12 Unsexy Yet Awesome Gifts You Really Need This Valentine’s Day

When you think of Valentine’s Day gifts, you think of the age-old classics: Flowers (I’m always thrilled to receive them), chocolates (I’ve never said no to food), jewelry (sparkle = life). As for lingerie… honestly, I think the last time I received lingerie as a Valentine’s gift was when my “bad, older” high school boyfriend bought me a camisole/boy shorts set and my mom ruined my life by making me return it. But who says you need to stick with classic Valentine’s gifts anyway? Here’s a roundup of 12 profoundly unsexy yet awesomely life-changing items that you should definitely put on your V Day wish list*.

I love my kids more than anything but my life got a ton better when I stopped letting them have the job of waking me up each morning. Being awakened by your kids is one of those things that’s cute in theory; in reality, opening your eyes to shouting faces in your face is a little jarring. This year I decided it was time to get an alarm clock and started waking up earlier (to beat my kids to the punch) and it’s really made me feel more human. Some people prefer an old-school clock radio so they can wake up to the news, others like the kind with chimes that slowly increase in volume, or check this one out. It simulates sunrise and wakes you up using light. So civilized.

So tiny yet so mighty! This is one of those purchases that’s inexpensive but can actually can make such a difference in your day-to-day, especially if you have a long commute or clock a lot of time on carpool duty. It’s been a major life-upgrade to be able listen to my podcasts (and, let’s be honest, rock out to the Hall & Oates Pandora station) without worrying about my phone running out of juice.

OK, if you’re a person who misplaces her keys/wallet/laptop/phone with regularity, this is clutch. It’s tiny enough that you can attach it to anything and it will basically serve as a homing system to help you keep track of things. Now all you have to do is keep track of your kids.

This is a longtime MVP in my household; we have one in every bedroom and my family even travels with ours (yes I know there are white noise apps on the phone, but they’re just not the same). There’s a reason therapists use these in their offices to help with privacy; the machines really muffle voices and tune out noises, including the Moana soundtrack being blared at a high volume. I use mine not just for sleep but anytime I need a little quiet in the house, to work, read, or otherwise turn my bedroom into a peaceful oasis. Byeeeeee, family.

I’m not talking a World’s Best Mom mug (even though you are that) but a beautiful, calming, happy-making vessel for your coffee or tea. Something that gets you out of bed in the morning and that is really, truly happy-making.

Back in the stone ages when I used an analog toothbrush I was always like Am I over-brushing? Underbrushing? That’s not living! With this brush you just REMAIN while it does the work for you, exactly the way your dentist prefers. Outsourcing your tooth-brushing to a tiny, brilliant machine? That is living.

At the risk of sounding like a 1950’s housewife, I’m here to say that this is the only sponge you ever need and you can throw away your others. If you caught this sponge’s star turn on ABC’s Shark Tank, you already know it’s made of a genius polymer that changes texture, making it soft in hot water (for light scrubbing) and hard in cold water (for tough scrubbing). Very non-ew.

Imagine a world in which your counter is tidy and all your recipes aren’t splattered with food gunk. One of these bad boys will elevate your cooking game faster than you can say bon appétit.

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Yes, I am often rushing when I leave the house and have, on occasion, found myself wearing two different shoes. I sometimes have the wrong shirt button matched to the wrong hole. Generally there are snacks in my pockets. None of this is a good look, I know. HOWEVER. One thing I always am is groomed. My subscription to Dollar Shave Club has been one of my smartest moves ever; each month I get 5 replacement blades for pennies (well, not literally, but almost), so I’ve always got a fresh, happy razor at the ready. Gorillas are cute, but it doesn’t mean I want to look like one.

When I stuff a pillow under my laptop I feel like a college student. When I use a glossy, candy-colored laptop desk I feel like a classy lady. Bam.

Cooking is more fun if it’s pretty, and this cast iron dutch oven is so darn lovely to look at it you may just leave it out the stove top all the time. It can transfer from stove to oven to table, and the oval shape is ideal for snugly nestling in meats to braise.

Every lady should have an all-purpose bag that she loves — and no, a shopping tote from Trader Joe’s doesn’t count. For me, the ideal bag is one big enough for a laptop, with a main-compartment zipper for easy airplane travel. This Zip-Top Transfer Tote from Madewell — which almost doesn’t qualify as an unsexy gift because it’s so flippin’ cute — fits that bill to a T and is super utilitarian with an extra interior pouch, and the best part? It’ll get even cuter as it ages. Like you.

*or leave this page up on your home desktop all week

Meredith Hoffa is the Managing Editor at WhatsUpMoms.com and lives in L.A. with her husband and two kids. Her work as been published in the NYT, Entertainment Weekly, Esquire, FitPregnancy and several anthologies, among other places. Send her funny videos of people falling (but not getting hurt!) at meredith@whatsupmoms.com.