In 1999, Andreas and I tried living the urban 20-something dream of moving into an artist loft. This was not a swanky “artist loft” in air quotes with halogen lighting and stainless steel appliances — it was a complete shit-hole in Seattle’s industrial district. Our unit had no heat, no kitchen, and a hallway bathroom shared with the 10 other people on our floor.
When we moved in, one of our new neighbors swung by with a housewarming gift: a stolen plastic grocery basket.
“You can use it as a shower caddy,” she shrugged, offering no explanation for where it had come from (I mean, OTHER than Bartell Drugs, obviously) or why she didn’t need it any more.
I only lasted six months in the loft, but a decade later, this basket remains one of the most useful things in my home.
Sure, I’d had baskets before, but there’s something so unfathomably utilitarian about a grocery shopping basket. For starters, it’s square instead of round — which makes it ideal for stacking crap. That’s what it was designed for, of course, and it serves that function very, very well. I’ve used the basket to schlep crap when I’m cleaning out the car. I’ve used the basket to carry potluck dishes to friends’ houses. Since it’s plastic, it doesn’t matter if food spills on it. It doesn’t matter if it’s holding a pile of wet laundry. The basket is impermeable and almost indestructible.
It’s also the perfect size to act as luggage for a weekend trip. Laptop on the bottom, an extra pair of pants, two shirts, a couple pairs of socks and undies, a hoodie, my camera, the toiletry bag — it all fits perfectly. It’s open at the top, so I can easily access everything once I arrive wherever I’m going, but deep enough that nothing ever seems to fall out. It’s the ultimate utilitarian weekender.
The basket acts as a great cleaning accessory — I do the initial pass through the house with the basket, grabbing random crap that needs to be put away. Once the initial sweep is done, I carry the basket with me through the house, redistributing things where the belong.
When not in active use, the basket lives at the foot of our bed, where it catches solo socks and waits for the next batch of clean laundry to be dumped on the bed for folding (when the socks will hopefully find their mates).
This basket has proven so useful that I, uh, procured a second basket, which I primarily use in our Westfalia.
So, what’s the moral of the story here? Well, of course I would never suggest, uh, procuring your own grocery shopping basket. But if you ever happen to, uh, stumble across one (you know, at a garage sale? maybe?) you should definitely grab it.
UPDATED TO ADD:
Ooh, you can buy your own NON-stolen shopping basket on Amazon!