Best Purchases of 2020: A Better-Not-Perfect Mindset

best purchases of 2020 pandemic and work from home
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

A Year of Dramatic Change

2020 was the first year since 2014 that I eased up a little on my ethical and sustainable shopping habits. The reasons were multi-fold, and I spent a lot of time mulling it over and writing about it before committing to a different kind of slow fashion ethic. You can read more about that at the links I’ve included at the bottom of this post.

You may remember that one reason for the change had to do with losing access to thrift shops due to the pandemic. I did go thrift shopping once, but because the dressing rooms were closed, the items I purchased didn’t really fit. Body proportion changes also impacted the way clothing – especially from my go-to ethical brands – fit. Rather than waste a lot of money and fuel ordering things just to send them back, I began to rely on a few, less sustainable companies with items that I knew would fit me.

It cannot be overstated how much the pandemic changed my lifestyle, and thus the products I came to love. Below, my lists of best purchases of 2020. This list included affiliate links.

best purchases of 2020 pandemic and work from home

Best Purchases of 2020


Ever since we moved to New Haven, I have been consciously trying to reduce the number of physical books we own (we donated hundreds of book before we moved and still managed to fill up three bookshelves, with 5 boxes still unpacked!). I actually prefer physical books when I’m doing research, but for daily class reading, a Kindle works really well. I was able to purchase almost all of my books digitally this semester, and I also make PDFs of my sermons so I don’t have to print them. I prefer the standard Kindle over the tablet style because it reads more like a book, and you can turn the backlight off.

If you have a Kindle, I recommend you download the Send to Kindle app, which allows you to send any PDF document to Kindle.

Purchased in August – SHOP THE KINDLE HERE (Tip: purchase the one WITHOUT ads)

EVA “Birkenstock” Sandals

I actually purchased mine at Target, but I’d say that any price point would have been worth it, because I wear these every day as house shoes and to run outside to check the mail or take out recycling. Ever since I sprained my ankle in January, my feet have craved more stability and support. The lack of out-of-the-house activities means that I was often going barefoot, but that quickly caused pain in my heel and arches. These are excellent (and if they get dirty, you can just rinse them off!).

Purchased in September – SHOP THIS STYLE (almost sold out) // SHOP THE BIRKENSTOCK VERSION

PACT Apparel Joggers

I have three pairs of PACT joggers, the waffle knit linked here and an older style. They are the perfect home pants. Admittedly, I wore them all day on school days when real pants or jeans felt too constricting. I think these run about a size big. For a closer fit, go with your smaller size. I have them in small and medium, and the mediums are more of a loose-fit, pajama style.

Purchased in 2019 and October 2020 – SHOP PACT PANTS (the joggers are sold out, but keep checking back)

AE Curvy Mom Jeans

I have finally come around to the idea that my knees shouldn’t hurt from wearing jeans. I have sometimes joked that my butt, thighs, and knees belong to a different body than my calves. I have also historically had swelling and circulation issues in my knees, so skinny jeans and jeggings can cause a lot of discomfort. The straight cut of AE’s mom jeans paired with a curvy fit are comfortable for long days of Zoom class and still appropriate for public display.

Purchased in May and October 2020 – SHOP CURVY JEANS // SHOP MOM JEANS

Blue Sky Planner

I’ve been using some version of this planner for at least a decade. I like the 5×8 version because it fits in most bags. There are lined daily sections, monthly calendars, and a little bit of space for weekly notes and reminders. I am decidedly not a bullet journal person. I need an efficient layout to ensure I don’t miss any of my daily tasks.

Purchased in August (and every previous August) – SHOP BLUE SKY PLANNERS

best purchases of 2020 pandemic and work from home - zenni optical

Zenni Optical Blue Light Blocking Glasses

I bought these before lockdown to deal with an unfortunate fluorescent lighting situation in one of the classrooms at seminary that was giving me a headache. I have sensitive eyes, am migraine-prone, and have sinus-related head pain, so eliminating as many triggers as possible is really important. I have had far fewer headaches in the last few months, which I think I can partially attribute to these glasses. See my full review here.

Since I’m on the computer all the time, I also make sure to have the screen lighting at the lowest possible setting.


Madewell Cardigans

When I discovered this cardigan on the Madewell site over the summer, I bought all three colors without a second thought. I had been looking for a v-cut, close-fitting, slightly cropped cardigan for literally years, and this one fit the bill. They look great with mom jeans, but I know they’ll continue to be useful as I move into a more business-y work environment over the next couple years.


Everlane Lightweight Wide Leg and Straight Leg Chinos

I prefer these lightweight chinos over the heavier-weight ones that most bloggers feature. These were perfect for my hospital chaplaincy internship, and continue to be useful when I need to wear something a little less casual than jeans. I consider these a workwear staple rather than an everyday wear, but they’re a significant part of my wardrobe now.


Allbirds Mizzle High Tops

I bought these in January or February after spraining my ankle, because I couldn’t get my foot into any of my boots. I needed something warm and water-resistant with decent traction. These worked great because I could take out the insole in the left shoe for extra ankle-wrap space. I also wore them on my daily physical therapy walks in March-May.

Purchased in February // SHOP THE MIZZLES // I also love the skippers, which I wore nearly every day of my internship

The things that didn’t work out this year were mostly about fit rather than regret. That’s the first time I have been able to say that, maybe ever. My total purchases and spending are down, and I’m more satisfied with what I have (though it can still be hard to resist stress-shopping).

Posts on my fashion philosophy:

Leah Wise

Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.

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  1. Kindle!! I read more since I got a kindle, because it is so easy to get ebooks from my library. I’ve had one with and without ads, and I do think it is worth it to spring for the no ads too. The Kindle phone app is so handy also, I used to use it to read on my lunch breaks (now I’m at home so it’s not necessary). I have mixed feelings about Amazon, but damn I don’t think I can give up my kindle.

    1. Oooh, I need to sign up for a library card at my local library. Agreed on Amazon, but after the cost-benefit analysis I did in my head – especially around accessibility during a pandemic – I felt like it was a good choice.

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