year in review

The Best Thing I Bought This Year Was a $2 Box Cutter

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Writers

If you’ve read any of our Strategist editor hauls, you’ll know that our writers and editors buy a lot of stuff, and even though we think carefully about each thing that goes into our carts, there are still standouts. To close out the year, we’ve asked our staffers to write about the best thing they bought in the past 12 months. Today, Katherine Gillespie shares the $2 box cutter that actually motivates her to break down her cardboard packages (instead of stacking them in her entryway). 

There’s a forgotten scene in the first season of Girls where Greenpoint’s enfant terrible Hannah Horvath is shown struggling to break down a relatively small box. At one point, she pushes it up against a wall and just sort of hopes that it’ll collapse. I mentally replay this sad vignette often, because although I do technically know how to flatten a cube of cardboard, the task annoys me enough that I regress to Hannah’s level of huffy immaturity every time. I’ll inefficiently open boxes with an apartment key or kitchen knife or whatever sharp object is closest, get excited about the items inside, then promptly abandon their packaging in its original three-dimensional form.

Or at least that was the case until about six months ago. Having recently moved, I’d been buying some big-ticket furniture. The teetering tower of cardboard in my entryway was starting to concern visitors; a similarly procrastination-prone friend and I started sending photos of our respective Uline piles back and forth, complete with joking daily check-ins about whether or not we’d managed to take them downstairs for disposal. It was time to take control, and for me this meant making one final online purchase that would dictate how I opened the rest of them from here on out.

Most people’s box-cutter ownership begins and ends with a retractable knife, which is fair enough. It’s a classic household tool with a wide variety of uses, but I was curious as to whether I could buy something safer and more specific to the task of carton-opening. I first considered Slice, a box-cutting brand that has reconfigured Stanley’s retractable design by making it more ergonomic. Yet I wasn’t convinced these slight tweaks were worth the extra money. To make my box-opening experience cuter and therefore more enjoyable, I ended up purchasing this tiny bird-shaped Kikkerland tool, but it was no match for some of the heftier double-walled boxes that were coming my way. Further research eventually led me to Klever Kutter, a cheap and cheerful safety knife that’s manufactured in Michigan and retails for just $2. It has since become a trusted friend.

What I like best about the Klever Kutter is that it looks and feels like a tinkering dad’s oddball garage invention. Being brightly colored and slightly odd-looking, it charms me to the extent that I’m actually motivated to use it. It’s also extremely safe in my jittery hands, with a recessed dual-carbon-steel blade that’s sheathed in plastic to the extent that you can’t actually touch the sharp part with your fingers. To open a carton, you pierce it with this relatively blunt sheath, then drag the entire tool backwards, allowing the knife to do its work. There’s a slight learning curve, but when held at the optimum angle, one of these will open basically anything — they slice through packing tape like butter, but you can also just go straight for the cardboard. The curved plastic handle (which pleasingly resembles a cartoon worm) is lightweight and easy to grip. There’s a large keychain hole on the end, which allows me to keep mine hanging on a hook by the door with my face masks and keys.

As the price would indicate, these knives are designed to be somewhat disposable, but I’ve been using one on a near daily basis for half a year and haven’t needed to buy a replacement yet. If anyone’s wondering how you open the box that your box cutter comes in, mine arrived in a hand-tearable mailer. I immediately took it downstairs for recycling.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The Best Thing I Bought This Year Was a $2 Box Cutter