There was a cooking show a ways back that launched a crusade against a particular type of kitchen gadget – the “unitasker”.
What’s a unitasker, you ask?
It’s a gadget that pretty much only does one narrowly-focused thing. A waffle maker, for most people, is a unitasker. So are an apple slicer, a hot dog slicer (pictured above!), and dozens of other kitchen gadgets. But the main distinguisher of a unitasker, to me, is that it does something that something else in your kitchen already does, and possibly does it either more poorly or with more hassle.
For example, in my kitchen an apple slicer (those round things with eight blades) is a unitasker. If I want an apple sliced, I have a sharp knife that takes up less space, works better, and is easier to clean.
And while I think the guy was on the right track, I sometimes see the term floating around in reference to things you should or shouldn’t declutter – and I think that decluttering needs to be based on more than just whether something is multi-function.
To see what I mean, grab a kitchen item of your choice and ask a few questions.
How Often Do You Use This Thing?
Presuming you eat 3 meals per day, and assuming a 30-day month, that’s 90 meals per month. So there are about 90 opportunities each month to use any given item in your kitchen.
Silverware probably tops the list as far as frequency goes. If you eat all of your meals at home, it’s a fair bet that you use silverware for 90 out of 90 meals. This is why most people don’t donate their silverware to Goodwill unless they’re replacing it with new stuff!
Favorite pots & pans are probably next on the list. I have an electric skillet that I use for everything. If I’m cooking (as opposed to reheating), the skillet is almost always the thing I’m using. So let’s call that 30 uses per month.
But a waffle maker might only get hauled out every other Sunday, so that’s two uses per month.
The less something gets used, the more likely it is that it’s clutter.
Can I Do This Job Without This Thing?
For items that have a low frequency of use, this is the next question.
The canonical example of a unitasker that can’t really be replaced with something else is a fire extinguisher. If you have a fire, and you need it extinguished, that’s the device you want to have on-hand.
A waffle maker is a slightly more practical example. If you want waffles, you either buy them frozen or you make them in a waffle maker. There’s not really another option.
But an apple slicer, as I mentioned above, can potentially be replaced by a sharp knife. So can many other items. If space is at a premium, you can throw away a dozen kitchen slicing gadgets and replace them with two or three good knives.
If So, How Much Harder Would It Be?
If you buy onions 20 pounds at a time, run them through your food processor, and save the diced bits in the freezer for use in recipes, getting rid of your food processor might not be the greatest idea.
But if you’re comparing the hassle of washing and storing a dedicated hot dog slicer vs. using a kitchen knife to slice the hot dog, it shouldn’t be harder at all – it might even be easier.
Given The Answers To Those Questions, Can I Get Rid Of It?
Sometimes this takes some creative thought.
If you have waffles every other Sunday, there’s nothing else that swaps in for a waffle maker – but would you be just as happy with pancakes? Pretty much the same batter, cooked differently. Or maybe you have waffles on Sunday because Grandpa always made waffles on Sunday, and you don’t really enjoy it all that much. If so, you can ditch the waffle maker.
If you have a set of steamer baskets for making Chinese dumplings, maybe you have a steamer insert for your stock pot that would work just as well. Or maybe you only make those twice a year, and you could just get some really good Chinese takeout on those days.
It’s all about carefully considering the space the thing takes up, what it does, and whether the amount of use you get out of it justfies hanging on to it.
Note: It’s Not What It Can Do, It’s What It Does
None of these questions are asking for hypotheticals. They’re asking you, in your kitchen, how often you use it, whether you can do with out it, and how much harder it would be to do so.
For me, slicing a hot dog with a kitchen knife and throwing away the hot dog slicer is a non-issue. For somebody who has a kid who’s a picky eater and won’t eat a hot dog unless they get to do the slicing themselves using the hot dog slicer, it’s an entirely different matter.
And this applies to multi-function gadgets as well. If it slices, dices, washes dishes, and folds laundry it doesn’t matter if you never use it. Things that sit around unused have zero practical value to you.
And It’s Not Just Kitchen Items
I’m sure you figured this out already, but this doesn’t just apply to kitchen stuff. Hobby supplies, tools of all types, and dozens of other things in your life can be evaluated this same way.
What about you? Are there things that you have a hard time getting rid of, even though you know you don’t really use them? Head on over to the Facebook group and let’s talk about it!