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Skates, sewing machines, and sex toys: See the everyday objects that got us through COVID-19

The pandemic has changed our relationship to stuff. More than a year into the COVID-19 crisis, my blazers, work pants, and heeled boots—typically worn down after a couple of seasons—remained untouched in my closet as relics of my last day in the office, right next to my whiteboard calendar that still reads “March 2020.” A winter’s worth of sweatpants later, the things I use every day have been very much replaced.

That’s because many of us adopted new everyday essentials to cope with new pandemic routines. And in a project called Lockdown Essentials, ethnographer and designer Paula Zuccotti set out to capture how, with photos from across the globe. Zuccotti, who previously authored the book of everyday items called Every Thing We Touch, put out a call on Instagram for people to submit a photo of their 15 most essential lockdown items. She got responses from more than 1,000 people in 50 countries spanning five continents, reached out to submitters for image rights, and has now compiled them into an online archive.

There were some familiar themes—masks and hand sanitizer abounded. So did tech gadgets. The throughline was how this collective experience made people more vulnerable and open about how they’re getting through, and how the objects overall show the ways that our habits have changed.

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