Unitaskers! One of the most repulsive ideas I have encountered. Those familiar with Alton Brown’s Good Eats know unitaskers all too well. Unitaskers are kitchen tools that perform only one function. Culinary abominations. Brown endeavored to exterminate the pests from his kitchen and succeeded (his coup de gras was using the fire extinguisher to make a fruit smoothie, albeit after his show’s conclusion). So I have one question: Why stop at the kitchen?
This age of material excess crawls with unitaskers. Browse a SkyMall magazine and discover umpteen cringeworthy niche products. For whatever reason, the spork has not overthrown the spoon and fork industries. LEGO creeps closer and closer toward specialization — their contemporary sets all but challenge you to make anything cool against the direction booklet (Pardon my major, but why are wooden building blocks not super popular?). Happy Meal toys do not do anything.
And so on. This proliferation of niche products over the industrial age has heightened the average person’s tendency for functional fixedness (I need not tell psychology majors that functional fixedness is, essentially, when you see the intended use of an object as its only use). For example, you can see your earbuds as earbuds but also a spare segment of string.
This is a dangerous blow to daily creativity. On the upshot, and perhaps as a response to the rubbish barrage, everyone likes “lifehacks.” Lifehacks are aptly termed, and many illustrate innovative uses of otherwise obvious unitaskers. They are potentially addicting — once you learn a CD spindel can function as a bagel sandwich storage container, you might wonder what other weird, wonderful and creative retrofittings people have produced.
Factories will not stop pumping out junk (maybe they will, but don’t bank on it). All we can do is see what we own in a novel way. Or, as I try to do, force yourself out of functional fixedness by attempting minimalism. I often evaluate every visible thing in my room for function, aesthetics, use frequency and sentimental connection. With possessions, I find you can do more than you might think with less.
Mitch Mackowiak is a Lovett College freshman and the Thresher opinions editor.