Everything I’ve Bought Online During the Pandemic

And how much each thing has dulled my existential dread

But then the pandemic happened and I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I was home all the time. And when you’re home all the time you start to realize all the small flaws with your living space, all the tiny things that could be improved with one $25.99 (plus shipping) purchase.

I was freelancing at the start of the pandemic; then I got a job and had full-time-job money and moved to an apartment where nobody is around to take my packages. So in lieu of going out to nice dinners with my friends or ordering too many drinks at a bar in Prospect Heights, the things I might normally do, I decided to treat myself in isolation and bought a bunch of shit online. Here, I will explain several of these purchases, and I will also detail how successful these things were at calming the existential dread coursing throughout my body.

A box of Economy Candy

Economy Candy is the Lower East Side candy store of your childhood dreams. They’re also doing like, 10% of their normal business right now because a lot of their customers are tourists and people hosting events, so they could really use some patronage. It was for this reason that in May I ordered a large box of candy to support them, and it arrived promptly at my door shortly thereafter, full of Haribo watermelons and chocolate-dipped candied orange segments.

Effectiveness at combating dread: 2/10. Pure sugar evidently not “good” for you in large package-sized doses.

A Susan Alexandra bag

Did I need to instantaneously respond to a girl on Instagram selling her barely-used Susan Alexandra strawberry bag in July? Not really. Sure, it’s whimsical and fun and the it-bag of 2019 Instagram girls everywhere. But it’s also a pretty small bag that I’m constantly afraid of breaking, and if I’m bringing a purse with me I probably want it to be able to actually hold stuff. But I couldn’t help it. Having nice things is nice. Also, she delivered it right to my apartment herself. These days it mostly sits in its bag on a shelf in my closet. I am not the right kind of person to pull off this bag. I know it, that girl knew it, everyone knows it. But it’s cute.

Effectiveness at combating dread: 9/10. It is very cute and I do not need to grapple with the question of whether it “works” for me because I never have to actually bring it anywhere. Because we’re in a pandemic.

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“Girls,” Season 1, Episode 1

I paid $2.99 for this episode because Emma was organizing a Zoom table read of the pilot episode of Girls and I had been recruited for the part of Marnie Michaels. I hadn’t seen Girls in a while (I did a brief rewatch last fall of a few episodes, but not of the full show) and what I did not take into account is that the pilot script we used for the table read actually differs significantly from what eventually aired. Still, I got my $2.99 worth and the table read went as well as it could have gone, considering most of us starting drinking heavily an hour or two before we were supposed to be performing.

Effectiveness at combating dread: 7/10. The show itself was an ineffective hour-long method of escapism but the Zoom table read was very fun. Emma even wrote about it for Vogue, sort of.

A mid-century modern nightstand

In June I moved from a cramped apartment where there was barely enough space in my bedroom to put a bed and a dresser, to a new apartment where I have the luxury of three sides of my bed not touching a single wall. This upgrade necessitated buying new furniture. I ended up on a furniture reseller Instagram page browsing mid-century modern nightstands at 2 a.m. and found the perfect one. It was too expensive but I paid for it immediately so my brain wouldn’t have time to process a vision of the next month’s credit card bill. Now it sits next to my bed and holds all my notebooks and a bouquet of fresh peonies. It is simple and perfect and the exact aesthetic of 2,000 Brooklyn apartments.

Effectiveness at combating dread: 5/10. Nice to look at and does its job but weirdly it’s not helping to change any lives.

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A 10-foot long iPhone charging cable

I never listened to anyone who told me I should buy a long charging cable until I did this spring, and it has made all the difference. Now my phone is even more accessible to me at all times while I’m scrolling through Twitter with a casual sense of panic before bed.

Effectiveness at combating dread: 0/10. Really just enables my ability to feel dread while scaring at a glowing screen in the middle of the night.

27 Muji pens

Muji announced it was filing for bankruptcy this summer and I immediately logged on and panic-purchased many Muji pens — specifically the gel ink ballpoint in 0.5 mm. It turns out that Muji hasn’t actually closed for good or anything yet but you can never have too many Muji pens. Considering it cost less than $40, I feel fine about this decision.

Effectiveness at combating dread: 9/10. I use these pens all the time. If I write you a letter, I am writing it with one of these pens. I love them so much.

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An entirely new bedding set (duvet, duvet cover, pillows, sheet set, mattress pad)

In May my friend Corey sent me an email. “MISSION MAKE YOUR BED YOUR BITCH,” the subject line read. “Okay, so I have recently upgraded my bed because you know…this,” he continued. I’m a notoriously bad sleeper and also a Corey acolyte, having blindly bought a plane ticket in 2018 and followed him on a 10-day trip to Italy that he organized entirely for us. Corey knows luxury, and I love that about him. If you ever decide that you simply must spend $3,000 in a single day at a luxury outlet mall outside the city, he’s your guy. He just knows how to live.

So I followed his advice for improving my bed—and, I thought optimistically, my life—and purchased a nice mattress pad (Corey’s comment: “I recently bought this mattress topper which is really nice and not too fluffy but adds a nice little luxe like cushion to me bottom”); a new duvet (“ It really is like a cloud and everything feels incredible. I sleep hot and this doesn’t get too hot, just stick your foot out and let the underbed demons nab at your toesies”); new pillows (“I do really like the firmest option because it feels firm but floof”); and new hemp and cotton-blend sheets (“They have a really nice texture! I feel like a sugar baby in Sorrento when I sleep on them!”). I also bought a new duvet cover independent of Corey’s specific recommendations. I’m still a bad sleeper but my bed has never felt more comfortable.

Effectiveness at combating dread: 5/10. My head rests on a pillowy cloud every night while I toss and turn.

Nintendo Switch and “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”

It should have been an enormous red flag that I was Not Handling Things Well in April when I bought a gaming console and a popular game where you’re essentially an indentured servant on an island run by animals who somehow speak English and walk on their hind legs. I liked this setup for a couple months until it became a chore to log in and take care of my virtual self, in addition to actually having to take care of myself in real life too. Both the game and the console have sat unused for months, and no matter how bad this winter is and how deeply I must quarantine, I don’t think I’ll be returning to either of them.

Effectiveness at combating dread: 6/10. Good until it wasn’t.

A Girlfriend Collective workout set

This spring, I optimistically imagined a future in which I could go to spin class with my two best friends again and then go get $8 smoothies that ostensibly taste healthy. This was how I spent many Saturday mornings until March 2020. Around that time, the ads of this Instagram brand of athleisure called Girlfriend Collective started following me around the internet. My friend Emma and I each bought a set of leggings and a matching sports bra in plum, and referred to them as our “girlboss workout suits.” I wore mine every time we did Zoom-ba — an activity in which we take 23 minutes out of our day to call one another on Zoom and play a very specific Zumba YouTube video and do our stupid little moves to activate our cores. Now it is October and the spin studio we used to go to is now permanently closed.

Effectiveness at combating dread: 3/10, mostly a reminder of what once was.

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Not excited for Zoom-ba.

New glasses

Something that’s luxurious but should obviously be a human right is that my new health insurance afforded me the ability to upgrade my warped, horrible Warby Parker glasses frames. Now I don’t hate wearing my glasses and since they’re the right prescription I can actually see, even though they fog up all the time when I’m wearing a mask.

Effectiveness at combating dread: 1/10. I can just read bad news more clearly now.

Tevas

Something I quickly realized this summer as I began to walk extensively is that none of my summer shoes are particularly comfortable. My complicated Madewell sandals give me blisters; my mules are fine to walk down the street and get coffee but not for a walking date around the greater Clinton Hill area.

So I did what any person desperate enough to wear ugly shoes would do and purchased a pair of Tevas. And I regret to inform you I’m a Tevas person now. They are extremely comfortable, durable, lightweight, and waterproof. They are a perfect summer sandal. I have the tan lines to prove it.

Effectiveness at combating dread: 8/10, helpful in the sense that they permitted me to go for long comfortable walks everywhere during the hottest months of the year and look like the “outdoorsy” person I am not.

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Not my feet. You have to pay extra for that. Photo by Danique Ter on Unsplash

An L.L. Bean vintage fleece pullover, three Everlane sweaters, a Patagonia performance fleece pullover, Reformation skirt

This summer I also discovered the joys of the “buy/sell/trade” Instagram page. I quickly made myself comfortable with bidding aggressively on clothing items in an Instagram comment section and handing over my address to a stranger when I won something so that they could ship me my hard-won clothes. Above you can see the complete list of my spoils. I feel very smug about these purchases because I’m not contributing to fast-fashion waste since they’re all pre-owned (and largely not pre-worn) goods.

Effectiveness at combating dread: 8/10. As the country freezes and/or burns this winter and our democracy takes its last gasping breaths I will be enduring the end of days in the warm embrace of a fleece pullover from 1994.

Were any of these purchases effective at keeping at bay my existential dread about the myriad issues plaguing my mind and our world? Of course not. If anything, I feel even more burdened by the things I own. It’s true that money can solve many of your problems, and being truly financially stable for the first time in my adult life has been freeing—not having to hold my breath and wait to see if my debit card gets declined at the grocery store, or having good insurance so I never have to pay out of pocket for emergency medical care is a luxury I’ve never fully appreciated or known before. But there are some things no amount of money can fix, and it seems that the feeling of doom that results from raw-dogging reality every day is one of them. Still, it’s possible that the Peloton I bought that’s arriving next week will fix everything.

i’m a freelance writer and editor. you can also read me in places like the new york times and vanity fair.

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