Unitasker Wednesday: Infant Whirlpool Bubbling Spa

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

Regular readers of the site know that I’m a mom with a five-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter. If I were to compare myself to most moms in the US, I’d describe myself as fairly typical when it comes to buying baby supplies and such. I never went over the top with buying gadgets, but certainly spent some money on tools that made being a parent to a baby more convenient (e.g. we own a fancy diaper pail but not a self-rocking bassinet).

As a typical parent, I was surprised that this week’s unitasker selection made me roll my eyes. Most ridiculous baby things I can find a reason why someone might need them for their kid. Heck, even the self-rocking bassinet I mentioned previously I could understand buying if it was the only way to get my kid to sleep through the night. No judgments from me on that choice.

However, I do not understand why a baby could ever need his own whirlpool bubbling spa.

Not only is it an extravagance that would likely be completely lost on an infant (running water into a tub or sink would probably entertain the kid just as much), but it’s not particularly sanitary. Whirlpools have an incredibly high risk for bacteria growth, and I can’t imagine voluntarily subjecting a child to such an unnecessary risk.

Plus, you have to store this thing and power it (plug it in? put batteries in it?) somehow, which is something you don’t have to do with your kitchen sink or bathtub. It seems to me that in every scenario this device is far more hassle than it’s worth. It seems like a product a manufacturer created without any parent wanting such an item.

There is also a part of me that is convinced this is a foot spa that someone slapped a baby sticker on its side. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn a marketing person pitched the idea to increase sales: “New parents will buy anything! Like, lets call our foot spa a baby whirlpool! A baby will totally fit in there.”

Not a unitasker: The waffle maker

Back in July, the editor of Waffleizer.com messaged me and asked if I wanted an advanced copy of his new book. I responded with an enthusiastic “yes!” And then, in August, Will it Waffle? arrived.

Ever since, I’ve been trying out different recipes from Daniel Shumski’s book, and am now a devoted fan. My family loves the meals I’ve made from it, too, which says a great deal because they’re a bunch of picky eaters. The Zucchini-Parmesean Fritters are their favorite. (Its paperback list price is $14.95, but Amazon has it for less than $12 right now and the Kindle edition is less than $10.)

The premise of the cookbook is that when used only for waffles, your waffle maker is a unitasker, and people should typically avoid unitaskers. But, since a waffle maker is the only way to make fresh waffles at home, Shumski sought out ways to turn it into a multi-tasking appliance. His was a noble quest, and it’s refreshing that he succeeded. The cookbook contains more than 50 recipes to create on a waffle iron.

As you might expect, there are a handful of sandwich recipes in the book. A waffle maker and a panini press are quite similar, so this section of recipes is to be expected. (Not to say they’re boring recipes, because they are quite delicious. Family favorites are the ham and cheese melt with maple butter and the Cuban sandwich.)

What’s most impressive to me about the book are the recipes that you wouldn’t expect — for example, chicken fingers, wontons, crispy kale, tamale pie, pizza, soft cell crab, and steak. And, unlike in other preparations, most of these recipes don’t require consistent monitoring. You put the item on the waffle iron, set the timer, and simply wait until the item is done cooking. You’re free to make sauces or side dishes or set the table in the meantime.

Based on your model of waffle iron, cleanup afterward is also extremely convenient if your waffle iron has removable plates that can go in the dishwasher or a non-stick coating you can wipe down with a damp cloth and be done with it. I like easy, and all of the recipes I’ve tried and their cleanup were a breeze.

One of my favorite sections of the cookbook is about creating your own recipes for the waffle maker and, specifically, the listing of what won’t waffle. Foods requiring a lot of moisture, like rice, won’t work in a waffle maker and neither will things that have a lot of butter, like shortbread cookies. Then, obviously, foods like soup are out of the question. But, I was surprised by how much is able to be waffled and am glad Shumski provides this encouragement for creativity.

If you have a waffle maker and you’re interested in transforming it from a unitasker into a multi-tasker, check out Shumski’s book Will it Waffle? Then, start thinking about the other small appliances in your home and how you can put them to use in multiple ways.

What was in Unclutterer’s fifth Quarterly mailing?

All over the world, subscribers to the Unclutterer shipment from Quarterly have received their fifth mailing from us. If you didn’t subscribe to the fifth mailing, but were curious as to what we sent, I’ve detailed the kit below.

Each box is sent with a letter from our team, and I penned the fifth one. This time we focused on safety, since September (when the boxes arrived) was National Emergency Preparedness Month. What was in the box?

A box!

Okay, more accurately, it was an ANSI standard portable first aid kid with almost everything you could possibly need to administer first aid.

As with our previous mailings, if you missed out on this one and are interested in buying the contents now, a few will be made available through the Best of Quarterly Shop in the coming weeks.

If you’re interested in subscribing to our four mailings a year, we have a sixth mailing coming out in the next quarter (and then a seventh and eighth …). I’m putting together our next one and we’re excited about how it is coming together. Sign up if you want to subscribe to the organizing shipments. If not, we’re totally cool with that, too.

Unitasker Wednesday: French Toast Stick Maker

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

This week’s selection is a quintessential example of a unitasker. It may very well be the Platonic Form of the unitasker. When discussing unitaskers in the future, it is the French Toast Stick Maker that I shall use as my example:

This is a stand-alone, 44 sq. in. appliance whose sole purpose is to make French toast sticks. Not plain French toast, but French toast sticks. A food you can make with a multipurpose pan and a multipurpose knife with less effort than with this machine. By owning this, you would obviously sacrifice space but you also would waste time — as the plates of the French Toast Stick Maker are not removable so you have to clean them by hand (whereas you can put the pan and knife in a dishwasher).

If this were a Taylor Swift song, she would summarize by pointing out the incontrovertible Truth: unitasker gonna unitask.

Unitasker Wednesday: Roll N Pour

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

My children probably have no idea what gallon milk containers look like because I don’t buy gallon milk containers. The kids can’t lift and pour a gallon yet, so I get 1/2 gallons that the oldest one can manipulate and the younger one eventually will. When we do make the switch to gallon containers, however, I can guarantee we won’t also be purchasing the Roll N Pour:

In the words of Skippyjon Jones, “Holy frijoles!” This plastic rocking chair for your gallon milk jugs is enormous! The product description says it’s “great for kids and seniors” but I don’t understand how — there is no way my 5 year old son or my husband’s 99 year old grandfather could even get this device AND the attached gallon container out of the refrigerator. Putting it back into the refrigerator would be just as disastrous. It adds weight and girth to the milk container, making it heavier and more cumbersome. And no one with limited or developing mobility needs or wants “heavier and more cumbersome.”

Okay, I’ll admit, there is something adorable about a gallon of milk rocking away the hours in the refrigerator. I imagine it would take up knitting and ask me to keep quiet during its stories. But, for the itty bitty amount of help it might give someone with pouring, those benefits would quickly be erased by the amount of storage space you’d have to sacrifice in your refrigerator and in the process of having to carry it in and out of the refrigerator every time you wanted a drink.

If handling large gallon containers is an issue for you or your family, do what we do and simply buy smaller, easier to carry and pour containers (which you’re likely already doing). Or, buy the larger container and have or provide assistance in pouring some of its contents into a more manageable small carafe. If handling gallon containers isn’t an issue for you or anyone in your family, this device is just downright ridiculous. I think we can chalk the Roll N Pour’s unitasker status up to over-engineering that intended to be helpful, but isn’t.

Unitasker Wednesday: BootSwag

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

ARB is a chain of stores in Australia that makes accessories specifically for 4X4 trucks. As opposed to most 4X4 owners in the US, it appears 4X4 owners in Australia occasionally take theirs off road. (Who knew?!)

One of the things ARB manufactures is tents that attach to 4X4s (by extending off the truck bed or the trunk or on the roof or in some other awesome manner) and regular ground tents for hikers who drive exciting places off road. But, lo! Their tenting doesn’t stop there! They also make a special cutie patootie itty bitty tent just for your boots. The ARB BootSwag:

We really aren’t pulling your leg with this. It is a real, genuine product. According to their website, “the ARB BootSwag provides a sheltered enclosure for storage of footwear and other items.”

Now, I would assume that one’s tent or enormous 4X4 would also provide this kind of shoe storage … but, apparently not?? I’d also think a large zip-top bag could do the same thing and keep snakes and spiders (or whatever deadly critters roam the Outback) out of one’s boots (this does not, as the bottom flap doesn’t close). But, what do I know? I drive an all-wheel vehicle and the only “off roading” I’ve ever done is in a busy Target parking lot after a big snow. And the closest I’ve come to camping in the last two decades was in a cabin with central air.

Thanks to reader Richelle for introducing us to this fun unitasker.

A quick Friday link

It’s been a long week and I am so thankful it is finally Friday. Instead of putting up a long post today, I want to simply direct you to a fairly long interview I did with the financial website Mint.com.

In the article, I talk about how I got started working with Unclutterer, provide some insights on why we buy so much stuff, and then end with a little financial advice I’ve picked up over the years.

Expert Interview with Erin Rooney Doland on Uncluttering

Feel welcome to check it out and have a great weekend, everyone. Happy uncluttering!

Unitasker Wednesday: The Selfie Brush

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

If the dictionary were to have pictures instead of words providing definitions, the entries for vanity and absurdity would only need this picture:

The Selfie Brush is, exactly as its name implies, a brush for you to use when consumed with the process of taking a selfie.

Technically, it is a brush and a cell phone case and a mirror and an arm extender. Regardless of its multiple functions, however, it leaves us asking two questions that we feel make the Selfie Brush an undeniable unitasker:

  1. Why?!! WHY?!!!! WHY?!!!!!
  2. The more existential question, “Is this really how far we’ve fallen as humanity?”

Many thanks to Dave for stumbling upon this unitasker while reading an article on Engadget.

Part 3: An uncluttered back-to-school transition

In my opinion, one of the best parts of kids being in school is that it can bring more routine into their lives and yours. Years of research by social scientists strongly concludes that routines help children adjust better to new situations and also improves the overall happiness of a family. For the school year to run smoothly, routines are a valuable key, and schedules and calendars are a great way to get started creating this practice.

Although it might seem a bit cumbersome, I suggest each family have at minimum a shared calendar and a shared routine schedule. Then, each person in the family will likely want a personal calendar (and maybe even a personal routine) to keep track of things like homework, projects, and personal to-do items.

A family calendar

Whether digital or print, there needs to be a calendar everyone in the family can post items to and review together. In our house, we’re currently using a 17-month Chalkboard Wall Grid Calendar that Paper Source sent to me (it’s pictured at right). I’ve embellished extremely important dates with some Washi Tape, but mostly we just write shared events onto the calendar with a black pen — nothing too fancy or a pain to update.

I also continue to love Martha Stewart’s Chalkboard Paint Wall Calendar, and if we owned our home I would immediately paint this up on a wall. A big visual calendar provides lots of room to write important family events, as well as creates decoration for what might otherwise be a plain wall.

If your kids are older, a shared digital calendar like Google Calendar (great for all mobile devices) or Fantastical (for iPhone) might be a good alternative for you.

The most important parts of keeping a family calendar are 1. remembering to add items to the calendar, and 2. reviewing the calendar each evening so everyone in the family is in-tune with tomorrow’s events. In our house, we add important events to the calendar as they pop up and then review the calendar each night as a family before the kids take their baths. Some families choose to review the calendar during the evening family meal, which is also good for keeping conversations going. The only warning about talking about the calendar at dinner time is if you keep the calendar digitally it means everyone will come to the meal with an electronic device (this is a no-no in our house, but I know it’s not the same for all families).

For more information on calendars, read our in-depth article “Family calendars.”

A family routine

If you’ve read my book Unclutter Your Life in One Week, you know I’m a detailed routine planner listing specific times and tasks to complete each day. Currently, with a toddler at home full time, two adults who work primarily from our home office, and an elementary schooler with a lot of energy and a handful of extracurricular activities, our house would fall into complete disarray if we didn’t keep to such a regimented schedule.

I’ve heard numerous complaints over the years from people saying that routines are dull and kill creativity and fun. I find them to be the exact opposite. Because our family has routines in place for the repeated activities at home, the things that must get done do so without much effort or thought and then leave us free to enjoy ourselves the rest of the time. When we head out to the zoo or a festival or go on vacation, we live purely in those moments. We’re not thinking about dishes or laundry or other things we should be doing — because those things are done or scheduled to be completed at a specific time. Our free time is truly free because our routines make this possible.

I recommend creating a family routine in Excel or a similar grid-style software program. Include all seven days of the week and break down responsibilities to the house by time of day and who will complete the task. For variety, you can switch up who does what on different days, or you may choose to keep the same responsibilities with each person if that is easier for your family. As you crate your routine chart, be realistic about how much you can do and how long tasks take to complete. Time yourself for a number of days to make sure you aren’t underestimating the length of a task.

Our family routine chart includes items like packing lunches, creating weekly meal plans, grocery shopping, feeding and caring for pets, regularly scheduled lessons and appointments, laundry, dishes, chores throughout the house, and even who puts the trash can out on the curb for pickup and who brings it back. We also identify which load of laundry is done each day — clothes on Mondays, towels on Tuesdays, more clothes on Thursdays, and sheets on Fridays.

At the start of each month we review the routine chart as a family and add and subtract and make alterations as necessary. Everyone receives a printed copy of the routine chart on the first day of each month.

For more information on creating routines, read our detailed article “Routines can make even the most unsavory tasks easy” and check out pages 98-99 of my book.

Personal calendars

In addition to the shared family calendar, each person in our home (except for the toddler) has a personal calendar. Our son keeps track of school assignments and violin practice records in his pocket calendar provided by his school. My husband, who loves all things digital, uses Google Calendar. He uses Gmail, so it’s even easier for him to schedule items that come into his inbox because the programs are integrated. I’m a tactile person, so I use the Staples Arc Planner for my appointments and obligations. (And, on the off-chance you’re curious, I use the Emergent Task Planner by David Seah for my to-do list. I have an Arc Planner hole punch, so the pages fit right into my Arc Planner.)

The personal calendars my husband and I keep are primarily full of work-related items, but other activities are included. It can be easy to forget to put family-related items on the family calendar if you also keep a personal calendar, so I recommend scheduling into your daily routines a time to transfer relevant information from your personal calendar to your family calendar. If you keep a digital calendar, this is extremely simple since all you typically have to do is check a box indicating all of the calendars with which you would like to share the appointment.

How do you keep your family on the proverbial “same page”? What routines do you find to be the most helpful? What has worked for your family and what has failed miserably? Thankfully, in our home, we’ve found that the research about routines being beneficial has been accurate. As long as we keep to our routines, life runs much more smoothly than when we don’t. Our home is also at a fairly consistent state of order, which makes having friends over to visit extremely simple and helps to keep our stress levels low.

Unitasker Wednesday: Beer Foamer

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

This is the first time in a long time that I have no idea why anyone — and I mean not a single human being — would need this unitasker. Usually, I can think of one person with some kind of special need, but not with this device. Absolutely no one needs this. Introducing the pointless Beer Foamer:

For starters, when you pour beer out of a tap or a bottle or a can, it foams. Heck, just the natural movement of bringing a glass, can, or bottle to your mouth to take a sip makes a beer foam. There is no need for a special tool. Foam happens.

I’m seriously bewildered by this device. The most positive thing I can think to say about this confusing device is that it looks fun to use. Whirrrrrrrrrr!

Thanks to reader Kelly for bringing this unitasker (no-tasker??) to our attention. Wow.

Unitasker Wednesday: Snack Spout

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

Do you like snacks? Do you like buying snacks in really large quantities from big box stores like Costco? Then, do you feel it is too much trouble to unscrew the lids on those snacks and scoop or pour those snacks into a bowl or onto a plate? Do you love to drop your snacks onto the floor as they fall from between your fingers? Do you love to get the bacteria off your hands onto your snacks and then eat the contaminated candy? If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, then we have a unitasker for you! The Snack Spout:

The Snack Spout wants to make eating junk food even easier … because apparently it was too hard to eat junk food before now! For people who buy snacks in bulk, they can attach the large container to this device and then use their hands to repeatedly access the snacks. The product description claims it’s more sanitary to use your hands to get the snacks from this device, but I personally think it’s more sanitary to use a scoop and bowl when eating snacks (and hey, look at that, science agrees with me).

Sure this thing is kind of cute, but thinking about the amount of bacteria on this dispenser also makes my tummy a little queasy. Blergh.

Thanks to reader DK for helping us find this unitasker.

Unitasker Wednesday: DestapaBanana

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

This is one of the more bizarre unitaskers we have encountered here at Unclutterer. Dave possibly described it best when he said, “if this isn’t a unitasker, I don’t know what is.” He was right in that this may be the most unitaskery unitasker of all time. Introducing the DestapaBanana from Argentina:

In case the images didn’t give you enough information, I’ll explain the device in a bit more detail. The DestapaBanana bores a hole through the length of your banana and then you pour a sweet filling (like caramel, chocolate, or strawberry sauce) into the reservoir. Once sauced, you can eat the banana right away or you can put it in the freezer and eat it frozen later.

For starters, this device does nothing else and won’t work with bananas that have a lot of curve to them. Additionally, I think a straw would do the same thing if you really are fond of this idea. Or, you could dip the banana in a sauce and not waste part of your banana. And, finally, let’s not forget the most obvious thing here that injecting sauce into a banana transforms it from a health food into a tube of pure sugar.

Anyone else craving a banana split now?