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Vote for the Most Wondrous of These Everyday Inventions

The Sweet 16 of workaday wonder.

Let the battle begin!
Let the battle begin! Dave Crosby/CC By-SA 2.0 (Can opener); Peter/CC By 2.0 (Zip tie); Dennis Hill/CC-By 2.0 (sewer); Auckland Museum/CC by 4.0 (brannock device); Dean Hochman/CC by 2.0 (toilet paper); Tom Thai/CC by 2.0 (kitty litter); public domain

Mundane Madness is a monthlong quest to anoint the most overlooked everyday objects. Here’s where we started.

We asked you to tell us about the most wondrous workaday inventions and you delivered, big time. We received close to 300 submissions celebrating the world’s most quietly amazing gadgets, implements, tools and more, and the nominations encapsulated thousands of years of human imagination and tinkering.

From way back in the day, there is paper and glass. More recent wonders include spring-loaded kitchen tongs, detergent sticks, LED lightbulbs, lint rollers, and spell-checker. Nominees came from just about every room in the house—bobby pins in the bathroom, pockets in the closet, ratchet screwdrivers in the basement—and beyond.

A lot of you vouched for zip ties and binder clips—which both made the cut—as endlessly useful multitaskers. “As a mechanic, I’ve seen thousands of complicated apparatuses that manufacturers use to secure wires and hoses,” wrote David Mullenax. “They can almost always be eliminated with a simple zip tie in the right place.” Likewise, the binder clip “doesn’t just hold a stack of paper together,” noted Jill Miles. “It also works as a bread clip, it corrals unruly cords, and can serve as a clamp for small woodworking projects. There is one attached to every key ring in my house for holding notes to self, outgoing mail, or whatever I don’t want to forget.”

Without further delay, here is the top 16 from your submissions:

Here's the playing field.
Here’s the playing field.

Even among items that didn’t make the Sweet 16, you often made very persuasive cases. One reader, B.J. Price, wrote an ode to the five-gallon bucket. It “usually starts life by safely transporting paint, oil, drywall mud, food products, and much more,” Price wrote. “But this is only the beginning. Once washed out, it quickly transforms into a feed bucket, toolbox, or rain gauge. Upside down it is a step ladder or a ready-made stool. I could go on …” On Twitter, Jeremy Davies made a case for the tiny metal balls inside ball bearings: “Perfectly round, no seam—literally, they are amazeballs.” Other respondents highlighted useful inventions with additional social and health benefits, such as condoms and tampons. And a few readers pointed out that window screens can make summer evenings more pleasant—while also slashing the transmission of insect-borne diseases.

Many of these objects we did choose to include are small and handheld, but a number of readers reminded us to think bigger. City-scale inventions, such as sewage systems and traffic-calming roundabouts, were popular options, too. (In the next round, one of them will face off against either zip ties or string.) Making a final bracket for all of these worthy choices was no easy task. We winnowed the pool to suggestions that cropped up again and again, and then paired up ones that had the most in common—at least for the first round. We recognize that it’s an imperfect science, but can’t wait to see how it develops.

Cast your first round votes below. The top eight move on to the next round on Tuesday, March 20!