Keep It Simple

My husband and I recently returned from a wonderful vacation.  We were lucky enough to spend a week with our daughter, son-in-law and grandsons in a rented house just a few blocks from the beach, stores, and restaurants.  Spending time with the people we love is a good thing, and spending time with them in a vacation setting is even better.  Overall, it was a very good week.

Very good, but not perfect.  And yes, few things are perfect, and the key to a good vacation is to overlook the things that don’t go quite right.  We did that.  When it rained, we read and did jigsaw puzzles.  When it was too windy to walk the beach, we swam in our pool instead.  But the problem that we couldn’t quite conquer was the house itself.

It was a very nice house, but it also equipped with “state of the art” technology.  I know that sounds like a good thing, and in some houses, it probably is.  But in this particular house, it meant we spent way too much time just trying to figure out how to turn out the lights at night.

Every room had several switch plates that operated the various lights and window shades, and every switch plate had several buttons and finger-operated “slides.”  The trick was to push the right button and use the right slide in the right sequence, which apparently varied from day to day.  What worked to turn off the porch lights on Monday night did not work on Tuesday night.  Other lights turned on by themselves a few minutes after we turned them off.

And the problem wasn’t just the lights.  The front door refused to lock from the outside, so we had to lock it from the inside and then exit via the garage.  The ultra-sophisticated dryer started to make strange, loud noises instead of actually drying the clothes.  We decided we could air dry our clothes as long as the washing machine worked, so of course the washing machine promptly broke down, mid-cycle, with our clothes inside and the door still on “lock.”

But the worst was the stove top.  It was equipped with a control pad and six invisible burners that were supposed to light up when you placed a pan on them.  So I put my pan on, adjusted the temp and waited for my pan to heat so I could scramble some eggs.  The burner stayed cold, and the control pad informed me the “pan is not detected.”   I muttered words I didn’t want my grandsons to hear and pushed the setting button on the control pad, which produced a recipe for New England Clam chowder, complete with photos.  Eventually we discovered that the stove top only works with certain pans.

I’m not against state of the art technology, per se.  But I am against making things so very complicated that people who are trying to have a peaceful vacation have to waste time trying to figure out how to turn off a light or scramble some eggs.  I can do those things at my house, I swear.  My stove lets me use whatever pan I want, and I can dim our lights with a simple dimmer switch.

Sometimes complicated doesn’t mean better.  It just means more things that can go wrong.  The KISS (keep it simple, stupid) motto may not be nice, but it’s not wrong either……

106 thoughts on “Keep It Simple

  1. When my sister was renting her house out she had everything labeled and instructions posted everywhere! And she had a handyman on retainer who lived across the street- if something broke he was there in a flash!! Sorry the technology was troublesome but it sounds like you had fun anyway!!

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    • Your sister sounds like the perfect person to rent from! We were lucky in that our rental company did send someone to fix the washer and dryer. And we found out later that the company had just added this house to their rental inventory, so my guess is they weren’t aware of the glitches. But as you say, we had fun anyway!

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  2. Such a problem! When we had holiday rentals we tried to keep things simple. There was a house book with instructions and we were on call all the time. But that was then and this is now.
    Friends doing holiday rentals say that clients want all the bells and whistles – and they know how to use them, having them at home. The problem is that our friends need to supply compatible materials…..and try to explain to the local handyman how everything works in case of meltdown.
    Glad you enjoyed your holiday with the family despite the glitches

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    • Yes, things have changed! I remember when rental properties had the manuals to all appliances available, so if we didn’t understand how something worked, we could look it up. Luckily, our rental company did have maintenance people available who came and fixed the washer and dryer. There was nothing they could do about the door, however, and I’m thinking that whoever designed the lighting system was someone who firmly believed in “pushing the limits” just to see what they could do. I think that’s great in their own houses, but not so much in rental homes! Still, we had a very nice time and I’m grateful for it. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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    • Exactly! And I can’t help but wonder why we think these things are improvements. Because the complicated light switches didn’t do a single thing that our simple dimmer switch (you press it on and off, and then rotate the dial until you get the level of lighting you want) already does. I really don’t believe we need our homes to be so complicated! Thanks for the comment, Cindy!

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  3. It sounds frustrating, Ann. I felt it and cannot imagine how you dealt with raw eggs and an “undetected pan.” And lights that didn’t cooperate – yikes! I’m glad you had positives to help overcome those things. You’re inspiring!

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    • Thanks, Judy! And yes, I kept saying, “the pan is right here, you dumb stove!” Although I had to be careful not to say it in front of my four-year old grandson, because he knows dumb is not a word we’re supposed to call people, and in his mind, appliances count too. But overall, spending time in a vacation spot with our family more than made up for it. I’d go back to that area in a heartbeat, but we’ll rent a different house next time!

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  4. Ahhhh SMART homes. They may be cool and a real status symbol for the owners, but they are a pain for many other people and reasons. What will happen when the wi-fi goes down, what if the home is hacked, what if things don’t work. More problems than anyone needs. This all falls under the category “Just Because You Can, Does Not Mean You Should”. I like things to be modern and functional, but also understandable. So glad you managed time with your family, though Ann. That makes it all worth while. Allan

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    • I couldn’t agree more, Allan! About the family time making the experience worth while and how “smart” homes are really not a good idea at all. As you say, they’re vulnerable to wi-fi interruptions, power interruptions, and hacking. Who needs it? None of those “upgrades” improved the house’s livability at all, in fact, it was quite the opposite. And I totally agree that it’s time to embrace “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” when we’re designing things…. Whatever happened to common sense and wanting to live the simple life?

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  5. That would drive me crazy! I admit I always get John to do things first to figure them out – as an engineer, he’s not often defeated. But I might need rescued when I still can’t work something even though he’s shown me, and that is the cue for much sighing and eye rolling. He’s lucky he doesn’t get to wear the pans sometimes! Glad you had a good break, despite the vagaries of modern technology.

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    • We could have used your husband on our vacation! Both my son-in-law and daughter are pretty tech savvy, but even they couldn’t figure out some of it. My son-in-law was the one who discovered that the stove top only recognized certain pans, which solved that mystery, but also made me wonder why the house came equipped with pans that didn’t work on the stove. But overall, we had fun, and that’s what counts the most!

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  6. As someone who gets so annoyed with the single remote-controlled fan in our house, I totally sympathise. Perhaps if we were younger, we could get excited over tech and have fun with it. But having my share of tech struggles, I have to agree with you – it’s better to have things simple and manageable.

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    • I agree! I’m all for tech that truly makes things simpler (like our universal remote for the TV, which means we no longer have to use three remotes when we want to watch a program). But so much of the new stuff is unnecessarily complicated, and if we dare to complain about it, we’re just seen as old fuddy-duddies who can’t adapt. The truth is, if it doesn’t serve our purpose, then we simply don’t need it. Thanks for the comment, Caitlynne!

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  7. State of the art! I felt your frustration as I read. Give me basics any day. Mind you, I’m not adverse to a bit of luxury but too much tech does my head in! Glad you had a good holiday anyway Ann.

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    • I am SO for basics! The rental company sent someone to fix the washer and dryer and even he said, “they’re making these new machines so smart that they’re actually stupid.” And he was young!! Remember when our washers and dryers routinely lasted for ten or more years? These were new and already breaking down. But we didn’t let it ruin our holiday….it was still great to get away with family! Take care, Miriam!

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    • Exactly! Who even knows if the savings are there? Sort of like when LED light bulbs first came out and they were so dim that people used three lamps in an area that used to need only one. How is that saving energy? Still, it was a good vacation, and I’m grateful for the experience. Thanks for the comment!

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    • Even though it was very spacious, clean and pretty, I sort of did hate it. We’ll go back to that area for sure, but we won’t rent that house again. There was no need for it to be so darned complicated, which is what really bothered me. Normal light switches, stove tops and appliances work just fine, why mess with success?

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  8. Funny to read, but not funny to live with on a vacation. Kevin always says he’ll have to move if I die first, because he won’t know how to operate anything.

    >

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  9. I am so glad that you had a week away! I am sorry that the house was such a nuisance. I believe as you do, that simpler is often better. Now, you can appreciate your own house! I love to take a trip, but I am so happy to come home again. 🙂

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  10. I find that ridiculous Ann- why deck out a rental home with so much technology when so many varied people are going to rent it and then find they have no clue what to do once they get there. That sounds like the owner needed to leave a 500 page manual of instructions and also clearly have a direct line to all the repair companies posted on a board. I hope you made the owners aware of all the issues? I bet these issues happen to lots of people who stay there, and put a huge damper on lots of vacations.

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    • I agree! I think the problem is that the rental company (who is very good, we’ve used them before) just acquired this home and we were the first people to rent it. The owner should have made them aware of the glitches, and fixed them before deciding to rent it out. I’m sure he’ll hear about it from the rental company. No one wants to spend their vacation just trying to figure out how to turn a stove top burner on!

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    • Exactly! That’s why they get away with designing things that aren’t the least bit user friendly…all they have to say is it’s “high tech,” and then anyone who can’t work it is labeled a “techno-phone” or simply “old.” We can’t win!

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  11. How nice that you got to enjoy time with your family away from the normal chores and responsibilities. But all the state of the art electronics! Oh my goodness. They should have had some better instructions for you. How frustrating. I know about the stoves that only work with certain pans. We don’t have one, but I know a couple of folks who do. The house should not have any pans that are not the right kind!!!

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    • That’s what bothered me! Why have pans in the house (and they looked like new ones) that don’t work on the stove? And if you’re going to make things so complicated, then have better instructions. The buttons on the light plates were labeled, but they didn’t always work on their own. You had to press the button and slide your finger, in the right order, and even then, it didn’t always work. So frustrating!

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  12. When visiting one of our sons in Vancouver, we stayed at a bed and breakfast that was like the place you described in your post. No matter how much we tried, we could not switch off the lights in the ultramodern kitchen.

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    • How awful! And what use is “ultra modern” if it doesn’t work for ordinary people? I keep waiting for the day when we’re going to have to blink twice, nod once and do the polka in order to open our garage doors….. And sadly, that’s probably not really a joke!

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    • I’m with you, Margy! My husband’s new car has too much “tech” on it. It took him five minutes to figure out how to turn it off the first time he drove it, and changing radio stations is also a challenge. What’s wrong with a simple dial, like we used to have? Or preset buttons? But no…that’s all too easy and “old school,” apparently!

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  13. Forget about being on vacation with machines that behave oddly. Our new oven and cooktop are cantankerous– and I’m with them 24/7. When I think of K.I.S.S. I say to myself, Keep It Simple, Sweetie. It seems nicer, like a kindness I deserve.

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  14. I think the electrician had too high of an opinion of himself, Ann. He probably thought he was being clever with his state-of-the-art wiring job. Electrical outlets and switches and household appliances need to be logical, reliable, and strait-forward, especially in a vacation rental. So happy you had a great vacation, despite the frustrations.

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    • I completely agree, Joe! Simple and straight-forward is best, especially in vacation rentals. I think the people who design these new things are just pushing the limits, because for them it’s fun and a bit of a challenge, and also because it gives them a chance to flaunt their “superiority.” All of which is fine, if they are designing things solely for their own, personal, use. Otherwise, my motto is “KISS!”

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  15. Oh my!!! I have issues with turning on the TV at some places I stay on vacation and finally I just give up but if the stove didn’t work as normal with high tec situation…I think I would have been cutting my vacation short! Hopefully you still enjoyed your time.

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    • TVs are the worst in vacation rentals, usually with multiple remotes and choices I don’t want or need. But I agree, the stove not working is a huge problem! Luckily my son-in-law figured out that some pans would work on it. Because we even found the manual hidden away in a top cabinet, but it didn’t say anything about special pans being needed either. And why put pans in the house that don’t work with the stove? Still, we had a good time together!

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      • Yeah, I am with you on the pan situation! But, you would think anyone who rents out would have all the operating manuals in one place in the house for those of us who are not as “high tech”. I can usually read and understand a manual. Yeah, I know, we could look it up ourselves on the internet but no one wants to waste half a day of vacation just doing that! Renters please help!!!!

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  16. Whoa! I didn’t even know such things were invented!! It sounds like the self checkout at the grocery store that yells if you move a bag or put things in the bag ‘wrong.’ I agree- a week at the beach isn’t meant to be spent on light switches and stove tops. Especially with families having busy schedules and the fact that most beach vacations are yearly. I would’ve cussed, too.

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    • Yes, the next time I see “high tech” in a description of a rental property, I think I’ll give it a pass. Technology is very good where it belongs, but when it’s used to make turning the lights off and on almost impossible, then it’s not good at all. I’m thinking the term “basic” might be a good thing to see in a description of a rental home. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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    • Having lived in one for a week, I know I don’t either. Even the term “smart home” sort of annoys me. Why does a house have to be smart? Especially when that “intelligence” relies on a working WiFi and power, and is vulnerable to hacking? It just makes no sense at all. And thank you!!!

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    • Yes it was still a very nice week, despite the tech problems with the house. (Aside from the tech problems, it was actually a very nice house: spacious and clean, with lots of natural light.) So I still felt as if I’d had a lovely break from our daily lives, and also got to spend lots of time with my grandsons!

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  17. Yikes, Ann!! I would’ve been flummoxed, for sure. Our house is 50-odd years old with peculiarities all its own, but at least it doesn’t force me to be SMART, ha! I think the unpredictability would drive me nuts … and aren’t people supposed to relax while on vacation?!?

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    • Well, relaxation is always my goal! And yeah, it was the unpredictability that was the most annoying. We could have figured out the lights if they were consistent, but they weren’t. And so each time we wanted to use them, it was a learning experience all over again. I was sad to leave our vacation, but I wasn’t really sad to leave that particular vacation house!

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  18. I’m glad you and your family had a good vacation, Ann, even though you sound like you were staying in a house of horrors. How ridiculous to have all that technology and so many gadgets without the owner having the courtesy to leave you instruction manuals for all these things. Mind you, if flat-pack furniture is anything to go by, the instructions would probably have been in Chinese (no offence intended for the Chinese population).

    I can’t imagine why they had pans that didn’t work on the automated hob. Were they those ‘posh’ bright orange ‘Le Creuset’ pans; perhaps, they were there for show and to impress. They are extremely expensive pans and also incredibly heavy. They’d never do for me. I do agree with you about older equipment breaking down far less often than new machines. They used to make them to last ten years at least; now, we’re lucky to get two to three years out of them. Technology has its place in modern society, but sometimes, it’s just totally over the top. Simplicity is best. I like your version of KISS. I’ve not heard of that before. I wonder if it’s an American phrase.

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    • I’m guessing that it is an American saying. Although Ally’s version, “keep it simple, sweetie,” is much nicer! We did find a manual for the washer and dryer, but it was on a high shelf that we couldn’t even access without standing on a chair. And you’re right, even if manuals are provided, often they’re in a language we don’t speak or read! The pans that worked were actually the heavy ones, and the normal, lighter pans (also newer, which is why I wanted to use them) were the ones that weren’t detected. My guess is whoever bought them didn’t realize that, but it would have been nice if they’d tested them.
      We discovered that we were the first people who had rented this house from the rental company we used (and we’ve used that company for years with no issues), so my guess is that the rental company didn’t know about these glitches. But since we reported them and they did their best to address them, I’m guessing that future renters won’t have as many problems as we did. Still, I’m just glad we got to go on vacation with our grandsons, and we managed to cope!

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  19. Smiling here, Ann. KISS is so true and the older we get, the more my guy and I follow that motto! We have friends, our age, redoing their bathrooms (and kitchens) to make them more “modern.” To me, they look too white and boring. And those fancy faucets and who can figure out how to turn on the shower??? I’ll stick with simple, But I think it’s fabulous that you had such a great family vacation. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I completely agree! I think the trend toward white or grey minimalism in kitchens and baths looks cold and sterile, and I like my kitchens to look “homey” and my bathrooms to be clean and easy to use. I also wonder why people want showers the size of walk in closets? I mean, seriously, how many people are going to be using it at the same time? Plus, adjusting the water temp is harder. I remember one shower that was huge, and the shower head was at one end and the faucet handle was at the other. So I’d turn the water on, walk over to the shower head and realize the water was too cold, walk back to the faucet and adjust it, walk back to the shower head to realize the water was now too warm, walk back to the faucet…….you get the picture. I got my morning shower and morning walk in at the same time!

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  20. There’s a reason I intend to keep my 2011 Toyota, and rent an apartment that has old-fashioned appliances. “Smart” is a euphemism for expensive and intrusive — not to mention frustration-inducing, as you learned. I’m perfectly capable of turning on a lamp with my own hand, for example. I don’t need to use voice commands, with someone named Siri as an intermediary. Of course, I know I’m one of a dying breed. Sometimes, I spend a whole day out and about while my ‘smart phone’ lies at home on my desk, and when I’m out and about, I use maps rather than GPS. That kind of independence is fun!

    All that said, at least you were able to resolve some of the issues you faced, and had a wonderful time in spite of it all!

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    • Exactly! I don’t understand why so many people are just accepting this move to “smart” everything. It’s going to make our lives harder, not easier, and it also invades on our privacy. Who really thinks Siri and Alexa are only listening when we say their names? How do people think we get all those targeted ads, not only from our internet browsing, but from our “private” phone conversations? Good for you for sticking with the old-fashioned cars and appliances as long as you can. When our washing machine died two years ago, we were able to replace it with a very basic one, and I’m so glad. Works like a dream…… Sometimes I think we need to start a “keep it simple” movement!

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  21. Hi Ann. Oh that house would not have worked on our style of vacation. That’s a ridiculous number of hi-tech problems. I’m glad you were able to mostly overlook these challenges. And time with family, no matter what, is what it’s all about.

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  22. When I replaced my thermostat to control the AC and heat, I purposely didn’t choose one connected to the internet and my phone. Though my reason was privacy, it was also one less widget to worry about! I did the same with my whole house generator. Sure, I have to walk outside to see if it’s one because my phone doesn’t tell me. Or I can just listen!

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    • Our isn’t either, and we’re fine with that! (Plus, what happens when you control your house through your phone and your phone gets stolen? How scary would that be?) It really isn’t all that hard to just go look at our thermostat, or even our generator if we’re using one! Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  23. Sounds like you’d prefer something like our house – it’s almost 100 years old. And even though I’m an old techie, I see no compelling need to speak to the air to turn on a light.

    I understand induction stoves don’t work with aluminum pans, they want something with iron in them. If the pan will not hold a magnet, no joy.

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    • That must have been the reason! I thought perhaps that the bottoms of the newer pans weren’t flat enough, but that didn’t really make sense. And yes, I agree that just because one doesn’t want unnecessary technology in their home doesn’t mean they are anti-tech. It simply means that they are pro-common sense!

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  24. Great post! Sounds inconvenient and frustrating and I am sure I would have had a few choice words to say at the appliances in question. Too much tech overthinking is going on! Every time I use a new computer program I find more and more unnecessary options and click more and more irrelevant links to get where it once would have taken me one click. It has to stop somewhere surely?

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  25. The clam chowder thing made me laugh out loud.

    My grandmother has a couple young great grands, so instead of cursing, she uses the word “magenta.” (I guess cursing was okay for us grands, but not for the greats, anywho…)

    This would’ve stressed me the magenta out!

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    • It was so weird…as if I needed a recipe for clam chowder on my stove! Especially since it was under “settings.” Wouldn’t you think settings would help with turning the magenta burner on???? (And I love your grandmother’s creativity. When my son was a toddler, he could be a bit of handful. I couldn’t actually call him a pain in the ass, so I simply used the initials: PITA. That way, when my husband came home and asked how my day went, I could say out loud, “Well, he was a bit of a PITA today!”

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