In Defense of Keeping Stuff You Never Use

published Apr 24, 2017
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(Image credit: Andrea Sparacio)

I live in what is, by all reasonable standards, a very small apartment. I say this not to complain — I like my apartment! — but only to suggest that I am not necessarily in a position to devote an entire cabinet to an ice cream maker that I have never used.

But there it sits, a full-sized ice cream maker, in a cabinet above my three-quarter sized fridge, where it has rested, untouched by milk or sugar, for approximately six years.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

Objectively, it makes no sense to keep the ice cream maker, given that I have extremely limited space, and also have never made ice cream. My boyfriend brought the ice cream maker into the relationship. He has never made ice cream, either.

And yet, I have no intention of getting rid of the ice cream maker. I also have a large mortar and pestle, which, to date, I have used exclusively for grinding up anti-anxiety medications for dogs. And a virgin angel food cake pan, which has followed me, similarly unused, through at least 10 different apartments. I bought the mortar and pestle on purpose from Amazon because a YouTube video told me it would improve my pesto. I cannot tell you where the angel food cake pan came from — it was either my mother, or a church rummage sale — in either case, it is a hand-me-down from someone else who also never used it.

I have no intention of getting rid of those things, either.

To be clear, I am capable of getting rid of things. I often do! I, too, have read Marie Kondo’s first book, and liked it. And while I would not consider myself a Konvert (see above), I like the idea of living in a minimalist wonderland of lightly anthropomorphized objects that spark joy.

Does the ice cream maker spark joy? I don’t know. Frankly, I rarely think about it, except when I want to put something else in that cabinet, and then remember that I cannot, because that is where the ice cream maker goes. In preparation for this story, I held it in my hands, to see if it sparked any feelings — joy or otherwise. It did not.

Why I’m Keeping This Stuff

Here is what does spark joy, though: the idea of becoming a person who regularly uses an ice cream maker. I love eating ice cream, and imagine I could also love making it, if I ever bought the ingredients or took the time to do it. Summer is coming. This could be the year.

I like the look of the mortar and pestle, which makes me feel like I am running an old-timey apothecary from my kitchen. (In some ways, I am when I’m crushing meds for the pups.) The angel food cake pan is less easily explicable, but part of my warped view of self-sufficiency involves being prepared for all occasions; if someone were to ask me to bake an angel food cake, I take comfort in the knowledge that I am ready.

In my defense, this conviction is not as delusional as it sounds. I owned an immersion blender for several years before using it, and now I am an evangelist, giving them as wedding presents and birthday presents. If I had gotten rid of my immersion blender simply because I had not yet used it, I would not have discovered the joy of blended soups. Also, I would have nothing to bring to housewarming parties.

Feeling Good About My Decisions

Unlike ill-fitting pants and unread books and accessories for hobbies that have remained strictly theoretical, the ice cream maker — like the angel food cake pan, and the mortar and pestle, and, for that matter, the second-hand zoodle maker — doesn’t make me feel bad. I don’t feel guilty for having it, or like a failed version of a better self. It is neither nostalgic nor sentimental. Instead, the ice cream maker gives me a pleasant sense of hope — as in, “I hope I become a person who makes ice cream!”

Although it defies all rules of home organization, I like having a handful of kitchen tools that I almost never use. They give me a sense of adventure, like the existence of Everest or Australian coral reefs. I like knowing that there is still possibility in the world. On a practical level, it makes no sense to keep the ice cream maker. On an existential level, though, the lost cabinet space seems like a small price to pay.

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What are you holding onto despite the fact that you’ve never used it?