The box was only half full when I finished tucking in the mixing bowls and straightened to scan the kitchen for my next target. My gaze slid over the high use shelves, jumped the spot recently vacated by a set of white porcelain ramekins, shuddered away from the scary cupboard over the sink, and came to rest on the drawer of miscellaneous kitchen utensils. This was the drawer that seems to exist in all kitchens, the one that houses both your favorite and your never-used-even-once gadgets, the one where someone asks, “where’s your lemon zester?” and you say, “in that drawer…with the other random stuff…no, no, the one next to the fridge.”

I slid my box over. Here was the hard part. Everything that went in this box would go on to clutter a similar drawer in my new apartment; the goal was to have less clutter, so some of these things would not make the cut. Some of these things would end up on the free table at the dump. I could hear the gadgets jostling for position already, pushing one another out of the way to make it to the top of the drawer where, not yet at decision fatigue, I was more likely to keep them. Cherry Pitter elbowed Curly Straw in the throat in her efforts to get above Can Opener. She was rightfully nervous; I’d bought her last year when I froze several pounds of cherries at once. She hadn’t worked that well. Garlic mincer sank to the bottom, confident in his position, while a handful of wine bottle sealers fidgeted in the front corner like kindergarteners in line for recess.

I started with the easy stuff: the perfect pie server it had taken me months to find, the cheese slicer I’d grown up using, the beautiful, hand-crank egg-beaters given to me on my last birthday. As Lemon Juicer swung over the drawer edge, she stuck her tongue out at Cheap Plastic Rice Paddle.

My first pause came with the beaters to my electric mixer; the normal pair were well on their way into the box when they heard the anxious pleading of their bread dough counterparts from my other hand. “We’re a set,” one said anxiously, “you can’t break up a set!”

“But I’ve never even used you,” I told them.

“Exactly,” the other said reasonably, “you have no idea what you’re missing. We might be amazing. We might change your life; with us, you might make bread all the time.” He’d clearly been taking notes during those years in the back of the utensil drawer. In the box they went.
Cute Green Peeler was zooming toward salvation when something caught my eye. I fished around and pulled out Weird Plastic Peeler. As I held them up to compare, something squirmed in the drawer and, diving in, I surfaced with Antique But Not Very Sharp Peeler. How did I come to own three vegetable peelers? Did I peel that often? No. I didn’t. Cute Green, Weird Plastic, and Antique But Not Very Sharp all quivered in fear under my judging eye. Antique But Not Very Sharp scored high for style but Cute Green was probably the most functional. I could get Antique sharpened but it certainly wasn’t high on my moving to-do list. I wanted all of them; I wanted none of them; maybe I needed a snack.

Blood sugar restored, I returned to the peelers abandoned on the floor next to a basket of aprons. Cute Green and Antique But Totally Sharpenable went in; I said a tiny kitchen prayer and, squinting in concentration, tossed Weird Plastic into the garbage bag hanging from the basement door. Sushi Mat came next and, as I eyed her crust of dried rice starch, was about to make an echoing flight across the kitchen when she let out an ear piercing shriek.

“No! Nononono,” she wailed. “I’m perfectly good. I just need a soak, that’s all!” I wound up. “You kept Dragon Claw Tongs and he always effs it up! Remember that time you were trying to pull tofu cubes out of frying oil and one got stuck on his stupid pointy tip and you looked like a lunatic trying to shake it off without splattering your shirt? I’ve never done that to you!” The utensils had started to turn on each other; we had reached the bottom of the drawer and they sensed my desperate need to purge, the desire to shake away the chaff of the years I had lived here – be it emotional, psychological, or cuisinological.

“Yes, but I stole Dragon Tongs from the café I worked at as a teenager,” I admonished. “You, Sushi Mat, are cheap and were left behind two roommates ago.” I stuffed her into the garbage bag, muffling her appeal, and told myself that sentimentality mattered in hopes that it would assuage the guilt. Chopsticks followed Sushi Mat, accompanied by a lecture on cheap painted things and lead poisoning. Steeling myself, I plowed ahead, redeeming and damning with reckless abandon.

Finally it happened that I turned to the drawer and all that remained was a twist tie, many crumbs, and a handful of plastic popsicle holders. I sighed. I didn’t really like this popsicle set; the bases were too small and didn’t catch the juice as it melted. In a perfect world – where it was not past my bedtime, where I hadn’t worked a long shift earlier, and where someone gave me endless money to design my ideal kitchen – I would jettison this handful of plastic in a heartbeat. But on this August night, with strands of hair escaping from my bun and plastered to my neck with sweat, a throb beginning to build behind my eyes, I couldn’t do it.

I got a chair and dug around in the scary cupboard over the sink until I found the rest of the popsicle set. I filled each tube with cranberry cocktail and arranged the plastic sticks in alternating green and blue rows. Putting them in the freezer that I had been working so hard to empty, I imagined how good a popsicle would be at the end of moving day.

“Popsicle sticks,” I whispered into the chilly rush that hit my face as the freezer door closed, “you’ll do.”