How many times do you have to see an infomercial on TV before you start believing that you need this amazing product for $10.99 plus shipping and handling?
This weekend I was chopping onions when my husband mentioned that we need to get the “hand slapping onion chopper” we see on TV to save time. I rolled my eyes at the idea of buying another gadget; are we really saving that much time in the long run?
First, you still need to peel the onion and cut it into small enough pieces to fit into the chopper area. Then you have to take into account the time to clean the gadget.
Say the infomercial says “just pop it in the dishwasher”. Fine, but my dishwasher is full of all the other time-saving kitchen gadgets I used to cook dinner, so finding the room in there is a Tetris game. Not to mention, I still have to clean the knife used to cut the onions small enough for the chopper, so no time savings there.
Actually finding the gadget in my packed drawer is another endeavor. Also, there’s the additional issue in which my husband and I forget we even own this new, amazing, time-saving device. Or, in the case of our “very convenient” quesadilla machine, we have to store it in another room because there is no space in the kitchen. Ultimately, the device we “needed” doesn’t get used again.
At some point, I’m going to have to clean out the drawers and cabinets; the amount of stuff we manage to cram in there will only add to my burden. So, in my opinion, it is easier to just chop the onion with my trusty high quality Japanese knife that I use for numerous other kitchen tasks.
Cooking gadget drawer in my kitchen. Some (but not all) of the product pictured are: Pizza slicer, can opener (two), peeler, salad tossers, two sets of regular measuring cups, one set of odd portion measuring cups(2/3, 3/4, 3/2) apple corer, garlic grater, mustache sandwich maker, grape slicer (can you tell I have kids?) sword tea infuser, mini whisk, corn holders, kitchen shears, silicon brushes, assorted cheese slicers and nutcracker. P.S. this was not staged, I just opened my drawer and took a picture.
Philosopher Nolen Gertz discusses this idea in his book Nihlism and Technology, in which he writes:
“Modern Technologies appear to function not by helping us achieve our ends but instead by determining ends for us, by providing us with ends that we must help technologies achieve. Thus the Roomba owner must organize their home in accordance with the maneuvering needs of the Roomba, just as the smartphone owner must organize their activities in accordance with the power and data consumption needs of their smartphone.”
This quote might be a little, well, nihilistic, but he has a point that sometimes these products we buy to save time complicate our lives in ways we had not foresee. We solve one problem but create others.
A chopper is part of what I like to call the “Tyranny of Convenience”. We are so busy and burnt out that we jump on a tool or product without fully thinking it through – any solution to make the mundane tasks easier, right? This might seem like a rant in favor of minimalism, and in this case that could be true, but the DFL solution is more nuanced than just ‘getting rid of things’.
A DFL mindset is where we fully think through our purchase decisions from that initial rush of a finding a product that promises to fulfill our needs (part of Loveable) to what we’re going to do with the product when we’re done with it (End-of-Lifeable).
For example, buying a product like the Japanese knife I mentioned earlier, which has a blade that is at a 15 degree angle instead of most western knives which are 20 degrees, is more adaptable to many different kitchen tasks as the blade angle prolongs the sharpness of the knife, making it more durable and reducing the amount of maintenance time to sharpen the knife.
A DFL product is something that is built to last, designed to evolve, and follows the 6 DFL tenets. However, following the DFL mindset doesn’t mean you can only buy DFL products – it means you should think about and evaluate a product using our framework before making a purchase.
Realistically, it would be very hard for the onion chopper to be a DFL product because it is not very adaptable – but theoretically the onion chopper could be a conscious choice if I really loved it, it was durable and maintainable (is there a way to sharpen those cutting blades?), if it was made with sustainable inputs and had a well thought out end of life plan (it has multiple types of plastic, rubber and metal together – is there a way to recycle it?). After evaluating these factors, if you still think a product fits your needs, then go ahead and buy it.
What’s important about the DFL mindset, about being conscious in purchases, is thinking about time on a longer scale – not if this device is going to save me time while I’m cooking dinner, but rather if this device going to save me time during the 3, 10, 20 years I own it. If the answer is no, keep looking for a better product that will.