5 Things I’ve Bought Over the Last Few Months that Changed My Life
I started out wanting to do a post just about the awesome new security cameras I bought for my house, and how they have significantly reduced my anxiety when I’m away. For those of you that don’t know, I have a lot of pets and one of them is a rescue dog with some serious separation anxiety issues… and I worry about him a LOT when we have pet sitters because it stresses him out so much.
But then I got to thinking about some other amazing purchases I’ve made over the last few months, and realized that the things that have made a significant impact on my life have all been “smart” things: 4 smart home things, and 1 smart watch. Until now, I never really bought into the whole “smart home” thing. But let me tell you, my life literally been changed due to these 5 purchases. Mostly, these things have drastically reduced my stress and saved me time — two of the most important things to happiness in my life.
Also, I should mention – because I didn’t completely buy into the “smart home” thing at first, but instead bought individual products as needs arose, I have one regret: not streamlining and getting things that “play nice” together (aka things of the same brand that are automatically integrated). I’ve solved this problem in roundabout ways (lots of things are Alexa compatible, etc.), but if I could do it all over again I would have stuck with just two brands (Amazon Alexa and Nest) — so, below I’ve linked what I actually have and what I’d get if I could do it all over again.
So, here are the things and here’s why:
I’d been wanting some security cameras in and outside my house for a while, but it took me a while to convince my husband. As I mentioned above, we have a lot of pets (3 cats, 2 dogs and an iguana). When we go out of town, we get pet sitters (usually family or friends) to watch the pets. I still stress, though. I’m a control freak and a worrier, so when we are constantly out of town I worry that one freak accident is happening, or that the pet sitter forgot to close a door (sometimes our dogs lock themselves in the guest room if that door gets left open), the cats have gotten outside, or just some crazy thing. A colleague of mine has a cat that somehow got caught in the shower bar in her bathroom and was stuck hanging there, and was paralyzed (BUT AFTER A TON OF CAT ACUPUNCTURE, IT FULLY RECOVERED! HOORAY!). So, I permanently panic about the pets when we aren’t home. And let me tell you – having these cameras has allowed me to relax and be stress-free (at least, with respect to the pets) when we are out of town, because I can do a quick check just to get a visual on all the pets, and breathe knowing they are fine. Another awesome thing about them is that you can turn on an “activity sensor” and when they detect motion, they’ll save little 6-second snippets and send them to you. My husband and I call those “snapchats from the pets.” It is super cute.
These are the ones I got – they’re basically the cheapest ones that have night vision and live stream to your phone (they’re only $40 each). They have night vision, the camera can rotate (and you can control it from your phone), there is two-way audio, and they are low-profile. They get the job done.
Now that I’m aboard the ‘smart house’ train, I might consider having gotten the brand-new Amazon Alexa cameras ($119 each) or the Nest cameras. But, honestly, given how cheap the Yi ones are, I’d probably still get the Yi ones.
This is another “stress relief” purchase. For those of you who don’t know, I live in historic downtown Charleston in a 100+ year-old house, with all sorts of mysteries, including in relation to the electrical wiring. Recently, a big house near my burned down in the middle of the day. One of the girls that lived there was at the gym, and got a call from her roommate that the house was on fire. And her kitten, Banjo (which also happens to be the name of one of my dogs), was in there. She hoped he got out, and had signs and Facebook posts looking for him, hoping he escaped the fire. But she still hasn’t found Banjo (and its been a few months). After this, I had nightmares about fires and did all sorts of fire-prevention things around our house and made all sorts of new rules (for example, no running the dryer when we aren’t home. Fact: Dryers are the number one cause of house fires.). But, especially with so many pets in the house (and with my neurotic Banjo, who would never let a firefighter anywhere near him because they are strangers and in big suits), I realized that if there was a fire, I would need to know ASAP so I could get home. With a regular smoke detector, if no one was home, the house would have to be up in noticeable flames before anyone would call 911, even if our normal smoke detectors were going off inside. And who knows when I would finally get the call. Well, that was too risky and too scary and just not going to happen anymore for me.
SO, ENTER THE NEST SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS! These babies will alert my phone – wherever I am – at the slightest hint of smoke or carbon monoxide, so I can rush home, call 911, check my indoor security cameras to see if there’s a fire, or do whatever else, WAY EARLIER. This could literally be the difference between life and death, and my house burning down or not. This makes me feel so much more relaxed all the time. These are def. the best purchase ever for me.
They were super quick and easy to install. I bought the battery-powered 3 pack for $330. Yes, that’s a good hunk of money… but the safety and peace of mind is well worth it, to me.
This was an on-a-whim purchase that turned out to be WAY more awesome than I anticipated. We bought it originally because we were at a friend’s house and it was just “cool” to see Alexa in action — we were just asking her to play songs, and had a few glasses of wine… and I decided we needed an Alexa, too.
I bought a few different Amazon Alexa devices because, honestly, Amazon did not do a really good job explaining what the differences are between each one. (Recently, Amazon has re-vamped their Alexa device information, and now it is a lot easier). But, we ended up keeping the little Alexa dot and the Alexa Amazon Tap. The tap is the only one that doesn’t need to be plugged in all the time. (Note – you could buy battery packs for the other ones, but they are expensive, and that really isn’t necessary since there is already the Amazon Tap.)
This speaker has very good sound quality, works over bluetooth, wifi, etc., sits on a tiny charging base, and – most of all – is portable. Alexa Outlets
The Alexa outlets have been another game-changer for me. While they don’t save lives or solve actual problems and reduce stress like the cameras and smoke detectors do, these are EPIC when it comes to convenience. I have one connected to my bedside lamp (because it is hard to reach the actual switch without getting out of bed), one on my outdoor bistro lights, one on my greenhouse heater, and a couple others on lamps that are hard to reach. Now if only I could make Alexa bring me glasses of water when I’m already in bed…
Anyway, these outlets are awesome. You don’t even need Alexa – you can control them from your phone, too! And you can put them on automatic timers so they turn on and off automatically (this is what I do for my outdoor lights, and what I’ll do for my greenhouse heater once it gets colder outside). And if you’re traveling, you can set them to turn on and off randomly so it looks like someone is home! Seriously, these things are awesome for how cheap they are! I have these Indoor Alexa Outlets (2 pack for $60). And yes, I get that $30/outlet sounds expensive… but I can’t even begin to explain how much it is worth it for the convenience!
Note – I also use this outdoor Alexa outlet to control the heat in my greenhouse and my outdoor lights (and when it gets super cold, I’ll use another one to control my heated cat house for my (not very) feral cats! Outdoor Alexa Outlet
Oh, the Apple watch. I seriously love it. I was really, really, really hesitant to buy it because of of $330 price tag. I’ve had various models of the Fitbit for literally 5 years and really liked it. The only problem was how often they had software issues that required me to get new ones. About every 6 months, my Fitbit would stop working due to a faulty software update. I’d have to call customer service and get a new one under the 1-year warranty. The problem was, the replacement one would stop working in about 6 months, too. So then I’d have to buy another. I was basically buying a Fitbit every year.
I got so frustrated with Fitbit that I decided I’d have to find a different brand of smart/exercise watch. So, I got the Garmin VivoFit watch. Well, while it worked for the 2 months before I got the Apple Watch, I hated it. The interface/buttons was not logical and I couldn’t get half of the things to work on it. And it was super clunky, needed to be charged waaaaaay to often for just being a two-color analog screen, and just basically sucked.
So, I finally decided it was time to bite the Apple Watch bullet, and I’ve never looked back. It saves me SO MUCH TIME because I don’t have to go find and unlock my phone every time I hear it ding or buzz. Instead, I just look at my watch. It can also do so much, and you can read and answer emails and texts straight from the watch!
Do you have any products that have totally changed your life? Let me know in the comments!