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  • Writer's pictureJulia Hass

My Favorite Purchases From 2019

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

It feels a bit gauche to admit, because it was such a bad year for humanity as a whole, but I had a truly lovely 2019. Pretty much every part of my life either stayed the same or at least somewhat improved, and I can't really ask for more than that. For the most part, I was more lucky than responsible for this windfall, which is a shame because I'd really like to share the secret to it with all twelve of you, my loyal readers who read all the blog posts I write as soon as my semester ends and all my energy is not spent on churning out yet another "you're majoring in social media, but how much IS it destroying humanity and how terrible do you deserve to feel about your life choices?" essay.

Anyway, we all buy stuff. And while I am a firm believer that owning less stuff is a key to less stress and a greater overall sense of well-being, I am also firmly of the belief that the right stuff, applied to the right situation, is the key to being happy less on an existential or spiritual level and more on an "everyday contentment" level. So here is the stuff that, in 2019, contributed to my overall contentment.

As I have discussed in... every post I have ever written about myself and my body (and probably a few where I had no business mentioning it), I have very dry skin. In the summer it tends to be both dry and oily from sweat, and in the winter, it flakes. In both cases, a proper exfoliant is vital, and by "proper" I mean "not St. Ives, which does nothing". Enter, as always, my long-term boyfriend Trader Joe.

This scrub is nice for several reasons. One, it smells like lavender, which is tied with almonds and freesia flowers as one of my favorite scents. Two, it works. Three, they added oils to it, so in addition to scrubbing your face dry, it moisturizes the everloving heck out of it. This is very nice when using as a full-body scrub, but I use this just for my face, where it's a bit much. What I like to do is exfoliate my face pretty much as soon as I get in the shower, let the oils soak into my skin, and then right before I get out do my dearly beloved face wash. This scrub has been the perfect final step to my skincare routine crafted for maximal effectiveness and cheapness, which is followed when I'm not showering with either moisturizer when my skin is dry (see next blurb) or toner when it's oily (a basic store-brand witch hazel), and the occasional sheet mask when I'm in the mood. I can't claim this works on every skin type, but for mine, it's perfect.

La Roche-Posay Toleraine Moisturizer and Moisturizer with SPF

I spent most of 2019 being 30, which when I initially turned 30 I didn't anticipate as being much of a thing. I've worked with enough old people in professional settings to know that age is almost entirely a mental construct, and while none of us have any control over what bullshit our corporeal meat sack throws at us, how much we are willing to take care of our meat sacks greatly increases both our ability to enjoy being bound to them and the length of time we are lucky enough to do so. Going from 29 to 30, I very much believed at the age of 29, was not actually any different than going from 28 to 29.

My meat sack did not agree with me.

It was mostly little things. Some of them were mental - like suddenly, after spending my whole life so distressed by the concept of stuff I don't want but can't throw away, which is most stuff and having to deal with and be responsible for stuff I don't want but can't throw away that cleaning was a horrifying nightmare to me and I lived in a pigpen of resentment and stress. But as soon as I turned 30, something in me snapped and I've become pathologically neat. Most changes, though, were physical, like when I lost weight I would shrink everywhere but my belly, or that changing my fitted sheet on my bed was now an exciting game of Throwing Out My Back Roulette. One or two random hairs on my cheeks decided to start growing thicker and against the grain, and while they weren't visible and therefore not pluck-able, I could feel them as a constant irritant.

And, I noticed in the spring, I started developing little darkened age spots on my cheeks. This I should have expected, considering that both sides of the family have a tendency for age spotting more than the average person, I have very pale and delicate skin, and I was always of the belief that the need to wear sunscreen every day was a money grab by Big Derma. If these age spots had started showing up when I was 40 or 50, I'd have shrugged it off as yet another weird aging thing the same way I've shrugged off every other weird aging thing. But there are some things you firmly know, in your gut, you're just too young for, and for me that thing was age spots on my cheeks. So sunscreen it was.

The thing is, I hate sunscreen, and I hate the smell of it. I knew I'd need to find a way to fold in sunscreen to something I'd do anyway, like moisturizing, otherwise I'd never do it - and, incidentally, I was in the market for a new facial moisturizer. La Roche-Posay was the first brand I tried because it was well-rated and I'd enjoyed a sample of their moisturizer I'd gotten from CVS once, and I so immediately loved it I stopped looking for anything better. I have the same moisturizer with and without SPF. I don't bother with SPF when I'm moisturizing my face after the shower at night, or when I'm staying home all day in my pajamas writing papers, but if I'm going out for even ten minutes and it's not pouring rain, I'll throw a tiny dime-sized bit of the SPF all around my face. Neither smells all that strongly, which is a must for being so near my nose, they're nice and light, and it's easy.

Also, my spots have disappeared. Take that, meat sack.

There are certain sensations for everyone that are nails on a chalkboard levels of irritating. For me, those sensations are even reading the phrase "nails on a chalkboard" and also the zwwwt zwwwt zwwwt of nylon on nylon, which makes shopping for waterproof outwear profoundly difficult. I haven't had a rain coat since I was maybe six or seven, which has bothered my mother but I've always shrugged off by using umbrellas and not caring when I get wet.

Still, not even how little I care about being wet could sate the deep desire I've harbored my entire life for a classic yellow Paddington Bear raincoat. I'd made peace with it never coming to be because of my previously mentioned hatred of the zwwwt zwwwt noise, until I was browsing Nordstrom's spring sale and saw this raincoat. It was cotton lined, and the perfect Paddington Bear color, and 50% off the frankly ludicrous list price. Nordstrom's has free returns and shipping, so I decided I could indulge myself, just this once. It was the best thing I've indulged in all year, and possibly for the past several years. I wear and get compliments on this coat constantly. It's a lovely muted gold that's bright enough to be fun and bold while still being a little bit refined, it's delightfully un-nylon feeling on the outside (no noise!), and it's surprisingly warm and flattering. But, most importantly, it is the perfect dead ringer for Paddington Bear's coat, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.

This was the year I really, really went all in on IKEA because you know what, it's kind of great. You have to go into the store having done your research, with a list of what you want and a strong sense of what you're not going to let yourself be tempted by. But if you do, the amount of useful, inexpensive, little life-improving items they carry is truly next level. I could happily have written about the Stuk storage cases (so much more fits under my bed now, and so neatly) or the Brusali desk (my first experience building something from IKEA - my mom swore a desk wouldn't fit in my room, but this little guy does perfectly, and I made it myself with only a few hours of Youtube tutorials and crying) or the Anilnare box (I split the set with a friend, I use the larger one to neatly and attractively store all the small random crap like pills and nail clippers and extra coasters that I keep on my headboard). But if I had to choose the one thing I love the most from IKEA, and possibly more than anything in the world, it's these baskets.

I came upon these baskets rather by accident when I was trying to find a solution for storing my underwear, bras, and socks. I have a dresser, but I knew from decades of experience that storing little things like socks and bras in a drawer is asking for them to always be crawling out and hanging from the drawers like a half-dead creature from the black lagoon. This left them to be stored on my shelf, but I needed a receptacle to put them in attractively so they didn't fall off. Everything else I found seemed flimsy, or was the wrong size, or prohibitively expensive. And then, when I was browsing IKEA's website for the millionth time hoping I'd see something I hadn't seen before, I stumbled upon these beauties in, of all things, the kitchen section to be used as fruit baskets.

Here's what I love about these baskets: they're metal, which is an underrated and nicely sturdy material, and the wooden handles are a pretty touch. They come in my favorite light blue color that matches everything in my room and also my life.They're tightly woven so only a small bead would slip through them, which makes see-through enough that you know what's in them without labeling, but not so see-through it's yelling "THIS IS WHERE MY UNDERWEAR IS" to anyone who comes into your space. I now have eight floating around my room and I use them for everything, from the aforementioned laundry to storing my purses to extra toiletries that were bought in bulk to holding my unfinished crafts to being my outbox for things I need to go run errands to deal with. They are unbelievably, life-changingly useful.

Clothing Pill Remover

This is technically a cheat because my best friend's mom got me this, and she got me this about two years ago when I expressed delight and amazement that such a thing exists. The model she purchased is this one from Amazon, and I have nothing to compare this model to the others, so for all I know there are better or snazzier ones. The model is not what's important here.

What's important here is that the very concept of these things is amazing. This year, after a year and a half of living in my "I want to try this but never remember it's there" drawer, I took this little contraption out and tried it, and I am a new woman. My sweaters have stopped shedding (anything that is not gerbil shavings, anyway, which I am always low-key shedding). My sweatpants are more refreshed than they ever been. My cuticles are majestically un-picked at because I have something else to devote my attention to. The sun has come from behind the clouds, the birds have begun singing, and all because there is a tiny little thing that goes zzzzzzt and all the pills on your clothing come off. I can do this for hours. It is the most underrated, most boring adult form of soothing entertainment that has ever been.

Technically also a cheat, since technically I told my mom to get me this for my birthday last year, but my birthday's December 17, and you need a few months to really test the full usefulness of a present. After putting this sweatshirt through a year's worth of paces, though, I can conform the following: It's a really fucking great sweatshirt, it's extremely soft and cozy and stands up to many washes, and the print on it can't be beat. 10/10 at sweatshirting.

Honorable Mentions:

• Not being a barista means I can paint my nails again, which means I'm back to having them painted all the time. My favorite colors this year were OPI's Less Is Norse, and Essie's What's Gold Is New (I get CONSTANT compliments wearing this), Sunny Daze (actually looks like this and not the swatch on the site), and Maximillian Strass-her (ten times more flattering and elegant on than you think it will be).

• It feels very rude to recommend clothing when it's not longer available for purchase, but Uniqlo released a dress this summer that is a dead ringer for a Fortuny Delphos dress, which is a very sexy and iconic bit of fashion history. I will pray for all of our sakes they release it again next summer in every color of the rainbow, because dang. Dang!!! Look at what it does to your body!!!!

I wore this to the neighborhood New Year's party and got oodles upon oodles of compliments, please purchase similar dresses if you also want people to tell you you look like a goddess.

• This year was also the year I discovered the beauty of spending an entire summer in a dress shaped like a tent with arm and leg holes and only bike shorts underneath it for modesty/preventing thigh rub, throwing an accessory or two on, and calling it "fashion". I get all my tent dresses from the swing dress section of Old Navy, and as soon as it's short sleeve and sleeveless season again, I'm getting like five more.

• Again, it feels rude to recommend things that are no longer for purchase, but I've needed a full-length mirror for a very long time and never been able to find one I liked because of my bizarre aversion to right angles, until Target released this bad boy. I don't actually have anywhere to PUT a full-length mirror besides leaning kind of awkwardly against my window, but it's beautiful and makes getting ready for work so much easier and makes me look very sexy all the time always.

• Creme Shop sheet masks are, as always, my everything. This year's favorites, because switching birth control medications made my hormonal acne angry, have been Clear Up, Skin! Unicorn Face Mask, the Cica-Mend Tiger Mask, and the Holiday Cheer and Clear mask (an all-time fave that every holiday I buy about a dozen of to last me the whole year through).

• It was a year full of days ending in -y, so I of course bought socks, namely these Blue Q socks, and also because I just HAD to in order to get free shipping from Socksmith when I was getting my friends holiday gifts, these socks with otters on them and this set of three socks with different types of foods that go together for my nephew, which he thinks are hilarious because they are and he's very smart.

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