We Found More Than 250 Clever Items This Year—but These Are the 20 Cleverest
Here at Real Simple, we take pride in highlighting the smartest, most helpful products, apps, and services out there. Our weekly 6 Clever Items to Simplify Your Life column showcases six products hand-picked by our editors to solve a common problem, whether that’s how to avoid touching door handles (a very 2020 concern) or how to upgrade a space with minimal effort. From the brand new to new-to-us, we love bringing helpful, practical items to our readers every week.
After 52 weeks of 6 Clever Items in 2020, we’ve gone through hundreds of products, sharing what’s great and helpful about each. And while all of our picks are clever, some are just a little clever-er. Here, we’re collecting the best and the brightest of our smart finds for the year: Consider them the best (and most genius) products we saw and loved in 2020. Like 2019’s list, this assortment showcases practical, helpful, and just-plain-cool items we discovered over the last 12 months. We think you’ll find them useful, too.
CamelBak MultiBev Water Bottle and Travel Cup
For those who love to stay hydrated, this double-purpose bottle is a must-have. The clever design hides a removable, insulated travel cup that can be used in place of single-use cups for coffeeshop orders (whenever using your own cup is allowed again). There’s even a coffee lid that fits neatly inside the bottle’s cap. When the coffee is gone, the travel cup nests neatly back onto the water bottle so it’s never forgotten at home in the morning again.
Dawn Platinum Powerwash
For tough cooking messes, nothing beats the new Dawn Powerwash. Launched early in 2020, this powerful spray cuts through grease and cooked-on food in minutes with no scrubbing. Simply spray and (for especially tough messes) let sit; soon enough, you’ll have sparkling clean pots and pans again, sans scrubbing.
In March, touching elevator buttons, door handles, and public touchscreens (at store checkouts, for example) became suddenly fraught. Enter the CleanKey: This portable brass hand tool can be used to open doors, push buttons, and more, reducing the number of surfaces your hands come into contact with over the course of an errand run. When needed, the CleanKey can be easily wiped down with a disinfectant wipe.
Logitech K380 Multi-Device Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard
Working from home for months on end isn’t always the fun time you thought it would be. Fortunately, for those struggling to work in small spaces, this compact (and affordable) keyboard is an easy solution. It connects via Bluetooth to most enabled devices—including your phone or tablet—and has low-profile keys for a quieter typing experience (necessary for those in close quarters).
Honeywell Dual-Layer Face Cover With Replaceable Filters
In a year of newly commonplace terms such as mask and filter, Honeywell’s new reusable face covering stands above the rest. Honeywell has produced PPE for decades and has imbued this mask with high-powered filtration and protection features, including the ability to block about 97 percent of 3.0-micron-sized particles and 0.1-micron-sized particles when used with a replaceable filter (included with the mask). Beyond those scientific measures, the mask is very wearable, with a 3-D knit construction that eliminates gaps and adjustable ear loops and a nose clip that improve comfort and fit.
When we first highlighted this smart sunscreen, we were dreaming of a sun-drenched spring and summer. Life at home doesn’t make this screen any less wonderful, though. It leaves a dewy finish (while offering SPF 40 sun protection, important even if you’re inside all day) that looks good in person or virtually, and it even boosts skin’s hydration—a huge win for you, even if no one else is seeing your glowing complexion.
Good for comfort and warmth, this smart new launch from Ostrichpillow (the maker of the original light-blocking napping pillow, among other innovations) has a reusable clay insert that can be heated in the microwave or chilled in the freezer. Once inside the plush covering, heat (or cold) is distributed evenly and slowly for long-lasting comfort.
Plenty of time spent stuck at home means getting very familiar with your space—and its particular odors. Fortunately, freshening your home’s scent is a breeze with this candle subscription service, which delivers as many as two artisan candles (plus a surprise gift) to your door every month.
Aveda Speed of Light Blow Dry Accelerator Spray
We found this primer pre-pandemic, but it’s more helpful now than ever: When you’re home all day (and not seeing anyone), you likely want to spend even less time on your hair. The lightweight spray helps reduce dry time, so you can put down your blow-dryer sooner, plus it helps reduce breakage and moisturizes hair. (It smells pretty good, too.)
Grove Co. Antimicrobial Reusable Gloves
Gloves have become yet another new essential in 2020. This reusable pair replaces single-use ones, is washable, and has an antimicrobial coating that lasts up to 40 washes. (It’s even made with a touchscreen-compatible fiber.) Arriving in compostable packaging and certified organic, these are a more eco-friendly way to still prevent surface transmission of the coronavirus and other bugs.
With gyms closed (or potentially sites of high transmission rates), outdoor, at-home, and virtual workouts are all the rage—and overuse (or misuse) injuries are keeping pace. For runners increasing their mileage and/or run frequency after losing access to cross-training options at the gym or those just tying on running shoes for the first time, the smart Recover Athletics app offers guidelines, routines, and trackers to help prevent injury and aid in post-run recovery. With recovery routines designed by physical therapists and tools to help track pain, soreness, and mileage, this new app can make running feel better day after day.
Chill and Serve Outdoor Cheese Board
2020 may have taken away our indoor entertaining (at least for the foreseeable future), but it can’t take away our cheese. This smart creation features a slate disc that you can refrigerate in the hours leading up to your outdoor get-together. When it’s time to take everything outdoors, place your cheese and fruit on the disc to keep it cool, even if temperatures are high. This set even includes a mesh dome that you can place over the plate when you’re not nibbling to keep bugs away: If spring and summer 2021 are anything like 2020’s, this will be a must-have come warmer weather.
All-Natural Edible Glitter
We found a new way to give our favorite drinks a little sparkle with this edible glitter set. Perfect for at-home brunches, virtual celebrations, and Zoom happy hours alike, these all-natural sachets come in three flavors and colors and mix easily into any beverage (and food, too).
Modern Metal Face Mask Rack
This simple, streamlined wall-rack is a great helper for our new leaving-the-house routine. With slots for hanging mask, a pocket for fresh filters, and a ledge for essentials such as keys or glasses, it’s an easy reminder to not forgot your mask—or anything else as you’re running out the door.
Burrow Index Wall Shelf
With its on-trend modular shape, wood finishes, adjustability, and (best of all) easy hanging tools, this is the little wall shelf that could. You can add pieces on and arrange them however you like for a custom look (without the custom price tag), and once you fill the shelves with the books, pictures, tchotchkes, and more you love most, it’s a high-impact (but low effort and relatively low cost) way to change up a space.
Food52 Five-Two Over-the-Sink Drying Rack
Built for small (or crowded) kitchens, this clever drying rack rolls into a small, compact cylinder you can actually stow away. When in use, it fits over the sink—freeing up precious counter space—and is both strong enough to hold large pots and sturdy enough to support delicate glassware. It comes with a utensil caddy, too, and both the caddy and the rack have perforations to promote extra air-flow for quicker drying.
1-800 Contacts ExpressExam
For most of 2020, heading to any doctor’s office might have felt like an unnecessary risk. Some appointments—hi, dental exam—still need to be done in-person, but 1-800 Contacts has eliminated the challenges of renewing your contact prescription, at least. If you’re on your last set of contact lenses, you can use the $20 virtual exam (with an old prescription) to get a fresh bunch of contacts delivered to your door. You should still see an eye doctor to check on the health of your eyes when it feels safer, but that can be 2021’s problem, thanks to this very 2020 innovation.
Letterfolk Tile Mat
This colorful (if you so choose) welcome mat is really unlimited mats in one: Thanks to the included tiles (and colorful tile sets you can add on), you can create the welcome message of your dreams—and then create a new one a few days later. In a year where we have nothing but time on our hands and we’re welcoming (or unwelcoming) people to our homes more carefully than ever, it’s an activity, decor, and a message all in one, so it’s no surprise that this find has been out of stock since its launch earlier this year. For now, you can enter your email address to be notified when it’s restocked so you can get your hands on one for a more personalized 2021.
Icebreaker Pop Ice Maker
For easier ice at home and on the go look no further than this clever new gadget. Simply fill it with water and freeze. The real magic is in removing your fresh cubes: The soft-sided container can be pushed or crunched to break the ice free of the tray, and the opening on one end makes dispensing ice without having to touch it (and every other cube) easy. Ultra-portable and dishwasher safe, we’re calling it the ice maker of the future.
Realtor.com Noise Indicator
People have been moving and shopping for new homes more than ever this year—and the process has never been more different. With more and more people buying homes based on virtual tours alone (or just one visit), getting the full measure of a property can be pretty tough. At least one element is made easier by Realtor.com’s new noise map, though. When viewing listed properties on realtor.com, potential buyers can toggle on a feature that measures noise level in a given area, accounting for traffic, airports, nearby stadiums or schools, and more.