Picks

Indulgent Gifts Your Loved One Will Actually Use

Collage of slippers, a clock, a soap dispenser and a set of white bowls on white dots against a green background.
Photo illustration by Slate

In search of the perfect gift? Read more of Slate’s holiday gift guides here.

Like many, Slate staffers have engaged in some retail therapy throughout the pandemic. Our favorite things have offered more than indulgence—they are genuinely useful, too, and they make great gifts. Who right now doesn’t need a little more comfort and joy?

After stocking up on TP and refilling my sock drawer, one of the first pandemic purchases I made was a pair of Glerups slippers, and eight months later they are, unlike me, still going strong. Made from a single piece of wool felt, they’re durable and cozy, but they don’t smother your feet or make you sweat (which, as someone who’s tossed many stunk-up pairs, is a big plus). The soles are sturdy enough for a run to the mailbox—or, if you choose rubber instead of soft leather, the corner store—and you can swap the slip-on model for ankle boots if you’re especially prone to cold toes. One warning: Your loved ones will be struck with envy if you buy these for yourself, so be prepared to give some as gifts, too. —Sam Adams, senior editor, culture

When the weather gets cold, I like to keep my head and feet as warm as possible. At home, this means wearing my sleeping hat during waking hours, and as of last month, this pair of pink moccasins as well (they come in other colors too). They’re soft, warm, light on my feet, and the bright stitching makes them extra fun! —Becky Zhang, software engineer intern

As fall approached, I decided I needed a new hoodie. You know, appropriate enough for work Zooms but cozy enough for moping in bed. The one I found, Alternative Apparel’s Rocky sweatshirt, comes in many colors, including a cheery bright yellow that allows me to serve as a kind of seasonal affective disorder–fighting sun lamp for my family. The sweatshirt pills a lot and sheds lint like crazy, but boy is it soft and comfy. Take seriously the words of Amazon reviewer Greg D: “If you’re a dude that wears polo shirts and flip flops this is your jam. For the real men: don’t waste your money.” Never have I more wanted to be a dude that wears polo shirts and flip-flops than in the accursed year 2020, so this sweatshirt is perfect for me. —Dan Kois, senior writer

My go-to in pandemic time has been this sweatshirt from Old Navy in various colors. It’s cheap, it’s flattering enough, and it’s lined with that soft fleecy stuff that so many so-called sweatshirts these days don’t have, which in my opinion disqualifies them. This is the real deal.  —Lili Loofbourow, staff writer

Before the pandemic, I didn’t own any plain, long-sleeve shirts. I found them unexciting and preferred button-downs or a T-shirt-sweater combination. But now that I am spending most of my time inside, there’s something very appealing about the simplicity of just pulling on two items of clothing (pants and a shirt) and being done with getting dressed. This fleece shirt from Uniqlo is very soft and warm without being sweaty—and forgiving without being schlubby. —Cleo Levin, commerce production associate

I recently bought a Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker, and I’m obsessed with it. I haven’t stocked up on a ton of K-Cup pods yet, but I did buy several boxes of Entenmann’s Hot Chocolate Single Serve Cups. It’s been a huge pick-me-up, especially after a long day of meetings. —Jasmine Ellis, associate producer

I’ve never been one to make coffee at home. Prior to the pandemic, I treasured my breaks during the workday to get coffee, either by myself or with a co-worker, usually at D.C.’s TCB or La Colombe. On the weekends, I would stroll down H St. NE to the Wydown for a latte or a pour over. When the pandemic started, coffee runs were one of the first things to go. I wanted to invest in a home coffee setup that gave me some of the feeling of going to a coffee shop, so I bought a beautiful copper coated kettle from Barista Warrior along with a midsize Chemex. They look great on my counter and have enabled me to enjoy passable pour overs from the comfort of my own home, alongside the paper and some homemade pastries. —Mark Morgioni, senior director of research and data

If you are someone who drinks as much tea as I do (a truly unconscionable amount) and also likes to try many types of it, you can’t go wrong with an easy-to-use, fast-working Brentwood electric kettle. It just takes a few steps: Fill the kettle with water, drop a few tea bags inside the infuser, and set it to heating—within a few minutes, you’ll have all the tea you need to get through the day. Many close to me will be disappointed that I do not use older-fashioned methods for tea brewing, with stovetop pots and loose leaves, and I get that. But I gotta be honest: The speed, efficiency, and durability of this kettle have been a godsend each time I’ve needed to gulp down multiple mugs to wake myself up, warm myself up during a cold day, or prepare a steaming-hot thermos of comfort to steel myself for the outside world. —Nitish Pahwa, copy editor

These porcelain bowls are not the most exciting or snazzy gift in the world, but I’m obsessed with them. Have you ever found yourself thinking, why am i trying to cram a salad into this tiny normal-sized bowl? Guess what? These are the perfect depth and width for culinary endeavors like tossing lettuce and arranging elaborate soups like ramen. I use them constantly. —Laura Bennett, editorial director

Nothing has entertained my kids better through this pandemic than our Swedish wall gym. It is expensive, but if you have the space, it is the gift that keeps on giving. It turns any wall into a fully functional playground, perfect for your little stuck-at-home monkeys. —Elizabeth Newcamp, co-host, Mom and Dad Are Fighting

In April, when I realized just how much attentive hand-washing was in my family’s future, I decided to go all-in and now have these square Simplehuman soap dispensers at every sink. Before I found these, my 3-year-old and I were constantly frustrated by the flimsy bottles and pumps that encase typical hand soaps. I tried buying empty dispensers on the cheap from random sellers on Amazon but finally ponied up for these, and I’m so glad I did. They have a large pumping lever that’s easy to press when you only have one hand free and sit solidly on the side of the sink; at refill time, there’s no fuss, because they have a wide opening that makes pouring easy. I like to fill them from our ever-present gallon of Dr. Bronner’s lavender soap. —Rebecca Onion, staff writer

Salon visits may be few and far between these days, but good hair still makes me feel good. This hot air brush has cut down the time it takes for an at-home blowout, which is good because somehow I have less time now. I love not having to manage a brush in one hand and a blow dryer in the other. —Elizabeth Newcamp, co-host, Mom and Dad Are Fighting

Spending so much time at home has me nit-picking every little stain and mark on my walls. This year we let the kids draw with chalk all over the outside of the house. It wouldn’t come off with a hose, so I splurged on this small pressure washer and have since cleaned everything with it from our trash cans, to the wooden steps, to the car. —Natalie Matthews-Ramo, designer

This clock tells the time accurately (so far as I can tell), is easy to adjust, and didn’t cost very much money. It makes our kitchen feel like a diner (or at least a sitcom set decorator’s idea of a diner), which is nice considering we can’t go to a diner right now. Plus, more things should be orange. —Josh Levin, national editor

I’ve been slowly expanding my collection of vinyl records. I’d purchased a record player just prior to the start of the pandemic, and now that I’m home more, I’m able to enjoy it all day long. I play whatever I’m in the mood for, and I love the grittiness of the sound. —Amanda Yeh, executive assistant and office manager

It is certainly counterintuitive that a planner has given me comfort in this year of countless canceled plans and endless blank days stretched before me, but somehow it has. While I was on vacation back in January, before I knew what horrors 2020 held in store, I picked up an adorable and glittery monthly schedule book sporting on its cover a bow-tied cat with a curiously cocked head from Daiso. I hadn’t used a physical planner in ages, but it was a cute and cheap souvenir. I mostly forgot about it until March, when we were all suddenly forced to work from home and I saw my focus wane as the tolls of the pandemic began to come clear. Since then, I’ve diligently used the planner’s calendar boxes to make daily work to-do lists, chronicle my Zoom happy hours, and remember my virtual yoga classes. It’s grounding to see the days laid out so starkly, allowing me to take each one at a time. I haven’t been able to track down an exact replica of my dollar-store find, but I’m eyeing a few options for next year, something that will bring a little whimsy, and also focus, to each day of 2021, no matter what’s ahead. —Abby McIntyre, assistant managing editor

The pandemic purchase I made that I love the most is my Nintendo Switch (just like everybody else), but the ones that have made the greatest material improvement to my life are the three charging cables I bought for my MacBook. For a few weeks I was schlepping my single cable along with my laptop everywhere. Now I keep a charger in every room, so I can plug my laptop in from any of the places that I might want to sit. —Gabriel Roth, editorial director, audio

A friend recommended this basic exercise bike to me, and it has been a dream for us. Who needs Peloton? This little guy is reasonably priced, compact, and totally serviceable. No frills! Just pedals! —Laura Bennett, editorial director

Last year, as I laid out in the sun recovering after a half-marathon, a friend let me borrow his Theragun deep tissue massager. It was magical, and my boyfriend and I have decided it’s time to invest in one of our own. Since quarantine, we’ve been biking, and begging each other for massages after long rides, when we’re both tired, is getting old. Also, now that I am not constrained by “office norms,” I sit in a creepy little balled up state at my computer all the time, and my back could use some work too. —Susan Matthews, news director

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