A couple of weeks ago, my angelic bunny rabbit Fiona maliciously chewed through the cord of my hair straightener. And since then life has been harder. It takes longer to do other things to my hair to make it presentable, and so I’ve had three bad choices:
- Sleep less
- Look worse
- Be late
By default, I’ve most often landed on the last of these three options. It’s not working out great.
Fiona, Destroyer of Hairstyling Equipment
I recognize that this is not a real problem. I know that I am steeped in privilege. When I get around to it, I will just replace the straightener. This is not a big deal at all.
But when I lamented about Straightener Gate at the office, it prompted a slew of stories from the team about how stuff is making their lives better – or how the sudden absence or failure of that stuff is making life worse. And then I posted on Facebook asking what products have changed your lives, and it has fast become my most-commented on post ever. This question got more engagement than when I got married. So that tells me two things:
- You guys are just as materialistic as I am
- Stuff changes lives
Well the wait is over. The results are in. The top ten products that change lives! (Based on my completely unscientific social media survey and own personal opinions).
10. Suitcases with wheels
Today it would be complete insanity to carry a suitcase. Having to rely on your own upper body strength to cart around your worldly possessions would leave us all with one-sided shoulder ache and unable to pack more. But someone invented suitcases on wheels and changed the world. No more do you have to go on vacation without your blender! Pack that baby full to the brim, because now instead of lifting it, you can drag it behind you.
Many Americans first heard of this communications app when Facebook paid a whopping $19 billion for it three years ago, but it has been a mainstay for anyone with loved ones in other countries for quite a while. The latest estimates show the app has 1.3 billion monthly active users. That’s roughly the same number of people that live in China, by the way. In short, WhatsApp lets you send voice and text messages to anyone, anywhere for free. As an avid user of this app, I can verify that it is truly life changing. I can also say that the app’s habit to randomly delete your voice messages for no apparent reason is among the most infuriating occurrences in life.
8. In-home Security Cameras
A house alarm is one thing, but now we have Nest Camera, and other similar products that let you watch what’s going on in your home from the convenience of your computer or smartphone via a little camera. This means no matter where you are in the world, you can have the peace of mind that everything is ok on the home front. Or more importantly, you can spy on your dog’s every movement. Even more importantly, you can make them internet stars when you capture their dance moves in what they thought was a private moment. Poor Brodie the Bulldog.
What started as a slightly-shady way to make vacation more affordable has revolutionized how we sleep when we stay away. Airbnb lets travelers find affordable and comfortable accommodations that fit every need. And it helps people sell empty rooms and houses on the internet, generating a little cash for something you weren’t using anyway. Airbnb is a great example of the overall sharing economy that has made services more accessible and affordable for more people. Add to the list Lyft, Uber, TaskRabbit, DogVacay and more. Turns out mom was right when she told you to share.
6. The Electric Kettle
Boiling water in a few minutes. Perfect for making tea or fast-tracking the process of generating hot water needed to make pasta, oatmeal, or melt chocolate. A faster way to prepare a hot bath. It’s an essential item in every British household, and rarer in American ones. Save yourself a bunch of time and invest in an electric kettle today.
5. Fitbit/Apple Watch/Running watches of all kinds
Little fitness computers that you wear on your wrist that tell you how you slept, the number of steps you took, and the amount of calories burned! It’s a true modern miracle! These things have gotten pretty accurate, making us more mindful of our daily habits. On the days when you take 1,100 steps at least you have a tiny computer reminding you that you’re a lazy ass. AND it tells you the time. Astonishing.
4. Diva Cup
I’m putting this in the broader category of all the inventions that make the monthly grind of being female slightly easier to tolerate. Periods suck. There’s no getting around it. As a society we don’t talk about it much because it’s widely accepted as a part of nature that needs to happen to keep the earth populated. That doesn’t mean periods aren’t stupid. Birth control, ibuprofen, hot pads, menstrual cups and Thinx period panties are all things that make this completely intolerable thing more tolerable. Count me in.
Whether it’s Tom Tom, Google Maps, Apple Maps or others, GPS is a life saver. For the directionally challenged, it’s pretty much impossible to imagine life without it. Not only does it tell you where to go, but it tells you the fastest way to do so, and gives you a heads up about accidents, construction and congestion. It’s a daily crux of the traveler – whether you’re moving around by car, bus, train or foot. And with every iPhone update it seems to get better. Ah-maze-ing.
It had to be high up there right? It has fundamentally revolutionized how we work, interact, think, play and plan. The average person touches their phone over 2,500 times a day and spends 4 hours a day on their handheld device. These things are a foundational part of what it means to live life today. It’s also the platform for a ton of other life-changing products that people mentioned: in-phone cameras, countless apps, social media platforms, and more.
The most incredible part is that the journey has just begun. The iPhone turned ten this year. Compare that to the wheel, which was invented around 5,520 years ago. Imagine what the iPhone and everything it makes possible will have meant for society in another 5,000 years.
And without any more reading, the NUMBER ONE product that CHANGES LIVES is:
And medical science in general. Whether it is life-saving surgical procedures or apps that help you maintain your own blood pressure and insulin levels, it’s hard to argue that there is anything more important to our daily survival than the things that keep us alive and healthier. Vaccinations have helped us wipe out entire diseases that used to kill a lot of people. Medical breakthroughs render formerly life-ending conditions manageable annoyances. And that means we can spend more time enjoying the delights of swivel wheel suitcases. Gold.
The common thread in everyone’s answers is that these products make life better. Whether it’s in really important ways (like remedying health challenges) or in little, not-important ways (like making your hair straighter) these things change our day-to-day existence. They make life faster, better, stronger, and cheaper. They save us time, energy, effort, and money. But more importantly, they help us spend more time on the things that matter and less time on the things that don’t.