Even your stuff has stuff.

May 14, 2008 | By | 6 Replies More

Back in February, I posted a quote from The Gods Must Be Crazy about the needless complexity of modern life. The quote has made me stew on the topic ever since. We live in a world awash in technologies designed to make life easier, but that often only bog us down. An air conditioning unit may cool your brow and make you happier and more productive in the summer months, but only if you don’t spend seven months attempting to get your evasive landlord to either have the cursed, broken thing fixed or replaced entirely. Not that I would know. A computer makes it easier to write and send documents- unless it freezes, or the printer jams, or the email server has gone down, or you can’t get a decent wireless connection, or the power goes out. I hear, at least, that can prove extremely frustrating.

More technology spells more helplessness when that technology fails. If only I had just suffered through the heat, and adjusted to it; if only I had elected to write a letter by candle light! Instead, I became attached to the convenience of modern goodies. But technology is not the first or only huge complicator in our lives. No, today I’d like to focus on stuff. Things, junk.

We all have too many pieces of stuff lying around our homes, all designed to make life easier. I often suspect these handy doohickeys waste more space and money than their limited “uses” justify. I’ll take some examples from my own apartment:
A banana hook.

The banana hook, a simple fruit-bearing tool. Few kitchen objects have such absurd specialization as this, barring the grapefruit spoon. Not even a devout fruitarian could really rationalize the space devoted to dangling a single, specific food product. Imagine if we required a special hook for every kind of produce in the house- my small kitchen couldn’t bear it, and I wager few could. Fortunately, we don’t need hooks for all our fruits. We don’t even need them for bananas. Don’t believe the shrewd marketing- a humble bowl will do. But at least I didn’t invest in the even more absurd banana hammock, right?

Sometimes, even our stuff has its own stuff. I’ll turn again to my kitchen for an example:
A mug tree.

The mug tree holds my ceramic cups for me, even though I have a fully functional cabinet that could do the same thing. What aspect of life does this silly object simplify? It saves me from opening a cabinet door once in a while, I guess. In return for its valiant service, the mug tree only asks that I let it suck up more precious counter space, and allow it to occasionally tip over, chipping the very cups it presumes to protect.

But my mugs have even more “stuff” of their own:
A coaster.
Ah, the coaster. Generations of children have faced continual nagging, parents and grandparents reminding them to use this wonderful table-saver. What a sham! Not only must we have mugs (to drink our hot beverages) propped atop mug trees (to hold our mugs), we also need a table atop which to set the mugs. But wait! You must set the mug on a coaster on the table. This attains the perfect balance of having something, having somewhere to set it, and ensuring that the whole process causes no damage to your “stuff”. All this stuff, just to take a drink. Perhaps someday the coasters will have coasters (after all, saucers have doilies).

I’ll take this opportunity to disown the above household items; they belong to my roommate. Nonetheless, I have plenty of junk I ought to evaluate and remove. I invite everyone else to take a similar tour of the home, scouring the surroundings for useless garbage. More importantly, try to make sure these little helpers don’t end up on your list of future purchases. Don’t worry, I’m not a radical anticonsumerist- I don’t really advocate a world without air conditioning or computers. But I think I could live with a world free of mug trees, hard-boiled-egg-slicers, toothbrush holders and other useless trinkets.

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Category: Consumerism, Culture, Food, Uncategorized, Whimsy

About the Author ()

Erika is a PhD student in Social Psychology living in Chicago. Here on DI she most often writes about current events, psychology, skepticism, media and internet culture.

Comments (6)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Erika: What a coincidence that you mentioned your banana hook. Why just this afternoon I happened to go to the Banana Hook specialty shop down the street and I picked up a couple accessories for my banana hook: a little baseball cap and a small purse. They'll let you personalize these accessories too . . .

    <img src="http://dangerousintersection.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/banana-hook.jpg&quot; alt="banana-hook" />

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    More seriously, you've inspired me to go on a useless possession "safari" this weekend. I'll report back.

  3. Dan Klarmann says:

    I don't own a banana hook. But I do have things that require their own things.

    Friedrich, for example:

    <img src="http://dangerousintersection.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/p1060111.jpg&quot; alt="Skeleton in the Attic">

    This full size medical model is fun to have for Halloween. But for the rest of the year, he just sits in his own room in the attic, mopes, and watches the passers-by below.

    A garden is a major consumer in the household.

    <img src="http://dangerousintersection.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/p1060100.jpg&quot; alt="Irises in bloom">

    This shot of our irises in our front yard seems pretty tame. But each of these plants requires about an hour a year of our time. Each. That includes trimming, dividing, mulching, weeding, and their share of watering during dry spells. They have their entourages of pollinators, their phalanx of aerators, and a ready supply of expired leaves that just keep coming.

  4. Erika Price says:

    Dan- your comment has made me ponder how many resources the typical American throws away on another big piece of decorative "stuff"- their lawn. Hm…

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Erika: Huffpo to send in the reinforcements. Here's a "Ten Most Useless Items" article, and it includes the banana hanger. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olivia-zaleski/top-

  6. Erika Price says:

    The article points out a flaw with the banana hook I neglected- the damn thing cannot hold one single banana! Also, I can't believe I forgot the paper weight.

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