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An Easy-Bake Oven for grown-ups?

The mini-cupcake bakery is yet another example of creeping clutter. Time for a little post-holiday purging?

By Donna_Freedman Dec 31, 2010 10:23AM

I received a Bed Bath & Beyond gift card for Christmas. Yesterday I hit that store's post-holiday clearance sale with an eye toward buying birthday or Christmas gifts for the coming year.

I walked out with four presents that I didn't pay for and still a little credit on the gift card. That should have made me happy. But I just couldn't shake the image of the mini-cupcake bakery.

This tabletop device is, I swear, an Easy-Bake Oven for grown-ups. It looks something like a waffle iron and promises cupcakes in five minutes. Although I like cupcakes as much as the next person, I can't help wondering if we've all lost our minds.

Such a device will probably be used a few times and then wind up on a high pantry shelf -- right next to the ice cream maker, the Egg Genie, the Fry Baby and all the other appliances that seemed like good ideas at the time.

Anybody else remember the Hot Dogger, a device created specifically for cooking franks?

Obsessed with stuff

Recently I interviewed interior design/lifestyle guru Christopher Lowell for an MSN Money Living With Less column. Among other things, he said that U.S. residents are "beginning to understand the power of purging."

For two generations we've been obsessed with stuff, stuff and more stuff, he said. Now a lot of people are realizing that half of what they own is "either obsolete ... or stuff they've lost connection with."

"Why do you still own the popcorn popper?" Lowell asks. "Why do you still own the salad spinner?"

Lots of people make resolutions at this time of year. Here's mine, and it might work for you, too: Make your home yours again.

Once a week focus on a single place -- a dresser drawer, a bookcase, a shelf -- and determine what you really love vs. what's just taking up space or being kept out of sheer habit.

Some things are expendable

I'm not suggesting that you dump everything that's precious to you. Certainly I'm guilty of owning too many books and papers. But lately I've been taking a harder look at my belongings with an eye toward de-cluttering. For example, if it's likely I'll never read a certain book again, then it goes into the donation bag.

I'll never part with family photos, or with a few gifts my daughter made for me when she was little. But I'm surprised how many things I thought I needed are actually expendable, i.e., someone else needs them more.

So keep what you need and what you absolutely love, and donate the rest to a charity thrift shop. It's a little late in the game to get a tax break for 2010, but you can always take it in next week and keep the receipt for 2011 taxes.

My resolution, then, is to continue to clean house. Even though I've barely begun I'm surprised by the difference it's made thus far. I feel calmer, less suffocated by stuff. Although I'm by no means an obsessive hoarder, possessions have had a way of sneaking in on me.

And maybe on you, too. Keep what matters, but get rid of the superfluous. See what it's like to live in a space rather than in spite of it.

And OK, I'll admit it: The fact that I never got an Easy-Bake Oven as a kid might also be part of my pique at the mini-cupcake bakery. Maybe I'll find a barely used model at a garage sale this summer. It would be fun once or twice, I guess, but after that I'd just put it on the Freecycle Network. 

Happy New Year. I hope it includes sprinkles.
Dec 31, 2010 6:32PM
@H1 in IL: My best friend was the only kid in my peer group to have one of those things. (The only family "rich" enough -- although her dad was a school janitor and her mom a hospital porter.)
I asked my mom if Santa might bring me one. She told me that I was almost big enough to learn to bake for real and that I shouldn't bother with an EBO. I must have been eight or nine at the time. So I started reading the Betty Crocker Cookbook that she owned -- read it front to back, pored over recipes and food techniques. I'd always liked helping her bake, and couldn't wait until I was allowed to do it myself. I made my first (very simple) pie at age 10 and was so thrilled to be doing such a grown-up act.
P.S. My friend's EBO stuff tasted terrible.
Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

Dec 31, 2010 4:59PM

Interesting on many levels.

I never owned an Easy Bake oven as a child either, but had a mom who let me use her real mixing bowls, cupcake pans/cookie sheets and oven anytime I wanted.  I suppose it made more of a mess (being adult sized), but think of the space and money she saved!

Dec 31, 2010 6:54PM
I remember reading the Betty Crocker cookbook, too, and being allowed to make real food in a real oven when I was 9 or 10.  I never thought of asking for an EBO. My family didn't have a television, and I didn't know which toys I was supposed to want.
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