Handy, Dandy, and Cheap

This blog was inspired by bedroom slippers.  Seriously.  The ones I bought for my trip to England have turned out to be a fabulous purchase, and they got me thinking about other things that don’t necessarily cost very much but are extremely useful.

SlippersTake the slippers, for example.  Here they are at left.  Yes, those are my feet.  I couldn’t persuade anyone else here to model for me.  I bought these slippers because I was staying in a B&B with the bathroom down the hall (and down a flight of stairs, as it happened).  I wanted something with a sole, in case the floor was cold, and something that would be easy to pack.  I walked by these and thought, Huh.  I wonder how those would do.  

They were only about $9 on sale, and they have a firm rubber sole, unlike the footies that were my fallback.  They’re Isotoners, elasticized around the opening like ballet slippers, pack flat, and are exquisitely comfortable.   When they wear out, I plan to get some more just like them.

Thinking about what a great value the slippers were led me to think about other things around the house that are very useful but didn’t cost much.  Just by the way, I first thought of  those plain metal bookends, but they’re all holding up books.  Extricating them for a picture didn’t seem worth it.

Chip_ClipWhen I walked through the kitchen, I spotted what we call a chip clip.  They most often go on bags of chips to keep them closed, though around here, they would also qualify as candy clips.  Ahem.  Anyway, they cost about $1-2 each in a multipack, and they do a great job of keeping the bags closed.  

It’s not like we have a lot of bugs in the house (though we concede that the camelback crickets can HAVE the basement crawlspace), but nobody wants to find even an occasional one in the food.

Bic_Pen_BlueThen there are pens.  We buy pens by the box.  We need them throughout the day, from the time I start working the crossword in the morning, to when I’m marking up manuscripts and the dh is grading papers in the evening, to the bill-paying that ends some of our days.  

Not only do we use them a lot, we lose them a lot.  So it’s a good thing they’re only about $7.50 a dozen.  That’s, like, 62-odd cents each.

Bathroom_hookWe get a lot of use out of the hooks on the backs of the bathroom doors.  Not only are they great places to put bathrobes, clothes, whatever while using the facilities, but they make a great place to put wet coats.  

For me, of course, the trick then becomes remembering that I put my coat or my rain slicker on the back of the bathroom door the next time I need it.  This is the disadvantage of mentally living in an alternate, imaginary dimension much of the time.  Anyway, the hooks cost less than $5 if you don’t care about having a fancy one.

NY_UmbrellaFinally, there’s an item I’ve threatened my family with mayhem if they lose.  If you’ve ever been in New York when it started to rain, you may have seen umbrella vendors magically spring up on the streets, seemingly from nowhere.  I bought this umbrella from one of them more than ten years ago for $5.  I’m pretty sure they cost more than that now, but if you divide the cost by ten years, it won’t be much.  This umbrella lives in my car.

You may notice that the floor under it is not exactly pristine.  It’s our aptly named mud room.  The dh offered to wipe it down for the photo, but really, mud room.  Where the dog is likely to deposit more mud after she goes out in a little while.  Which is a reason not to use textured flooring in a mud room.  Clearly, we were unduly optimistic.

Anyway, those are my five handy, dandy, cheap household items.  Do you anything in your home that’s invaluable but didn’t cost much?

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  • Amy Conley says:

    Wow am I first?

    • Amy, sadly the rooster is neither handy or dandy and while his behavior might occasionally be cheap, his expenses never are!

    • Amy, yes, you are! The GR has probably already made himself comfy at your place. You gotta watch him when it comes to food, booze, and small valuables! As Anna says, he can be an expensive guest.

  • Amy Conley says:

    My handy dandy would have to include all the magnets on my fridge.They hold up all my postcards, invitations, takeaway menus, grands school art.
    I also have a special pair of slippers.
    My straightener for my hair, couldn’t live without it.
    That’s all I can think of at this hour.

    • Amy Conley says:

      My chap stick. I wear a certian brand and if I go down to one tube I start having panic attacks.
      My last thing would be my little blanket. I take it with me every

    • Amy, that’s a great list. We buy refrigerator magnets as souvenirs. Our fridge is pretty much covered, and they really are useful for holding appointment cards, the boy’s schedule, etc.

  • Jane says:

    Hello Nancy,
    I have a lot of cheap stuff from Ikea from kitchen ware to storage boxes to clearance bedding. I like that even though they’re cheap you get good use out them. They don’t break or fall apart too easily.

  • Helen says:


    I have bags of those clips in bright colours and I reckon they are one if the best inventions and very cheap 🙂 and we go thru heaps of pens as well and I too love my magnets that I have holdings things up on the fridge but most of mine are from authors 🙂 and I do like the suction cup type of hooks that you can move around

    Have fun

    • Helen, we had one of those bag clips fall apart in the first week. The store said they’d replace it, but mailing it off to be replaced would’ve cost more than it was worth.

      What do you use the suction hooks for? Suncatchers?

  • Nancy, fun post. And congratulations on the slippers. Don’t you feel like the cleverest person in the universe when you find these things? I have coasters all over the house, a lot of them from places I’ve been like stately homes (my one on my writing desk is of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, one of my fave old houses) or that have been gifts. So they remind me of people I love. Coasters are both handy, dandy and cheap. And they don’t take up much storage.

    • Thanks, Anna. Yes, it’s a great feeling. I just love my slippers.

      I didn’t think about coasters, but they’re great. I bought four in England, two with Richard III (of course!) themes in York and two with college crests in Cambridge. We still use an Irish castles set friends brought us from Ireland, and we have rubber-backed ones of the Elizabeth II, the replica of the Lost Colony’s ship that’s moored near the museum in Manteo.

      • Nancy, they make wonderful reminders, don’t they? Of the places or the friends or both. Good friends of mine gave me a coaster of the Royal Yacht Britannia which I love to use and my critique partner, who knows I have delusions of grandeur, gave me a royal purple one with ‘her ladyship’ on it. Always grin when I use that one.

  • Anna Sugden says:

    Great post, Nancy. I was thinking the same thing the other day about the very cheap gizmo I got for hanging socks on the washing line. Cost a few quid and is the best device ever. It’s a hoop with a hanger and 20 clips on it, so you can hang socks in pairs on the line without taking up too much room. We have two of them – use them for knickers too. 🙂

    Another one is a device that looks like an ice scraper, but is designed for getting pet fur off furniture/carpets etc. It’s awesome. I don’t know why it’s so good, but it is!

    • Anna, those laundry devices sound terrific. People here rarely hang laundry outside anymore, at least in the city. Our clothesline fell over not long after we were married (in fairness, it had been there for decades before the dh bought the house), and we never replaced it. I sort of miss it, though, because laundry smells so nice when it dries outside.

      The pet hair gatherer would be great. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of those, but I haven’t looked, either. I’ll have to see if they’re available here.

    • catslady says:

      I need details lol. Don’t think I’ve heard of this. I have this rubber type roller for hair but you have to put it under water to dehair it so it’s not really practical since it needs constant cleaning.

  • Mozette says:

    Great post… and yes… we all have our handy, cheapo items around the house we love to have. Mine are probably going to be a little strange, but here we go:

    Little clips that mountain-climbers use. I bought my few at Bunnings – or any hardware store – for around $6 – $10 each. I have 2 and one is for my house keys and the other is for my car keys. when I get out of the car, I clip the car keys onto the strap of my handbag and push the keys themselves into my bag… so if anyone wants to steal my keys, well, they have to actually stand right next to you and struggle with your bag to get them – or yank your bag off your arm; either way, you’d know.


    Then, there’s Lavendar Oil. I buy Alpine Lavendar Oil. This stuff is great! If you can’t sleep, get soem onto a tissue and slip it under your pillow and you’re out like a light… if you’ve had key-hole surgery, dab some on the belly-button wound you’ve got with a cotton bud after you’ve dried out your navel/belly-button and your pain, swelling and anything that might be an infection will be cleared up. There’s other uses for it too. But Lavender Oil… wonderful.

    Wooden Clothes Pegs… I paint them and sell them. The onese which have a daggy one side but the other side is okay, I’ll glue a magnet on that daggy side and – voila! – I have made a fridge magnet! 😀
    But how I paint them is great. I buy cheap old brass pints from charity stores and use them. Some of them were graduation presents, while others were from weddings and birthdays… and are given away by the family (really sad when you think of it). However, it’s just how things go. I give them a second home. They become an assembly line here at my place – cheap and easy, but serve the purpose.

    Vinegar…. great to clean your floors with… put your laundry as softener and has over 50 uses. It also keeps your washing machine sparking (I had a service guy come out recently and he told me that my machine has nothing in it, no crap he normally found from softeners, and nothing leaking onto the floor – which is great – because I use vinegar and not the crap that’s normally pushed onto us consumers). I’m allergic to ordinary softeners out on the market.

    Bi-Carb Soda – put in with your towels and they come up nice and fluffy… I swear.

    Gumption – it’s a product here which helps you clean everything from counter tops to burnt saucepans, gets tea stains out of cups, cleans your stove and oven… it does everything! It’s non-toxic, friendly to the environment and has been around for about 50 years… nothing wrong with it but is dirt cheap! 😀

    Hammer – I know this last one is weird… but I found I really needed one of these. I love hanging up paintings and little things around the house. And a hammer handle is good to find the studs by bumping the wall with it (you’ll know when you’ve found it, it sounds solid) and once you’ve figured out how to use a hammer properly, it’s child’s play. 😀

  • Minna says:

    Shopping list fridge magnet! It’s been handy. When I run out of something, the list and the pen are right there on the fridge door. Unfortunately, it’s running out of paper, so I have come up with something else: Pocket Magnets made out of the pockets of my old jeans! I just need to buy some fabric glue and magnets. I found the instructions for them on the internet.

  • Becke says:

    I agree with all and there’s nothing more fulfilling than getting a great buy on something.

    I love banker’s clips-the little ones. We buy them by the box.

    Safety pins-I used to get them for free from the cleaners-but that time has passed.

    Coozies- those little dudes that go over your water bottle or can to keep the can from sweating all over things

    • Becke, I love those little banker’s clips, too. Don’t they come something like 100 to a package? I think there are smaller packages available, too.

      Safety pins occasionally turn up on new clothes, holding the price tags on, but that’s becoming rare. More common is the plastic thing that’s anchored in a part of the garment you can’t reach, so you can never fully get rid of it. :-/

      Do you have a big selection of cozies?

  • Great post, Nancy, and I love those slippers!

    I have a plastic shoe box full of chip clips as I use them to close bags of all sorts including dog food and cat food bags.

    Ziploc bags! I use them when I travel to seal up anything that might leak in my luggage. I also use them in my purse. I always have a bottle of aspirin and a few other medicines in my purse (Good Lord, I sound like an old lady hypochondriac!) and sealing them in a ziploc keeps the contents from spilling into the bottom of my purse never to be seen again.

    I use those back of the door hooks to hold dog leashes behind the back door. It keeps them organized and enables me to grab them quickly for those urgent trips outside.

    Walmart often puts these craft boxes on sale that have dividers you can move around. They are used by beaders to separate their beads and by cross stitchers to store their cards of DMC thread (I have several of these full of DMC thread.) I have discovered other uses for these boxes. I have one in which I put all of the jewelry I wish to take on a trip. The box slides into any spot in my luggage and I can pick what I want to wear without sorting through various boxes or untangling chains.

    • Thanks, Louisa! I didn’t think of Ziploc bags, but you’re so right. I put my powder-based cosmetics in one when I travel because the loose powder migrates into my travel kit even when the lids are shut tightly. And of course there’s the TSA-generated need to put liquids in one.

      Our dogs leash is also over a hook but shares it with my coat, which sometimes leads to dashed hopes.

      That’s a great use for the craft box. How clever!

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    All of my free or otherwise inexpensive books on my Kindle. I consider them invaluable when it comes to the hours of enjoyment they’ve given me, sometimes badly needed when reality comes crashing down on my head and I just need to escape for awhile. That and my cheap dollar store refrigerator magnets that hold up important messages, priceless photos, and my many notes to myself reminding me of one thing or another.

    • Debbie, we love refrigerator magnets. We buy them as souvenirs and use them as you do, to hold up pictures or things we need to remember.

      I totally agree on the value of books. A good escape cannot be overrated, and if you can get it without leaving home, it really doesn’t cost much.

  • Mozette, I keep looking at those mountain climber clips (carabiniers, or something like that?). It’s good to know they can be so useful.

    That’s a very useful list of household products. I don’t think we have Gumption here, but it sounds great!

    Congrats on repurposing clothes pins. I bet they’re very pretty. Hanging laundry outdoors, at least in the city, has kind of gone away around here. It’s a shame because the clothes smell so nice when they dry outside.

  • Debbie says:

    I bought a small magnetic dry erase board and hung it on the fridge, I told everyone that anything we need at the store, write it down, I was amazed it actually worked. I also get packages of binder clips that I use as chip clips, or holds powder sugar and brown sugar bags shut (and many other things).

  • Nancy – Fun post!

    I love those chip clips and like pens I have a bunch of them, but also like pens – I’ve never actually bought any. All mine are swag from authors, conferences, etc. One of the handiest promo things I’ve received is a circle of stubbliy plastic that is used to free stubborn lids from jars. Very handy – and free!

    I think the best thing I’ve ever bought for usefulness is a box of parchment paper. Each sheet is the size of two baking pans. We use it for baking, of course. Putting cookie dough on the paper then sliding the parchment onto the baking sheets saves incredible time. When one batch is done, you slide paper and cookies onto the cooling rack, then slide the next batch of cookie dough – paper and all – onto the warm sheet. I bought the box of paper about ten years ago for $35. If we’re halfway through the 1000 sheets, I’d be surprised. Plus – it’s great to use for plotting 🙂 The sheets are semi-transparent so you can layer plot lines on top of each other.

    Also – I use post-it notes for everything – including marking up my manuscript for edits. I buy them in all sorts of colors when they go on sale. Love them.

    • Donna, I also have a lot of swag pens. Some of them are really good and some of them tend to fall apart, but they’re all free, so I can’t complain.

      We use parchment paper for some things but never thought of doing it with cookies. And it never would’ve occurred to me to use it for plotting.

      I love Post-It notes, too. I mainly use them for revision, but like you, I wait for a sale to buy them. They’re pricey otherwise!

  • Deb says:

    Nancy, good post today…for making me really think that some items, little and inexpensive, are best-ever inventions.

    My clothes spritz/wrinkle releaser…since I hate to iron and can’t seem to ever get to the dryer on time. I found a brand at Dollar General that is $4 cheaper than the Downy name brand. Love that stuff.

    Whiteboard on the fridge to jot down notes or reminders.

    Clothes hangers with the felt on the “shoulders” to keep blouses on without them sliding to the closet floor.

    The little flashlight with the magnet on it so we can plop it up on the fridge and not have to worry about digging for it in a drawer. (That is, if the last person who uses it remembers to plop it back up!)

    Electric pencil sharpener…the hand-held ones don’t work well and the one we have in the basement eats pencils, so we gave one to our daughter for Christmas since she is always in need of a sharpened pencil. On a side note, where do pens disappear? They’re hard to find around here, too; and a decent writing one at that.

    Mane and Tail shampoo…seriously, why pay $20 for a bottle of salon shampoo when this stuff is really good for your hair and costs half of expensive shampoo, and in a larger amount.

    There are many more gadgets and things, I’m sure, but my list would go on forever.

  • Deb, thanks! That’s a great list. I’ve heard good things about Mane and Tail.

    I wish I knew where pens go when they vanish. I suspect they get carried out of the house and left behind.

    Your comment about the clothes spritzer reminded me that my mom used a Coke bottle, back in the days before steam irons, with a perforated cap that was attached to a cork that went down into the opening of the bottle. She would sprinkle the water on the clothes and then iron them.

    Those clothes hangers are great. It’s so annoying to go looking for a blouse or shirt and find it crumpled on the closet floor.

  • Laney4 says:

    Nancy, I use wooden clothes pins instead of “chip clips”. Much cheaper.
    Anna, I have had a Fantastic Brush since the late seventies and still love it, love it, love it for brushing fur, etc. off clothes, furniture, or whatever. My kids have given me newer ones through the years, but none are as good as my Fantastic Brush.
    Mozette, I’ll keep in mind about that vinegar in the washer, as I too am allergic to most laundry softeners (but for some reason I’m OK with Bounce). I’ll check out the vinegar soon and, if it works just fine for me, I’ll make a note to use it every so often (so I don’t forget) until I’m out of my stash of Bounce sheets and then will only use vinegar, as I love the cost of vinegar!
    Louisa, I am a firm believer in Ziploc bags too. I store my not-as-often-used shoes under my bed in them so that my shoes don’t get dusty. I don’t have much height under my box spring, but I can barely slide a Pepsi 24-pack cardboard bottom under with the shoes in Ziplocs inside. I too use Ziplocs for my craft materials. I scrapbook, so there are often small pieces I could easily lose otherwise. I use a labeller so that I have separate Ziplocs for let’s say Christmas, Birthday, Anniversary, Travel, School, and Animal Ziplocs (to name but a few, hehe).

  • catslady says:

    So many great ideas – trying not to repeat since I use many that were listed. Post-it notes, coupon holders, cloth totes, and plastic spray bottles (perfect cat trainer lol),

    • Catslady, I have some other friends who used a plastic spray bottle to discourage their indoor cat from escaping when they needed to go out. It seemed very effective.

      It’s okay to repeat things. 🙂

      By cloth totes, do you mean the freebie ones some stores give out that you can use for just about anything? I save the tote bags merchants give out if they’re sturdy. Never know when I might need one.

  • Those rubber grippy things that help me open bottles and jars are the best things ever! And the one I have was a free giveaway.

  • Nancy, what a cool blog! I really need those chip clips. I’ve never seen them in the stores here but clearly I’m not looking hard enough!

    I’m with Minna on the shopping list fridge magnet. I never forget what I need now. Also, some cheap toweling flip-flops are always handy for the beach house after a shower. There’s always a fine layer of sand on the floor in a beach house no matter what you do, and I like to get into bed with clean feet! I kept a pair in a locked cupboard but one of the tenants broke in and stole them! Unbelievable.

    • Flip flops are great! I used to wear them around in the summer, even when we weren’t at the beach. I can’t believe someone stole them. They cost, like, next to nothing.

      Next time you’re over here, we’ll get you some chip clips to take home.

  • Thanks to everyone who stopped by today and to those who shared their discoveries!