When Good Design Means Saying Goodbye

My first ever job was as a barista at a beautiful family-owned coffee shop, and I learned to love the rich smell and satisfyingly bitter, yet creamy taste of hand-tamped espresso. Mmmmm. When we moved into our place in Germany, I shopped around and found a cute little home-use, hand-tamp espresso machine. It seemed like a perfect choice, and it even made decent espresso! So… why am I saying goodbye?

When Good Design Means Saying Goodbye


There’s a reason that hand-tamp espresso machines are usually only found in specialty shops. First you have to grind the coffee beans, then dose and tamp the espresso. After each use, each piece of the machine needs cleaned out. Coffee shops usually have a streamlined way of performing all of these tasks built into their design, but my house does not. My thought process:

But the machine makes good coffee! I just need to figure out how to optimize the process. Maybe then I’ll finally start making coffee more often.

After months of this little guy sitting on the counter, unused, I had to face the facts. Although I thought at first that this coffee machine was a perfect fit for me, it just wasn’t working out.


Good Design Only Works… When It Works

Yeah, that sounds really obvious… but I’d been trying for months to convince myself that since the product was good, there was no reason to get rid of it. Wrong! The fact that I hadn’t been using the coffee machine was clear evidence that it was time for it to go.

If you find that you’re not using a product that’s meant to be used regularly (like clothes, or, hello, coffee machine!), there’s a good chance that it’s not a good fit for your lifestyle, even if the product itself is good.

But I already paid for it!

I hear you, and I feel your pain! The problem is, that doesn’t matter for two reasons:

  1. Whether you’re using the item or not, the money you spent on it is gone. Making yourself feel guilty isn’t going to bring the money back. This is an example of the Sunk Cost Fallacy, a surprisingly common logical pitfall that usually leads us to making crappy decisions.
  2. Even if you’re not using the item, it’s still taking up space in your house, mental energy, or both. This coffee machine sitting unplugged on my counter was worse than useless. It was keeping me from buying a coffee machine I would actually use!


Saying Goodbye

Eventually I headed to a local classifieds site and found a new home for my coffee machine, which, though sad, was probably better for both of us. Now I have an automatic capsule coffee machine sitting on the counter. Even though the coffee isn’t quite of the same caliber, I consider it a much more successful contribution to my overall kitchen design. Why? Because I actually use it!


It’s hard to let go of those items in our lives that seem like they should be useful, but that we don’t actually use. If we want to design our best life, we need to be honest with ourselves. What’s working well, and more importantly, what do we need to change?

What extra baggage have you held off on saying goodbye to?


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