The #FewerFeatures Movement

silentpartnersmall2

When the control panel on our dishwasher failed last month I found myself asking why our appliances and gadgets have so many useless features. Those features bring with them a greater chance that the device will break down and make them harder and more expensive to repair.

Take a look at our dishwasher’s control panel above. Never, in the years we’ve had this beast, have we ever used any of the wash cycle options except for “Normal.” What the hell is “Glass Xpress” or “Adaptive Wash” anyways? Via the power of Adobe Photoshop (itself a mirrored funhouse of features), I’ve redesigned the Whirlpool Quiet Partner III. Et, voila, #FewerFeatures:

silentpartner#small

Here’s our complex and Eurotrashy, combo-washer/dryer:

washersmall

For the #FewerFeatures version, I’ve simplified the wash cycles to cold, warm and hot. I took out a few of the dryer’s options too (the dryer doesn’t work well anyways and we seldom use it). And I removed what I call the “feature signaling” verbiage stenciled on the lower left and right of the control panel that reads “TrueBalance Anti-Vibration System™” and “Smart Diagnosis™” (look closely and you’ll even see a drawing of a flip phone next to a plus sign!). Why?

washer#small

Speaking of flip phones, this isn’t entirely fair, but I couldn’t resist a #FewerFeatures version of the iPhone.

iphone

No, my still functional Western Electric 500 does not play movies, music, function as a timer or keep track of my steps, but it sure is a lot more handsome and less distracting:

phone

Incidentally, rumor has it that a lot of high-powered Silicon Valley execs use flip phones, a.k.a. “dumb phones” precisely because they have #FewerFeatures.

leica_m-d-550x180
Some companies have long been hip to #FewerFeatures and actually sell less features for a premium. Take a look at the beautiful Leica M10. Leica places an emphasis on high quality optics and ease of use. The M10 will set you back $6,500.

Update: In Twitter, Adrien Berridge @berridAC points out that the ultimate #FewerFeatures Leica is the M-D-a digital camera with no screen! I updated the photo so show this remarkable and pricey camera. Thank you Adrien!

I suspect that devices with too many features come from companies where the marketing department has too much say in the design. We’re going to change this! Tell us about your #FewerFeatures journey. Bust out the Photoshop, use the hashtag in social media and let’s simplify our tools!

Save

Save

My Marie Kondo Obsession

Update: Root Simple reader Ruben left a comment with a very funny New Yorker cartoon about Kondo.

It’s the time of year, after the excesses of the holidays, when folks, including ourselves, start thinking of paring down. And when it comes to decluttering, the current reigning champion of the subject is, of course, Marie Kondo. She is both loved and loathed. Her philosophy, no doubt, splits many partners sharing the same abode.

Personally, I’m a fan, though I have to admit stalling out in the middle of her sequence of decluttering actions (I promise to start up again this year!). What I think Kondo understands that other decluttering experts don’t get is that we imbue objects around with supernatural qualities that makes stuff hard to part with. This, at least in part, reflects the influence of Shintoism on Kondo’s work (she worked at a Shinto shrine in her youth).

If your Marie Kondo fandom is as obsessive as mine (I proposed to Kelly that we put up a portrait of Kondo in the house) you will enjoy the NHK video above that introduces you to Kondo’s mentor Nagisa Tatsumi, author of the Art of Discarding. Once you declutter you’ll need to clean. To that end, the video features a segment on Japanese cleaning expert Keiko Takahashi. Sadly there’s some audio problems in that bit and the interwebs don’t yield any other information on Takahashi (too common a name to Google). If Root Simple had the budget you can bet we’d be flying a crew over to Japan to shoot a web series with Takahashi. At least you get to see her DIY, foaming stove cleaner tip.

Last night, in our nightly YouTube hole viewing experience that’s part of Kelly’s recovery process (and mine too!), we watched Kondo take on an American family with kids:

As usual the kids and the man of the house seem to have disappeared while the decluttering was taking place. In fairness, Kondo addresses this issue. She suggests soldiering on in spite of reluctant housemates in the hopes that your new clean habits will be infectious. I suspect there will be some grumbling in the comments about this thoughtstyling.

Perhaps my Kondo obsession reflects an attachment to the idea of decluttering rather than to the practice itself. My office sure could use some work! While things aren’t too bad in the rest of the house, but there’s always work to do. This includes, of course, not accumulating stuff in the first place.

How are your cleaning plans or actions going?

Tody: An App that Helps You Clean

img_1984
This will be another post for fellow members of the untidy tribe. Members of the tidy tribe will find it as unnecessary as those warning stickers on buckets and ladders. But we’ll let the tidy tribesters go on with their advanced cleaning tasks: Polishing brass? Dust bunny witch hunts? Chastising the untidy?

Back to us untidy folks. Let’s say you’ve taken the sage advice to clear the decks, as I discussed in my last blog post. You now have a clean slate, a vast playa on which to party with your broom and mop. But, as will come as no surprise to tidy tribe members, we untidy folks need a push. That’s where a simple little iPhone app called Tody comes in.

img_1985
Tody gives you a room by room schedule for tasks such as cleaning the bathroom sink, dusting the living room and wiping down electronics. You can create your own custom tasks. For instance, I made a reminders to change the cat’s water and sweep the front porch.

Setup is simple and the app suggests common sense cleaning intervals (which you can also customize to your own taste). The app generates a daily to-do list and has a kind of red, yellow and green color warning system. The interface is clean and simple, like a well tended house. Other apps that I tried had too many reminders, cluttered interfaces, distracting ads and annoying notifications. We untidy tribe members are easily distracted from our cleaning tasks and don’t need an app that offers temptations to sit on the couch and slack off.

Tody is well worth $3.99. An extra $2.99 a year gets you a family sharing plan that will let you chastise your spouse/kids/housemates via their phones.

Tidy tribesters who have read this far are, no doubt, wondering why it is that we untidy folks need an app and can’t simply look around the house and see those magazine piles or dirty toilet seat. Just remember that we untidy folks lack the visual acuity to see messes, kind of like how dogs can’t see things that aren’t moving. We need all the help we can get.

Tody is only for the iPhone. If you’re an Android user, feel free to suggest cleaning apps you’ve tried in the comments.

The Secret of Tidiness Revealed

alchemy-1-600

I have a theory that the world can be divided into three types of people: tidy people, untidy people and hoarders. I’ll leave hoarders out of this discussion since that’s a confounding problem requiring years of psychological counseling. That leaves us with two remaining tribes: the tidy and untidy. Both view each other with great suspicion and confusion.

To the untidy person, the secrets of keeping a neat house seem as exotic a skill as singing popular hits in Esperanto. To the tidy person, untidy people possess a dim level consciousness, perhaps on the level of a mollusk–able to sense that something is wrong but lacking the limbs or neural networking necessary to pick up those piles of mail or dispose of that tangle of obsolete computer cables.

But I think I’ve discovered the secret to tidiness thanks to the loose lips of a member of the tidy tribe (thank you Caroline!). Tidy tribe members will laugh at the obviousness of this, but here it goes. The secret is a daily, perhaps twice daily, ruthless sweep of floors, counters, tables and desks. No random objects shall be allowed to be where they don’t belong.

Tidy tribesters are like ruthless cops, taking the nightstick to messes, slapping handcuffs on piles of old magazines, locking up things where they belong. No Miranda rights. Stuff’s just gotta be put away. The result? Clear surfaces and floors makes for easier cleaning. That’s it.

thoms-soap
We’ve seen and tried a lot of housekeeping schedules and schemes. In my humble opinion they are too complicated, hard to stick to and, in the end, doomed to failure. Clearing the deck, on the other hand, is both savage and simple.

Marie Kondo, the reining prophetess of getting rid of stuff, would likely argue that de-cluttering is a necessary first step towards tidiness since it’s hard to clear the deck if there’s no place to stuff the stuff. But some future, hypothetical de-cluttering exercise might also be used as an excuse for inaction by the generally idle members of the untidy tribe. The chicken and egg timing debate between clearing the deck and de-cluttering may be the only real nuance in my tidiness theory. I’ll concede that some measure of sending stuff to the thrift store first may be necessary for the more wayward members of the untidy tribe.

What do you think? Tidy tribesters–are you laughing? Untidy tribesters–are you weeping/making excuses/confused/skeptical? And I haven’t even touched on the issue of a tidy person living with an untidy mate!

Kelly Update and a Great Podcast

ideas-tile

Time to get back to blogging! But first an update on Kelly. It’s been exactly two weeks now since the doctors, nurses and staff of Kaiser Permanente’s Los Angeles Medical Center saved Kelly’s life. Kelly is back at home and, according to her new cardiologist, it’s unlikely that she’ll ever suffer another aortic dissection. Right now she’s spending a quiet six weeks recovering from the ordeal of open heart surgery. She thanks all of you for your kind comments, as well as our local friends who dropped off food and took care of us. When she’s feeling better Kelly wants to say something on the blog but right now she’s got to rest.

I’m also not quite up for the usual blogging just yet, but I did want to note a really nice podcast I heard recently that I’ve been thinking a lot about as I take care of Kelly. It’s an episode of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Ideas with Paul Kennedy called “It’s the Economists Stupid.” The show features two outside of the mainstream economists, Dr. Julie Nelson author of Economics for Humans and Richard Denniss, author of Affluenza, When Too Much is Never Enough. One of the topics in the show is how many of the domestic arts this blog focuses on do not get counted by economists. All that cooking, cleaning, gardening, child and elder care count not one bit towards the sorts of calculations economists obsess over such as gross domestic product and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. This is particularly unfair to women who tend to be more responsible for what happens in the home. And let’s not even get into the ethical difficulties of placing a dollar value on human beings. It’s a great show that I think everyone should listen to.