Being in your early 20s is a strange, weird, exciting time. You’re straddling the lines between still feeling like a teenager—especially when your bank account is in the red again—and being faced with the responsibilities of an adult. Ugh. What’s a 20-something to do?
Well, giving your life a much-needed upgrade with the items on this list is a good start. So what if you don’t have life all figured out yet and, yeah sure, you still don’t know what a 401K is—don’t even ask. As long as you have at least some of these things in your arsenal before you reach your mid-20s, then, well, you’re probably doing pretty okay.
Don’t worry, it’s not all boring “responsible adult” things—we included some treats in there as well!
1. A good pillow to sleep better at night
As a 20-something who’s still adjusting to the craziness of adult life, you need a good night’s sleep. One way to get there is with the help of a quality pillow. For this, we love the Xtreme Comforts Shredded Memory Foam Pillow, which we actually named the best bed pillow of 2019.
It comes equipped with two very important features: memory foam and bamboo. What more could you want? The memory foam will have you drifting off to sleep soon after you lay your head on it, and if you’re someone who likes things cool at night, you will enjoy the bamboo cover, which features micro-vented “kool-flow” technology to keep things from getting too hot and uncomfortable. The pillow even arrives with extra shredded memory foam inside, so you can adjust the size and firmness of the pillow to your liking. Talk about comfort.
2. This knife set that will get even the most novice folks cooking
Even if all you know how to cut is the packaging of a microwaveable meal, it’s still important to own a good set of kitchen knives. For this, we recommend the Triple Rivet Collection Knife Block Set by Cuisinart. We even named it best knife set under $100! The blades are made of high-carbon stainless steel blades, so they always deliver precise cuts to make every meal look restaurant-worthy.
For added safety, you have complete control and stability with the knives’ wide bolsters when handling them. Overall, it’s the perfect knife starter kit for any 20-something who's sick of cutting carrots with a rusty steak knife. The set even comes with a lifetime guarantee so you can love them forever if you’d like.
3. A set of bed sheets that’s high on quality and low on price
If you’ve been sleeping on the same Power Ranger sheets since you were 12, it may be time to add some grown-up finesse to your bedroom.
Get affordability, comfort, and style all in one with these bed sheets by Mellanni that have over 54,282 reviews and 4.4 stars on Amazon. “These are literally the best sheets ever,” one person wrote.
We love them, too, as we named them the best affordable bed sheets when testing out several top brands. With a large selection of designs and colors to choose from, you can find the one that best matches your new, more mature decor. Although these sheets are made with 100 percent polyester, people still rave about how soft and comfortable they are because that polyester is woven into a cozy microfiber. They are also designed to be resistant to fading, stains, and wrinkles.
4. A clip-on strainer that saves on space
In your broke adulting days, you may have you gone through enough Kraft Dinner boxes to make you slightly sick of it. Only slightly, it is delicious mac and cheese, after all.
Now that you may have moved on from dinner-from-a-box to homemade pasta recipes or even to cooking with actual vegetables, you definitely need a strainer that’s efficient and will making home cooking that much easier, like this highly rated Kitchen Gizmo strainer.
Simply attach it to whatever pot, pan, or bowl you’re using (it fits on most) and strain your food through its BPA-free, high-quality silicone material. This cult-favorite cooking accessory may look small, but it can even handle heavier items like hard-boiled eggs and potatoes. And its smaller size makes it much easier to wash and store. So it’s no surprise it has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon and over 1,600 rave reviews.
5. A water pitcher that provides a pure taste
Instead of reaching for yet another sugary drink or disposable bottle of water, do your health—and the environment—a favor by trying out a water filter pitcher. Brita is one of the best-known brands in the filtered water game, so it’s not surprising that we found the Brita Everyday 10-Cup Pitcher to be the perfect choice. Not only did it have the purest, cleanest taste compared to the other water filter pitchers we tested (it removed almost all traces of chlorine), but it only took a few minutes to filter 3.5 cups of water!
6. An egg cooker to make mornings easier
Never skip breakfast again with the Dash Rapid Egg Cooker, which makes cooking up to six eggs as easy as pushing a button. You can even get ready in the morning without checking up on it since the cooker has an auto-off function to prevent overcooking, along with a buzzer that will sound when it’s ready.
With over 10,000 Amazon reviews, it’s safe to say that people love it. We even put it to the test and found that it really did live up to the hype. You can use it to meet all of your meal prep needs. And don’t limit yourself to just soft- and hard-boiled eggs, either; it can also prepare poached eggs, omelettes, or scrambled eggs. They may not look picturesque, but they’ll taste great.
7. This glassware set that makes you feel grownup AF
We’re not saying you need fancy glassware or champagne flutes in case the Queen of England ever visits, but part of being an adult is having decent glassware that isn’t just shot glasses or bag after bag of Solo cups. Treat yourself and your guests like the grown-ass adults you are with these highly rated plastic glasses by US Acrylic. They come in two different sizes—12-ounce and 16-ounce—and are made with BPA-free, durable material. Translation: they are dishwasher-safe and won’t shatter if you drop them.
8. These wool dryer balls that reduce drying time
As a twenty-something who has now lived in four different apartments, I can tell you that the washer and dryer situations in most buildings sucks. I’ve dealt with it all: people taking out my laundry before it’s done, waiting forever for someone to finally grab their clothes so I could use the machine, and, of course, having a dryer that takes about three damn cycles just to finally get clothes dry.
Finally, I had enough and purchased good quality dryer balls to help my clothes dry faster. While I didn’t purchase the set from Smart Sheep Wool, I kind of wished that I did since the reviews are so good! They are a best seller on Amazon with 4.3 stars, and you get a pack of six that claims to last for up to 10,000 loads. That’s a lot of laundry. They also act as a fabric softener, so you can save money on that too. We’re actually testing wool dryer balls right now, and the jury is still out on whether they actually help things go faster, but for $17, why not give it a try?
9. This cast iron pan that’s built to last
While you may have grown up seeing your grandparents use this thing and shivered when they told you that it gets cleaned, um, like once a year, trust me when I say this: cast iron pans will change your life. Unsure which to buy? This one by Lodge outperformed all the other top cast iron pans.
The 12-inch Lodge skillet is a total beast in the kitchen since it’s super versatile in what it can cook. For example, you can sizzle steaks to perfection and then go and bake an apple crisp for dessert, all on its durable, non-stick surface. Since it’s made of cast iron, it’s built to last for generations as long as you take care of it properly (i.e. season it enough and never, ever clean it with soap).
10. This bathroom towel that’s ultra-soft and luxurious
While you don’t have to go all Monica Geller from Friends and categorize your towels by type of guest, you should still own at least a few good-quality towels for yourself and especially when your parents come to visit. If you always enjoy those big, fluffy ones from the spa, then you will love the Fieldcrest Spa Bath Towel. It’s made with 100 percent cotton, so it always feels ultra-soft against your skin.
We named it the best bath towel of 2019 since we found what loads of reviewers were claiming was quite true: it’s super absorbent and a good size for its modest price. It’s also certified Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX, which means that it was put through intense testing to ensure that it’s free from over 300 harmful substances. Find the style and color that fits your decor, and feel good about what you’re putting around your body.
11. This pan-stacking organizer that every kitchen needs
To avoid the avalanche that is pots and pans coming tumbling out of your cupboard every time you open it, try the SimpleHouseware pan and pan lid organizer. It features an easy-to-install rack design that fits 5 pans to help your space look neat and organized. With it, you’ll never struggle with trying to grab a certain pan or pan lid again.
12. This drain protector that will make cleaning less of a chore
So long are the days of hiding whenever chores needed to be done; now it’s your responsibility to take care of your space. If you have messy roommates, this means that the chore of declogging the drains is definitely not fun.
Make your life easier with the TubShroom, a best seller on Amazon with over 17,000 reviews. People love it because it actually does what it claims to do: catches hair every time you take a shower.
Cleanup promises to be easy, too, as one reviewer wrote, “I just took a tissue and wiped it from top to bottom, grabbing all the hair as the soft rubber strainer released it all easily. Not a hair was caught in it.” This also means none of that hair is getting stuck further down your drain, which translates to not needing to pour nasty chemicals down your drain or use a snake to pull out nasty clumps of gross no one needs to see up close.
13. This planner that makes life a little easier
Life is too busy to not have a good planner. Between work, errands, appointments, and everything else in between, we need something that’s going to keep our heads on straight.
For this, we recommend the Happy Planner (P.S. we included it in our list of our favorite planners for 2019). With many different themes to choose from, it’s the perfect planner for those who are new to planners since you can add or remove pages with the disc binding system. It also lets you personalize the planner by purchasing any add-ons that you’d like, such as a budget or fitness tracker. I personally love mine and look forward to designing the layout every week!
14. A white noise machine to drown out intrusive noises
If you live with roommates or noisy neighbors nearby, a good sound machine is a must. Since there are thousands of sound machines on the market, we put the best white noise machines to the test to determine which are really worth it. While the award-winning Sound + Sleep by Adaptive Sound may be a little on the pricey side at $62.99, our tester said that there is simply no better option.
You just may look forward to bedtime for once with 30 sounds to choose from. It even has an "adaptive" mode that will wow you with its technology by literally listening to your environment and responding within 1/10th of a second to adjust the volume and mask the noise so it’s no longer intrusive.
15. An electric toothbrush to get those pearly whites
Since Mom and Dad aren’t paying for your dentist bills anymore, it’s in your best interest to take good care of your teeth. One way you can do this is by upgrading your toothbrush to an electric one.
Our top pick for this is the Oral B Pro 3000, which we named the best overall electric toothbrush of 2019. If you’re looking for a more affordable option, there is the Oral B Pro 1000. It’s very similar to the 3000; it just doesn't have the same smart technology capabilities.
Some of the 3000’s features include CrossAction bristles that are set at 16 degrees to clean deep between the teeth, a pressure sensor to ensure you’re not pressing too hard on your gums, and a two-minute timer that pulses every 30 seconds to remind you when to switch to a different area of your mouth.
You can even track your brushing habits with the Oral B app!
16. A useful lunch bag to liven up the 9-5
Now that you’re probably working a 9-5, it’s time to step up your adulting game with your very own lunch bag. As a plus, it just might stop people in the office from stealing your lactose-free yogurt every day (WE SEE YOU, KAREN).
While this one by MIER isn’t very stylish with its simple design, it accomplishes what’s most important: keeping your food fresh. It has an interior PEVA lining, which is insulated, eco-friendly, and easy to clean in case food ever spills (and it probably will_you're only human). You’ll also want to check out our list of the best food storage containers of 2019 to make packing your lunch that much easier!
There is the option of keeping cold and warm food separate with its two sections, a top pouch to store things like drinks and snacks, and a front pocket that lets you tuck away small items like utensils, napkins, and other odds and ends. It’s also easy to carry around if you have a long commute with its soft handle strap, or you could even use the detachable shoulder strap.
17. A hygienic shower liner that’s resistant to mildew
Owning a quality shower curtain liner is more essential than you’d think, especially if you live with lots of roommates, since bacteria can run rampant in a shared space.
This one by LiBa is a No. 1 best seller on Amazon and we’ve even featured it in our list of 20 products with a cult following on Amazon. It fits most tubs and showers—curved or straight—and can be used as a liner or as the actual curtain itself. There are, of course, magnets on the bottom that prevent the curtain from moving too much to let water out.
It’s also mildew-resistant thanks to a treatment process that prevents mold four times longer than other liners, according to the company. Additionally, it’s made with non-toxic, chlorine-free chemicals.
18. A household tools organizer to organize closet chaos
Now that you’re #adulting, you’ve probably started building up your own collection of household cleaning tools. Without a way to organize these items, though, it most likely means that your storage closet is in complete disarray all the time, which makes it harder to want to clean.
Solve that problem with this nifty wall mount that holds up to 35 pounds of everything from brooms and rakes to mops and more. When you know exactly where everything is, it's much easier to quickly deal with a mess instead of letting things pile up.
19. The best-selling multi-cooker that lives up to the hype
While this highly rated product is perfect for any adult of any age, it’s especially the case for young twenty-somethings who are looking to cook delicious meals on a budget and also don't want to waste time in the kitchen when there are video games to play—hey, no one said you couldn't have fun too.
The beauty of the Instant Pot is that it combines seven major kitchen appliances in one, such as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer and more, so you can save on money and counter space. It claims to prepare your dishes up to 70 percent faster, making it perfect for those with busy lifestyles. Since buying one, I am such an Instant Pot convert. Try it out and you’ll understand what the cult-following is all about.
20. A clothes steamer to keep clothes looking fresh
Part of looking put-together is having clothes that don’t look like they were just grabbed from your laundry hamper and given the sniff-test. Have your clothes looking fresh and polished, anywhere you are, with this portable garment steamer by PurSteam. At $25, this product is super affordable, but if you’re willing to spend a little more, check out our list of the best clothes steamers.
We're recommending this one not just for its price, but because it's a best seller on Amazon with 4 stars and almost 9,000 reviews. People love that it’s easier to use than an iron since it heats up super fast (just 90 seconds). Its steam technology is also said to be superior to other steamers since it smooths out wrinkles gently on even the most delicate of fabrics.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.