Tweaking ordinary household products that were perfectly fine in the first place and ruining them via "improvements" is a well established phenomenon. Here are five basic functional items that are made worse by innovations.

1. Toilet paper

Patterned toilet paper is a bit dodgy. Why anyone would want loo paper that's decorated with little sketches of seashells, starfish and seahorses is a mystery to me. Okay, if you lived near the seashore and were prepared to commit to the theme for the long term this might be forgivable. Otherwise, please reach for the white toilet paper next time you're in the supermarket. I'm talking plain white, not the fancy embossed rolls. That quilted stuff always looks suspicious, as if you're so posh your toilet paper must take its design inspiration from traditional bed coverings.

If, however, despite all this excellent advice, you wish to indulge in a spot of patterned toilet paper purchasing, at least opt for the really tacky stuff and have a bit of a laugh while you're at it. Every powder room needs a good talking point, a spot of devil-may-care irreverence. Consider novelty toilet paper decorated with dollar bills, festive motifs, crossword puzzles or - most stylish of all - the phrase "Sh*t happens". Whatever you do, eschew the monogrammed variety and loo paper with fleur-de-lis designs. Too try hard, they miss the point entirely.

2. Paper towels

In my kitchen, rolls of paper towels must be plain. I once bought paper towels decorated with pale purple squiggles which I did not see until I removed the wrapping. I was discombobulated. It was an affront to my senses. I might have put them in the pile of stuff to go to a worthy cause. What can I say? I don't like patterned paper towels. My other half brought some home once. Once. He's a fast learner.


What is the point of patterned paper towels, anyway? Are they chosen to complement the feature wall or the sofa? Surely not. Are they designed to cheer up someone slaving away miserably in the kitchen? Isn't that what wine is for?

Once you start investing in patterned paper towels, the complications pile up. First, you have to decide which pattern to go for. Then you must commit to the theme to ensure you don't end up with a mishmash of designs on your kitchen bench. Then your preferred design will be out of stock one day and you won't know what to do. Eventually, the manufacturer will change the pattern slightly and you won't know why but it will no longer appeal and you'll have to shift to a new pattern .... Seriously, just get the plain ones.

3. Sausages

I once went away on a summer holiday with friends to Mt Maunganui. We decided to have a barbecue and my friends embarked on a shopping expedition. This was back in the days when barnyard creatures were part of my diet and my one request was that they get some sausages. I was really looking forward to an overcooked mass-produced, no-frills banger accompanied by white bread and lashings of tomato sauce.

You will never guess what my friends purchased: cheese-filled sausages. I repeat: cheese-filled sausages. Twenty years later and I'm still dry retching at the thought of them. Why would anyone, who'd been asked to simply buy sausages, choose a variety with an oozing cheese-like substance running through it? Who were these people? Did I even know them? They had one job ...

I think I ate just salad that night. But I still don't understand the logic that goes "if plain sausages are good then sausages impregnated with goo are better". My friends probably thought they were doing me a favour: "Ooooh, cheese-filled. She'll like these." Well, I was kind of grossed out actually. Plain sausages are the culinary equivalent of plain paper towels. Once you start messing with them - sorry, I mean, "refining them" - you've stripped them of their artless authenticity.

4. Spaghetti

I've long had a discerning palate. Wattie's spaghetti on toast was my favourite childhood meal. One of my least preferred childhood meals, however, involved Wattie's spaghetti with those horrid little sausages in them. I found the look, the smell, the taste, the texture of these things off-putting. Again, why mess with the perfect food? It made no sense.

I could always tell when my mother had fished the sausages out and served me the residual spaghetti. "This spaghetti had sausages in it," I'd say. "What makes you think that?" she'd ask. "Because they taint the whole thing," I'd reply. "Taint the whole thing," she'd parrot, as if trying to cast doubt on what my senses were telling me. Isn't that called gas-lighting? Don't worry: I'll be fine.

5. Tinned tomatoes

There's nothing wrong with a nice tin of plain tomatoes but tomatoes flavoured with basil are potentially problematic. This product is marketed as a time saver but who's too busy to chuck some dried basil into a pot? Unless you're camping, in a motel or have yet to set up your pantry properly, please step away from the basil-flavoured tinned tomatoes. You're better than that.