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Want A Give A Gift That Will Always Win?? Welcome to Caitlin (And Brenda’s) Tried & Tested Practical Gift Guide

YOOHOO, FRIENDS! It’s me, Caitlin, here to spread the word on a well-kept secret: my mom, Brenda, gives the best presents. They’re practical and useable and oftentimes kind of weird – like, oh, I didn’t know they made 6′ long lint rollers! – but they’ve saved the day and come in handy time and time again. I wanted to take a step back to highlight some of her greatest hits (along with some of the things I’ve bought for myself!) in the event that you’re in a bind and want to buy someone a gift that is, you know, helpful.

That said, these are proooooobably gifts best left for your closest friends and family. They’re not particularly sexy (I mean, unless you feel comfortable gifting a romantic emergency kit or a bidet, in which case…congrats on your healthy relationship!) but they ARE things that I’ve tried, tested, used, and loved. Wanna see what’s been under the Kelly-Higgins family tree for the past decade? GOOD, because it’s time to begin…

1 Headlamp: Because some of us like to go to the flea market before the sun rises, you know? (Also good for emergencies or, uh, nature activities that require lighting? My outdoor time begins and ends with “pacing parking lots while carrying old stuff.”)
2. Sewing Kit: This one is TSA compliant and a lifesaver. Keep it in your purse/backpack/suitcase – I swear it’ll come in handy someday. (Alternatively, Brenda grabbed this one for me last year – it’s Bridesmaid specific – and it’s great for any person in the midst of wedding season).
3. First Aid Kit: You know what I already had on hand when the pandemic started? A bunch of masks, because my mom thinks of EVERYTHING (like how I have really bad asthma and may need masks while living in wildfire country). A first aid kit is something everyone needs but most people my age forget about – highly recommend!!
4. Earthquake/Emergency Kit: When I moved to LA, Brenda grabbed me an emergency kit for my house and car because she knew that I’d never actually assemble one myself (she was right). The one I have is no longer available, but this one has all the essentials and more at an okay price.
5. Pop-Up Tent: In four months, every cute outdoor tent will be sold out. (Case in point – this striped tent was OOS all last summer.) If you have any summer plans coming up, why not take advantage of some holiday deals?
6. Stair Rolling Cart: I bought this for myself last year and it’s worth every penny (evidence!). It’s the best for groceries, laundry, thrifting, carrying recycling…the list goes on and on, you know? The wheels are GREAT.

1. Jump Starter: Who needs a friend when you can jump your car yourself? Added bonuses: Use it as a flashlight! Charge 2 devices with its USB ports! There’s a cigarette lighter socket outlet for old-school devices!
2. Groupon: Ok, this is a little bit of a ~free space~. For my 30th birthday this year, Brenda surprised me by paying some of my car insurance and MAN, THAT’S A GREAT PRESENT. Is there a recurring expense that you can cover for someone? If not, a Groupon for car washes or car detailing or oil changes scratches the same thoughtful itch.
3. Car Organizer: This was actually a gift from my godmother, Shannon, a few years ago and it’s a total dream! Great for keeping groceries upright or for hauling a bunch of thrift finds into the house in one fell swoop. Big fan!!!

1 Dyson Cordless Vacuum: I laughed out loud reading this viral tweet because WHERE IS THE LIE??? This $400 iteration is just as good but make sure to wait for Black Friday sales for the best savings!
2. Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner: Jess tipped me off to this compact upholstery cleaner and it’s AWESOME. Great for when you spill chicken tikka masala on your sofa (who, me???) or when your cat eats too fast and barfs all over the only rug in your home.
3. Wool Dryer Balls: Plot twist – I selfishly bought these for Brenda last year because (a.) I love them and (b.) she was using tennis balls to fluff up her laundry and these are SO MUCH QUIETER. I love the happy colors of these, too.

that’s my little buffalo! | design by me! | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | styled by emily bowser | from: caitlin’s hard-to-design balcony gets a palm beach regency refresh (+ her #1 balcony must-have rec)

1. XL Lint Roller: SURPRISE HIT GIFT. Brenda hooked me up with one of these years ago and at first I was like “how is this different from a hand-sized roller?” but then I actually used it and I was SOLD. It speeds up the lint-/hair-collection process by a factor of about a billion AND it’s great for folks with mobility problems.
2. Pet Mat: When in doubt, grab a gift for your friend’s pet! This gingham mat is customizable (love it in green) and so freaking cute. The tartan plaid version is awesome, too.
3. Chom Chom Roller: If you even know a pet owner, buy them this. It’s incredible – way better than any vacuum attachment when it comes to getting hair off of bedding, pillows, or upholstery.

1. Always Pan: Highly recommended for the non-chef types in your life (i.e. me) – you know, the people who want to cook but are kinda overwhelmed by everything in the kitchen.
2. Apron: This one is like the Rolls Royce of aprons. Built-in pot-holders AND an easily accessible conversion chart? What else does a person need?
3. Cutting Board: There’s a phone slot on the prep side and a channel for catching any liquid and an easy pour spout on the carving side.
4. Adjustable Rolling Pin: Pick your dough’s thickness and width by moving the silicone rings. So smart, so simple.
5. Double Decker Dish Rack: I bought this for myself and I LOVE IT. There’s a rack up top, a tray for the bottom, and a separate silverware container. It fits a ton and has a pretty compact profile – big fan.
6. Silicone Lids: I write about these at least once a quarter, but they’re worth it!!! No more microwave spills AND they’re airtight, so you can throw them on any bowl or dish instead of breaking out saran wrap or aluminum foil.

most all of the things below are hiding in these cabinets! | design by me! | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | styled by emily bowser | from: caitlin’s first moto reveal – a vintage bathroom gets a modern update

1. Foot Peel: This is internet famous for a reason. It is disgusting and satisfying. Grab one for your friends (it’s novel and fun!) but also get one for yourself and spend your holiday break watching your feet transform. It’s WILD.
2. Scrub Towels: I will use this blog to preach the gospel of Japanese scrub towels until the day I die. Ditch your loofah for these!!! They’re washable and incredible at exfoliating and quick-drying and…just try them, ok?
3. Squatty Potty: Did Brenda buy me one of these? YUP. Does it live up to the hype? HECK YEAH. Would this be my go-to white elephant gift? Absolutely.
4. Massaging Scalp Brush: If you’re a deep-cuts reader, you may remember that this was what I asked for last year – it is a DREAM for getting gunk off your scalp.
5. Tushy: Every time I use one of these at a friends’ house, I’m like “AH, yes, I gotta buy one,” and then I forget almost immediately. (I loved reading Bowser’s testimony about her Tushy, too.)
6. Hot Tool Caddy: Brenda got me this 5 or 6 years ago. It was a great small space solution then (and a welcome alternative to, you know, throwing my blowdryer and straightener haphazardly into my vanity) and it’s great for storing tools as they cool down now.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: mountain house reveal: how i transformed an awkward space into my dream work loft

1. Magic Keyboard: Brenda knocked this outta the park last year!!! I do a lot of math for my gig here (who knew), so the dedicated number pad makes SUCH A DIFFERENCE. This is such an awesome and thoughtful gift for anyone who spends their day on the computer.
2. Smart Plugs: Turn anything on and off from your phone. If you’re the type to be like “oh, crap, did I turn my curling wand off,” these will remove so much daily anxiety from your life.
3. Seat Cushion: Broken back tested, broken back approved. When I was re-learning how to sit up straight last year, this pad made all the difference. If you sit all day for work, this will change your life (or at least your spinal alignment) for the better!!
4. 6 Foot Cables: Grab the pack of 5. This is the best stocking stuffer. No one has ever been like “man, I wish I had a shorter charging cable.”
5. Lumbar Back Cushion: Let me quote our own Veronica here – “This lumbar support pillow is truly amazing 5 stars 10/10 GOOD!! It has an adjustable strap that goes around your chair so you’re not having to constantly adjust and it stays put. Take it in your car, your office chair, on a plane etc.” SOLD, BABY.
6. AirPods Max: I love my AirPods buuuut I also love sleeping on planes without waking up every 30 minutes to jam my AirPods back into my ears. These are beautiful and comfortable and easy to use.

1. Drawer Organizers: Add these to the “little things that make life so much better” category. The 8 section ones are great for underwear (and you can split them into, like, “cute underwear” and “I feel like death” underwear so you can always see what you have on hand).
2. Hanging Organizer: If you’re a member of the regular closet club (you know, like, a 2’x3′ box), these are AWESOME – they free up dresser space and they can store a ton of jeans/sweaters/PJs.
3. Plastic Bag Holder: So simple!!! So cheap!!! So game-changing!!! Turns out that, uh, not staring at a plastic bag filled with other plastic bags does great things for your mental state.

1. Slippers: I asked for these in 2019 after trying out my mom’s and I’ve been singing their praises ever since. I wear these all day every day and they’ve molded to the shape of my foot so they’re sublimely comfortable. 100000/10.
2. Flannel PJ Pants: Every year, Brenda hooks me up with a new set of PJs for the holidays. These pants that she got me last year take the cake – they’re this lightweight flannel material that do an awesome job of regulating temperature (read: they’re still comfortable in the summer). If I could only do one PJ pant for the rest of my life, I’d pick these.
3. Weighted Blanket: I swear by my weighted comforter (fully committed to the weighted lifestyle over here), but I love the versatility of this blanket – throw it at the end of your bed or keep it in the living room for some quick comfort.
4. We’re Not Really Strangers Game: I played this with an ex (post-breakup! Still friends!) and we could not take it seriously – it’s SO earnest – but I could imagine this being a great gift for anyone you’d like to build deeper connections with.
5. Socks: I know socks are historically a joke gift, but I love getting Madewell socks for the holidays!!! I don’t normally buy them for myself (they do seem a little spendy IMO) but they add so much personality to every outfit and they’re a joy to receive. I love, love, love these.
6. Luck Book: I grabbed this book from our office during my first EHD Christmas (can you believe this is my third EHD holiday season?!) and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s a great call for your ~woo woo~ friends but it also feels fitting for anyone embarking on a new journey, you know?


In closing: here’s a shot of Brenda and me at my godmother’s Christmas Eve shindig a few years back. She’s the best!!! I really do love everything on this list…so hopefully you can find something in here for the ones you love, too.

Let’s chat all things practical gifts in the comments – have you given or gotten anything that’s unexpectedly come in clutch? I’m flying back east tomorrow to celebrate the holidays with Brenda and you KNOW I’m procrastinating packing, so uh… let’s GAB, please????

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: How We Decked Our Halls for Christmas

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2 years ago

This was fun! Thanks Caitlin! That shot of you and your Mom makes me sooo happy. ❤️

2 years ago

This maybe my favorite gift guide of the season! I made a note of a couple of things to get.
As silly as it sounds, my favorite practical gift is the OveGlove (yes like from the infomercials) but it’s SO GOOD. It’s so easy to slip on and off but way less bulky than an oven mit so it stores easier.

2 years ago
Reply to  Sara

The OveGlove is the best thing I may have ever purchased for my kitchen…

2 years ago

Now this is the shopping guide we need. Thanks EHD team!

2 years ago

I love this gift guide!!
I don’t have any thing to add except I wish I could find a family gift that is phone charger cord that is cat proof!! One of my cats thinks ALL cords are snakes. Ugh! Love the pic of you and your mom so sweet!!

2 years ago

The highlight: and you can split them into, like, “cute underwear” and “I feel like death” underwear so you can always see what you have on hand).

I literally just this AM went through and got out every pair of “cute but no” underwear to make my drawer more organized. (Related: I am 15 weeks postpartum. My butt will never be the same.) i feel seen.

2 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Your butt will be the same–very soon! But you will never be the same, and that may mean a whole new approach to underwear.

2 years ago
Reply to  Eliot

Eliot—This was an awesome reply. I appreciate the insight and encouragement!

And Megan, I’m in pelvic floor therapy and so glad that you’re encouraging others to go. I’ve found it so helpful so far!

2 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

I’m just a stranger on the internet so take this or leave it, but I found pelvic floor physical therapy very helpful! Congratulations on your new little one!

Roberta Davis
2 years ago

Hallelujah! I finally found a gift idea for my stepdaughters to give my husband- the battery jumper for his 21-year-old Subaru that he won’t drive anywhere because he’s afraid it won’t start again. (It’s sitting in our garage right now with a dead battery. I’ll be it didn’t get 1,000 miles on its last battery.)

2 years ago
Reply to  Roberta Davis

Maybe he needs a new battery too! Depending on where you live you can have someone come to your home and install it if you’re not comfortable doing it. A fresh battery + cables would be a great gift!

Roberta Davis
2 years ago

Also, Brenda is a good human and I’ll bet she is very sad that you are so far away from her, but still she wants you to be happy and successful.

2 years ago

My go-to practical gift is a set of Hotel Sheets Direct 100% Bamboo bedding. I’ve got my family and friends hooked on them now.

2 years ago

Now THIS is a great gift guide!👍
I’m on board, Caitlin.
Really useful, relatable items.
I can seriously see these, beautifully gift-wrapped, and then someone unwraps their gift and POW! illuminated face, because it’s something actually USEFUL! Taaay!

My nephew gave me a shopping trolley coz I’ve been car-less since June and the shops are down a hill from me. Hoiking heavy groceries up the hill with my trolley is an absolute breeze. I feel legit about using it coz you have a 4 wheel drive version! Bahahaha 🤣 It is covered in flamingos! Not really my thing, but I don’t care coz it’s brilliant!
Then, my mentee then infirmed me that flamingos are a ‘secret code for swingers’! Crikey!!🤣🤣

2 years ago

I’m so here for this! My mom gets me a big pack of kleenex every year for Christmas, but during COVID our Christmas got delayed and I had to actually buy my own…it was outrageous! I’m all about the practical gift. As a picky person, it’s too hard for people to buy things for me!

2 years ago

LOVE this gift guide!!

2 years ago

I gotta tell ya…I love getting practical gifts. It wasn’t always this way, but think about it: spending your own money on practical things…womp womp! But having more of your own money to buy FUN things because people saved you money by buying you the practical things…win win!!! Love you forever. :*

2 years ago

Great round up Caitlin!

2 years ago

I love your gift post always there is something useful for me.

Julie S
2 years ago

I love this guide in general and half a dozen of them are very very appealing to me! I got vaccuums for two of the last four Christmases (a roomba and a hand vac) and at this stage of my life anything that makes my life easier or more comfortable is a huge win! Anything that seems lovely/life improving but which I’d have a hard time buying for myself makes a great gift.

Sarah L
2 years ago
Reply to  Julie S

YES to “hard time buying for myself”! I just texted my mom a cute throw pillow that I can’t justify spending on but it’s in a nice holiday gift price range and I was just informed to not open packages from that vendor until Christmas 🙂

2 years ago

What a great gift guide! I would love to get the AirPods Max for my kids who work from home but dang, they’re pricey! Anyone know of a reasonably priced second choice?

2 years ago
Reply to  Patti

I always check tech reviews on CNET, they have other highly rated, lower priced options:

Sarah L
2 years ago

Nothing says love like a practical gift! My friend and I have started gifting each other sustainable products- a sample box of shampoo bars, a pack of reusable zip-top bags etc. I also routinely ask for nice towels (bath and kitchen) as well as new linens.

2 years ago

Yes! Love practical/game changing gifts! I had to chime in to add: packing cubes! I have a set to each of my in-laws and their minds were *blown.* My sister gave me a super cute floral set… packing cubes will transform your life.

2 years ago

Before I moved five years ago my best friend gave me
A gift card to a local highly reputable car wash for my birthday or Christmas every year.
The car wash had three grades of washes and her
gift would cover a couple top grades or three medium
grades or five low grades which still included vacuuming inside.
I miss that car wash and that gift card because where
I live now has nothing that could compare.
I have two dogs that have white hair and that shows up
every where on the black interior.
I am hoping someone gives me a gift certificate for a
car detailing this year.

2 years ago

Love this list – so many great ideas!

Lynn W
2 years ago

Practical gifts….useful, edible etc are THE BEST!!!
Mom got us all a pair of wooden tongs….they are probably 6” in length. Maybe came from World Market? Super useful and saves our burning fingers and getting electrocuted from the toaster 🤣
Thanks Mom!
Excellent post today 👍

2 years ago
Reply to  Lynn W

IKEA!!! I have some my friend gave me coz I often can’t feel my hands…game changer and sooo cheap! They’re bamboo, so renewable, sustainable resource, too!

2 years ago

Best gift guide ever!! Thanks!

2 years ago

Love this post! The best (practical) gift I’ve ever received is the Ember heated mug. When I became a parent I could never get through a whole cup of warm coffee. I’d get interrupted and have to heat and reheat over and over. My boo got me the ember mug and it’s been a game. changer. I take it w me on vacay even (back eons ago when I had one of those). I love giving as a gift to coffee lovers.

2 years ago
Reply to  Lauren

Lauren, one of my primary grade students gave me one of those. So practical for a teacher!

2 years ago

Love this! Practical gifts are the best! My mom gets me AAA each year for Christmas! Best gift ever. My MIL also does the best practical gifts…every year gets us a giant thing of laundry detergent!! I look forward to it all year!

2 years ago

I’m wearing a pair of L.L. Bean flannel PJ pants right now – seriously the best.

2 years ago

Brenda is the best Santa and this is the best gift round-up ever!

2 years ago

This list is GOLD! Thank you so much. I seriously love practical, useful items as gifts. And Brenda is BOSS!

Lynn F
2 years ago

Some great ideas here. I bought 3 things – and multiples of one of them!

Joyce Garrity
2 years ago

think recycled! check eBay, offer up… ( Tushywas on both open box 69). rechargeable flashlight?

Shayna Varnedoe
2 years ago

This is literally the best gift list I have ever seen. Thank you! A close second is Emily’s one for kids, but even with this one, my kids would love a longer charging cable! Anyways, thank you thank you! Already bought the cargo organizer for my moms!

2 years ago

This was great! I second the headlamp (lovingly called a geek light in my family). You don’t know how great they are until you have one.
I want to get you off the lint rollers with the sticky tape and onto the lint brush (link below). I read once that the lint rollers leave tiny bits of stickiness behind and you will actually end up attracting more fuzz (not to mention the trash factor of it all). The red lint brushes are so great, just make sure you pay attention to the arrows and direction you brush 🙂

2 years ago

Very very excellent and professional
It has become very beautiful

2 years ago

Great post! Practical new parent gifts: If they use a stroller a lot (e.g. lives in a city): a poncho. It can be hard to hold an umbrella while pushing a stroller, especially if one does not have the stroller worth more than one of my cars, and a poncho is quick to throw on over any other layers you may want, and allows you to keep everything dry, including your hands, while pushing the stroller. You also want some kind of stroller bag hooks, a good rain cover, and an insulated foot muff thing (Bundleme or whatever). Clear shower curtain- put the baby in a bouncy seat or other containment device in the bathroom and take a damn shower finally. This was key for me as my husband had to leave in the morning before the baby even woke up, so I was always getting ready alone. Other practical things I have loved: Tub pillow, overflow drain cover, and rubber stopper – my tub is sadly shallow and the sleek metal drain plug thing isn’t fully waterproof. This trio allows me to take a deeper bath that does not quickly drain away. Fully agree on the Dyson stick vacs… Read more »

Andrea Kenner
2 years ago

I can vouch for the usefulness of the Petzl head lamp. I use it every night when I walk my dog Sparky. I’ve tried other headlamps, but the Petzl was the easiest to use and recharge.