A stack of flyers on a table

17 Favorite Things I Use (Almost) Daily

I wonder how well I’d do as a contestant on the hit TV show, Survivor. Have you seen the rules for what contestants are allowed to bring? Basically, it’s the clothes on your back, sunscreen, and one luxury item.

For example, a toothbrush is considered an acceptable luxury item; a hairdryer is not. Paper and pen—yes; Macbook Pro—no.

A group of people camping

While I’m certain I could survive in my life with far fewer things than I do (I have in the past, trust me on that), there are things that I depend on heavily and use nearly every day—17 to be exact. These are things I love because they bring efficiency, joy, and beauty to my life.

I’d need to be granted some kind of immunity to allow me 17 rather than one luxury item on Survivor Island. Shouldn’t be a problem, right?

1. Shark Navigator Lift-Away vacuum

Just the most amazing vacuum cleaner known to mankind. The bonus is that it is also inexpensive, as upright vacuum cleaners go. While there are many models, I love my Shark Navigator with the Liftaway option and hard floor attachment. Simply indescribably efficient. AmazonWalmart.

Shark Navigator


2. Black+Decker Handheld Cordless Vac

While not exactly the one pictured (mine is now 8 years old, because they change up the look with each model, I use my Black+Decker handheld vac every single day, sometimes multiple times. It’s like a member of the family.

Cordless and BLACK+DECKER

3. Hoover Linx Cordless Stick Vac

Where do I start? There are times I just don’t want to open the closet, pull out Sharkie, unwind the cord, plug it into an outlet to handle a small yet annoying situation like crumbs on my dark wood floors or dirt tracked in from the garden. I’m pretty sure those minor situations would just sit there until later—until some more convenient time. That’s how things used to be before I met Hoover Linx.

I’ve been using my Linx every day for months now—and yes, I purchased it myself as I have all of the vacuums I test. I did not receive review models from manufacturers. While we may receiving a small commission when you purchase these vacuums, you can be assured that my opinions are my own—I cannot be bought.

My new Linx (Amazon and Walmart) is remarkable in that it has every feature I could hope for. Linx stands alone, has an On/Off switch; it is lightweight, quiet, easily emptied and washed. This stick vac comes with a powerful Li-ion removable and rechargeable battery, has a “fuel” gauge, long runtime, and swivel head. And if that’s not enough, it has two added features I could have only dreamed of: Replaceable battery and Brush Roll or Hard Floor Settings. Better than all the rest!

Cordless and Stick

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4. Spot Shot

If spots on carpet drive you mad, here’s the best therapy ever. Bar none. So far, I cannot come up with a homemade option that works nearly as well as Spot Shot.


A can of carpet cleaner


5. The Ringer

If you, like I, pride yourself on your well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or another piece of cast iron cookware, you know not to come anywhere close to it with detergent. And you know not to scrape it with steel wool or metal utensils. That makes cleaning the thing a bit of a challenge—unless you have a Ringer. Don’t ask me how and why this works because it is made of stainless steel chainmail. But it does work. And cleans up cast iron without removing the seasoning. And oh, so well.

Iron and Kitchen

6. Induction burner

I stumbled into the world of induction cooking when we lived for 18 months without a stove or traditional cooktop. I had this Duxtop countertop burner. The learning curve was a bit steeper than I’d signed up for, but I had it down within a week. Oh my.

Whoever invented this thing deserves a medal. An induction cooktop doesn’t get hot. In fact, I can put my hand on it without feeling a thing, even when set to its highest. It reacts to the cookware (stainless steel or cast iron) and makes the vessel and its contents hot, not the burner itself. Just read the reviews and you’ll learn so much more. I am an induction cooking fan, big time! And while this single burner kept me in the game for nearly two years, I have upgraded to a built-in 5-burner GE Cafe induction cooktop.

A close up of a hot plate

7. Foodsaver Vacuum Sealer

No more spoiled food in our trash can. I’m a Foodsaver nut—vacuum sealing just about anything that’s standing still. An amazing invention, that allows me to buy anything in bulk from rice to strawberries—baked goods to meat and poultry. What normally would last for a week or two, is now good for months at the Hunt home. Even longer when vacuum-sealed items go into the freezer.

A food vacuum sealer

8. Real Salt

I’m an ordinary cook. But don’t tell my friends and family. They think I’m an awesome cook. The truth is I use unrefined organic Redmond Real Salt, and have for at least 15 years. I found it in the gift shop at Salt Lake City airport. The best salt ever. It’ll make you cook like a Food Network rockstar. I buy the stuff by the 10-pound bucket (not as pictured); one bucket lasts for more than two years.

Real Salt

9. Knitting needles

Yes, I love to knit. The right knitting needles turn a tedious activity into a soothing, calming, dreamy pastime. These Knitter’s Pride interchangeable needles with their extra-pointy metal tips are truly a dream come true. They’re to be revered, respected, and enjoyed for the fine quality tools that they are. Know a knitter you’d love to surprise with the perfect gift? You will not go wrong with this collection.

A close up of knitting neddles

10. WaterPik

My dentist insists. Twice a day WaterPik with warm saltwater. Enough said.


11. Flat whisk

I have a few kitchen tools, some that I like, not many I love. My 8.7-inch Rolele flat whisk sits at #1 on the Love List. I reach for it the way some folks reach for their iPhones, and by that I mean constantly. It fits in my hand, takes care of every imaginable task in my kitchen. And once in the garden. Shhhh!

Kitchen and Tool

12. Cutex polish remover

I don’t need this every day, but when I do need to remove nail polish, I do not want a mess. I don’t want a bottle tipping over and ruining everything in its wake. I want a product that will take polish off all ten nails with one disposable pad and in less time than I would expect. Bam! That’s Cutex Polish Remover Pads. Love ‘em.

Cutex and Nail

13. Laundry detergent

I do a lot of laundry even though there are just the two of us. I know that’s weird and perhaps I’ve even dreamed of becoming professional laundress—but I’d rather not live with a backlog of dirty clothes and linens. So, I wash nearly every day. There is no better HE compatible liquid laundry detergent on planet Earth than our amazing EC Homemade Laundry Detergent—either liquid or powder.

dry and liquid soap

14. Lestoil

I’m fairly new to this product, which continues to make me wonder where I’ve been! Every time I use Lestoil I bless the day a number of readers told me about it. I use it mostly for very stubborn laundry stains. I’m talking about the stains that will not come out with Soilove; stains that are old and have been washed and dried repeatedly.

Lestoil smells like something from an industrial factory, so be warned. I pour it into a spray bottle then spray it on a laundry stain sparingly, allow it to sit for at least 20 minutes (or overnight), then launder as usual. The industrial smell disappears along with the stain. Lestoil (as in “less toil”) has many other uses as well—including cleaning bakeware. Read up on it and then all the online reviews, too.

A bottle of cleaner

15. Tub and Shower Scum Cleaner

It’s magic, folks. That the only way to describe our EC homemade tub and shower soap scum eliminator. Specific recipe and directions are in this archived column.

Once sparkling clean, make up a batch of this  daily shower spray to maintain the beautiful results. You’ll save so much time and money—you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

A sign on the side of a building

16. Steam iron

Yes, I am one of the few people in the world who loves to iron. That means I know a good steam iron when I use it and this Rowenta fits that bill. I keep my iron—now with a retractable cord!— at the ready at all times and use it—as I may have said already—daily. I do have a dry cleaner quality iron that I’ve written about in the past, but this is my daily go-to.

A close up of a device

17. MacBook Pro

It’s become part of me, that’s how much I use my laptop computer. I’m on the fifth MBP and it’s on its 3rd keyboard. Seriously, I must have a very heavy hand because I go through keyboards the way others wear out socks! I pound holes in the keys. They guys at the Apple store are quite amused.

I know one’s tool-of-the-trade is a matter of preference,  and mine it’s MacBook Pro for me. Can’t imagine going anywhere—Survivor Island or a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is where you will find me next weekend—without my Mac.

A laptop computer sitting on top of a wooden table

There you go—17 things I use almost every day (there are more, but I’m keeping myself in check here), without which I’d not want to survive!


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13 replies
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  1. Patti T says:

    Hi Mary, I just ordered the Hoover Stick vacuum you recommend. I will let you know what I think but I’m confident I will love it.

  2. P. J. W says:

    I tried the home made shower spray and found it left my shower streaky. I’ll stick with my squeegee, after every shower/ I just takes a minute and my glass shower doors stay spotless.

  3. Joni says:

    Thanks for a great list and a great laugh! I noticed how almost every item requires electricity, something I don’t think is found on Survivor. At least that narrows down your essentials that CAN be used on the island! LOL
    Thanks for always providing great tips,
    Joni <

    • Joni says:

      Yes! Furbabies, dust from outside, pollen, and people who really don’t know how to use a doormat all give me reason! LOL

  4. Pamela Hancock says:

    And I bought this from a recommend from you. Instant Pot brand electric pressure cooker! I’m not a cook either, my husband was but since he became ill I have to make supper. I use it every night. I’m queen of the one pot meal.

  5. Leslie says:

    When it was time for a new vacuum, I searched through your basement past posts and bought the exact Shark that you suggested. I was lucky and found it on sale at Bed Bath and Beyond and who doesn’t have a 20% coupon available? The best think I have ever had and I once spent 800 on an Oreck. Right before Christmas my parents needed something new. I immediately jumped online and shipped them one. They also agree it is the best. Thanks for doing the research for the rest of us!!!

  6. Susan says:

    I have been using your homemade laundry detergent in my top-loader for several years now. Together with vinegar in the rinse dispenser my laundry comes out very clean and soft and smells so good!! I use NOTHING else, including dryer sheets, except a little stain remover once in awhile beforehand. Wish I could find some LESTOIL in a store!

  7. Gina Stevens says:

    I laugh every time you mention your “new discovery” of Lestoil. As a baby-boomer growing up in southeast Michigan, that was a common smell. Everybody’s father, no matter their livelihood, was their own auto mechanic. The first day of Spring was that magical day above freezing when kids could ride bikes. Women flocked in their yards to marvel at their crocuses. Men rolled under their cars, where they stayed until fall. Lestoil was the ubiquitous staple in the laundry room. At least that’s how I remember it.

  8. Jen says:

    Spot Shot has been saving my bacon for years. It is great for all kind of carpet stains, but the very best thing I use it for is cleaning up animal and children vomit. It is the only thing I can stand to use when I’m cleaning this up, because it has a fresh clean smell that erases the smell of what I’m cleaning up, and works like a charm every time. One night my kids had the stomach flu and I ran to the store at 3 o’clock in the morning to buy more. There is no other fool proof way to deal with these types of emergencies. We ALWAYS have some on hand now so I won’t be caught when I really need it again.

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