Upgrade someone's life. (Nathan Riley via Unsplash/)
It’s been a difficult and unusual year for most of us—just the kind of year that could be improved by extra generosity this holiday season. The shortening days and cooling air are a good reminder to start thinking about what to give those special people in your life, especially the loved ones whose worlds have been turned upside down recently.
It’s impossible to offer a pitch-perfect gift idea for every person on our readers' lists (though we’re going to try) and so it seemed appropriate to first offer some ideas in broad categories to get the creative process started.
If you have any specific product questions—or a friend who really has you stumped this year—feel free to reach out on the PopSci Deals Facebook group or by contacting Popular Science’s Commerce Editor Billy Cadden directly. Prime Day is also coming up on Oct. 13, so make sure to keep an eye out for deals.
If none of the products below speak to you, you could always browse these curated gift guides on Amazon. Here are some of the most popular categories:
Gifts from Small Businesses
TUSHY Classic Bidet Toilet Seat Attachment (Amazon /)
The Tushy requires no electricity or plumbing to supply a steady, adjustable flow of cool or warm water. The bidet comes with everything you need for installation and connects directly to the water pipes under your sink. There are temperature, angle, and pressure knobs to give you complete control.
Coway Bidetmega 200R Elongated-Electronic Bidet Seat (Amazon/)
The Coway Bidetmega 200 includes every feature you’d want in a bidet. Choose between round or elongated models to better fit the shape your home toilet. Instead of buying an entire toilet system, the Bidetmega 200 installs directly onto your existing toilet. The bidet includes a dryer—to help save on toilet paper—and has both front and back washing options. Its four-stage cleaning process starts off gentle, increases pressure for a pre-wash, ramps up to full blast during the main wash, and then calms back down during the final rinse. From the control panel, you can adjust the pressure, temperature, direction, or flow of the water. You can even turn on child-friendly mode and turn on the heated seat. Unlike some lower-end models, you’ll need to plug the bidet into an outlet. The included power plug is 47 inches long, so you’ll have a fair amount of slack.
simplehuman Sensor Mirror Pro (Amazon/)
The cordless, rechargeable simplehuman Sensor Mirror Pro holds a charge for up to five weeks. The eight-inch, 5x magnification mirror has a built-in sensor that detects you as you approach and brags LED lights to imitate natural sunlight. Its touch-sensitive brightness control lets you change up the brightness. The LEDs supposedly last up to 40,000 hours.
hum by Colgate Smart Electric Toothbrush Kit (Amazon/)
This toothbrush is not only electric, it’s smart (as in smart technology). It’s equipped with smart sensors that pair with the Hum app to track the frequency, duration, and coverage of your loved one’s brushing. The app will prompt users with customized helpful tips that, if implemented, will result in earning points that can be redeemed in the app’s store. The starter kit comes with an extra brush head (they should be replaced every three months), a charger, and a carrying case. The brush has three vibrations speeds, a two-minute timer, and comes in three colors: purple, blue, and teal.
The Waterpik Aquarius Water Flosser (Amazon/)
The Waterpik Aquarius Water Flosser was the first in its class accepted by the American Dental Association (ADA). It offers a unique combination of water pressure and pulsations with 10 settings plus a massage mode for gum stimulation. The flosser comes in nine different colors and comes with seven tips so your whole family can water floss freely.
Epson EcoTank ET-3760 Wireless Color All-in-One Cartridge-Free Supertank Printer with Scanner, Copier and Ethernet (Amazon/)
Epson’s EcoTank line uses an ink reservoir system instead of cartridges, which, Epson says, can last about two years and delivers approximately 7,500 black-and-white, or 6,000 color pages. The printer comes with a starting supply of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink. It features a 150-sheet paper tray, voice-activated printing, and wired and wireless connectivity—you can print from not only your computer, but also mobile devices. The ET-3760 also does two-sided and borderless printing, scanning, and copying. With only four colors of ink, it won’t deliver high-quality photo prints like some other printers, but for a home or office, it’s a sharp, fast, economical, and environmentally-friendly tool.
Blueair 211+ Air Purifier (Amazon/)
The Blueair Blue Pure 211+ air filter is the device that’s most likely to make you smile when you see it. The 60-watt, low-energy machine is operated by a single touch-activated button on the front, so it’s simple to use. It boasts three-speed settings and a three-step filtration process that can purify the air five times per hour.
The washable exterior acts not only as a pop of color but also as a pre-filter that catches larger particles, thus extending the life of the main filter. After passing through that first layer, air travels through Blueair’s dual mechanical and electrostatic filtration system that charges the particles in the air so they stick better to the filter. After this, the air is going through an activated carbon filter, which removes odors and smoke.
This particular model is designed for rooms up to 540 square feet. Expect to replace the filter every six months, though a light will alert you when it’s time.
iRobot Roomba i3+ (Amazon/)
You don’t need to be tech-savvy to love the Roomba i3+ robot vacuum, which can clean floors, charge itself, and empty its own debris automatically. You can also use voice assistants or the app to schedule or start a cleaning! It navigates indoor spaces using onboard tracking sensors. The Reactive Sensor Technology tells the cleaner where it won’t be able to reach, which will reduce the likelihood of the cleaner getting stuck. Using its Dirt Detect Sensors, the i3+ can also recognize where it needs to clean the most.
The Roomba returns to the included docking station when it’s time to recharge or empty its dust compartment, and it can continue this cycle for up to 60 days before needing to be emptied. It’s powerful, too, using high-powered suction and rubber brushes that are tailored to lift pet hair and thick grime off of a variety of surfaces.
Dyson V11 Torque Drive Cordless Vacuum Cleaner (Amazon/)
The Dyson V11 cordless stick vacuum delivers powerful suction that captures dust particles to HEPA standards (99. 97 percent of microscopic dust particles as small as 0. 3 microns). Keep floor mats and carpet around your doorway immaculate using the “stubborn dirt” brush, and strip blinds and the top of your entertainment cabinet of the sneaky sneeze-activators by converting your Dyson into a handheld model and adding the soft mini-brush attachment. The LED screen keeps you informed of the machine’s performance, including remaining battery life, when it’s time to clean the filters, and if there are any blockages (so that’s where my tie clip went!).
Bissell Steam Mop, Steamer, Tile, Hard Wood Floor Cleaner (Amazon/)
You don’t necessarily need to use harsh chemicals and bleach to get floors cleaned and sanitized. The Bissell Powerfresh Deluxe Steam Mop uses the power of steam to remove dirt and grime as well as kill 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria. This is great for any bathroom tiles that need a little extra scrub, though you probably don’t want to use a steam mop on your hardwoods or any other softer materials.
Rowenta VU5670 Turbo Silence Oscillating Fan (Amazon/)
This super-quiet fan has a 16-inch diameter with 5 blades and 5 speed settings, producing up to 2,436 cubic feet per minute. It also comes with a remote control that can be stored on the fan itself so you don’t lose it. An energy-efficient mode and 8-hour timer also make this fan a great green alternative to the AC.
Black + Decker BPACT10WT Portable Air Conditioner (Amazon/)
Built to cool a 20-foot-by-20-foot room, this 10,000 BTU air conditioner can bring your air temp down to a lovely 65 degrees. Its vent hose is 4 feet and 11 inches long and fits easily into any horizontal or vertical window. The standing unit is compact and rollable, making it easy to transport between rooms and store away during colder seasons. To clean the filter, simply remove it and run it under water twice a month. With both a LED display on the unit as well as a remote control, you can switch between cool, fan, and dehumidifying modes. It measures 16.5 x 11.5 x 26-inches.
Asltoy Laptop Desk for Bed (Amazon/)
Enjoy breakfast in bed before getting to work with Asltoy’s laptop tray. This one is extremely easy to use, with legs that pop out just like a folding table, and four different angles to set your work surface. A cup holder, on the flat portion of the laptop tray, keeps mugs of coffee and tea from spilling—making this a great pick for even the clumsiest among us.
Satechi Aluminum Universal Unibody Monitor Stand (Amazon/)
If you only need your monitor to be raised slightly, or if you really want a monitor stand to hide some of your sticky note clutter, this Satechi Aluminum Universal Unibody Monitor is a great choice. It’s elegantly designed and available in a variety of colors, including space grey, silver, gold, and rose gold, all of which compliment the Apple laptop and monitor colors. The height is 1.75 inches, and you’ll be able to store a small keyboard and mouse underneath.
BenQ EX3501R 21:9 Ultrawide Curved QHD Monitor (Amazon/)
This 34-inch ultra-wide is optimized for video editing, but it does enough of everything that it can function as a compromise for households that will put their monitor to various uses. A 100-Hz refresh rate is decent for gaming and does what you need for video editing. Its eye care sensor adjusts brightness and color tone to the light in your office. A USB C connector allows video transfer at up to 2K. Compatibility with FreeSync is also a plus for gamers.
MUJI Aluminum Fountain Pen (Amazon/)
MUJI’s fountain pens are made with a minimalist, durable aluminum exterior, and boasts an enviably fine writing tip. This one has black ink and is perfect for most writing situations. The textured grip is a pleasure to hold.
Face Coffee Mug with Double Cookie Biscuit Compartment (Amazon/)
There are novelty mugs that serve only one purpose—amusement—and then there are those that go a step further and throw in a side of wry practicality. Your initial instinct is to laugh at this 4.6 in x 3 in x 3.7 in ceramic mug, but we guarantee your second thought is, “That’s not a bad idea.” Stuff the open mouth with the cookie or biscuit of your choice (the blank, white face offers no judgment) and kickstart that afternoon in style.
Combination Board, 36 x 24 Magnetic Whiteboard & Cork Board (Amazon/)
This is a great option for especially busy workspaces. One side of the board has cork for push pin organizing, and the other side has a magnetic white board, for writing notes and lists/reminders. Installation hardware is included and this board can be hung both vertically and horizontally. Never let an idea get lost again.
Dprodo 3 Drawers Mobile File Cabinet with Lock (Amazon/)
This filing cabinet comes fully assembled with 5 castor wheels, and is lockable on all three drawers. The Dprodo features two utility drawers for small electronics and office supplies, and one file drawer with adjustable hanging bar to support either letter or legal sized files. A sturdy design made from powder coated steel, this cabinet comes in classic or bright modern colors. While not a large capacity cabinet, this smaller size can be wheeled under most desks at 24.4 inches high.
Homesick Scented Candle (Amazon/)
This robust 13.75-ounce candle has a 60-80 hour burn time. All natural soy wax will bring you the crisp and musky smells of the Adirondacks: hay, cinnamon, pumpkin, clove, nutmeg, and apples. It’s great for the fall but a treat all year round. These candles are poured by hand in the USA.
Nearly Natural Artificial Trees, 84in, Green (Amazon/)
Tall, graceful, and deep green, this artificial ficus tree is offered in various sizes depending upon the needs of your space from 36 inches up to an impressive 96 inches high. Constructed from silk, polyester and plastic this tree requires no maintenance. The tree appears full with more than 1,000 leaves and a twisted trunk typical of the ficus tree. Note that this tree comes with a small nursery type pot, but it is preferable to purchase a heavy decorative pot and faux moss to complete the look of the potted indoor tree.
Casper Sleep Element Mattress (Amazon/)
The bed-in-a-box phenomenon has revolutionized how we buy mattresses, but they aren’t just convenient to order and set up—they are comfortable and durable as well. This Casper Sleep Essential Mattress is 11-inches thick once out of the box, and uses three layers of memory foam to provide the support you need throughout the night. The foam is also designed for breathability, so you’ll never feel too warm. Plus, with Casper, you can try it out for 100 nights and if you’re not satisfied, they’ll give you a full refund.
Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR Supreme 3-Inch Medium Firm Mattress topper (Amazon/)
Tempur-pedic has long been a leader in the bedding space; it’s known for adaptability, cooling properties, and engineering that ensures quality sleep and exceptional balance. These cooling or medium-firm toppers adapt to your shape and temperature to enhance your rest. It has a remarkable effect on sleepers who live with body pain thanks to its soft foam material, and the cover is easily removable for washing.
Brooklinen Luxe Core Sheet Set (Amazon/)
Brooklinen’s sheets are a great option if you’re looking for 100 percent cotton sheets. They’re soft without being susceptible to tears, and are more affordable than other high-end sheets on the market. This set comes with a fitted sheet, a flat sheet, and two pillowcases. The company also has a lifetime warranty for any rips or frays, which is pretty bold given that sheets, like all cloth, inevitably show signs of wear.
Rubbermaid Configurations Custom Closet Deluxe Kit (Amazon /)
Rubbermaid is a trusted name when it comes to utilitarian home goods. This system promises an easy setup for any closet between 4 and 8 feet long and up to 22 feet tall. There are also a slew of accessories (like belt and tie hangers, baskets, and drawers) that guarantee a custom set-up.
Snow Joe SJ-SHLV01 Shovelution Strain-Reducing Snow Shovel (Amazon/)
During the holidays my family had an ergonomic shovel showdown. My stepfather and I were given two different shovels—this Snow Joe and another that need not be named—to see which reigned supreme. The Snow Joe (my shovel) won unambiguously. The spring-assist handle made lifting weighty wet stuff easier and put less strain on my back.
Snow Joe SJ623E Electric Single Stage Snow Thrower (Amazon/)
If you don’t have someone to come plow your driveway—and shoveling that massive swath is a no-go—an electric snow thrower might be a necessary winter purchase. This Snow Joe Ultra snow thrower has a four-blade steel auger that cuts a path 18 inches wide and 10 inches deep; every minute, its 15-amp motor that can toss up to 720 pounds of snow up to 25 feet away through a 180-degree adjustable chute. It’s also got a built-in light for people that like to work at night.
Panasonic BK-3MCCA8BA eneloop AA 2100 Cycle Ni-MH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries (Amazon/)
A set of Panasonic eneloop batteries can be recharged up to 2,100 times with 2000mAh (the total amount of energy a battery can store at a time). They’re precharged using environmentally friendly solar power and ready to use right away. They keep up to 70 percent of their charge even after ten years in storage. You’ll be able to use these guys whether they’re partially charged or fully charged. They boast a fast charging speed, and come in both AA or AAA options, with an optional charger.
25' Foot QUICKDRAW PRO Self Marking Tape Measure (Amazon/)
If you’re always looking for your pencil while working on a project, consider a tape measure with its own self-marking graphite. It comes with the usual attributes too: tough nylon coating, a great snappy recoil, and 25 feet of measuring tape with markers in inches and centimeters.
ThruNite TC12 V2 Handheld Flashlight (Amazon/)
At its brightest setting, the ThruNite’s 1,100 lumens can light things up over 7500 feet, which is more than enough for most day-to-day uses. Use the two-button interface—one on the side, one on the tail—to toggle through its six power levels, from very dim to blindingly bright, or activate the strobe mode for emergencies. The flashlight’s design keeps it from rolling away on flat surfaces, and it can survive a 1-1/2 meter drop or full immersion in water. The ThruNite is powered by two AA batteries, and is constructed from aerospace-grade aluminum.