12 things I can’t live without

By Caitlin Kelly

Every month, Elle Decor magazine asks a designer about his or her must-haves. For some, it’s a name-brand pen or vehicle, or a luxury brand.

Here are (some of!) mine:


Newspapers and magazines, in print

Every weekend, I read four newspapers, all in print: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. I love taking an afternoon on the sofa to leaf through them, clipping books I want to read or shows I want to see. (I also look at the Guardian and Globe and Mail online.) By subscription, we receive about 20 magazines, from Wired and BloombergBusinesweek and Foreign Policy to lighter fare like Monocle, House Beautiful and Vogue. Yes, there are stacks everywhere. Otherwise, I’d never remember to read them!

Are you including pleasure in your daily life?
Are you including pleasure in your daily life?

Fresh flowers

No matter what the season, our apartment always has fresh flowers. For about $20 a week, I get enough beauty to make multiple arrangements for the living room, bedroom, dining room — even a few blooms in the bathroom! As we head into cold, dreary winter, even more essential.


A mixture of scents, including L’eau de l”Artisan, Bulgari’s The Vert, Opium and Prada Iris.

My 21-inch-deep bathtub

Bliss! With scented bubble bath (love Algemarin!) or oils, no better place to relax in solitude.

8-10+ hours’ sleep every night

Can’t run at my usual pace without it. If I skimp, it’s naptime.


My passport (and green card)

I treasure my Canadian citizenship, but am grateful for the legal right to live and work in the U.S.

The view from our top-floor apartment of the Hudson River

It hasn’t changed in decades. On July 4, we can even enjoy fireworks from five towns at once!

A ready stash of quality stationery

Nothing nicer than a thick, heavy piece of elegance with which to write a thank-you or condolence note; personalized is even better.


Earl Grey tea, poured into a bone-china cup with a saucer

Fragrant, refreshing and a nice 4:00 p.m. break.

My wedding-day earrings

Tiny, glittering, comfortable, portable memories.

Β An upcoming journey

Anywhere will do!

Long conversations with old friends

Comfort and connection.

How about you?

What are some of yours?


37 thoughts on “12 things I can’t live without

  1. Oh, just the things I need in case of emergency: wallet, phone, keys. I also tend to have a pen and a notebook in case ideas strike me, my iPod for when I’m on the go, my flash drive for when I’m writing or doing assignments, and some business cards in case someone wants to check out my work.

  2. Hi Caitlin,
    It all sounds good to me. Love the flowers the view and we even read a physical copy of the Globe & Mail everyday. The only thing I would add to that is music that touches the soul.

  3. Hmm, things I can’t live without….these are the first things that spring to mind: my laptop (for my studies and for recreational stuff such as blogging and reading blog posts), coffee, a daily walk in the fresh air, a good book…

  4. I saw the title to this and thought I would read it mostly for laughs. I live in such a different world now, that these things seem almost impossible to understand as things you can’t live without. I have found I really need: a pitcher to pour water in the bathroom (they have all disappeared at my school), eight hours of sleep (as you do), 3G is not necessary (but it has been lovely), buckets for storing water, a gas cylinder for the stove (4 days without one was decidedly less convenient), a flashlight, a flask for storing hot water in winter, an electric wok, long underwear and chilis. These are my necessary luxuries.

    1. Yes….this is a first world perspective, indeed.

      In my time in Nicaragua, I would have simply said — access to fresh, cold, clean water — with which to bathe and hydrate.

      Where are you now living?

  5. A “white noise” maker for when I sleep, a good book to read before going to sleep, a needle-work project to be working on while watching TV, hot tea every morning, commercial-less TV, rice cakes.

  6. hot coffee, sunday nyt crossword puzzles, very sharp pencils, fresh flowers, comfy pajamas, books, magazines, newspapers, music, paper of all kinds, heat, comfortable bed

  7. We share many of the same–books, magazines, a hot bath. I also have to have music of my choosing, a room lit to my satisfaction with all the right bright spots and nooks. I rarely go out just for a drink but when I do, Drumbar in Chicago suits. A nice bar with comfortable chairs/sofas and a decent clientele.

    1. Music is key, for sure! I have a 90 minute commute (becs of traffic) heading to Pratt this morning, and what keeps me calm is having a pile of CDs to listen to on the way.

      I also have dimmers in the kitchen, bathroom and dining room…I cannot stand any sort of bright or overhead light, so am super-sensitive to ugly/poor lighting as well. (One thing I loathe about office jobs is fluorescent lighting.)

      Is there anywhere better than a great bar? I have several faves in NYC. Come visit!

  8. What a lovely positive post πŸ™‚ An upcoming trip is on my list of ‘favourites’ too – even if it’s not in the near future, I love the anticipation of an adventure! Like you, I also love having good quality, fun stationery around for writing (I still tend to ‘think’ better on paper, if that makes sense). A hot cup of coffee in the morning, a good book, and of course, quality time with family and friends are all on my must-have list.

  9. Tea, Earl Grey, hot.

    I am a big fan of this tea too – a friend and I have half-joked about roaming the world tasting every Earl Grey we hear of.

    I joke that as a child of Chinese, Indian, and former British colony (Singapore), it would be hard to escape the siren song of tea that runs in my genes.

    I am in Santa Fe as I write this, and if you haven’t already been, you must visit The Teahouse on Canyon Rd the next time you are here – I’ve greatly enjoyed having a pot of Earl Grey Provence, Russian Earl grey and their house chai: http://teahousesantafe.com/tea-menu

    Passport, money (actual and plastic), and the appropriate visa wherever this is necessary. My camera and laptop, the internet and power. I’ve discovered that the lack of everything else can be worked around, but the abovementioned are my necessary tools of both trade and opportunity.

    1. Jose grew up there…go to Ten Thousand Waves for us! And the Pink Adobe….If you visit the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, you will be standing in his former bedroom; they tore down his father’s church and rectory to build it…the apricot tree in its courtyard was used by his mother to make jam…

      There are solar-powered chargers you can buy!

      1. Ten Thousand Waves is waaaayyyy out of this gypsy’s budget.

        Re: Georgia O’Keefe museum – Wow!! That’s quite something. We shall be very appreciative of this little bit of history when we are there..

  10. Pingback: A dozen French presences, past or present | Gallic Fever

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s