The Definitive Guide to What Supplies You Need in Each Part of Your Home

From medicine cabinets to utensil drawers, these are the must-have items you need.

A Woman Getting Supplies From a Cabinet
Photo: Maskot/Getty Images

Real Simpleasked the pros: What do you really need in your desk, toolbox, and more.

01 of 05

All You Need in Your Medicine Cabinet

Medicine cabinet supplies
Christopher Baker
  • Children’s ibuprofen and acetaminophen (your doctor may recommend either).
  • Calamine lotion, for insect bites and exposure to itch-inducing plants.
  • Floss picks: easier for kids.
  • Dental floss: better for adults.
  • One tube of toothpaste: Stock extras where there’s more room.
  • Replacement toothbrushes, for forgetful overnight guests.
  • A digital thermometer: quicker and safer than the breakable version.
  • Tweezers with angled tips, for splinters.
  • A small nail clipper.
  • Chewable antacids work for kids and adults.
  • Shea butter, for chapped lips and cheeks.
  • Kids’ cough medicine, in a favorite flavor.
  • Hydrocortisone cream, for rashes, eczema, and skin irritation.
  • An antibiotic ointment, for killing bacteria and soothing cuts.
  • Alcohol pads (instead of a big bottle), for disinfecting.
  • Flexible bandages in a multipack, including some giant-size ones for big scrapes.
  • Acetaminophen and ibuprofen, for adult aches.
  • Benadryl, an oral antihistamine, for allergic reactions.
  • Hard-core cough syrup for grown-ups.
  • Saline nasal spray: a small bottle for each family member, so you don’t pass on germs.

The Experts:

  • Betsy Ellis, school nurse in Memphis.
  • Jenny Kuzjak, emergency-room nurse in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • Julie Kardos and Naline Lai, pediatricians in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and founders of the blog Two Peds in a Pod.
02 of 05

All You Need in Your Utensil Drawers

Kitchen utensils
Christopher Baker
  • An instant-read thermometer, to take the guesswork out of steaks, chops, and roasts.
  • A large Microplane grater, for cheese, citrus zests, ginger, chocolate, and garlic.
  • A straight-edge wooden spoon, for getting in the corners of saucepans.
  • A classic wooden spoon, for everything else.
  • A natural-bristle basting brush holds more liquid than silicone versions.
  • Nesting measuring cups conserve space.
  • Stainless-steel measuring spoons last longer than plastic ones.
  • A large slotted spoon, to scoop food out of boiling water.
  • A low-tech can opener that pops bottles, too.
  • A metal spatula, for pancakes, burgers, and cookies.
  • Long tongs, for tossing salads, turning chops, and plucking vegetables from a steamer. The locking kind store most easily.
  • A standard spoon, for sauces.
  • A Y-shaped peeler: more control than the standard variety.
  • A silicone spatula, for mixing and getting the last bits of batter from the bowl.
  • A palm-size vegetable scrubber offers serious leverage.
  • A mini offset spatula, to free frittatas, lasagnas, and brownies (and to frost cupcakes).
  • A whisk, to get air into eggs and batter.
  • A fish spatula: thin, flexible, and perfect for fragile foods, from flounder to fried eggs.
  • A ladle, for soups, stews, and sauces.
  • A potato masher: also great for breaking up canned whole tomatoes for sauce.

The Experts:

  • Sara Moulton, TV chef and author of Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners ($35,
  • Ilana Rosengarten, graphic designer, blogger (, and New York City resident with an impossibly small kitchen.
  • Jennifer Rubell, author of Real Life Entertaining ($27.50,
  • The Real Simple food department.
03 of 05

All You Need in Your Tool Kit

Tool kit supplies
Christopher Baker
  • A putty knife, for removing old caulk or opening paint cans.
  • A standard flat-nose claw hammer (12 to 16 ounces) with a steel head.
  • A multihead screwdriver: Phillips-head, flathead, and Torx (six-point star shape).
  • A 12-volt cordless drill, for DIY work, like hanging curtains and mounting heavy art.
  • Assorted fasteners: a kit with nuts, bolts, washers, anchors, and nails in various sizes.
  • A C-clamp, for holding together glued pieces while they dry.
  • Duct tape, for quick fixes, like patching a torn bicycle seat.
  • A metal tape measure that’s at least an inch wide, so it won’t flop when extended.
  • WD-40, for loosening rusty hinges.
  • An adjustable wrench, instead of a set with different sizes.
  • Needle-nose pliers, for minor jewelry repairs and pulling out small nails.
  • Slip-joint pliers, which adjust to grip items of various sizes.
  • A crosscut saw, 14 to 16 inches long, for small carpentry projects.

The Experts:

  • Ken Brooks, owner of Northbrook Construction Management, in North Bend, Washington.
  • Tim Chopko, carpenter in Newark, Delaware.
  • Janet Rickstrew, cofounder and CEO of girl-friendly tool company Tomboy Tools (
04 of 05

All You Need in Your Desk Drawer

Desk drawer supplies
Christopher Baker
  • Forever Stamps, so you don’t have to worry about changes in the postal rate.
  • Personal stationery, for heartfelt notes.
  • A black permanent marker, for addressing packages.
  • A silver one, to use on dark paper.
  • An angle-tip highlighter.
  • Correction tape, to fix mistakes (similar to the liquid stuff, but without the drying time).
  • Mechanical pencils, so you don’t need a bulky sharpener
  • Titanium scissors, because they stay sharp for years.
  • Aesthetically pleasing paper clips cost about the same as standard ones.
  • Small and large sticky notes, for reminders, shopping lists, and epiphanies.
  • A box of your favorite pens: Use (and lose) only one at a time.
  • A classic stapler in a bright color that’s easy to spot, in case it escapes to another room.
  • A weighted tape dispenser that holds a fat roll of tape.

The Experts:

  • Beth Alcazar, organizing and cleaning blogger, The Neat Get Neater.
  • Heather McNulty, co-owner of the stationery shop Rock Paper Scissors, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • Donna Smallin, author of A to Z Storage Solutions ($11,
05 of 05

All You Need in Your Cleaning Cabinet

Cleaning cabinet supplies
Christopher Baker
  • Latex gloves that extend to the forearms, for serious coverage.
  • A half-height bucket fits under the faucet and holds plenty.
  • Distilled white vinegar, for cutting boards, coffee stains, and even sanitizing the dishwasher or washing machine.
  • A high-octane disinfectant, to kill bacteria in the bathroom.
  • A mild abrasive, for everything from stainless-steel pans to rust and lime marks.
  • Microfiber cloths need just a spritz of water to clean (and nothing at all to dust).
  • Nylon sponges with soft and scrubber sides.
  • Disposable wipes, for quick jobs, like fixtures and floor corners.
  • All-purpose cleaner in a scent you love.

The Experts:

  • Don Aslett, author of No Time to Clean! ($13,
  • Carolyn Barnes, creator of Clean Momma (, a regimen that merges exercise with cleaning.
  • Gisela Lowenstein, creator of a cleaning-and-organizing method called the Glow System (
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