One blog to rule them all
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 21
Taking away my phone and computer definitely removes the top two most useful items I own. I'm going to draw a distinction here for my list of items, and that's that I'm not going to include anything that is dependent upon either of those two things (e.g., specific apps or things that I've created using those two devices), but I am going to include things that interact with both devices. In particular, the first item on my list:
Apple TV. I'm really late to the Apple TV craze, but I'm a big fan. For the longest time we used my Playstation 3 for all of our streaming apps and disc watching, but when it started to go, we replaced it with an Apple TV and now I can't see us ever going back. Sure, we lost the functionality of having an actual disc player hooked up to the TV (which, honestly, has only been an inconvenience a handful of times in the past several months since the switch), but we gained some key new functionality like the ability to play our iTunes library through our entertainment center, and - even better - the ability to share our computer, iPad, and even iPhone screens on the television. And it's small enough that we can stow it in a backpack and take it with us on trips so we have access to all this functionality and all our streaming options anywhere we have wifi.
Car. This item has climbed in the rankings since we got kids. While it's always been a glorious convenience to be able to get in the car and drive to wherever we need to go at a moment's notice, the importance of that freedom has proven super-important with children. We can go get food, run errands, etc. whenever the timing works for us without being beholden to someone else or a public transit schedule, and we can leave whenever we need to. The ability to drive around at our discretion, if not a necessity, is pretty darn close in this day and age.
Kindle. Technically this applies to my iPad and iPhone as well, but the ability to own an entire library of reading material in something about the size of a single thin paperback is life-changing. I love reading, and I read voraciously. Being able to go through a hundred books a year and not have to figure out where to find the shelf space to store them (even temporarily) is amazing. Being able to go on vacation and only take one book that contains a library of material rather than filling up my carry-on bag with hard copy books is incredible. And being able to purchase electronic versions of books for a fraction of the price of a hardcover or paperwork is the way of the future.
Amazon Prime. I know that there are a lot of reasons to dislike Amazon, but I'll admit that we're Amazon junkies. Our Amazon Prime subscription just provides so much value for the money. Rush shipping on almost anything we could want to order from their extensive website, access to a number of streaming options (including add-ons like HBO, and the ability to rent or buy most movies), access to their music streaming services, the ability to order groceries online, etc. While we have a number of subscription services and each have their strengths (Disney+ is easily the movie and television content we're consuming most now that we have kids, for example), our Amazon Prime subscription and its features affect nearly every area of our lives, from grocery shopping and running errands to consuming entertainment. We still refuse to get an Echo, though. We don't love Amazon so much that we're okay with them spying on every word that we say.
Inflatable Wading Pool and Water Table. This one is quarantine-specific, but after over two months of staying at home and struggling to find new and interesting things to do within the confines of our <1,000 square-foot apartment, my wife's idea to order a little 36" diameter inflatable wading pool and put it on our tiny patio has been a game changer. Our son, who loves to swim, has been in such a better mood since he's been able to resume splashing around (our apartment community's actual pool remains closed for the time being), and our daughter is enjoying the water table we got to accompany the wading pool, giving her all kinds of fun hands-on activities to do with water. While we wait for our state and local officials to reopen things, this has easily been the thing that has improved the kids' moods the most significantly outside of using electronics.