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The roommate relationship is a delicate one. It’s as close to home as one can get, and any small misstep can easily escalate into passive-aggressive notes, unwashed dishes, and puzzling slights in communal spaces. A roommate should be on the holiday gifting shortlist, whether or not they’re a best friend. It’s a bond that deserves tending to, if not in the name of companionship then at least to avoid awkward interactions daily.
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The best gift for your roommate is something that enriches their day-to-day. It jazzes up the mundane. It can be something that improves your shared home, but it should be tailored and personalized to their tastes — don’t give yourself a backhanded gift they wouldn’t want for themselves.
SPY’s Editors have compiled their favorite holiday gifts they’ve given or received from their roommates over the years. As folks in their late 20s and early 30s who’ve almost exclusively dwelled in overpriced, packed cities — we’ve had more than a few.
Louis C. Tiffany Stained-Glass Coasters
Coasters, like an air purifier or a cast iron pan, are an apartment’s signal to visitors that real adults, not 20-somethings fresh out of the dorms, live there. “The right pair of coasters add a pop of color to a coffee table or credenza, and as a gift, offer a subtle suggestion to your roommate that they actually use them,” said SPY staff writer Jason Lalljee.
Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
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This one’s a gift for both you and your roommate. “Tired of hearing their alarm go off twenty times over forty minutes in the morning? Get them a Wake Up Light,” said Lalljee. “Both of your sleep cycles will thank you.”
Febos Door Noise Blocker
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Confronting a roommate about something irksome is a chore. Not all roommates are close, and it can be awkward to call attention to something they’re likely unaware of, such as bedroom noises. A subtle gift for them — which doubles as a gift for you — is a great way to restore silence and mental peace. This door jamb will block sound from, well, whatever’s going on in there, and will also stop any smoke drifting under the door from burning candles.
Customized Wax Seal Letter Stamp
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If you’re sharing a flex one-bedroom apartment with a roommate, chances are you don’t have the money to buy something all that lavish. That doesn’t mean other people outside your walls need to know that. A wax seal is an inexpensive way to dress up any letter, thank-you note, or other postage — and screams French royalty rather than microwaved French toast sticks.
Pepper & Plum Aura 6 Ounce Candle
Getting a candle for your roommate is a standard Christmas gift. Dependable, neutral, something that said “I like living with you and maybe we’re friends?” But instead of getting them the usual Yankee, get them something from the Aura collection from Paddywax. After they’re done burning it, they can rinse out the wax, wash the vessel, and use it as a cocktail glass. “I recommend the gin martinis,” said SPY Managing Editor Emma Wenninger.
Standard Baggu Bag
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These are “perfect for city-dwellers,” according to Wenninger. Baggu reusable bags roll into a small carrying pouch and can be tossed into any tote or work bag, and used for groceries, shopping, whatever. They’re super practical and cute, a great balance for a gift for a roommate you don’t know very well. You might not know their interests, but they likely hit the grocery store from time to time. “I’d also like to use this opportunity to officially coin the phrase: ‘Once you Baggu you don’t Bag-Out,” said Wenninger.
Hydro Flask All Around Travel Tumbler
You’ve seen the Stanley cup all over social media. Hell, you might even have one yourself. “Here’s the drama: she’s boring, she’s over, she’s overplayed and we don’t know her anymore,” said SPY editor Tyler Schoeber. “Your roommates want something fresh. They want something nobody else has quite yet. Hydro Flask’s 40 oz All Around Travel Tumbler is what everybody who’s anybody is raving about these days.” With a TempShield double-wall vacuum insulated interior, a body that fits in a car’s cup holder, and colors ranging from black to pink, it’s a great gift for someone you share a wall with. It takes an everyday task, drinking water, and makes it a little more special.
Ekster GRID Backpack
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Is your roommate never home? Lucky you. Whether they’re constantly sleeping at their significant other’s a neighborhood away or hopping around the globe, a good backpack will help them stay organized away from home. Schoeber recommends this model from Ekster, touting it as “unlike anything I’ve tested before.” It’s flashy and can pack like a suitcase with 180-degree access. It’s water-resistant for unexpected showers getting from the subway to the AirBnb, and external straps make it easy to carry larger, bulkier items.
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Remember the advice about taking the mundane and making it a touch more special? The Ember Mug does exactly that with a morning ritual shared by millions around the globe. It keeps hot coffee hot for hours after it’s been poured, a vast improvement over the dull taste of java that’s gone lukewarm halfway through the morning team check-in. It’s a must-have for anyone who works from home, and excellent for a roommate since you’ll be able to borrow it when they’re out of town.
Sonos Move Speaker
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This is a somewhat selfish gift, since a living room Sonos speaker will benefit you just as much as your roommate, but it’s a top-tier present if you’re willing to spend a bit more. Sonos has some of the best audio of any Bluetooth speakers designed for home use, and the Sonos app makes it easy for roommates to combine forces on the dinner party playlist. “A Sonos transforms any apartment into a home for grown-ups. People who know how to host have Sonos speakers,” said SPY Wellness Editor Taylor Galla.
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