I love having my own apartment. I get to eat whatever I want for dinner (Cheerios and peanut butter, obviously), I don’t have to make my bed in the morning, and I can arrange my closet without any backchat about my Type-A organizational style. Ah, bliss.
However, having my own apartment means that I am nominally responsible for some of the more mundane aspects of maintaining a living space. If my heat goes out, I’m calling my landlord in a red-hot second, but my pride will not allow me to do that if a light bulb dies. Read on for relatively cheap tools and products that will help you out with household tasks that are inconveniently below the threshold of “stuff your landlord/a pro should deal with”.
LED light bulbs - Buy a four-pack now for ~$22
Light bulbs always seem to go out at the most inconvenient time, don't they? These 60 Watt bulbs should fit into your average light fixture, and are much more efficient than regular incandescent bulbs. When you're replacing a bulb, just be sure that the light itself is off. Otherwise, you run the risk of burning/electrocuting yourself, and that's no fun. People have had success with licking their fingers and changing a bulb while the light is on, but why risk burned fingers and looking like a n00b to your friends?
Took kit with drill - Buy one now for ~$85
Let's face it, you probably can't do any minor home repairs or projects without a decent tool kit. This kit includes a drill (with a charger), a veritable cornucopia of drill bits, two sets of pliers, an adjustable wrench, two screwdrivers, a box cutter, a hammer, and more. Having one tool kit that lives in its own case will save you time and angst when it comes to finding that one tool you need to get the job done.
Wall hanging kit - Buy one now for ~$9
This wall hanging kit is perfect for hanging everything from embarrassing family photos, to a framed poster of David Bowie circa Labyrinth, to a dartboard with a picture of your ex in the center. The variety of different hooks, nails, and wire means that you're set for a wide range of possible wall decor.
Stud finder - Buy one now for ~$25
As much as I wish this was a device that helped you to find really hot men, alas, it is not. A stud finder helps you to find the 2x4 wooden support beams behind your walls. If you need to hang something heavier than a picture on a wall, consider using a stud finder to find those beams, and then drill/attach whatever it is directly into the beams through the drywall. If I hadn't done this for the shelves I built for my twelve-pound cat, she doubtlessly would have ripped the shelves right off the wall the minute she set a paw (or a large cat butt) on them.
Stubby Hammer - Buy one now for ~$13
This "stubby" claw hammer, with its shortened, reinforced handle is ideal for small jobs (i.e. hanging the dartboard of your hated ex), or for jobs in tight spaces. While you may sometimes feel the desire to bang your head against a wall (i.e. after talking with your hated ex), you can't actually hang pictures that way. Use this hammer to mount those frames, and use the claw side of the hammer to take them out if/when you bend the nail.
Caulk - Buy one tube for ~$7
Caulk is one of the most versatile products I've ever used. I've sealed windows (for better heat retention), filled screw holes in drywall (especially important for getting your security deposit back), and sealed a cooler closed and then buried it (it was for science, not murder, I promise). Caulk is also ideal for water-tight seals, like at the interface between your bathtub and the tiled shower surround. For bigger jobs, consider getting one of the solid cylindrical caulk tubes and a caulk gun, but this smaller caulk tube is great for around-the-house stuff.
Small screwdriver kit - Buy one now for ~$15
I will admit that I don't often need to use tiny screwdrivers, but man, do I feel smug when I have to do some tiny, fiddly job and I can pull out exactly the right screwdriver. With all of the screwdriver tips included here, you shouldn't have any problem opening battery ports or other panels on electronic devices like smartphones, laptops, game consoles, remotes, motorized cat toys, etc.
Drain snake - Buy a four-pack now for ~$7
Here is a very sad fact of life: sometimes, there are drain clogs that even the most robust liquid pipe cleaner will not be able to budge. When that happens, you can jam these barbed pieces of plastic, known as drain snakes, into the drain and remove a truly monstrous amount of hair and goo. Seriously, I have just recently cleaned out my clogged shower drain with something like this, and it was like the creature from the Black Lagoon had molted. Ick. When using the drain snake, have a trash bag nearby so that you can dump the goo someplace quickly without having to look at it too closely.
Disinfecting wipes - Buy a three-pack now for ~$13
While TV commercials tell me that disinfecting wipes are primarily used to clean up after sticky, messy kids, I've found that they have a number of other uses. To me, the fact that these wipes contain disinfectant is a bonus; a wet, disposable cleaning cloth is really great to have in the kitchen and the bathroom. In particular, I have personally used disinfecting wipes to scrub mold from my bathroom tiles and hard water buildup from my toilet bowl. Around the office, we also use them to wipe down the various pairs of headphones that our staff writers try out. Make sure to keep each container of wipes sealed, though, lest they dry out and become the lame cousin of paper towels.
Circuit Detective - Buy one now for ~$21
I love, love, love my Circuit Detective. This is another tool for a very specific job, but having it makes that one impossible job nearly effortless. You plug the passive tracker into the outlet of interest, and then use the circuit detector at the breaker panel to tell you which breaker corresponds to that outlet. The Circuit Detective saved my sanity by helping me to track down which breakers were connected to certain outlets in our 100+ year old building with at least four breaker panels. If I'd had to flip four panel's worth of breakers to turn the outlets in the conference room back on, I'm pretty sure I would have cried, and my tears would have fallen into live circuits and caused a small fire. Thank you, Circuit Detective, for preventing an angst-induced fire.
Tire pressure gauge - Buy one now for ~$15
If you are something of a novice when it comes to car maintenance (like myself), then you live in fear of the day one of the "check engine" lights appears on your dashboard. A lot of the newer-model cars have lights that are extremely specific to a given problem, but older models like mine leave you diving for your owner's manual to figure out why your car is sad. Fortunately, I've had enough experience with my car to recognize the "low tire pressure" light, and I use my adorably tire-shaped tire pressure gauge to determine which tires are low on air. This gauge is easy to read, straightforward to use, and fits in any glove compartment or console. Look for the "PSI" number printed on info sticker on the inside of your car door, and then fill it accordingly.
Triple-A batteries - Buy a 24-pack for ~$10
One of the things I used to hate doing was attempting to replace the batteries on a remote or other device, and finding that it calls for AAA batteries, rather than AA batteries. I always felt dumb when this happened because I never had AAA batteries in the house. Now, I just buy a big pack of them, and then leave them in the junk drawer for six months, until I need them again. Having the correct, non-AA battery available when you need it is just one small way to win at everyday life.
Packing tape - Buy a three-pack for ~$10
This is another item where I just admit defeat and buy multiple rolls at a time. Shipping a care package to someone you love can be fun, but having to wait at the post office to buy a box, buy tape, tape it up, and then address it and ship it is a massive pain. Taping boxes up at home, at your leisure, is much better. Whether you're moving across the country, sending holiday presents, or removing stubborn pet hair from your furniture, packing tape is a great thing to have on hand.