We all have parts of our regular life that are essential to us, and I think most of us differ on what, exactly, makes up those essentials. For some it’s a killer pair of jeans, or a specific workout, or maybe a particular app on their phone. Looking at this list I see a lot of contradictions, although needing both sides of the bell curve, avoiding extremes, and trying to find balance seems like a healthy way to move forward, not a contradiction. Right? (RIGHT?!) Lawsy, I hope so. Otherwise I’m a walking contradiction fueled by Diet Dr. Pepper…not that there is anything wrong with that.

My Life Essentials:

Putzing: This is my quirky way of unwinding; I pad around the house, imagining updates and new paint colors, sketching out blueprints and planning renovations in my head. Or I’ll wander around the produce section of the grocery store touching the fruit and veggies. I wander around my own head, touching old memories and looking at old ideas, testing them to see if they still work. I make lists just to cross things off, I imagine fantastical things. Putzing is my alone time, my detox time. I can putz for hours.

Adventure: As a definitive counter-point to putzing, I also crave adventure like, woah. I love exploring new places and trying new things, that could be a city across the country or it could be a new restaurant with some kind of exotic fusion menu. I am an interesting mix of homebody (see above) and adventure seeker, and it can sometimes be hard to figure out which will solve feelings of restlessness or anxiety. But, I need both. I desperately need both.

Books: I remember the first book I ever bought with my own money. I was working two jobs, saving up for my first semester of college and decided to buy The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series and re-read them before the first movie came out in theaters (what up, 2001). I bought the cheapest version the bookstore had—a $4.99 half-sized paperback—one at a time over a few weeks. In the last 15 years I have amassed a considerable book collection and a bonafide library in my office (and the living room). Sitting in front of those shelves, running my fingers over the spines, reorganizing my “To Read First” shelf (yes, shelf) and reliving the stories and memories associated with previously read titles is one of the most calming things I can do at home. (See: putzing) Does this make me materialistic? Maybe. Do I care? No. I’m a paper-and-ink book person and I’m not willing to fight it.

Inspiring and Interesting: My walls are covered in art and my shelves are crammed with books; I’m kind of a bad minimalist that way. But I cannot explain how much joy I get from art on my walls and books on my shelves. I love learning. I love learning about new things, new people, new words, new ideas. I love learning old things for the first time, random facts, chronology of world events, social or geographic history or myth of far-flung places and interesting factoids close to home. I am also trying to have at least one piece of original art in every room of our home, and so far that plan has worked out splendidly (yes, even the laundry room, it’s a tiny watercolor of lavender fields that is just lovely on the lavender walls). (Yes, my laundry room walls are intentionally lavender.) (Stop judging me, they are perfection.)

Razor sharp kitchen knives: I love to cook and I find mincing vegetables therapeutic, but only if my knife is crazy-sharp. I found a gentleman pretty close to me who has a knife sharpening hobby out of his spare room, he is my favorite Arizona discovery so far. For $3-$5 per knife he does his honing magic and I continue to mince.

Chapstick: I’m not talking about lipgloss, or lipstick (neither of which I have worn for years). I’m not talking about Chapstick brand stuff that is pink with a waxy flavor. I will wear Bert’s Bees in a ruby grapefruit color, but I prefer Natural Ice, although it is next to impossible to find in grocery stores, gas stations, big box stores, or boutique stores. Sometimes I’ll find it at REI and stock up. Last fall I finally got the brilliant idea to order a dozen tubes of Natural Ice from Amazon. They are now nicely lined up in my dresser waiting to rescue my chapped and dry lips.

Diet Dr. Pepper: My caffeine source of choice, preferably with a tremendous dose of fresh-squeezed lime, and a straw. I know, I know, “Soda is so bad for you!” and “Aspartame will kill you!” but I can’t help it! The heart wants what the heart wants! To my credit, I have drastically reduced my DDP intake, I now have a 12-ounce can (and a whole lime) at lunch, and drink water the rest of the time. Well, except for weekends, more soda on the weekends. And on road trips. And when I’m stressed or sad…ok, so I might have a DDP consumption problem….

Sunshine: I am one of those people who will never go tanning, I wear sunscreen always. However, just a few minutes of sunshine will lift my mood in amazing ways. I do some of my best putzing sitting in a sunny spot. Seattle weather would probably be better for my skin (and save me thousands on tubes of sunscreen), but

Sparkly Unicorns and Pegasus Ponies: I am (mostly) kidding on this one. (Or am I?)  Hmm…actually? Not really kidding at all, but I should probably define this need as “whimsical sarcasm” instead. A generous dose of whimsical sarcasm is a pretty good explanation of why I send hundreds of funny, snarky, sometimes dirty, and generally giggle-inducing photos and texts in any given week. Yes, hundreds. I guess this is the reason Tumblr was invented, but there is just something about getting a laugh-cry inducing text from a friend that subscribing to a social media feed cannot provide.


My Favorite Non-Essentials:

High Thread Count Sheets: Several years ago my older brother found 1,000 count Egyptian cotton sheets on Amazon for something crazy like $100 dollars. He ordered them immediately. I ordered them immediately. Several other family members ordered them. They are heaven. I don’t care if 1,000 count sheets don’t come in cute polka-dots, or fancy stripes, or chevrons, or mod floral graphic print. I have a hard time sleeping in scratchy sheets and silky sheets are right out. I need 1,000 count Egyptian cotton, preferably white because I’m high maintenance like that.

Office Supplies: I have an unhealthy obsession with office supplies. Stacks of college-ruled paper, packages of Sharpie’s in a rainbow of colors, boxes of unsharpened pencils waiting to be ground to a point and fill a notebook with ideas. I love office supplies.

Fresh Flowers and/or Live Plants: I love having fresh flowers on my dining room table. I have very rarely had anything fancier than a small bouquet from the grocery store, but even $6 dollars worth of tulips will keep me smiling for two weeks. About a year ago I tried my gray-ish-green thumb at houesplants, and except for a few tragedies, I have managed to keep a couple of them alive for quite a while, move to ARizona be damned! We’ll see how long that lasts.


Things I Could Easily Live Without:

Smart Phones: I know, it sounds nuts, but I am becoming more and more anti-smart phone. It’s not that I don’t like the convenience of having a mini computer-communicator-television-navigational system-word processor-camera the size of a credit card, it’s just that after sitting at a computer for 9 hours a day with the expectation to respond to email promptly and answer the phone by the second ring I kind of relish the idea of walking away from technology for a couple of hours. I don’t know, maybe I’m not using my phone the right way, but I very much prefer a larger screen for most of my online needs (actually, my dual-screen set-up has spoiled me forever for even a laptop screen, maybe that means I’m getting old and short-sighted, but a 2×4″ screen just cannot compare to TWO large monitors and task lighting. Sigh. I’m old, aren’t I.

Voice mail: I hate voicemail, hate it. Remember when voicemail used to be an add-on? My cell phone is now also my work phone and I have to retrieve messages, but it is one of my most loathed tasks.

Popcorn: I haven’t had popcorn since I was in junior high, and I don’t miss it. I like the smell well enough, I won’t gag at the movies or anything, but I have absolutely no desire to try it. None.


What are your life essentials? What can you life without? It just occured to me that I haven’t listed people anywhere on here, and maybe there is some deeper psychological flaw that I should be concerned about, but for now I’m just going to disclaim* that Some People are essential, Others are hit or miss, and A Few I could easily do without. (*Disclaim is a verb, right?)

Harriet sig




Format for this post inspired (okay, blatantly heisted) from Stacy at The Cat’s Meow.

0 thoughts on “Essentials

  1. WhenInTurkey

    Not having a phone (period) is so freeing! It’s amazing to not be reaching in your pocket/on your nightstand every five minutes because someone or something demands your attention – deep relaxing sigh-…
    But for people with, you know, actual responsibilities (I. E. Anyone but me right now), they are probably important haha. I was always praised as being the most responsive TA due to my smart phone alerting me to messages from my students.

    1. Feisty Harriet Post author

      I can only imagine. I’ve done it for a few days at a time (camping, or at my in-laws where I have ZERO reception), but I haven’t done a phone fast….ever. A social media one, yes, but not phone. I wonder if I could do it? Would be an interesting experiment…and may alter my opinion on the necessity/evils/benefits of a smart phone…


      On Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 11:02 AM, Feisty Harriet wrote:


  2. San

    Oh, I loved this post. I should make a list like that.
    I have a love-hate relationship with my smartphone. While I sometimes wish I wasn’t so attached to it, it’s the most direct and immediate connection to far-away family and friends. I’d hate not having that option these days.

    I can see, there is more things we have in common: love for office supplies (yes!!!).

    Which sunscreen do you recommend?

    Oh, and now I know why you like sending (texting) giggle-inducing images … keep them coming 🙂

    1. Feisty Harriet Post author

      On the sunscreen thing: my most important thing is for harmful rays to be blocked. I am WAY less concerned with what other probably not even harmful chemicals might possibly be involved, or if it’s organic, or if it’s kosher, or gluten free, or whatever crazy thing is being promoted (some sarcasm, here). Some people are more concerned with the non-sunscreen part of sunscreen, and that’s fine. But for me, I need the blocking thing. I use an Aveeno SPF 30 moisturizer for my face/neck on a regular day, and when I’m going outside I use Coppertone 85 everywhere. I don’t use sprays because I feel like they don’t cover as well, I need slather, not spritz. Many people complain about how those more “commercial” sunscreens block their pores or whatever, and that’s legit, I’m sure. I don’t go out in the sun often enough or long enough for that to ever be a problem, I avoid most of the risk for a burn by staying outside, not be sunscreen. I don’t care about organic sunscreen, or has never been tested on rats sunscreen, or chemical-free sunscreen. I care about preventing UV rays from touching my skin on the rare-ish occasions I venture forth from my cave-home.


      On Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 12:34 PM, Feisty Harriet wrote:


      1. San

        Thanks for your reply. I wanted some insights from you, because you’re so adement about getting burned… I have used high SPF sunscreen before and still got a light burn. I also read that SPF >50 doesn’t really do anything and are just marketing.
        I guess, staying out of the sun is the first rule 😉
        I’ve gotten much (!) better using sunscreen every day (even on days when there is no sun to be seen!).

        1. Feisty Harriet Post author

          I have read conflicting reports on the SPF count. Maybe it’s a placebo effect, maybe I’m a sucker for good marketing, who knows. I do think that–at least for me–knowing that I need to a) stick to the shade and b) reapply often makes a huge difference. And frankly even if the SPF thing doesn’t matter, I’d rather buy into a marketing gimmick that essentially costs me zero extra dollars than take an unnecessary or preventable risk. Shrug.


          On Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 4:15 PM, Feisty Harriet wrote:


  3. Kelsie O

    I also can’t live without ink-and-paper books, adventure, and learning. Other things are…nature, a camera, and writing. Though I COULD live without caffeine and wine and I have on several occasions, right now I don’t want to live without that, either.

    1. Feisty Harriet Post author

      Yeeeeah, I suppose I could *technically* live without Diet Dr. Pepper….but I don’t want to. Ever. It’s my one real vice, and I refuse to feel guilty about it. 🙂


      On Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 8:21 PM, Feisty Harriet wrote:



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