TOOLS RUSH IN
Saving counter space and money and reducing clutter are more valuable than any of these supposedly must-have gadgets and products. Slick marketing promises increased efficiency and a streamlined lifestyle, but incorporating these items or approaches into everyday living at home and they'll quickly reveal themselves to be overly complicated, expensive, sometimes more trouble than they're worth — and, in some cases, literally useless.
Price: Around $4
Most recipes call for chopped or minced garlic, not pressed; even when they do, substituting minced is fine. The Daily Meal's Dan Meyers says most chefs don't use presses, and advise against keeping one of these incredibly hard-to-clean contraptions around.
Instead: Use the flat side of a good knife or a mortar and pestle to easily crush the garlic.
Countless homes are littered with the dust-caked carcasses of New Year's resolutions that never came to be in the form of so-called miracle exercise gadgets such as Thigh Masters, Ab Crunchers, and Shake Weights.
Instead: Commit to a free, at-home, and gym-free bodyweight exercise regimen.
Price: Starting at $25 for 40
Like old-school film cameras and razors with disposable blades, cup-based coffee machines popularized by Keurig require a big purchase (starting at $70) only once, but far more necessary re-ups over the course of a lifetime. K-cups are convenient, but expensive, bulky to store, and create a lot of unnecessary plastic waste for the environment.
Instead: Consider getting an easy-to-program and inexpensive drip coffee maker or even a single-cup version if you just need one cup. Or if you really want the Keurig pod option, try using the refillable K-cups ($3.23 for eight at Amazon), which can be used over and over with inexpensive, store-bought coffee.
Price: $5 for 75
Disinfectant wipes are convenient but pricey, and done after one use.
Instead: Save money and eliminate chemicals by cleaning surfaces with various combinations of water, white vinegar, lemon, and baking soda, depending on the mess. Cheapism has plenty of cleaning hacks using everyday household items.
A banana slicer is shaped like a banana, curve and all, and a single push makes perfectly uniform slices — which would be great if bananas were always the same size and had the same curve.
Instead: A kitchen knife does the same work in less than a minute without the additional clutter.
Price: $7 for 120
Soft clothes free of static cling are achievable without the lifelong recurring expense of fabric softener or dryer sheets.
Instead: Toss a ball of aluminum foil in the dryer to eliminate static electricity, and add a washcloth wet with a bit of white vinegar to soften fabric.
Price: $14 for 200
Americans spend around $21 billion a year on vitamins and herbal supplements, Healthline reports, despite studies showing vitamins are pretty much useless for most people.
Instead: A diet dominated by plant-based whole foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables, packs more healing power than vitamins, which are not uniformly regulated.
ELECTRIC EGG COOKER
Hamilton Beach is just one of the companies selling specialty appliances that try to justify their counter space by promising the perfectly boiled or poached egg.
Instead: Perfectly boiled eggs can be made by, well, boiling them. Simply reduce or increase the cooking time for soft, medium, or hard-boiled; poach an egg with a slotted spoon and an inch and a half of simmering water.
That rickety sharpened wheel on a stick you've been dragging across pizza gobbles up way too much drawer space for something that's rarely used.
Instead: Regular kitchen shears are perfect for cutting homemade pizza, and can be used for countless other tasks as well.
Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide, which mammals exhale in huge plumes with every breath. There is no evidence, however, that they are attracted to ultraviolet light, which is the lure that backyard bug zappers rely on to draw and eliminate bugs.
Instead: If you still swear by zappers, find the best-reviewed ones. But there are also plenty of other ways to repel bugs naturally and affordably.
ULTRASONIC PEST REPELLENTS
Plug-in rodent and insect repellents claim to blast pests with intolerable invisible currents that drive mice and bugs from your home. In reality, those claims aren't backed by science, and independent tests have gotten mixed results at best with only a limited number of pests.
Instead: There are plenty of simple ways to repel pests naturally, or at least cheaply.
The push of a button and the spinning bucket tosses salad and dries it so dressing gets distributed evenly. But is salad being made big enough, often enough, to justify this expensive space-hogger?
Instead: Wash the greens in a big container, put on the lid, and give it a few good shakes, and dry any excess moisture with paper towels or a clean dish towel. Voila! Same outcome for your delicious salad.
ELECTRIC CAN OPENER
Electric can openers are convenient and easy, but not every kitchen can spare the counter space required for one.
Instead: Complete the same task with a few turns of a crank using a handheld opener stored in a drawer.
People overcame gross household smells long before "mountain fresh" and "fresh twist cranberry" scents were invented. Today, there are a dizzying array of options for air-freshening systems, many costing $40 or more.
Instead: Simmer lemon juice in water on the stove, and place potpourri, eucalyptus, rose water, or open containers of baking soda around the house.
In the digital age, fax machines seem like relics. There are still a few scenarios in which a fax might be needed, including for legal papers and some communications with doctors and insurance companies.
Instead: Even people with home businesses might get away with free fax services offered online described by Lifewire, and save money and space in the process.
ROBOT VACUUM CLEANERS
Price: $300 to $900
Wi-Fi enabled Roombas, the most famous robot vacuums, scan rooms and attack dirt while homeowners are elsewhere — although they can't handle stairs.
Instead: You could always just vacuum with a traditional vacuum cleaner once every few days, and save the money and hassle of a product that doesn't work for all circumstances and will inevitably break down.
You may have gotten one as a wedding present, but this is one of the poster children of unnecessary items. It’s big and clunky, and it only does one thing. In fact, it’s really redundant since your kitchen already has a bread-making machine. It’s called an oven.
Instead: Simply make use of your oven. Try a quick bread or the now-famous no-knead bread recipe from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery. The ingredients are basic, the technique is simple, and the result doesn't require a pricey, specialized machine the size of a small child.
Price: $3 for 40 16.9-ounce bottles
Is there a bigger waste of money than paying for bottled water? Consumers spend over 800 times more for bottled water than plain old tap water.
Instead: If you don't like the taste of tap water, buy a filter — it's still cheaper than plastic bottles.
Not gonna lie: These things look pretty cool for unleashing your inner carnivore – or for pretending you're Wolverine. But unless you're a hosting daily barbecues or regularly cooking whole hogs on your backyard spit, these are probably overkill.
Instead: Stick to a couple of forks for your latest crockpot creation.
Price: $12 plus refills
Sure, they're convenient, but have you ever thought about how many of those wet or dry Swiffer cloths you're piling into the trash (and eventually, the landfill) every week? Even if the environmental angle doesn't sway you, the cost might. A pack of 32 Swiffer Dry refills might set you back about $8, which means you're spending around a quarter for every little touch-up — and much more if you go through multiple cloths or use the pricier Swiffer Wet refills.
Instead: Invest upfront in a convenient cordless stick vacuum that you can use on carpet and hard floors. If you need to deep-clean dirty floors, use an old-fashioned mop. And if you just can't quit your Swiffer, consider our money-saving Swiffer hacks.
Sure, salmonella is nothing to take lightly, but a dedicated egg separator seems especially superfluous when most of us have long used the shell itself to isolate the yolk and the white, taking care to wash up afterward. (Bonus: This egg separator might just be one of the grossest things we've ever seen on Amazon.)
Instead:Use the egg shells to separate the yolks from the whites; wear plastic cooking gloves if you want to be extra careful.
The majority of steam mops tested by Consumer Reports failed to impress, simply pushing aside big messes and leaving floors looking dull. And steam mops can actually damage floors, especially hardwood and laminate, by leaving behind too much moisture. Some flooring manufacturers will even void your warranty if you've been using a steam mop to clean.
Instead: Use a regular ol' spin or squeeze mop to clean your floors more effectively, and for less money. Since you control how much moisture stays on the mop, it's easier to ensure you aren't leaving too much water behind.
A deep fryer might sound like a fun purchase when there are visions of onion rings and funnel cake dancing in your head. But it definitely won't see enough use to justify its size, cost, and labor.
Instead: Achieve all your deep-frying needs with a heavy-duty medium or large pot (or even a wok) plus a thermometer. Serious Eats offers deep-frying instructions so you can be a pro without the machine.
In your home office, tons of filing cabinets are just an invitation for more paper clutter. The amount of paperwork you should keep indefinitely is surprisingly small: think tax returns, real-estate records, and important contracts, according to consumer advocate and radio host Clark Howard.
Instead: Many of the documents that may otherwise take over our homes are available in electronic form, including bank statements, utility bills, and insurance documents. Save your money, save space, and reduce clutter by going electronic.
SPACE-SAVING VACUUM BAGS
In theory, bags that help you compress bulky clothing and bedding for long-term storage are genius. In practice, they just don't work half the time. Frustrated buyers have a litany of complaints, including bags that come out of the boxes with holes in them, hard-to-use zipper closures, and bags that start to slowly take on air after being sealed up. Even if the bags stay compressed, anything inside is likely to become a wrinkled, smelly mess.
Instead: Stick with traditional storage bags and bins, including the ones that can slide under the bed — perfect for stuff you won't need for a while.
It's not even worth doing the math to find out how much popcorn you'd have to eat for a personal popcorn machine to be cost-effective. This is another single-use item that takes up space when there are simpler solutions on hand that yield the same result.
Instead:Save your valuable cupboard space and throw a bag of Jiffy Pop on the stove, reap the money-saving benefits of popping raw kernels, or buy microwave popcorn. To really impress movie-night companions, jazz it up with spices already in the cabinet such as paprika, curry powder, or an Italian spice blend.
Your jewelry collection should be pretty substantial — and expensive — if you're justifying one of these cash and space hogs.
Instead:DIY options are endless here: A simple egg carton or ceramic egg holder can easily corral a collection on the top of your dresser, or an old frame and some chicken wire can become a hanging holder. If you're not feeling crafty, an inexpensive hanging closet organizer can wrangle a ton of jewelry without costing an arm and a leg, and leave your bedroom a lot less cluttered, too.
FANCY GIFT WRAP ORGANIZERS
Unless you're a professional gift wrapper, we're not sure why wrapping paper and gift bags demand their own fancy cart — especially when there are so many cheap DIY solutions here.
Instead: One Good Thing by Jillee suggests repurposing common household items like tension rods, shopping bag holders, or even a suitcase when you need a dedicated spot for gift supplies.
DISPOSABLE TOILET BRUSHES
Price: $9 plus refills
We get it: This is one place you really don't want to get your hands dirty. But toilet wands that use disposable brushes produce a lot of extra waste, including the brushes and scrubbers themselves as well as their packaging. The cost of the refills adds up — you'll pay around $8 for 20 brushes. And as experts caution, the flimsy wands often snap, and the brushes aren't great for scrubbing.
Instead: Stick with your old-fashioned toilet brush and preferred toilet cleaner. You'll be able to clean with a lot more force for a lot less cash. Don't want to stare at the brush? Get a model with a holder that is ventilated so that leftover water evaporates on its own.
ELECTRIC WINE OPENER
To be fair, an automatic wine opener can be a handy gadget for vino lovers who lack the strength or dexterity for a corkscrew. Otherwise, the downsides are myriad: These gadgets are single-use, expensive, and require a spot (and an outlet) on your counter.
Instead: A corkscrew barely takes up any space, usually includes a bottle opener, and keeps your wine-lover street cred intact.