Sometimes less is more – the gadgets and gizmos we can happily do without
Our homes are full of seemingly useful purchases which soon become redundant junk
The slow cooker which was so full of promise finds a new home in a cupboard more impenetrable than the black hole at the centre of Messier 87
Our world is filled with gadgets and gizmos we bought thinking they would change our lives only for them to quickly prove to be be redundant. Here are just some of the worst offenders.
Steam cleaners: There are probably people who use steam cleaners as they are meant to be used. In their world, floors sparkle, tiling grout gleams like an Arctic sunrise and every shirt is crease-free in a heartbeat.
But then there is everybody else, people – like Pricewatch – who believe the breathlessly excited ads for such products playing on a loop on the small tellies in shops. So we spend the guts of €100 on steamers in the hope that they will change our lives.
They don’t though and within weeks the machines that promised so much sit unloved and unused in cupboards under stairs while our floors get mopped the old fashioned way and our shirts stay as crumpled as ever before we wearily take out the iron.
Pasta makers: Like so many of the gadgets we buy but rarely – if ever – use, pasta makers are brilliant in theory. They are bought with the misty-eyed notion that once we own them we will spend all our weekends lovingly kneading fancy Italian flour and water and eggs into melt-in-the-mouth pasta shapes to wow our friends and family.
But then the misty-eyed lens clears and we realise we have no flour or we need to take the kids to GAA or we have left it too late and sure won’t the dried pasta or the fresh pasta selling in M&S be grand? And once that happens once, it’s kind of game over for the pasta maker.
Juicers: Who doesn’t love fresh juice? But who could love all the palaver associated with making it. You have to get the massive juicing machine down from the hard to reach shelf. Then you have to assemble it, juice the fruit and stare sadly at the miniscule amount of liquid which is produced and the mountain of pulp that has been left behind before you have to clean the bloody thing and store it away again.
We will make an exception for the Nutribullet which is – by some margin – the best kitchen gadget Pricewatch has ever bought. It is easy to use, easy to clear and there is no waste. We say this fully aware that for many other people, the Nutribullet is top of the pile when it comes to discussing never-used kitchen gadgets.
Exercise equipment: Treadmills, exercise bikes, ab-rollers, foam-rollers, skipping ropes, punch bags, kettle bells, weird little things with handles that are supposed to make press-ups harder – the list of machines and devices people (and by people we mean Pricewatch) buy with the intention of getting fitter, happier, more productive is virtually endless.
If all of it was stacked in just the right way it would almost take us all the way to the moon and back, although we’d have to climb the tower of equipment to get there and – let’s face it – that sounds like way too much effort.
Waffle makers: Who doesn’t love waffles? The sweet ones are only gorgeous when drizzled with maple syrup and served with a side order of perfectly crispy bacon and the potato ones are – as we all well know thanks to infuriatingly catchy jingles – awfully versatile.
However waffles are only really great when someone else is making them. When you have to make them yourself and then clean up after yourself, they are messy and irritating and endlessly disappointing.
Strimmers: Each spring the display ads for garden strimmers appear in our newspapers and in the garden shops and in the middle aisle of our local German discounter and in all the pictures used to sell the products everyone seems so happy as they cut through their bushes and verges as if they are wielding a hot knife through butter. So, obviously, we buy one.
But, when we use a strimmer, it is a whole different story and not remotely like the pictures suggest. In fact the only time the contraption resembles a hot knife cutting through butter is when it is cutting the electric cable that powers the damn thing after it has got caught up in the bushes we are trying to strim.
Bongos: Who amongst us hasn’t bought a set of bongos? But who amongst us can actually play the bongos in a way that is appealing to all those around us?
Ukuleles: These are frequently sold as a more portable and much easier to learn version of the guitar. It is certainly smaller than a guitar and far less sore on the finger tips but it takes a lot of practice and no small amount of musical talent to become a latter-day George Fornby.
Digital cameras: The speed of change in the world of still and moving pictures has been remarkable. For many, many decades, rolls of film held sway and only the most well-heeled amongst us could afford to record key moments in the lives of their family using cameras.
But then along came the digital camera and everything changed. But just as it was settling in for a long and fruitful run, the like of which had previously been enjoyed by the rolls of film, the smartphone came along and everything changed again. One of the biggest changes was that all the high-end, high -priced equipment that we briefly used to record digital images became almost entirely redundant.
High definition, broadcast-quality footage can now be recorded on even the most basic of phones today and while you do still see people using digital cameras, they are something of an oddity which leaves a lot of expensive cameras just lying about the place dreaming of what might have been.
DVD Players: When DVD players first came out in the 1990s and showed VCR’s the door they cost hundreds of pounds. The makers assured us they were a million times better than video tape and were virtually indestructible and that the technology would endure forever.
It was all nonsense. For a start, DVDs were hideously vulnerable to fingerprints and scratches and jam spilled onto them. But they were even more vulnerable to ones and zeros and had only a few short years in the sun before streaming came along and took all their power away. Today you can buy a DVD player from a well-known brand in Argos for less than 30 quid.
Landline: When was the last time you used your landline phone? Not the one at work – they tend to still get used – but the one at home? Unless you are unfortunate enough to live in a house with terrible mobile phone coverage the chances are months, if not years, will pass you by without you ever picking the old-fashioned phone up.
Coffee machines: Our world is full of coffee machines that never get turned on. They are either too difficult to maintain or too fiddly or the coffee they make is a bit on the manky side. Many of them have found themselves replaced by Nespresso machines.
In many ways they are the perfect gadget. They are ridiculously easy to use, make absolutely no mess and they deliver coffee of a pretty good quality time after time with virtually no way to mess it up. We can’t stress how important it is to recycle the pods, however. Failing to do that makes the machines hideously bad for the environment.
Slow cookers: There are people who use their slow cookers every week. They simply throw a bunch of vegetables, some stock and some cheap cut of meat into the thing of a morning and then head off to work before returning to a home full of delicious smells and a melt-in-the-mouth stew.
Then there are the rest of us – the people who buy a slow cooker planning to do the above. Perhaps we manage it once or twice before realising that mornings are not for making stews; they are for running around like a headless chicken trying to get children and adults out the door in a timely fashion.
Once that realisation dawns, the slow cooker which was so full of promise finds a new home in a cupboard more impenetrable than the black hole at the centre of Messier 87.
Toasted Sandwich makers: There is no reason for toasted sandwich makers to end up with all the other unused junk in our homes but still that is where they inevitably end up. They are compact and easy to use and pretty easy to clean and they turn two slices of bread and a lump of cheese in an amazingly comforting mini-feast that will gladden any heart. And yet still we buy the, use them for a short time and then forget all about them.
Things to reseal a bottle of wine: Like having wine left over from a bottle is a thing. These things almost end up in the kitchen drawer along with the foil cutters and the gizmos that promise to aerate your wine and make it taste better. To be honest, the only contraption you need for wine is a corkscrew – and even that is increasingly redundant thanks to the growing popularity of the screw-tops.
Ice cream maker: What happens is this. You see an ice-cream maker in the middle aisle of Aldi or Lidl or Argos and your mind drifts off to a place where you get to use fresh vanilla pods shipped in from Madagascar and double cream from happy Irish cows to make the purest, most wonderful tasting ice-cream.
So you spend 30 or 40 quid on the machine. And then you make ice-cream once, realise what a pain it is and how hard it is to make ice-cream as good as the stuff you can buy in your local supermarket and how small your freezer actually is and you never make ice-cream again.
Fondue Maker: It’s great if you are just after finished a day’s skiing in the Swiss Alps and someone else has to melt the cheese – or the chocolate – and do the clean up afterwards. It’s not so great when you have to do all the work yourself after a day sitting in an office staring at a computer screen. Quite simply, they take up too much space given how much time they will get used.
Workout DVDs: Remember these use to be a thing? People would spend frankly ridiculous sums of money on DVDs that promised to get them into shape without any real effort. Now the DVDs just sit unloved in the back of some cupboard taunting us.
You know that virtually all cans come with a ring pull nowadays, right?
Cocktail shakers: Cocktail shakers mean well, they really do. When you buy one you might imagine yourself as a latter-day Don Draper or Tom Cruise making cheeky martinis for stylish friends but the reality is it is going to sit unloved in your drinks cabinet only ever seeing the light of day at house parties when you are probably drunk enough already.
Footspa: These are almost never a good idea. The idea that you will be happy sitting on your couch watching Coronation Street which your feet steep in warm bubbling water is just not true.
Electric egg poachers: These machines sell you a fantasy. They promise you perfectly poached eggs every single time. But the thing is, they take up a ridiculous amount of space in your kitchen and always seem like too much hassle to use when the time comes. Given that you are only likely to want a poached egg every now and then and could probably manage to cook it in a pot
Electric can openers: You know that virtually all cans come with a ring pull nowadays, right? And the ones that don’t can be opened handily enough with a regular tin opener?
Hand-held vacuum cleaners: The idea that you will have some class of souped up vacuum cleaner to help you valet your car is attractive. But most such devices struggle to hang on to enough power to lift such much as a dog hair off the mat in your car and the need for them has largely disappeared with the proliferation of genuinely good cordless vacuum cleaners from the likes of the Dyson people.
Electric carving knives: They take up way too much space and make the carving of a roast far too industrial for our liking. A good knife is all you need. Don’t be fooled into thinking you need some class of electric sharpener either. That is just going to add to the clutter, you can trust us on that score.
So what do you think?
We asked Twitter users for their worst gadget purchases . . . the responses came fast and furious.
My husband bought a food dehydrator to make his own “sun-dried tomatoes” and save money!!! I pointed out that the electricity used spending 2 days dehydrating tomatoes probably cost more money than buying them in a supermarket...he hasn’t used it since! Geraldine Fahy
Herself bought an ‘egg house’ because it looked ‘cute’. It was a countertop item, shaped like a house, and it was designed to store eggs. Eggs already have a house. It’s called a shell. Darragh Mc Donagh
Amazon Echo.. Used the hell out of it for 2 weeks but haven’t plugged it in in 3 months. Rob Magee
A melon baller... I don’t even like melon. Karen O’Mahony
Never ever buy that vacuum for fireplace ashes, Shane A Murray
Multiple wooden honey dripper spoolie things. Dr Niamh NicGhabhann
Slow cooker, bought two years ago and never used. Ciarán Buggle
Bread maker. It’s under the stairs. Unlike the airfryer which is in my in laws. In their shed instead of mine. Tara Corristine
A suction cup shower radio. Amounted to pure morning frustration – shite suction and the stupid thing wouldn’t tune in. Not the expected outcome when buying, and disappointment still lingers. Sinead Healy
A rather expensive juicer in theory a wonderful product but the 20mins of post usage cleaning has rendered it redundant. Thomas O’Brien
Cat food dispenser. Melon ball yoke. Mandolin cutter, still in box. Thing for reading blood pressure. Lidl middle aisle largely responsible. Mary Buckley