Lists of things people recommend have been floating around on blogs lately. The idea resonated with me—though not many of the recommendations—as I have a lot of Opinions about Stuff. This list is a loosely organized collection of products I like.
Most of these recommendations are targeted at the category of product rather than a specific manufacturer, but if I feel strongly about a particular manufacturer I will note it.
The post will be updated as I encounter new worthwhile stuff.
Fitted sheet straps
Fitted bed sheets tend to start to coming off almost as soon as the bed is made. I find sleeping on a clumped up sheet irritating and these straps keep the fitted sheet flat and smooth. It does add time (and the need to flip up the mattress) to the bed making and unmaking process, but it's a worthwhile for sheets that stay on.
Electronic door locks
An electronic door lock can remove the need to keep keys with you and also offers options that increase overall security (e.g., locks without physical keys that are bump-proof). There are a lot of flavors out there that can be opened with lock codes, RFID tags, wireless remotes, biometrics, or your smartphone. Pick whatever works best for you and your budget, as there are a lot of excellent options available.
Sit/stand desk and keyboard tray
The benefits of standing in place at a desk are probably overstated, but there are ergonomic advantages to changing position a few times during the day. A sit/stand desk combined with an adjustable keyboard drawer makes it easy to adjust the combined positioning of the desk and the keyboard to suit a wide variety of seated and standing positions.
The adjustable keyboard tray elevates the sit/stand experience a lot. The problem with having your keyboard and mouse on the desk with a fixed-height monitor is that the relative positioning of your hands and eyes varies between sitting and standing. Being able to adjust the input device height and angle means you can use the desk to adjust the monitor to the right height and the tray to adjust the keyboard/mouse position separately.
I have two mouse and keyboard pairs—one on the tray, one on the desk. I tend to switch between them depending on whether I'm leaning forward or sitting back. I have a trackball on one and a traditional mouse on the other, as using both helps distribute the mousing wear on my hand more evenly.
There are a ton of sit/stand desks out there. Select one that fits your budget, size needs, and style preferences. If you buy a bare frame you can custom-build the desk surface.
3M makes good trays. There are a lot of options with different features. The AKT60LE is at the low end and probably best for most people. High-end options add larger adjustment ranges and slightly nicer adjustment controls. The extra long slide seems like the only unambiguously good upgrade to me.
Victorinox chef's knife
Every kitchen needs at least one good chef's knife and the Victorinox Fibrox knives are great for the price. They're sharp and hold an edge well. The Fibrox handle grips much better than plastic handles on similarly priced knives. There are better knives out there if you want to spend double.
Good interior lighting has a big impact on my mental well-being. Color-changing bulbs help a lot and Philips Hue offers the best all-around ecosystem among the various smart-bulb solutions. The built-in automation features are reasonably complete and among the more reliable of the various automation systems I've used. It also integrates pretty well with other services and automation hosts (like Home Assistant and Indigo) if you need to extend the automation functionality.
The colors are great for parties and holidays, but color temperature changing is the core feature for me. It's pretty easy to set up time-of-day rules to match your lighting to the outside color temperature (I recommend a 3rd party app for this). I have mine set to cool daylight in the morning, neutral daylight during the day, warm in the afternoon, subdued warm lighting in the evening, and minimum-brightness ultra-warm lighting late at night.
The main downsides to the system are the high cost of components (a "cheap" price for a White Ambiance and Color A19 bulb is about $30), relatively average CRI (around 80 for most of the color temperature range), and somewhat limited bulb types (don't bother if you have 12v lights). Fortunately, starter kits with a hub, 3 bulbs, and a switch go on sale for around $100 pretty frequently.
A good keyboard and mouse
Frustration and hand pain are the hallmarks of bad input devices. For those of us who are in front of a keyboard all day for work, spending extra on good quality devices is important.
Mechanical keyboards are a giant rabbit hole that you can sink lots of money into, but even most of the entry-level options are much nicer than the silicone nipple boards most people use. I highly prefer buckling spring keyboards for their unmatched tactile feel, but the noise level of the buckling spring action is not for everybody. Unicomp makes modern versions of the IBM Model M. The quality is not on par with the IBM keyboard, but it's good enough for the price, and they are available with USB.
As for a mouse, get something that fits your hand well (this may require experimentation) with decent quality switches and enough buttons to be functional. I use and like the Logitech MX Master series (and the MX Revolution before that, which was a better mouse in some ways). The auto-shifting scroll wheel, in particular, is an awesome feature. I also use a finger-trackball mouse, the Elecom HUGE, as mixing use between the two seems to level out stress wear on my hand.
Noise canceling headphones
A good pair of noise canceling headphones makes traveling a much more pleasant experience. It's amazing how much louder the ambient noise on an airplane seems without headphones. I have a pair of Sony WH-1000XM3 that I like, but there are a lot of options out there (Sony and Bose do tend to dominate the popular vote for in this catagery) at a variety of price points.
Having a handful of good boardgames on tap helps to add variety to parties. Ideal party games require a minimal amount of explanation to start playing but offer enough depth to hold your interest past a few games. Some easy-to-pick-up party games that I've played and enjoyed:
- Codenames - Ideal for groups of 6 or more. Easy for people to drop into and out of the game as long as the players aren't overly competition-focused.
- One Night Ultimate Werewolf - The one-night rules make this a much less contentious social deduction/hidden identity game than the multi-night rules, since each round is over and done with within 5 minutes. The phone app is very useful.
- Set - Some people struggle picking up the simple rules, but this is another one that's easy for people to drop in and out of.
- Skull - A bluffing game with relatively simple rules.
VR has finally arrived and Oculus has made it accessible to everybody with the Oculus Quest. As a standalone system, it's just as straightforward to set up and use as a video game console. The Quest doesn't top any charts in its tech specs, is a little on the heavy side, is arguably a bit underpowered to really shine in the graphics department, and doesn't have the longest battery life, but the total package is really hard to argue with. A few recommended games:
- Beat Saber
- Robo Recall: Unplugged
- Space Pirate Trainer
- Pistol Whip
- Superhot VR
- Journey of the Gods