Unitasker Wednesday: Loose Leaf

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 family eats a lot of kale. It’s the one vegetable I can set in front of both my kids that they will devour and ask for more. I don’t know why, but I’m not complaining, especially since they aren’t big on eating red meat and kale is packed with iron. Anyway, a few years ago, I learned a ridiculously simple trick for how to de-stem an entire head of kale in usually less than a minute using only your hands. The trick is so easy that it makes the Loose Leaf wholly unnecessary when de-stemming kale:

How is the Loose Leaf a unitasker? If you have two hands and have enough grip strength to use the Loose Leaf, you have no need for the Loose Leaf. The device and the simple trick pretty much employ the same concept, except one requires you to spend money on the special tool pictured above, waste time and energy using and cleaning it, and then sacrifice some of your space to store it … and the other doesn’t.

What’s the simple trick? Let an adorable child demonstrate it for you:

That’s it, easy peasy! No knife or Loose Leaf needed to de-stem the kale and nothing to buy, clean, or store. Woo hoo, hands!

Thanks to reader Amy for bringing this unitasker to our attention.

Book review: Better Than Before

It’s rare that I come across a book and think, “every Unclutterer reader could benefit from reading this book.” But Gretchen Rubin’s latest book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives falls into that exclusive category.

As the title suggests, this book is about creating beneficial life-long habits. The book doesn’t prescribe which habits a person should create, rather it’s a comprehensive exploration of HOW to make lasting habits that YOU want to make. If you want to be more productive, manage your time better, stay current with household chores, live in an organized manner, have better follow through, or any of the other “Essential Seven” changes like exercise regularly or eat and drink more healthfully, this book can help you to make that happen.

First and foremost, Rubin acknowledges that everyone is different and a one-size-fits-all approach to habit formation is ineffective. In the Self Knowledge section, she provides questions and examples to help the reader learn more about him/herself to determine what methods and strategies will actually stick. She points out that most people fall into one of four habit tendencies — she calls them The Four Tendencies — and structures the advice in the book around this concept. (For example: I’m predominantly an Upholder, but have a few Questioner leanings. Therefore, I know her suggestions for Upholders will almost always work for me and if not, the Questioner suggestions are what I should try next.)

From there, Rubin recommends strategies for how to determine which habits you wish to cultivate and why you may wish to introduce specific habits into your life. She believes, as I do, that “How we schedule our days is how we spend our lives.” Our daily habits are who we are. She defines habits as “freeing us from decision making and from using self-control,” and more clearly explains this definition of habits a few paragraphs later:

When possible, the brain makes a behavior into a habit, which saves effort and therefore gives us more capacity to deal with complex, novel, or urgent matters. Habits mean we don’t strain ourselves to make decisions, weigh choices, dole out rewards, or prod ourselves to begin. Life becomes simpler, and many daily hassles vanish.

So, once you have clarity of what you wish to do and what habits you wish to incorporate to reflect your identity, you can set forth on your habit creations and life changes. She believes there are four Pillars of Habits: Monitoring, Foundation, Scheduling, and Accountability. You’ve likely encountered these concepts before in terms of goal setting — you need to be able to monitor (in a quantifiable way) the process and outcomes, you need to begin with a foundation of changes that will produce results quickly and in a rewarding way, you need to schedule when the habits will take place, and then have a way to be accountable for your changes. Rubin provides varying types of strategies in each of these Pillars based on your tendency type.

Next, she addresses how to begin the new habits. And then, what I see as the most valuable part of the book, Rubin explores the most common ways people fail at sustaining good habits and how to overcome those problems based on their tendencies. In the chapter “Desire, Ease, and Excuses,” I was most drawn to the sections on Safeguards and Loophole-Spotting.

Safeguards, at least as I interpreted them, are plans you create in advance for when you expect to fail or when you will make exceptions to your habits. It’s knowing yourself well enough to predict how you will fall off the proverbial wagon and then plan what you will do about it when it happens. They’re backup plans formulated in the If-Then method: “If _____ happens, then I will do _____.” For example, I abstain from eating doughnuts — I’m not a huge fan of them and they’re not a healthful food choice. However, based on experience, I know there is one situation where I have virtually no self-control when it comes to consuming them. Therefore, I have a safeguard in place for when I find myself in that specific tempting situation. “If someone offers me a doughnut, then I will eat one ONLY if I am standing in a doughnut shop and the doughnut is hot and fresh off the production line.” I am a person who doesn’t eat doughnuts except in that specific situation, and since I am rarely in that situation, I at least know how I will handle myself if/when I encounter it. In 10 years, I have only encountered that situation twice.

Loophole-Spotting is similar to Safeguards in that it requires you to plan how you will behave when you seek out loopholes. I’m not a huge loophole seeker (I like to finish projects more than start them), but one of the loophole examples Rubin provides was something I do all the time. She names 10 common loopholes (you’ve likely used the “This Doesn’t Count” Loophole when you’re sick or on vacation and the Tomorrow Loophole when you put things off until tomorrow) and the one that screamed at me was the Concern for Others Loophole. This loophole is when we excuse our behavior because we believe our exceptions to our habits are for another person’s benefit, when that actually isn’t the case. She provides numerous examples that I’ve made countless times in my life and one just the other day: “It would be rude to go to a friend’s birthday party and not eat a piece of cake.” Similar to doughnuts, I’m not a huge fan of cake and I prefer to abstain, yet I eat a slice of cake at every birthday party I attend because I don’t want to seem rude! Her advice for dealing with loopholes is sound:

By catching ourselves in the act of invoking a loophole, we give ourselves an opportunity to reject it, and stick to the habits that we want to foster.

I personally found this book to be incredibly helpful. If you want to make changes in your life through the adoption of positive habits, I strongly recommend Gretchen Rubin’s latest book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. Again, I truly believe all unclutterers could benefit from the research and analysis contained in it. Establishing uncluttering and organizing habits can simplify one’s life, and Rubin’s methods can show you how to do this effectively.

Unitasker Wednesday: Willy Wonka Chocolate Bar Wrapper with Golden Ticket Replica with No Chocolate Included

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

On Tuesday, Disney announced it had tapped Tim Burton to direct a live-action remake of Dumbo. After reading this news, I instantly remembered another Tim-Burton-related unitasker I saw at a white elephant gift exchange a couple years ago. It’s linked to Burton’s 2010 remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and it is a cruel unitasker that is sure to upset every candy lover who comes into contact with it. Introducing the Willy Wonka Chocolate Bar Wrapper with Golden Ticket Replica with No Chocolate Included:

Seriously, how twisted of a person must you be to give someone a faux candy bar? “Hey! I know you love chocolate so I got you a replica of a candy bar! There’s absolutely no chocolate in it at all. Enjoy!”

You might as well get some fake bacon for the bacon lover in your life or a model of a salad! As strange as Tim Burton’s movies are, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn he’s behind the no-chocolate candy bar …

Unitasker Wednesday: Nose Shower Gel Dispenser

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 unitasker was picked because it has an “ewwww” factor of a million. Introducing the Nose Shower Gel Dispenser:

Putting on my Unclutterer hat for a moment, I think it’s completely unnecessary to transfer shower gel from its original packaging into a giant nose. It creates one more step to a simple process. (It’s a weak attempt at an explanation for why I think this is a unitasker, but at least I’m trying. I haven’t blown it altogether with this, right?)

However, if I take off that Unclutterer hat and replace it with my normal human hat, at face value, I think this device is plain ol’ icky! I’d probably stop taking showers with this in my bathroom.

Unitasker Wednesday: The lettuce knife

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

Growing up, my mom had a giant green plastic knife that she kept in our family’s kitchen tool drawer. When I got my first apartment, she asked me if I wanted it. Seeing as I had no idea what the knife did since I’d never seen her use it, I had to ask her why I could possibly want to take it with me. She informed me it was a “lettuce knife” for the purpose of cutting lettuce. Apparently, she continued, it also prevented lettuce from browning when/if you cut it. The lettuce knife looked similar to this:

A couple weeks ago, I randomly started thinking about that knife and how strange it was. It reminded me of a movie or play prop, not something you would actually use in a kitchen.

I researched what a couple of the most trusted food scientists today had to say on the matter of traditional knives causing lettuce to brown to see if they were true.

Harold McGee in his book On Food and Cooking on page 318 strongly suggests to use a regular knife to cut lettuce:

If the leaves need to be divided into smaller pieces, this should be done with the least possible physical pressure, which can crush cells and initiate the development of off-flavors and darkened patches. Cutting with a sharp knife is generally the most effective method; tearing by hand requires squeezing, which may damage tender leaves.

Since the plastic lettuce knives are about as sharp as a plastic knife you might use at a picnic (which isn’t sharp at all) and they can’t be sharpened, this excludes the lettuce knife as a possible tool to keep lettuce from browning. (His statement also dismisses tearing leaves as a viable method to prevent browning.)

The magazine Cook’s Illustrated studied lettuce in their test kitchen for more than two weeks and came to a different conclusion than McGee, but it’s hardly an endorsement for buying a lettuce knife just to cut lettuce. They used a stainless steel blade (one with a super-thin high-carbon steel blade), the Zyliss Fresh Cut Salad Knife, and tore some, too:

Though all lettuce began showing some browning on the ribs after 10 days, none showed any signs of browning on the cut or torn surfaces. After 12 days, the heads cut with metal knives showed faint signs of browning on these surfaces, and the lettuce cut with the plastic knife followed a day later. The torn lettuce was last to brown on its ruptured edges, starting to turn at 2 weeks.

In short, the test kitchen discovered that lettuce naturally browns by 10 days, making the methods for cutting or tearing pointless since the cut/torn edges didn’t brown until a couple days later. As I said, it’s hardly an endorsement to buy a special knife.

My guess is that most people don’t keep lettuces in their refrigerators for more than 10 days, especially since they can’t be frozen. People buy lettuce and use it in a week. If you are someone who does keep lettuce for more than 10 days, the lettuce will already be brown, so using a plastic lettuce knife won’t matter.

For best results when cutting lettuce, use a very sharp, very thin, stainless steel blade and then plan to consume the lettuce immediately or up to 10 days after purchase. If you plan to cut it and store it, be sure to buy the freshest lettuce you can so as to make it those full 10 days (if the lettuce is old, it won’t even last 10 days before browning). You can also tear lettuce with your hands if you plan to use it right away, not dirtying any knives at all.

Knowing how to use and care for the knives you already own will save you from spending money on specialty tools you don’t need, especially when the specialty tools don’t improve or benefit your desired outcome.

Unitasker Wednesday: Pocket Card Tip Table

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

This week’s unitasker selection is much like a retirement party. It’s an opportunity to express our gratitude for the many years of service given by the Pocket Card Tip Table:

In the time before cell phones, people carried this quaint little card around with them in their wallets. It helped to quickly determine the amount to tip someone for their services. It only served one purpose, even then, but it had utility and was convenient.

But then came the prevalent flip-style cell phone in the 1990s with its multipurpose calculator program, which made this little Tip Table less necessary. And now, making the Tip Table obsolete, there are hundreds of tip and bill splitting apps for smartphones that provide multiple features and require no space in your wallet. (Android and iPhone) Not to overlook the obvious, either, that service tipping has always been able to be determined by doing math in one’s head, one one’s fingers, or working it out on a slip of paper.

Here’s to the Pocket Card Tip Table. You served us well, old friend. Enjoy your retirement!

Unitasker Wednesday: Victor Floating Bathtub MP3 Player

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

Like many people, I have a portable shower-safe speaker that can play anything from my smartphone and computer. It’s Bluetooth enabled so it also has a microphone in case I were to have a weird desire to talk hands free on my smartphone during my shower (which, who actually does that??!). The shower-safe speaker cost me $20 and has worked for four years without any issues. To summarize: my shower-safe speaker is waterproof, plays my entire music collection and podcasts, and even has phone capabilities for not a lot of money (TWENTY dollars). Mine also has buttons to advance, repeat, shuffle, etc. and I can take it anywhere like the beach or pool or hang it from the bathtub faucet during a bath. Now, let’s compare that to this week’s unitasker selection, the Victor Floating Bathtub MP3 Player:

Let’s start with the most ridiculous attribute of this week’s unitasker: It’s $250. The second most ridiculous attribute: It’s not Bluetooth enabled, so you have to load your music onto it via a USB cable from your computer. And, it only has an internal memory of 256MB (that’s right, megabytes, not gigabytes … megabytes). To put this in perspective, my computer currently has something like 50 gigabytes of music stored on it that I can beam to my inexpensive shower speaker. A third ridiculous attribute is since it’s not Bluetooth enabled you can’t talk on your phone through it (if you’re that rare breed of person who wants such a feature). The final ridiculous attribute is that this speaker doesn’t have any way to hang it in a shower, so you’re limited to only using it in the bathtub.

Thanks go to Jeri for finding this outrageous unitasker for the Unclutterer team.

Unitasker Wednesday: Eraser Dust Cleaner

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

This week’s selection is one that is certainly cute and likely even works, but the vast majority of our readers simply do not need it. Introducing the Eraser Dust Cleaner:

In case you can’t tell from the image or its name, this product is a tiny broom intended to pick up dust left behind on your desk after erasing pencil marks from paper. Instead of doing what everyone on the planet does — brush the eraser dust away with your hand — this device stores the dust in a chamber that you eventually empty into the trash.

I realize some people still write with pencils on paper. I realize some people erase things. But: 1. Who has so much eraser dust that requires a specialized tool to remove it? and 2. Who is able to write on paper and erase something by hand (a two-handed process — one hand to firmly hold the paper and the other to hold the eraser and doggedly erase pencil marks) but not have the physical ability to gently brush their eraser dust off the surface of the paper? As someone who has arthritis in her hands, I can’t imagine having a use for this product. The act of erasing something is certainly the hardest part of the erasing process; sweeping off eraser dust to clean up a “mess” is a breeze.

The wasted effort to get this tiny broom out of a desk drawer, use it, empty the chamber, and return the Eraser Dust Cleaner to your desk drawer is ridiculous in comparison to wiping the dust away with your hands. As I said earlier, it’s “certainly cute and likely even works” (and it’s not even all that expensive at $8) but it’s solidly still a unitasker.

Thanks to Unclutterer’s Jacki for bringing this item to our unitasker attention.

Unitasker Wednesday: A tribute to SkyMall

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

National news sources reported this week that the company that publishes SkyMall magazine has filed for bankruptcy. Xhibit continues to keep the online retail section of the business active, though they have announced plans to sell Skymall.com as part of their bankruptcy process. (The in-flight magazine appears to be a goner.)

It’s a bittersweet announcement for us here at Unclutterer. It will be nice to have the temptation to buy clutter gone from the air travel experience. However, it also means a great source of inspiration for our Unitasker Wednesday column will vanish.

SkyMall has certainly given us some great column fodder over the years: The Bug Vacuum (for those times when your shoe or your vacuum aren’t available), the Automatic Paper Towel Dispenser (a device for $99 that does exactly what the perforations on the paper towel already do), the Retro Cell Phone Handset (it even comes with a cord that can get tangled!), and the Magic Wand Remote Control (you have to master Divination and Potions to be able to use it).

And we wonder where all of our needs for Abominable Snowman Yeti, Zombie Gnome, and Biker Dragon statuary will be met.

Sigh. We should have known it couldn’t last forever.

So, SkyMall, we raise our coffee mugs (obviously kept warm with our USB-powered mug warmers) to you and wish you well in your future iterations. Maybe in your post-bankruptcy state you can keep the helpful organizing items you currently carry and get rid of the clutter? An unclutterer can dream …

Have you seen a ridiculous SkyMall item in the past? In tribute, share your favorite in the comments.

Unitasker Wednesday: Waffle tongs

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

We use our waffle iron at least once a week, usually more, in our home. Ours has die-cast aluminum cooking plates that are coated with a PFOA-free nonstick finish, so we have to be careful when removing the waffles and use a tool that won’t scratch the surface of the cooking plates. We use plastic chopsticks or general-purpose silicone tongs or one of the other dozens of plastic or silicone tools we already have in our kitchen. We just don’t use a metal fork when retrieving our waffles. And we certainly don’t use the Grip-EZ Grab and Lift Silicone Tongs:

The ultra-specialization of kitchen tools is a leading cause of kitchen clutter. People buy gadgets for only one purpose thinking they have to own a tool or they’re not cooking correctly … which is rarely the case. A quality, useful kitchen tool should be able to do multiple things, and do them well. In this case, a nice pair of general purpose, long-handled, silicone-tipped tongs are essential to every kitchen and obliterate the need for waffle tongs or any other type of single-purpose tongs. This week’s unitasker has such short handles that they wouldn’t even be helpful for cooking on the stove or barbecue because you’d burn your hand getting so close to the heat source. And, since they don’t lock in a closed position, they would take up a ridiculous amount of space in your drawer.

If you have a waffle iron and don’t use it often, consider checking out Will it Waffle? by Daniel Shumski. In addition to traditional waffles, you can use your waffle maker for numerous types of food and turn it into a highly functional multitasker.

Thanks to reader Charles for unearthing this unitasker.

Unitasker Wednesday: A GoPro harness for your dog

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

You know those times when you see something and think, “that would be so cool!” And then you buy it and use it (maybe) once and seconds after you use it that one time it becomes clutter in your house? Yeah. So, that is what this week’s unitasker selection is destined to be in 99.99 percent of purchaser’s homes (police and emergency responders being the .01 percent exception). Introducing, the Lesypet Dog Pet Fetch Mounting Selfie Harness Chest Strap Belt Mount Tripod for GoPro Hero 1/2/3/3+/4 SJ4000:

Is “Lesypet Dog Pet Fetch Mounting Selfie Harness Chest Strap Belt Mount Tripod for GoPro Hero 1/2/3/3+/4 SJ4000″ really this device’s name? If it is, I may have to declare it the most cluttered product name ever. Seventeen words! It’s not catchy at all. Can you imagine bringing that up in a conversation? I’d have to look it up on my phone.

Okay, forget the name, how many movies do you actually need of “the world from your dog’s perspective – from running and jumping, to sniffing, digging and more”? (The quoted text is from the product description and that entire description is shorter than the product’s name, FYI. Clearly, I can’t forget the ridiculous name. I thought I could. I can’t. SEVENTEEN WORDS.)

And, let’s say you do need a camera strapped to the back of your dog, can’t you just duct tape a GoPro to your dog’s regular leash harness and save yourself $35?

By the way, the product description also suggests strapping it to your baby. So. Um. There’s that.

Unitasker Wednesday: Mayonnaise Churn

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

One of the mysteries in my life is my hatred for mayonnaise. I like eggs. I like oil. I like vinegar and lemon juice. But mixed together through the magic of emulsion and … gag, yuck, barf.

I understand that some people love mayonnaise, and I’ve tasted enough of it over the years to know that the freshly made stuff is significantly better than the store-bought kind. I’ve also made some three or four times, thinking this time I’m going to like it, but I never do. Anyway, when I’ve made it, I’ve used a whisk and certainly didn’t consider using this very special device: The Mayonnaise Churn:

Let’s be honest, this looks more like a torture device than it does something to make a condiment. It’s also extremely grandiose and complicated for doing something so simple. But, most of all, its name — the Mayonnaise Churn — doesn’t sit well on one’s tongue. Mayonnaise Churn. Mayonnaise Churn. (Blech!)

If you are someone who likes the vile, globby stuff that is mayonnaise, then I suggest making it without this wacky churn. You can use a balloon whisk. You can use a hand blender. You also can use a regular blender or a food processor. And, although all the recipes in the linked videos include dijon mustard, you can use dry mustard powder like Alton Brown does or none at all.