This stolen plastic grocery basket may be the most useful thing I own

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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.

…and run.

UPDATED TO ADD:
Ooh, you can buy your own NON-stolen shopping basket on Amazon!

Comments on This stolen plastic grocery basket may be the most useful thing I own

  1. Ever since you posted on this, as my mother would say “i had the want”. I’m off to legally pick up my own basket this thursday (24 March) in Aldi Supermarket for Euro 3.79 (about 5 dollars in American money), so for any other Irish readers out there here’s the link.
    Now to decide what colour to go for
    http://www.aldi.ie/ie/html/offers/special_buys3_16282.htm

  2. We were just in our soon-to-be-gone Borders yesterday, and they’re selling theirs off for $5 each. Since I used to work at Borders, I kind of wanted one, but then couldn’t think of what I’d do with it. Serves me right for my lack of imagination!

  3. You can buy those shopping bins at a lot of the grocery stores where I live. They encourage them the same way they do the reusable bags.

  4. I had a basket similar to the one linked to on Amazon when I was in college. Though, I think mine was shorter and more squire.

    I used it to carry bathroom stuff to and from the shared bathroom in my dorm.

    And then, when I suddenly a acquired a pet mouse (Long story) and found that keeping a mouse in a cardboard box only works for about 15 minutes, until the mouse chews through the box, I used the plastic basket to put over the mouse in the cardboard box to keep her contained until I could buy an actual cage.

    That was pretty much the end of the basket’s usefulness though. After a few days of makeshift mouse cage duty, many of the baskets wholes were substantially bigger and more unevenly shaped:p

  5. Mine came into my life by accident after setting of the alarm at the walmart. The friendly security guard and his helpful greeter companion checked through my entire bag and reciept and found nothing amiss, cheerfully waved me good day and watched me take the bags and my basket and obliviously stick the whole thing in my car. I figure this is a classic case of the “No Backsies” principle.
    Also one of those holds about 15 empty wine bottles. Very usefull!

  6. Not related to your basket, but we used a bed canopy just like yours to make the chuppah for our wedding! Way cheaper than buying fabric…

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