In relation to these questions:

And these Meta discussions:

Are product / tool / device specific answers (when used by design) acceptable?

Examples for definition purposes:


A simple everyday item you might use in a myriad of ways:

  • A cup
  • A "lever"
  • A screwdriver
  • A knife, et. al.


A purchasable common household agent/chemical/solution (liquid, not answer) you could buy at a variety of common stores to assist in a task/chore:

  • Window cleaner
  • Ammonia
  • Bleach
  • Paint thinner
  • Antifreeze, et. al.


A contraption/mechanism designed with a specific purpose in mind

  • A can opener
  • A paper shredder
  • A multimeter
  • A potato peeler

I have seen/read examples of the Law of Parsimony/Ockhams razor used in here (The simplest answer is most likely the best/right one) yet I have seen mixed results throughout the site stating both sides of the argument of weather a product/tool/device, when used in it's intended way, is an acceptable answer.

A life-hack is just that; a hack. A creative/innovative way to circumvent/solve a problem. Using toothpaste to fill nail holes, or chewed up paper is perfect example of a hack, however "purchasing spackle" isn't necessarily a hack but it solves the problem with the simple solution.

The dichotomy of the site seems to be "Simple solution to solve a problem" and "ingenious and creative way to solve a problem" We should set a precedent here as to our goal for the "Life Hack" amalgamation of those two terms.

If I want to clean my hands of sticky stuff a life hack isn't "buy a citrus cleaner". One of many life hack examples could be "use water and sand as make shift pumice to exfoliate"

If I want to remove lint from an iphone headphone jack - use tape wrapped inside out around a paperclip or toothpick...not "buy a lint removal tool"


If I suggest using a product / tool / device in an ingenious way because I have it lying around (If you are high-centered on a snowbank in winter without a shovel to dig out with, you can use any number of products/tools as a makeshift shovel)

Are we going to allow users to answer questions with product or tool/device recommendations when that said tool or product is specifically designed for that exact purpose? Isn't this going against the design of this SE site in the first place?

For example:

Using a cheese grater to grate cheese - unaceptable?

Using a cheese grater to shred a credit card - acceptable?

  • How do you define a tool/product/device? Dec 11, 2014 at 17:43
  • Tool/Device could be used interchangebly i guess. I saw them defined as: a tool is a simple everyday item you might use (cup, lever, screwdriver, knife) a product is something you would buy (window cleaner, ammonia, paint thinner) a device is a contraption designed for a specific purpose (can opener, paper shredder, multimeter). Moving to the question for clarity
    – Phlume
    Dec 11, 2014 at 17:48
  • Very related question Dec 11, 2014 at 18:01
  • @ZachSaucier moved to the question. TY.
    – Phlume
    Dec 11, 2014 at 18:02

1 Answer 1


Although I've done this myself, you have a valid point. Although I have these things sitting around, they were manufactured for the purpose, and so aren't really hacks. They are the regular solution. We could define tool/product/device as:

  • Tool:

    a device or implement, especially one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function

  • Product:

    something that is marketed or sold as a commodity

  • Device:

    an object, machine, or piece of equipment that has been made for some special purpose

Now all of these things, but especially product, has the potential to be used in a creative way, not the function they were designed for, and that creative use is, in my eyes, a valid lifehack.

We can discourage answers that suggest using a tool/product/device in the manner they were intended for/designed for. That is not a lifehack, it's common sense/the 'regular' solution.

  • 2
    I agree that DV the "common sense answer" may be the best solution, but not erase/remove the answer as it may be a regional issue (the orange peeler posit).
    – Phlume
    Dec 11, 2014 at 18:00
  • In cases in which the "regular" solution is most effective, what do you recommend? Dec 12, 2014 at 14:42
  • @ZachSaucier I think this is still highly debated here. My opinion is that if it is the correct tool for the job then it isn't a hack. But in the case of "regular/designed solution" vs simplified solutions" vs "best solution" vs. "creative solution sans normal tool" I am still curious about that myself.
    – Phlume
    Dec 12, 2014 at 15:12
  • @Phlume I think determining what is the "regular/designed solution" is impossible to determine in most cases. See this post of mine for my reasoning Dec 12, 2014 at 15:13
  • I agree in some cases, but not "most" cases. We as a human race have evolved quite well and adapted to problems over thousands of years. Simple machines (lever, wheel, pully...) have bene used for ages and solve a myriad of problems universally. However isolated minutia such as peeling oranges with an "orange peeler" (foreign to me, I use fingers) could find a variety of accepted "regular/designed" solutions. If an answer suggests a can opener to open a can, is this helping our "Lifehack" site? How about water and soap as a suggestion to clean sticky hands? Lifehacks IMHO should be "HACKY".
    – Phlume
    Dec 12, 2014 at 15:18

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