Learn English – word/phrase to describe an action which leads to it being pointless


I'm wondering if there's a word or phrase to describe an action or activity which turns out to be pointless – let me explain further with an example;

Recently I was organising the garage and had lots of bits of wood lying around which I needed to store properly, so I made some shelving with the wood. In so doing, I realised I had used up all the wood which I needed to store – so the shelving I had created was sort of redundant and unnecessary. However, had I not have built the shelving I would still have lots of bits of wood lying about the place which would need storing.

I wondered if there is a word, phrase or expression to describe this sort of futile paradoxical activity?

Many Thanks!

Best Answer

By using the wood, you have obviated the need to store it.

Building a container to store the material you'd use to build the container is a self-obviating action.

obviate ˈɒbvɪeɪt/ verb verb: obviate; 3rd person present: obviates; past tense: obviated; past participle: obviated; gerund or present participle: obviating

remove (a need or difficulty).

"the presence of roller blinds obviated the need for curtains"

synonyms: preclude, prevent, remove, get rid of, do away with, get round, rule out, eliminate, make unnecessary, take away, foreclose, avoid, avert, counter

"the settlement obviated the need for the separate cases to be heard in court"

avoid or prevent (something undesirable).

"a parachute can be used to obviate disaster"