As we all continue to adapt to our temporary self-isolation setups, it’s best to focus on the things we can change – not the things we can’t. You can’t change the news, you can’t change the lines at the supermarket and you certainly can’t change the amount of Animal Crossing content you see online.
But you do still have dominion over your home. If you’re feeling stressed, bored or just less-than-your-best, it’s entirely possible to fit your home with items to make life easier. That’s why we here at Unbound Merino have decided to share our list of easily orderable near-essentials.
We’ve broken the list down to parts of the home. In the Kitchen section, you’ll find items to make your cooking better and easier. In the Closet section, you’ll find orderable apparel to keep you comfortable and stylish (spoiler: there’s some merino wool in there!). In the Gym section, we’ll offer our favourite at-home exercise items. And in the Office section, we’ve got a few things to make working from home more relaxing.
It was only a couple months ago we were offering tips on packing for UK travel but given the current situation, we think it’s better to recommend items you can use now. Read through for all our choices, or jump to the section that speaks to you.
Cooking for yourself can be richly rewarding. But it can also be time-consuming, laborious and frustrating, if you don’t have the right tools. These kitchen gadgets make cooking (and cleaning up afterwards) a whole lot easier.
Despite what 90s infomercials had you believe, the ultimate set-in-and-forget-it kitchen gadget is the sous vide machine. Making its entrance into home kitchens a few years ago, before which time it was mainly found in upscale restaurants, the sous vide machine offers precision and consistency in everything you cook.
French for “under vacuum”, sous vide involves placing bagged ingredients (either vacuum sealed or in a Ziploc with the air removed) into a water bath heated to a very precise temperature by the sous vide machine. Say you wanted a medium rare steak. You’d program the machine to heat the water to around 130 degrees, drop your steak in and then you’re done. Given time, it will hit the desired temperature and never go over.
Where sous vide machines go low and slow, pressure cookers go hot and fast. These machines have been around for quite a while, but have seen a resurgence thanks to the countertop Instapot. Whether you go for the Instapot or a stovetop pressure cooker, they work the same way. Because the tops seals tightly with a rubber gasket, pressure is trapped inside the pot, raising the boiling point well beyond 100 degrees Celsius.
In this environment, food cooks rapidly. A veggie stock that might’ve taken you two hours takes you twenty minutes in a pressure cooker. A five hour long braised short rib takes an hour and a half. And it makes quick work of dried beans, which is a plus if you want an pantry-stable, inexpensive, healthy side dish, but don’t have three hours to spare.
This social distancing has produced a lot of amateur green thumbs. Some are doing for the fresh veggies and herbs. Others are doing it as a productive hobby. And some, if not all, are doing it because we could all use a little greenery in our daily lives right now, to remind us of nature.
This NYMag article lists some of the best indoor gardening kits, depending on what space you have and what you’d like to grow.
All you apartment-bound people know what we mean when we ask: where are all these dishes coming from? It’s like they’re multiplying! If you’re in a place without a dishwasher, you can empathize with the daily struggle.
Luckily, if you want to expedite the dishwashing process, you don’t need someone to come install a bulky machine. Portable dishwashers, which run around the $300 range and hook up to your kitchen sink, are portable and don’t require installation. It’s a bit pricey, but if you’re sick of hand washing it may just be worth it.
Whether you’re spending your time kicking back on the couch, or shuffling between Zoom meetings, you want to be comfortable in your own home. Here are the items we recommend for staying cozy and stylish while you self-isolate.
As your body’s first point of contact, a great base layer needs to be soft, breathable and insulating. To add a little luxury under your daily wear, check out our merino wool breathable underwear as well as the best merino wool socks around. Take them from the couch to a jog, from the desk to the grocery store – and over again.
In addition to being breathable and sweat-wicking, merino wool is naturally antimicrobial, meaning that it stays fresh for ages. We’ve heard from travellers that they get over two weeks wear out of a pair of our underwear between washes. Whether you’re socially distancing from the Laundromat or you just don’t have the energy to do the laundry often, that’s a pretty good quality to have in a base layer.
Let’s also put in a plug for our merino wool button down shirt – a professional, casual buttoned shirt that comes in both light blue and charcoal. If everyone had their way, we’d all be spending the days in our merino underwear, but the reality is that most workplaces still require a modicum of professionalism.
The Unbound Merino button down is a marriage of comfort and semi-formal. It’s the same ultra-fine merino wool you’ll find in your favourite wool shirts but with a smart cut, and a few buttons thrown in to appease the boss.
No one – not the neighbours passing your window, not your colleagues on video chat – are going to see your feet when you’re inside. So you might as well put something comfortable on them.
For slippers, you don’t want to go too cumbersome. Find something lightweight, with a soft sole, and that allows your feet to breathe a little. This Men’s Health article on the best slippers of 2020 has a good range of styles and budgets.
At the outset, it’s important to note that self-care takes many forms. For some, the best thing to do is relax, and resist the urge to beat yourself up if you aren’t as active or productive as before. For others, however, exercise is essential. If making your home life easier means making it more conducive to fitness, here are a few must-haves.
Light and economical, easily tucked away in a drawer, resistance bands are less bulky to have around than weights, and do much the same job. If you’re looking to supplement your jog around the block with some muscle building, but don’t want to order a 50lb shipment of weights online, these are the way to go.
They’re also incredibly versatile. You can do bicep curls, lat raises, triceps extensions, leg extensions, woodchopper, fire hydrant, donkey kick, etc. (yes, those last ones are real). They’re just an all around good tool to have in your home gym, and for under $30 they’re far cheaper than a gym membership.
Weren’t into yoga before? Might as well start now! Not only is yoga a great workout, but in these odd times it can also be a welcome relaxant. A way to calm your nerves and focus your energy into meditative routine.
A yoga mat isn’t absolutely essential to the practice, but it really helps. Given that you spend most of your time indoors, expect the floors in your home to be a little dirtier than before; it’s hygienic and frankly nicer, therefore, to have a clean mat dedicated to the practice.
File this one under “fun gimmick”. These dice have a different exercise on each side (they’re usually 6-sided or 12-sided), allowing you to roll for a workout routine. They’re good if you want to explore new workouts. They’re also good if you want a fun, easy way to structure a routine.
There are all sorts of exercise dice on the market, but the SPRI dice – which come with one die for the exercises and another for duration – are the most popular. With the exercise dice, a yoga mat and resistance bands, all you need is a breathable shirt and you’re set – read more about why merino wool is so popular in the link.
It’s an awkward shift, moving from a buzzing office to a home office. You’re now either by yourself, away from the watchful eye of anyone keeping you honest, or you’re all of a sudden sharing a workspace with a partner, kids or roommates. Either scenario can throw off your work game. To help you caffeinate, concentrate and feel more at work, here are a few orderable items.
An easy way to make filter coffee that rivals even the finest downtown coffee shops, the AeroPress is a deceptively simple tool. Using a tube-within-a-tube pressure system, this small device brews a clean, crisp cup of coffee with no electricity involved – just gravity.
It’s also forgiving. You don’t have to dial in your coffee parameters exactly to get a good brew from the AeroPress. And when you’re done with it, you can just stow it in a kitchen drawer or to the side of your work desk. Easy.
Despite the name, you don’t need to suffer from seasonal affective disorder to benefit from a SAD Light. Because most homes don’t include the same tall, wide windows as office spaces, there’s usually a dearth of natural light. You can substitute that natural light, however, with these lamps, which deliver roughly 10,000 lux (far more than your average bulb).
If the relative dinginess of your home is what’s getting you down, shine a light on the issue with one of these. And if you’re really missing the sunshine, check out our blog for travel recommendations and packing tips – this will blow over eventually, so you might as well get a head start on planning your next trip.
Sitting at a desk for long periods of time wasn’t great before, and isn’t great now. The best course of action is to break up your sit-down time, taking short walks around your home or longer distanced walks around the neighbourhood. But while you’re sitting, optimize your home chair with a lumbar support.
Lumbar pillows promote a neutral spine posture, which improves comfort. More than that, it might have a holistic effect on your overall wellbeing. After all, the spine is the central post of the body – you keep it happy, and it’ll keep you happy.
Without frequent outdoor excursions, it’s important to find your clean air where you can. Yes, you can crack a few windows, but spring is still a bit chilly. Luckily, plants have your back – like they usually do. In its “Clean Air Study”, NASA looked at different plants’ abilities to absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen and remove volatile organic pollutants, highlighting the particular efficacy of a few common plants.
Among the plants studied, some of best performing were the snake plant, bamboo palm, English ivy and aloe vera. If you’re looking to purify the air around your workspace, which studies suggest could improve focus and productivity, order one of these plants.