11 Gifts for the Home

iStock
iStock

If home is where the heart is, it should reflect all the things its inhabitants love. And whether that's quirky cat prints or voice-command electronics, we have your gift-buying covered.

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1. JASS JUMBO CHALK PENCIL; $4

For the artistic friend who always has a chalkboard of doodles or inspirational quotes hanging in the entryway, this oversized chalk pencil from Switzerland will make the decorating process far less messy than the traditional options.

Find It: CW Pencil Enterprises

2. ARTIST PALETTE CHEESE TRAY; $40

This ceramic serving tray is perfect for the foodie who fancies their cheese and charcuterie spreads to be masterpieces.

Find It: Fishs Eddy

3. TILE SPORT KEY FINDER; $35

Losing your keys when you need to run out the door is a time-honored tradition, but attaching a Tile Sport helps ensure that your giftee's keys can’t hide for too long. Plus, it can be used in reverse—if they lose their phone, the Tile attached to the keys can be used to call their cell, even if the phone is on silent.

Find It: Amazon

4. FRED TAKE-OUT COMPOST BIN; $25

The EPA estimates that up to 30 percent of what we throw away could actually be composted, which would help reduce greenhouse gasses and improve soil quality. This cute carbon-filtered countertop container will hide any banana peels, coffee grounds, or—yes—late-night fried rice until you can take it out to the backyard or a local community composting program.

Find It: Amazon

5. WHITE SAGE; $9

Whether your friend appreciates the scent of natural incense or might want to cleanse their home of any bad juju before the new year, these mini bundles of dried white sage are the perfect gift to keep on hand for the hosts of any and all holiday parties.

Find It: Juniper Ridge

6. CIRCADIAN OPTICS LIGHT THERAPY LAMP; $65

The dead of winter requires some proactive steps to combat any potential seasonal sadness. This long-lasting LED bulb (good for 50,000 hours, or roughly five and half years of nonstop use) is designed to take up minimal space while still emitting a full-spectrum light that can help alleviate the December doldrums.

Find It: Amazon

7. LARGE CAT ART PRINT; $35

Called "You Asleep Yet?", this 22" x 25" print of a furtive feline by artist Laura Graves would be a welcome companion for anyone whose apartment doesn’t allow pets.

Find It: Society6

8. AMAZON ECHO, 2ND GENERATION; $80

"Alexa, change your look!" The latest Echo device comes in a variety of new looks, from chic charcoal or sandstone fabric to a walnut veneer. But, beyond the visual, the new Echo has enhanced speakers and a new, richer Dolby audio processor, making it much clearer, and Alexa now boasts more than 25,000 skills, including new game features and voice-command purchasing on Amazon Prime.

Find It: Amazon

9. WILSON KEY RING; $15

Made in Connecticut and New York, this brass wire key ring is a solid holiday (or housewarming) gift. Because almost everyone could use a minimalist upgrade, no matter how small.

Find It: Upstate Stock

10. DACHSHUND BOOKEND SET; $30

Add some doggone personality to any bookshelf—this good boy, who comes in black or white, will guard your book collection from any mailmen or squirrels. Or whatever books' major predators are.

Find It: Amazon

11. ULTIMATE EARS WONDERBOOM WATERPROOF BLUETOOTH SPEAKER; $80

With a 10-hour battery life and 360-degree sound, this petite portable speaker packs a punch. And, for the clumsy among us, the waterproof feature safely allows it to be accidentally knocked into bubble baths or splashed with cannonball water poolside without skipping a beat.

Find It: Amazon

7 Ways to Take Advantage of the Bullet Journal Method

iStock.com/Neustockimages
iStock.com/Neustockimages

If you haven't heard of the bullet journal, it's the productivity method du jour—one that combines the features of a planner, calendar, to-do list, diary, and more. It's not a specific product (although the founder of the method, Ryder Carroll, has created a special notebook for it) as much as a way of creating a journaling system that works for you.

Proponents say the method helps you focus your time and your goals, in part through periodic "migration" sessions that force you to review how you've been spending your days. And yes, it's popular on Instagram—because many bullet journalers have filled their notebooks with colorful flair. (But that part is entirely optional.)

While core components of the bullet journal system like monthly spreads and daily logs are great, many bullet journalers like to add other features that fit their own life. After all, the beauty of the method is the customization and flexibility. We've rounded up a few ideas for new and not-so-new bullet journalers alike to try.

1. Track—and fuel—your creative projects.

Let's say that, like most people, you have a day job. But at night, you're writing the next Great American Novel—or at least some short stories. You might get an idea related to one of those projects on your morning commute or while taking a walk in the park at lunch. There's no time to pull out the manuscript, and if you email yourself the idea it might get lost in a jumble of newsletters and other alerts.

Instead, just start a new page for the project in your journal, note it in your index, and scribble away. You can come back to it later, and fill in other, non-sequential pages in the journal as the mood strikes. Your journal probably isn't the best place to write whole stories, but it's perfect if you just had a mini-breakthrough you want to take down, or even as a way to keep track of potential prompts and inspiration.

2. Improve your habits.

Habit trackers are some of the most popular add-ons to the regular bullet journal time-oriented spreads. You can make yours cute—tracking the number of glasses of water you drink a day by coloring in a big glass, say—or more minimalist, perhaps by listing the habits you want to build (yoga, waking up early) on the left next to a chart of days and coloring in the days you manage to do the habit. You can also create a page just to log you often you do one particular thing—drinking alcohol, for example. Some people even use their bullet journals to track food and digestive symptoms, either by creating a section for a food journal or just noting in their daily log when they eat a certain food and how it makes them feel.

3. Save money.

You can create a custom spread for your monthly budget, track all your expenses, or just track your purchases in a particular category (say, eating out) if there's a particular type of spending you're trying to curb. The design can be as crafty as you like—whether you're coloring in bricks that represent each $50 saved toward a house or just filling in columns noting every time you make a purchase. The key is that, as with health habits, writing something down can serve as a powerful motivator and/or deterrent, since you know you'll have to come face-to-face with yourself at the end of the month.

4. Plan your meals.

Nothing combines health and finance goals quite like planning your meals. You can make your meal plan a section of your weekly spread: Carroll, the bullet journal's creator, likes to set up a list of meals on the left page of his notebook and a shopping list of ingredients on the right. Dividing the items by categories (like meat, produce, and pantry staples) can speed things up at the store, too. It's great to do this at home so you can check the fridge and see what you're missing. Then, when you're done shopping, note how much you spent at the bottom of the list. You can track that to develop insights about your grocery budget.

Over time, you can also create lists to help you with meal planning, perhaps "Favorite Weeknight Dinners," "Easy Work Lunches," etc. Some people also like to create a master grocery list of frequently bought items they can consult whenever they're at the store, just in case they forget to write staples down on their weekly shopping list.

5. Remember the good things.

In our flurry of to-do lists, project deadlines, and meal plans, it can be easy to forget about the things that brighten our days, whether it's an especially funny joke from a colleague or a milestone in a child's development. Create a "memories" page (don't forget to log it in your index!) where you record the great stuff that happens, and pull it out to reflect whenever you're having a gray day. Some bullet journalers like to put pages like this toward the back of their journals to separate them out from the time-oriented spreads. A memories page is also a great opportunity to bust out some thematic artwork.

6. Track your reading lists.

Another great way to encourage better habits is through a reading log. Like a memory log, many people like to put this toward the back of their journal, although ultimately the placement is totally up to you. You can keep track of all the books you read this year, perhaps with notes on what you thought of them—a definite resource when you're drawing up those year-end best-of lists to share with other reading pals!

7. Pair it with an app.

While the bullet journal is touted as "the analog method for the digital age," most of us don't want to go full-on analog. There's now an official companion app that will help you organize and search your old bullet journals, help you learn the method, offer prompts, and serve as a log for when you're away from your journal. It's designed as an addition to the journal, not a replacement, so you still need to put in that time with pen (or pencil, or watercolor brush) and paper.

Bullet journals also pair well with apps like Evernote—for example, you can use Evernote on your smartphone to snap photos of text you scrawl down to save digitally for later use. (Maybe those on-the-fly notes on your novel go into an Evernote notebook that you consult when you have a bit more time, for example.) That's a good option for longer-term projects that might span a couple notebooks.

Many people also use both bullet journals and an online calendar, using the latter for fixed events like birthdays and doctors appointments and the former as more of a way to time-block the day and focus on goals. After all, the beauty of the bullet journal is that unlike digital space, the paper in your notebook is finite—which helps you realize that so is your time and energy. That makes it easier to plan accordingly.

This Ingenious Hanger Makes Hanging Pants a Breeze, No Clips or Folds Required

Hurdle Hanger
Hurdle Hanger

Get ready to clean out your closet. No, we don’t mean going all Marie Kondo on your clothes. There’s a new type of clothes hanger that promises to change the way you store your clothes, taking the headache out of hanging up your pants.

The Hurdle Hanger, which has currently raised more than $33,000 on Kickstarter, calls itself the “one-second pants hanger.” Rather than relying on cumbersome clips or requiring bulky folding techniques, the hanger design employs one very simple change: It hooks into the belt loops of your pants.

The angular hanger is open on one side so that you can slide the bar through the belt loops of your pants, letting you secure your pants in one smooth motion rather than struggling with the pant clips that will just wrinkle your waistband anyway.

A person slides the Hurdle Hanger through the belt loops of a pants to hang them.
Hurdle Hanger

Just slide the hanger bar through the belt loop (or loops) farthest from you, then hang the belt loop closest to you from the hook. There is another hook midway across the bar that secures the middle belt loop, keeping your pants from drooping while they hang. In another subtle touch, you can use the same hook to hang smaller items, like belts or hats, off the side.

The Hurdle Hanger is an example of smart design at its finest—the kind of idea that, when you see it in action, makes you think, “Wait, how did no one think of this before?” It takes a once-cumbersome task and makes it seamless, eliminating at least some of the burden that may be keeping you from accomplishing the chore of hanging up your clothes. No more messing with clips or trying to shove pants through the cramped hole in the hanger to fold them over.

There are already open-end pants hangers that make it easier to slide a folded pair of slacks into your closet, but the belt loop hooks take the Hurdle Hanger to another level. You might even get inspired enough to start hanging your jeans.

A 10-pack of hangers is $20 on Kickstarter—though anything that makes you actively excited to organize your closet is priceless.

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