Fancy Tools and Other Useless "Helping" Devices — Just Say NO!

in life •  6 months ago

My mother was what I might describe as a "Kitchen Gadgeteer." 

She loved cooking, and every time she'd come across some fancy new tool or machinery, she became all atwitter and consumed by the idea that she "had to have it."

When she passed away a few years ago, the process of cleaning up afterwards involved an extensive sorting of kitchen devices that often made me wonder what insane person had dreamed them up in the first place.

Considering Our Busy Lives

This is not an article about my Mother, or about weird kitchen devices. 

High desert wildflowers

It's about all the "fancy tools" the world is inundated with, allegedly in service of — somehow — making our lives easier.

Time management tools, housekeeping tools, bookkeeping tools, tools to keep track of the tools that keep track of the tools we use. Or don't use.

No matter where you turn, or what you're thinking about, "there's an app for that." And then there are apps to consolidate all your apps.

Reminds me of the old days before the invention of "universal" remote controls.  

Branch floating on water

The sad thing is that most "helping tools" don't actually help, at all. For starters, there's usually a learning curve involved, and it often involves "training" us to do things in specific ways we don't normally do things. So there's time and effort involved in changing our behavior patterns.

I remember running into that with trying to use "QuickBooks" software for small business accounting, many years back. 

Because I had multiple businesses that shared some resources but not others, and yet were autonomous accounting centers, it pretty much turned out that I would have to complete restructure the way I was keeping records, in order to use QuickBooks. Which I estimated would be about an 800-hour process of "reverse engineering." All so I could use a piece of software designed to help me and save me time.

Some Tools are Just Plain Stupid!

Going back to my mother's kitchen for a moment, there's a lot of stuff that has no business existing, in the first place.

Oak Creek, near Sedona, AZ

A "meatballer." Why? A device — hard to clean, and not easy to use — allegedly to create nice meat balls from the dough. I'm telling you, folks... TWO SPOONS

And yet, I'm sure the person who invented the meatballer sold millions of these devices to people who operated under the illusion they were "clever." And soon they will be appearing by the millions at the nearest garage sale.

I see similar things with apps, these days... apps that make me pause and wonder why anyone would think they were a good idea... aside from the opportunity to charge a few hapless suckers $2.99 a month for a few months... just long enough to discover how useless the app actually is.

It's a Matter of Time

I suppose all these things are invented — and get to exist — because people operate under the (false) assumption that it's possible to create more time, as a result of having more "time saving tools."

Oak Creek, near Sedona, AZ

Maybe it's just the result of reaching the "Old Fart" stage of life, but I am pretty sure the only way to can have "more time" is by simply taking shit OFF your "to do plate," altogether. 

Of course, in a consumer society, such a suggestion is akin to blasphemy. A recommendation to simply "do LESS?" How dare I suggest that!

I dare to suggest that because "more" isn't necessarily better. And maybe if we focused a little more on actually being better at a few things, rather than being generally shitty at everything... maybe the world would be a nicer place to live in. 

And we'd save time.

Because when you're "better" at something, you usually end up doing it faster, as well. 

What a concept!

How about YOU? Have you run into any supposedly time-saving tools, devices or apps that were anything BUT? What were they? Did you continue using them, or scrap them? Do you think a lot of people simply try to have "too much" in their lives? Would you like to "slow down" your life? Leave a comment-- share your experiences-- be part of the conversation!

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I agree. I am working on decluttering stuff the more I work at it the more I realize how much clutter I had.


I think sometimes too much clutter in our space becomes like a "weight" we carry around, and it slows us down, because we are always being "distracted" by what's around us. And then we end up being less productive.

Garlic crushers! - God I hate them...Banning them would be a much better idea than banning guns, imo..

  • They waste large amounts of good garlic.
    Crushing and chopping garlic is much quicker if you allow for the cleaning time of such an abhorrence

....And totally unrelated (but also a fine example of using what tools you have available, funnily enough!)

My first 'new rules' battle, will be called 'the battle for denmarkguy's barn'

(it's not like your photo, but


Most "garlic crushers" are insanely stupid devices, most likely created by some engineer who never set foot in a kitchen. The biggest problem being that the PSI level required to push the fine outer membrane of a garlic clove through tiny holes is more than you or I could ever hope to generate with mere hand strength. Aside from which, 50% of the garlic squeezes out the back rather than through the little holes. And that doesn't even count the cleaning time...

Thank you, a sharp knife will do just fine.

Hey, if the photo served as inspiration of sorts, that's all good!

I recently started using the Cozi app for a shared calendar, and actually rather like it. But that is definitely the exception.

I have tried using Evernote as well as OneNote and was thoroughly disgusted with both after a short while. They do exactly what you are complaining about in that they overcomplicate things.

I’ve also used money tracking sites like Mint or HelloWallet only to ditch them for my trusty old Excel spreadsheet.

I think part of what drives this is the human desire for the next “new” thing. But I think it also stems from our societies insatiable lust for growth. What happens to a company if they have a flat quarter? Stock goes down. What happens to a president that oversees four years of 0% GDP growth? Voted out. We love growth, and I think this leaks into our personal lives and onto our phones and computer as we grow the stable of apps and programs we use.


The first time I really became cognizant of the issue — on a personal level — was some 20+ years ago with some accounting software. I realized that the amount of time I would need to spend "doing accounting" was such that "keeping accurate books" would actually have an "opportunity cost" of several hundred dollars a week... I needed that five hours a week to do work not to be pushing numbers around. So I went back to the "shoebox full of receipts" method of accounting because the "once a year two day marathon" to figure everything out was both more time and cost effective. Maybe I didn't look as "cool," and maybe I couldn't create reports and pie charts at the drop of a hat... but SO WHAT?

I did try to use Mint, and found it to basically be a time sink, once I had to go back in and correct and reclassify stuff, over and over.

I'm with you on the "growth" thing. Here in the US, we worship growth, like it's the be-all, end-all answer to everything. I'm an aberration, I guess... I'm perfectly content to find something that works, and then stick with it.

Freaking love this post! I hate too many ‘things’. My Mother is very much like yours what’s worse then she likes dumping them on me. I enjoy more a simplistic life in every way. If I must have something it’s because indeed it will make my life easier but it must serve for at least three purposes. Redundancy is a killer for me, I dislike hoarding with a passion. Can we say bonfire?! 🤨

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Hah! I can totally relate to that! My mother was forever trying to pass things on to us, with the general excuse that they were useful; yet she should never find a good response to our question "If they are so USEFUL, how come you are giving them away?"

She never had an adequate answer for that...

Companies that makes these tools are successful in advertising their product and it makes the people to want the product and buy it. But if we would use a tool especially in the kitchen that is hard to clean or operate, just forget about it.


I like a good tool as much as then next person; but sometimes they seem to "invent" things that serve little functional purpose... aside from a reason to get people to BUY something. A lot of my mother's "silly" kitchen tools were not useful because they were made to "make it easy" to do some task that only takes 2-3 minutes anyway, but then it would take 10 minutes to clean all the little bits that made up the tool!

I love it because I feel the same way.
I don't very much like all this advanced technology, even though it works great in some ways, I am a real old style person who prefers not having a phone on me or any of the fancy things, which is bad in a way, and I try to learn it and like it, but instead it just drives me crazy.
Anytime you go to someones house you don't even know how to turn the tv anymore since there are 3 different remote controls and then you have to press 3 different buttons in the right order to turn the tv on and they are all different. lol.
I like my life simple and don't need all this fancy things they show on tv and social media.
My mother also buys all the things for the kitchen and garden when new things come out.
Always enjoy your awesome posts @denmakrguy.
Have a lovely day.

Have you run into any supposedly time-saving tools, devices or apps that were anything BUT? What were they?

Many times @denmarkguy and I would say the worst culprits were the time management ones following by the accounting ones.

They just took long to learn and, as you say, required a change of habits so . . .

Did you continue using them, or scrap them?

I scrapped them very quickly but tried a lot of them before I finally gave up thinking they could help.

Do you think a lot of people simply try to have "too much" in their lives?

Most definitely. The older I get the more I want to simplify and the more "stuff" I am getting rid of.

Would you like to "slow down" your life?

I'd actually like to speed mine up a bit. I've slowed it down so much there are periods where it's almost comatose! 😂

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So I hate to be that person but....If you see something and think it's useless or a waste of time, then chances are very high it wasn't created for you. It was created for someone who can't do things the way you do them.

I will admit, when it comes to apps they are generally useless overall with a few exceptions (I have some very useful free ones on my phone) and things that are difficult to disassemble and clean are useless too. But not everything that most would view as 'pointless' is as such.

I'll go to kitchen gadgets, since I have plenty of those myself. For example I've been called 'lazy' for having a battery-powered automatic can opener and had people complain that such things shouldn't exist. But I got one for myself because I have issues with regular can openers for a multitude of reasons and then got one for my grandmother because she's elderly and had stopped getting cans that didn't have the tab tops because she could not operate a standard one. Same thing with my jar opener; it's easier to push the button and let it do its thing than to spend three times as long and potentially injuring my wrist to open up a stubborn jar lid and my grandmother completely agrees. Ketchup-like pumps that can screw on to milk jugs? Great, saves my grandmother from having to lift a heavy thing out of the fridge and potentially dropping it, and saves my cousin because then his kids aren't trying to do the same and spilling everything and also don't have to ask him if they want such a drink all the time.

Once you start looking at a lot of physical products through the lens of "This was probably created for an elderly or disabled person but can't be marketed that way because of our messed up society so they market it to normal people in stupid situations" instead of "Well I don't need this thing so it's pointless" a lot of products start to make a whole lot more sense.