Things I recommend you buy and use #2

This is my second annual list of mainly small and usually inexpensive things that improved my everyday life last year (the first one and links to other lists like this are here).

Keychain knife

As someone who still misses my Spyderco Endura that is illegal in the UK, I have long regarded small knives as toys that couldn't be used for anything practical. I was wrong.

Keychain sized knives without blade locks are legal to carry in the UK, but with Victorinox and Leatherman in particular (which perhaps the only brands worth considering in this category anyway) it is also important they don't look menacing at all. The look like tools, not knives, so it's less likely you are not going to be allowed into a venue where they check your bags than with many other models.

It is somewhat counterintuitive, but because of its size, my small knife is getting more use rather than less. A small blade is absolutely enough for most purposes which mainly if not overwhelmingly are opening boxes and packages, and because it's small you are more likely to have it within your reach when you need it. Other tools are also not a gimmick - e.g. the small Philips screwdriver is required every time you need to change batteries in a child's toy.

All of that is possible with a few separate tools, but you'll never have all of them readily available in your pocket or on your desk, so there is a lot of convenience for a small price and with a small footprint.

Fisher bullet pen

Handwriting is becoming an obscure skill, so most people don't need to carry a pen. Bad news is that it's still required at times, mostly when a signature is needed or you have to fill out a paper form.

Fisher 'space pen' (of Seinfeld fame) is great as a pen that is only needed occasionally - its pressurised cartridge is of greater quality (and is tolerant to being stored upside down), and its small size allows it to be carried in any bag, pocket or even wallet. It doesn't feel cheap because of the metal construction and still remains quite affordable for what it is. Using it regularly would probably be less than ideal because of its size, but chances are you already have a nice pen if you tend to use it often.

Bonus: it is available in untreated brass so the pen develops unique patina with time (I just love it).

Corky Urban bike mirror

This one is a gamechanger for urban cycling (i.e. in traffic). You don't realise you need a mirror until you get one.

This is perhaps the only bike mirror that doesn't make you look silly, and yet its size is still enough to give you a good idea of what is the situation behind your shoulder. It also folds nearly when the bike is parked and doesn't attract unwanted attention.

Bear in mind though that they have different two models for straight and drop handlebars with a different diameter of the insert, so choose the right one for your bike.

L-shaped ratchet screwdriver

It's great for two reasons - first, it allows to work in tight spaces where a standard screwdriver won't fit (e.g. on your wall mounting bracket without taking your TV off first). It is not as easy as it sounds, because it's difficult to apply enough pressure on the screw head that way, but it's possible.

But I also think it is a great replacement for your average bicycle multi-tool. They are usually very unwieldy because of their width as they have to accommodate a lot of differently sized keys, some of which won't even be required for anything on your particular bike. So you can get this screwdriver (and a few bits for it that you can choose specifically for yourself) instead, and will still be comparable in terms of size and weight. When you need to unscrew and screw something back in the field, you'll find it massively more convenient, I promise.

Mine has an extra bit holder on both the non-ratcheted end, so it can be used both as a traditionally shaped and an L-shaped handle.

CD drive

This year I bought a simple external CD/DVD drive and started to buy musical CDs on eBay. I believe this is the cheapest and the easiest (legally unproblematic) way of building your own collection of high quality recordings.

I've been a Spotify user for many years, and many of my old playlists I created years ago now only have like half of the tracks I originally added there, and some of those that are still present are silently replaced by remixes or different performances.  Streaming services simply cannot be trusted with your collection long term.

And buying tracks and albums digitally, as non-DRM-protected FLAC tracks turned out to be surprisingly difficult. The choice isn't that good, the quality is not always great (sometimes you get upscaled MP3s) and finally it is, counterintuitively, more expensive than buying a second hand audio CD.

The fact it takes longer until you can put the track on is of course inconvenient but as is often the case, delayed gratification leads to more conscious consumption as you only buy music you choose carefully and what you want to keep for years if not decades (for everything else there is still Spotify).


A kettlebell is possibly the most versatile piece of sports equipment you can buy.

Unlike with other free weights, you'll be able to do a lot of different exercises with it that train different parts of your body, all of that while taking only a small amount of your floor space. From my experience, if in doubt about the exact weight to get, it's best to err by choosing a too heavy one - thanks to its incredible versatility there would still be exercises you'll be able to do with a kettlebell you can't (yet) easily lift, and you'll get to the rest of them quicker than you think.

I'd also recommend to go for a simple cast iron model as opposed to anything sand filled, chrome-coated or wrapped in vinyl - it is still possible to damage your floor with them if that is a concern, and they tend to have some 'futuristic' shapes limiting their versatility, not to mention weird colours. A lump of metal with a handle is all you need.

Like other home gym equipment, kettlebells were very difficult to buy until mid-2021 as the demand was understandably through the roof, but now it's more or less freely available again even from affordable retailers such as Argos or Decathlon.

Like a piece of good cast iron cookware, this is a simple trustworthy thing that will last you a lifetime, which alone feels very satisfying.

Cocktail shaker

Not much to say here apart from that if you drink alcohol, it's a way to get a lot of fun for little money. The fact you have to fiddle with it for a bit - instead of just poring your favourite wine into glass - is once again something that turns an ordinary drink into an 'event' - and like with music before, I find that delayed gratification makes my experience richer.

It's also worth mentioning that a cocktail made from otherwise average and cheaper ingredients tastes and feels a step up from what they do on their own, so it's also a way of turning an unremarkably 'acceptable' spirit or wine into a 'nice' drink.

As your first cocktail I recommend you to try French 75 with elderflower cordial instead of sugar syrup (if you like it, you might also want to play with the exact proportions of gin vs. bubbly).

Yuriy Akopov

Yuriy Akopov

London, UK
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