently located. They also make an amazing focal point. This one in my dining room was my great-grandmothers – isn’t that frame amazing? And I got this oversized floor mirror at West Elm – love it.
5. Zester/Microplane – This one might sound random, but you’d be surprised how often I use this thing! I have found so many recipes that call for citrus zest and I honestly can’t remember how I achieved that texture before owning this tool. A peeler? Even a food processor? I can’t really remember, but I know both of them can’t produce the same fine shavings that an actual zester can. Where did this sudden zest for a zester come from? See my #6.
6. Ina Garten’s cookbooks – I can claim exactly zero credit for every fabulous dish I have ever made. None have been of my own invention. They are all thanks to the genius that is Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa. I have never made anything out of her cookbooks (all seven of them) that hasn’t been amazing. Her focus on real, whole, and seasonal food without the gimmicks is what I adore. None of it is labeled as taking “Only 30 minutes!” or using “mostly store-bought items” or being a “super-food for your heart”. It’s just good food – period. My favorites? Her Challah French Bread (uses orange zest), Cape Cod Salad (also uses orange zest), Frozen Key Lime Pie (lime zest), and Orange Pound Cake (which I actually make as a lemon cake using – duh – lemon zest).
7. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser – Magic is right. This thing cleans ANYTHING. I had all the awful scuff marks my white woodwork and furniture after moving and this thing took it all away – without ruining the finish!
8. Revlon blow dryer – I don’t know how many times I have tried to blow out my hair on my own with a blow-dryer and round brush. You watch these shows where people make it look “just so easy”, only to try it yourself and wind up painful tangled with a serious case of carpel tunnel. I don’t know if I just don’t have the dexterity or strength required to do this, but I seriously suck at it. Luckily, Revlon makes a blow drier that is ALSO a round brush – miracle of miracles! I bought my first one right after college and haven’t gone back – it dries my hair quickly and seriously smooths it out…with just one tool! It’s still not quite the same as a professional blow out, but it’s certainly a close (and cheaper) second.
9. Russell + Hazel sticky notes – I’ll admit it. I’m a stationary junkie. I could honestly go YEARS without having to buy a card, sticky note, or paper pads. I own that much of it. But I love all things paper and – unlike shoes – it’s relatively inexpensive and doesn’t take up too much room.
One thing I can’t help but buy are Russell + Hazel’s to-do list stick notes. Based in Minneapolis, this darling design house creates everything from wedding planners, to recipe cards, to fabulous notebooks – and everything in between!
10. LL Bean tote – So I may have gone a bit overboard when I bought the extra-large L.L. Bean monogrammed boat-n-tote, but come on – there’s nothing you can’t fit in this thing. I could fit in this thing. It’s super sturdy (tested to hold over 500 pounds!), classically stylish (they’ve been a staple amongst the preppy-set for 65 years), and come in a variety of colors, sizes (my smaller one makes a perfect “shoe bag”), strap lengths, and opening styles. It is now my go-to bag for long weekends since it fits both my stuff AND my boyfriend’s, plus the pink on the big one just makes me smile. And who doesn’t love a monogram??
Let’s face it – I’m no Gwyneth. I don’t have a bathtub in my bedroom, or hand-painted wallpaper, or even fresh flowers in every room every day of the week. But what I do have are items that are pretty, practical, and perfectly suited to my lifestyle…and hopefully yours!