Article Line Long1

The Basic & Practical Household Essentials That Keep Us Clean, Organized, and Sane

I think that on the whole, Wednesday generally feels like a sturdy, non-sexy weekday. It lacks the promise of a Monday, the productivity of a Tuesday, the building excitement of a Thursday, or the exuberance of a Friday. For that reason – and to celebrate this lovely, average Wednesday – I wanted to do a quick deep dive into one of my favorite topics: practical home essentials.

So look…while my team is great at pulling together roundups with the best furniture at the best prices, sometimes a gal (or guy, or person) has just gotta focus on the basics – like a cutting board that will go the distance, or the best smart lightbulb, or a window AC unit that won’t burn your eyes, or a grout scrubber that’ll save your forearms. That’s my goal today: to highlight the tiny, basic things that every home could use.

Almost every item here is under $50 and while a couple of them are surprisingly design-minded (I see you, $30 marble toilet brush), the overwhelming majority are practical and un-sexy – so basically, perfect for a Wednesday – but also EHD-tested and well-loved. These tiny basics keep our homes in order and keep our clutter body at bay, so we hope they can be of service to you, too. Let’s start out with the kitchen, yeah?

design by velinda hellen design | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: velinda’s first freelance client reveal: molding the ‘builder-grade budget’ + where they saved & splurged

1. Extreme Scrub Scour Pad: Jess swears by these for her stainless steel cookware.

2. Everyday Cutting Board: We love a wooden cutting board for styling purposes, but this $27 option is Em’s go-to choice for daily meal prep.

3. Drawer/Shelf Liner: Quick aside with big news: my mom just got the first shot of her Covid vaccine and I’m eagerly awaiting a counter offer on a new place (burying the real intel in these posts!). Naturally, my mom’s first comment after her shot was, “if you get it, maybe I’ll be able to come out and help you line the cabinets”…so like, yeah, that’s where I get this obsession with basic essentials from. Anyway – the clear is great for seeing crumbs and the ribbing increases air circulation. I’m a ride-or-die for this liner.

4. Knife and Cutlery Cleaner: This is a game-changer if you’re also scared of washing your knives. It’s also WAY easier to wash a fork by hand with one of these compared to the average sponge.

5. Brass Trivets: These are a splurge but WOW, they’re showstoppers, right? (“Actually, my other trivets are like 60 years old AND I can actually leave these out all the time, so this is probably a steal” – me, justifying this purchase. If these go on sale for President’s Day, I’ll flag them for y’all.)

6. Pot & Pan Brush: I don’t have a dishwasher, have been known to let things sit in the sink for too long so things get dried on and annoying, and this is my go-to daily dishwashing tool. A ringing endorsement!

7. Walnut Scouring Pad: You get 4 of these pads for $4, so they’ve replaced my Scrub Mommy. Honestly, they take the tiniest bit longer BUT they also aren’t neon, so they’re worth the tradeoff in my book.

design by sarah zachary |styled by emily bowser | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: afraid of designing a boring home?? this designer will steer you clear by showing you her tricks

8. Sink Caddy: Like, sure, yeah, it’d be beautiful to have decanted soaps and wooden cleaning supplies…but this does a good job of corralling the things you actually DO have while making them look a little bit more intentional and designed.

9. Wire Dividers: $5 or $6 to never hear the cacophony of cookie sheets, pot lids, or casserole dishes clanging around in the cabinet again is $5 or $6 well spent.

10. Sponge Cloths: These are super absorbent, reusable, washable, compostable, and they’ve completely replaced paper towels for Emily and me.

11. Countertop Dish Rack: This rack, with a drip tray and separate utensil compartment, is minimalist and beautiful. It wouldn’t look out of place in the Mountain House kitchen, which is the highest honor that I’m allowed to bestow, I think.

12. Airtight Silicone Lids: There are a bunch of uses for these (keeping food warm, storing leftovers, etc.) but the absolute best one is using them in the microwave. No more splatters! Jess also has them and LOVES them.

13. Over-the-Sink Drying Rack: No counter space? No problem. Roll this out, let your dishes and utensils dry, and shove it back in a drawer. (Fun fact: I had a lunch with the Food52 designer behind this product pre-pandemic and I gasped and then yelled when they showed me this design. I pre-ordered it that night. It’s GOOD.)

14. Studio McGee Paper Towel Holder: Blonde wood, brass accents, leather, AND practicality? This packs a big, California cool-meets-refined style punch for $20.

15. Swedish Dishcloths: Ryann loves these Swedish dishcloths, which live in the same world as the aforementioned sponge cloths. These are a little more affordable and come in a slew of bright colors – perfect for dipping your toe into the reusable product waters for the first time.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | styled by velinda hellen and erik staalberg for ehd | from: working with what you’ve got – an $8k budget kitchen makeover with a lot of vintage charm

1. Wool Dryer Balls: I am so passionate about these that I haul them – in their own separate bag – alongside heaping bags of clothing and hands/pockets packed with quarters on my walk to the laundromat. Spritz a little essential oil on them (if you want – you can also leave them as-is), throw them in the dryer, and your laundry will be coming out faster and fluffier.

2. Squeegee: There was a lot of chatter about glass shower enclosures after Brian’s recent post. If you also love the look of glass but hate the maintenance, hitting doors/walls with a quick squeegee after bathing is (a.) fun and (b.) good for preventing streaks, buildup, and spots.

3. All-Purpose Bleach Alternative: You can use this with laundry, but it’s also safe for general house surface cleaning. Additional Bonus: it’s non-toxic and unscented so you won’t feel like you’re inhaling ammonia fumes.

4. Bathroom Spray: This is a $9 natural cleaner and odor eliminator that actually works and smells like a healthy breakfast of sugared grapefruit.

5. Toilet Brush: SHEESH, Y’ALL. CB2 is crushing the whole bathroom accessories game. If black marble isn’t your thing, they have a ton of great options (really into the brass and fluted collections) that aren’t obscenely expensive.

6. Pumice Stone Toilet Bowl Cleaner: If you’re stuck with a stubborn ring around the waterline of your toilet despite your best cleaning efforts, this will remove it ASAP.

design by william hunter collective | style by velinda hellen and erik staalberg for ehd| photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a basement-turned-office reveal (+ 7 steps for how to pull off “edgy neutral”)

1. Smart Light Bulb: There are SO MANY smart light bulbs out there and shopping for them is confusing and hard. This is the best one. DONE.

2. Cordless Power Drill: For reasons unknown, this is currently 51% off, which is an insane deal. And like, sure, you can use this to mount shelving or…make things? Attach cabinets to walls? I’m honestly not really sure why we need drills in everyday life, but the real value here is that it will speed up your furniture assembly process by a million percent. Assemble flat packed pieces with ease and without tears!

3. Humidifier: Humidifiers for kids are cute and often shaped like animals. Humidifiers for adults look horrifying plastic aquarium/ant farm combos. WHY? This teardrop-shaped one, though, gets the job done while being aesthetically pleasing.

4. Felt Furniture Pads: I know they’re boring. But I also know that if you don’t make a conscious effort to put them on ASAP, you’ll end up accidentally scratching your nearly-100-year-old floors while rearranging furniture solo. $5 now will save you an entire security deposit in the future. (Someone, please, learn from my mistakes.)

5. Queen-Sized Air Mattress: I loaned this to a friend in late 2019 and they are still sleeping on it, so I’m pretty sure it’s amazing. Plus, you can’t beat the $99 price tag. You can test it out while dreaming of hosting guests in the future.

6. Battery Organizer with Tester: Well first off, ew, I’m so sorry for recommending something named “Battery Daddy,” but I HAD TO. This has a tester attached and it holds all your batteries in one place where you can stow them away safely so your friends won’t come over and say, “hey, why do you keep batteries in the fridge? That’s definitely not normal.” (Please leave a comment if you also put your batteries in the fridge – we can commiserate.)

7. Cleaning Caddy: It’s two caddies in one, it’s under $10, and it’s not garish. Win/win/win. Michael Scott would be proud!

8. Electronics Cleaning Brush: This double-ended brush removes all the gunk between the buttons on your electronics like keyboards, phones, or remotes.

9. All Purpose Spray: This spray is $9, non-toxic, biodegradable, safe for all types of counters, and it smells like figs (i.e. very luxe). Jess was influenced by Shavonda and is VERY happy she was.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: how we designed a family-friendly laundry room in the portland project

10. Power Scrubber: An electric toothbrush for your grout and caulk crannies!!! Save those elbows!!! Carpal tunnel, be gone!!! I’m very excited about this product!!! (It’s not just me, though – hundreds of 5-star reviews can’t be wrong.)

11. 6-Pack of Flashlights: Not to be too much of an overbearing mom, but have you checked your flashlights recently? You don’t even need to buy these (though they are probably as cute as flashlights can be!), but this is your gentle nudge to make sure you have your essentials ready for an emergency.

12. July A/C: It feels weird to recommend an A/C unit as I prepare for another nor’easter, but this is truly the only not-hideous window unit that has ever existed. There are different front options for different decor styles and honestly, it’s super fairly priced (especially with this free shipping). I recommend.

13. Cordless Dyson: I mean…once you go cordless, it’s tough to go back. Plus, this one is specially-made to handle pet hair. That said, I’d hold off on this one til the weekend – I’ll share the best President’s Day deal once we get the intel.

14. Pull-Out Cabinet Drawers: Don’t invest in new cabinets or closets before trying these! They add a whole new level of easy-to-use functionality to existing built-in storage.

15. Lobby Broom: I promise that you will be more incentivized to clean with a lobby broom – it’s so much easier than bending to use a tiny pan. Also great for folks with mobility changes (i.e. me)!

16. Reusable Latex Gloves: Grab two packs and use one pair for pet hair cleanup (pet hair hack – rub affected areas with latex gloves and it’ll gather all the fur for easy removal!), one pair for the bathroom, one for the kitchen, and stash one for miscellaneous emergencies.

17. Pet Hair Roller: LIFE. CHANGING. If you have a pet who sheds, this is the answer. We have one of these on set at most EHD shoots (you know, if a pet lives in the house) and it’s the reason you don’t see tiny hairs or fluffs in every shot.

18. Cleaning Brush Set: I swear by the tiniest end of the smaller brush for cleaning around/into my sink and shower drains. Most folks probably don’t need to go THIS niche with their cleaning supplies, but if you really want to go all the way with your deep clean, this set will take you over the finish line.

That’s it from me on this sturdy, practical, homely Wednesday morning. In the interim, I’d love to learn about the cleaning or organizational products that keep your home in order – y’all consistently have the best recommendations. (You were actually the folks who introduced me to the sink caddy and knife cleaner, both of which I now love deeply!)

I’m particularly super interested in learning more about your favorite corded vacuums (a new frontier for me!) and your most-used cleaning sprays – I fell in love with the Murchison Home all-purpose spray linked above when my go-to name brands sold out during the early rona-onset, but now I’m excited to try out more cleaning products from small businesses. Also, open to discuss battery storage with my fellow fridge weirdos. Let’s chat, please???

Opening Image Credits: Design by Jess and Tyler Marés | Photos by Jess Marés | From: A DIY Kitchen Renovation In Two Parts (Plus A Reno Pep Talk)

0 0 votes
Article Rating


Never miss a single post and get a little something extra on Saturdays.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

Growing up we always kept the batteries in the freezer. I definitely thought that was normal until my husband moved in and told me it was not.

3 years ago
Reply to  Wesley

I found this:

“So here’s the definitive guide:

If the battery is zinc-carbon (including zinc-chloride) or lithium based, its self discharge rate can be reduced if kept refrigerated.

Your fridge needs to be a dry environment (some older fridges can be damp), or the battery casing or terminals may rust causing toxic leaks that you really don’t want near your food.

Do not use a battery straight from the fridge, allow it to warm up gradually to room temperature (a few hours is needed for a unit to warm right through).

Don’t try to accelerate this warming process (say by putting it beside a sunny window), as this will cause the outer parts of the battery to become too hot and excessive heat accelerates self-discharge.

While the battery is warming up, keep it in a well ventilated area to avoid condensation which could cause shorts or rusting.

For everyday usage, don’t get too hung up on it. The benefits are very small unless you are talking about commercial storage to extend shelf life.”

I never knew this was a thing!💡

3 years ago
Reply to  Rusty

Wow! This sounds like way more trouble than it’s worth. (Plus I like to use rechargeables for most things)

3 years ago
Reply to  Jessica


3 years ago
Reply to  Wesley

We always kept them in the fridge! I don’t know why, but they went in the butter compartment. My husband also informed me that it’s weird and now ours are relegated to the junk drawer.

3 years ago

I had to laugh at how many of these items I already have, lol.

I love those lobby brooms!!! I had a significant spinal fusion done a couple years ago and as soon as I was able to start doing chores again I bought two; one for upstairs and one for down. They are the best.

I do have the cordless Dyson vacuum but I recently bought a Shark Navigator liftaway (?) for those longer vacuuming sessions. We are a multiple pet household so fur is a frequent accessory and I outrun the Dyson battery just often enough to be annoying. The Shark works just as well as the Dyson and I now keep the Dyson downstairs where I don’t run out of juice as often and the Shark upstairs where we have more carpet.

3 years ago
Reply to  Karla

another vote for sharks! i have the shark navigator pet pro, and selected it for the size of the canister (it was larger than the competition) and the self-cleaning brush roll. the self cleaning brush roll was worth the extra $$$ – with three (long-haired) pets, a wool rug that sheds more than the animals, and a human with long hair, i hated having to cut hair off the roller of our previous vacuum just to keep the motor from burning out, so the self-cleaning kind is my favorite adult luxury! have only wonderful feelings about that vacuum and the insane amount of gross stuff it picks up from our rugs/floors (the attachments and hose are really convenient too).

3 years ago
Reply to  Karla

Another Shark Navigator fan here. The Wirecutter has been recommending them for ages. I took the plunge a few years ago and am sold. For a plug-in vac, their balance of quality and price is unsurpassed.

3 years ago

My new favorite cleaning tool: the O-Cedar spin mop and bucket. Game changer! So much easier to wring out the mop with this gadget an it’s built right into the bucket. It almost makes mopping the floor fun. Almost.

3 years ago

Those Wire Dividers for Pots and Pans are the down and dirty commodity version. If you thought $6 was worth it, try spending another $14 for adjustable dividers and a non-a slip base. YouCopia’s StoreMore Bakeware Rack is where it’s at!

ooooooh. these kitchens! that allison (work with what you’ve got one) and benjamin kitchen is one of my all-time favorites. sigh.

3 years ago

Meee tooo!!!

3 years ago

I love those Reusable Latex Gloves. It is very useful to cleanup our pets. I also love the lobby broom.

3 years ago

Hey everyone, I got the black cutting board for Christmas, and mine had a terrible chemical smell that transferred to any food cut on the board. The smell would dissipate, but come back anytime the board got wet from use or washing. I checked the Amazon reviews, and this is a common complaint :(. My brother in law got the natural color and has had no problems! I put it on my Christmas list because it was recommended here before, so hopefully this helps someone else out.

3 years ago

Hi, Caitlin. If you feature this bathtub drain hair trap on your next practical roundup and people will probably buy tons of them! It looks like a normal drain plug but traps hair very well, preventing clogs/backups in the tub. 13 dollars!

3 years ago
Reply to  Pinny

They’re fabulous! I just got the kitchen sink one.

3 years ago

Yes to the Epicurean cutting boards! They can go in the dishwasher! We’ve had ours for years and love them.

3 years ago

I cleaned the bathroom today, phew!
The grout cleaner toothbrushy thingo looks like it’d be great.

I have a Dyson big ball corded pet vacuum and it’s hard to drag around (numb hands) but man, ut does the job like nithing before!
In a meeting recently and the person mentions how she, her mother, sister and sister-in-law ALL have the more powerful Kmart cordless vacuum.
I’ve looked at this and thought about ehether it’d be a waste of money … apparently it’s fabulous! They use it in a two story, largish home and it powers through.
Once I’m on my own, I’m buying one (@AU$150), things in Australia cost more on average, than the US, so that’s super cheap!

I have a bath eraser. It’s a thingthat looks a lot like a sponge with a sort of chamoi texture on one side and a white surface on the other. It’s weird, byt nit much elbow grease is required to remove hard to move marks. I’ve also used it to remove unjnown marks from painted surfaces, with just water. This thing works with just water!

Tired now, just from thinking about cleaning!😹

3 years ago

Okay, I’m dying here over that house update just thrown in. Please tell me when you finally close on a house, there won’t be a long written post, we’ll just get a “CAITLIN HAS A HOUSE!” update – seriously, that’s all it needs to say – and know there is more to come 🙂 Good luck with coming to an agreement with the seller!!!

3 years ago


Roberta Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Rusty

Somehow I missed that bit of news? Congrats, Caitlin! Fingers crossed!

3 years ago

Please DO NOT PUT flammable essential oils in the DRYER. There is a risk of a dryer fire. I have had a dryer fire. Do you know what happens when your dryer catches on fire? The fire is INSIDE the closed components of the dryer completely unreachable by anyone, including the fire department when they come. The fire department simply rips your dryer out of your house and puts it on the lawn to spray with water. This is not a good thing to happen at your house.

3 years ago
Reply to  Kj

I had no idea! I hear about people putting essential oils in the dryer all the time. Feeling glad my husband hates scented things, yikes.

3 years ago

Should check out Puracy’s Natural All Purpose Cleaner – it is so so good and safe for everyday use with kids:

3 years ago

SO here for this “homely” content! I find round ups of this utilitarian stuff so bizarrely soothing to my brain- because it lends me some small sense of control in this crazy world?!

Looove the Murchison-Hume line- as a transplanted Aussie, I was excited to find it at The Container Store- the fig scent is lovely, and yup (no disrespect to my other love, Mrs Meyers) somehow bougie!

I also had a cordless Dyson for like a day before the tightwad/spendthrifty part of my brain freaked and made me return it and got a regular upright Shark instead- and don’t get me wrong, that dust-snuffling sea creature can GET IT, but not once while I’ve been hauling its heavy ass around and getting lassoed by its cord have I not pined for that Dyson, sob!

3 years ago

I <3 your practical suggestions, Caitlin, because I believe you that the products work. The Chom Chom roller was an early pandemic, staring at the rug and noticing so much cat fur, game changer. Been holding off on the lobby broom but this post is the sign that it’s time. You make literally any topic fun to read about. What a talent! Crossed fingers for the house!

3 years ago
Reply to  SarahT

I have the Chom Chom roller, too. It’s a lifesaver for quick de-furring of chairs, upholstery and even me 🙃 when unexpected guests don’t allow time to haul out the big vac. Not that there are all that many unexpected guests these days but I still love it!

3 years ago

Glad I’m not the only one who keeps batteries in the fridge hahah!!!

3 years ago

I bought that wooden paper towel holder so fast. I’ve been eyeing the $80 one for years, but could never justify the price or that it’s European and made for their shorter rolls.

THANK YOU STUDIO MCGEE for making a $20 version with Target. And thank you Caitlin for bringing it to my attention.

3 years ago

the only thing i would add to this list: rechargeable batteries. obviously not the best for emergencies but perfect for remotes and everyday use 🙂
even though i’m unlikely to buy any of these, I really enjoyed this roundup and the home peeks. intrigued by the walnut scrubbers. i bought some coconut guys from fill more waste less and they’re pretty good but a little more expensive. i love looking through public goods, but have yet to try any of their products.
ps. check out your thrift stores for household products. i found a sweet metal caddy perfect for my cleaning supplies and too many other great things i needed for my apartment – many brand new or just as good.

3 years ago

Have a bunch of stuff from the first and last list that I love and bought independently (First: 1, 2, & 3, Last: 13) and want to get a bunch more (First: 9, 10, 12, 13 & 15, Second: 1, 3 & 5, Last: 6, 8, 16 & 18). However, I bought the broom on your recommendation and just wanted to say for us personally we hated it. It’s what led us to buying 13 from the last list when it went on sale at end of last year. The broom is so hard to use. A simpler design or better construction/better materials perhaps, but it was a regret purchase, but love these lists, thank you and keep them coming 💛

3 years ago

Hi Caitlin! I hope you already follow @gocleanco on Instagram. She will warm your deep-cleaning heart!

3 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay

I second this!! My house has never been so clean thanks to GoCleanCo’s tips and tricks!

3 years ago

I have the Target lobby broom and 3 young children. Makes every messy thing a lot easier. Was a random impulse buy a few months back & now I think of all the wasted years pre-lobby broom. Get this one thing and make your life a tiny bit better.

3 years ago

*Virgo squeal upon seeing the title of the post*

3 years ago

We don’t like chemicals or scented products (I’m allergic) so I make my own natural all-purpose cleaner. In a spray bottle add 2/3 water, 1/3 white vinegar, and a few squirts of dish washing liquid. Shake. Ready to spray and clean.

3 years ago

Loved this! Thanks for the round up!

3 years ago

Growing up we always had batteries in the fridge. When I moved out I also kept them in the fridge and a friend told me it wasn’t necessary so I moved them to a new spot. Back in the fridge they went after a few too many times trying to remember where the new spot was lol.

3 years ago

The FuRemover broom for pet hair will be the best $13 you spend this year if you have shedding pets. I purchased mine from Amazon but I know other places sell them. It is amazing how much pet hair it picks up and is so much easier to use than a broom for getting it all in one passing.

3 years ago

Robot vacuum ftw. Obviously it was better at our last place where we only had one floor (also when we left the house most days of the week and could run it while we were out), but it’s still pretty fantastic. I even bought one for my sister when her vacuum broke

3 years ago

Wool dryer balls are great, but it makes me crazy that the link is to a terribly expensive version of this simple, wholesome product!

I got a set of 6 for under $10, and later got a set for even less. Why promote crazy-expensive Nordstrom? It just makes people shy away from trying them.

3 years ago

Tossing in a rec for the Bissell Crosswave. It sweeps and mops at the same time! It has 2 water tanks and you dump the dirty water out after each cleaning. It’s so weirdly satisfying to see the dirty water! It’s a bit of a pain to clean, but so worth it knowing I’m picking up the dirt, not just moving it around on the floor.

Sandra Blackwell
3 years ago

I used to be a cabinet liner also. But!! years ago I discovered lining my cabinets and drawers with vinyl floor tiles! You never have to replace liner again, they do not tear from sliding heavy items over them, they are easy to clean, and best of all easy to install! I buy the inexpensive ones at Home Depot. They cut with a pair of good scissors and there is no bubbling or sticking to itself when you are trying to lay it in place.
I have done 2 of my own homes, several friends and my daughter’s house.

3 years ago

Where is the top image from with the rollout broom closet? I’m looking to make something similar. Thanks!

Joanna L
3 years ago

What a great list. One thing though – those felt pads for under chair legs & table legs. I can’t. I just can’t anymore. And I can’t let other people use them either – there’s a better way. Felt pads with nails – or better known as “nail on furniture glides”. It’s a little nail, and depending on your furniture you just have to hammer them into the bottom of the leg. Or if you have the strongest wood chairs on earth, like me, you have to drill a pilot hole and then nail the thing in. But you only have to do it once. They won’t peel off, they won’t come unstuck, they won’t collect your dog hair.
Might have to get a battery keeper after this – I’ve strangely been seeing recommendations everywhere(?!?) and am sufficiently influenced now. Thanks!