Utility surprises

One of these photos is of the cutlery drawer. I know exactly what it contains: knives, forks, and spoons. Its the cutlery drawer. It's name tells you what to expect when you open it.


The other photo is of.... well it doesn't really have a name in our house - it's just "the drawer" - but it's what Michael McInyre hilariously calls the man-drawer (start at 1 minute 30 seconds). I thought it would be interesting to see what's in it:

  • keys, 15, of which only 4 have a known current use
  • plastic coin bank bags, 5, all empty
  • glue, 4 x super-glue, 2 x glue-stick, 1 x bostik, 3 still usable
  • pens, 4 black, 1 grey, 1 red, a few still usable
  • spanners, 1 x 7/16", 1 x 10mm
  • chalk, 1, yellow, an escapee, we have a chalk box elsewhere
  • radiator bleeding keys, 1 yellow, 1 red, 1 black
  • drill chuck key, so that's where it is!
  • drill bits, 3, I never knew they were there
  • tape, 1 x sellotape, 1 x black electricians - aha, useful, pilfered for fishing
  • paper clips, about 50, loose, box-escapees
  • drawing pins, about 100, loose, box-escapees, be careful when rummaging
  • string, ah yes, would have been handy a few days ago
  • screwdrivers, 1 x 7" blue thin phillips, 3 x 4" watchmakers, plus 3 x 2" from an xmas cracker - never used, put in the drawer simply to keep the other screwdrivers company
  • screws, a few, loose, also keeping the screwdrivers company
  • tape measures, 1 x blue plastic non retractable, 2 x orange metal retractable, 1 x yellow metal retractable, clearly excess tape measures have been purchased when existing ones were temporarily lost
  • matchbox, large, half full
  • electrical lead, black, unknown use


Once you start a "utility" drawer it has an unstoppable force. All things can then be classified as being possibly of utility. It becomes a magnet for all things. If utility-drawers could expand infinitely they would turn into black-holes and consume everything in the known universe.


If you have a utility-drawer, unless it was born very recently in a house you've just moved into, it's almost certain to be completely full. Frequently you can't even close the utility-drawer because it's so full. When this happens a second immutable law kicks in - taking anything out of the utility-drawer is strictly forbidden. Possible work-arounds include brute-force drawer closure, crushing items flat, and jiggling the whole utility-drawer in a kind of simulated-annealing fashion in a vain attempt to get everything to settle down a bit.


Once your utility-drawer is full it will bud out into new forms. For example, I also have a utility-tin (batteries of indeterminate age live here), a utility-folder (instructions for 10 year old appliances live here), and a utility-cabinet (coins from out of circulation currencies live here). Michael would be proud.



7 comments:

  1. What you're missing is a DrawerManager to maintain control of your utility drawers.

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  2. Drawer is far too specific! I think it would be called UtilityManager ;-)

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  3. It will be ok if you just hide the complexity of constructing one behind a UtilityManagerFactory!

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  4. Anonymous8:43 pm

    LOL, yeah, yeah, problems, problems. Now what I need is solutions... c'mon Jon, you help people, you're a "trainer", how do we solve the problem?

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  5. @meekrosoft - I hope you won't be accessing the UtilityManagerFactory directly - you should always go via the UtilityManagerFactoryController

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  6. But if you had a different drawer for each sort of utility, you'd end up with a lot of drawers. And when you come across a new sort of utility it might be difficult to definitively choose which drawer to put it in... or you could just create a new drawer.

    Too many drawers is no better than a too full drawer.

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  7. I posted a couple of follow up tweets to this. In some house the utility-drawer expands beyond a utility-tin/folder/cabinet into a full-blown dedicated room!
    Also, many people have a garage and a car, but have never had a garage with a car in it...

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