Putting Things in Order

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, November 29, 1913: Put things in some kind of order here, but how long they’ll stay. Goodness only knows.

boxes

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

What was Grandma organizing?  Did she put similar items into a box or other container?  In the days before container stores, people used to save boxes, jars, and cans to store things in.

Actually, I still save jars and boxes. When I’m cleaning, I’ll gather a group of like items—and then search for a saved container to store them in.

Sometimes I think that I’m the only person  still saves old containers—and that most people buy nice matching containers—but I never can bring myself to buy them when I have a closet full of saved ones.

jars and cans

35 Responses

  1. I save containers, too! Glass jars especially seem to get to me.

    • Me, too. Then every once in awhile my cupboard is overflowing with old jam jars, spaghetti sauce jars, etc.–and I throw all of them out (and then start all over collecting them again). :)

  2. My mother grew up during the Depression: she saved EVERYTHING. So, like you, I learned to reuse, long before it was the popular thing to do!

  3. You are not alone. I keep old containers and boxes too. Can’t help myself.

  4. Shopping bags are my obsession. You know those bright shiny bags with the rope handles and cardboard bottoms from places like Neiman Marcus, Victoria’s Secret and Brighton. It’s not like I shop there every day, but when I do, I’m reluctant to let go of the gorgeous bags. So, I fold them nicely and nest them into a larger shopping bag of the same sort. And I do use them for toting this and that about or to organize odd items on my closet shelves. However, I know I’ve saved way too many. I just can’t seem to decide which ones I could live without.

    • Now that you mention it, I do the same thing. I have a storage bin over-flowing with those shopping bags. I always think that people will be impressed if I bring something to work in a bag from an elegant store–but then when I actually take items to work I generally grab a plastic bag that I got at the supermarket. :)

      • I bought several of those reuseable bags for grocery shopping so I could get a nickle each, every time and if those plastic things follow me home from any other store they’re immediately tossed into the recycle bin.

        I think the reason I like the fancy shopping bags so much is because I’m a sucker for clever packaging. I’ve actually bought items I didn’t need because I was so enamored with the way they were presented. That’s the danger you run into after too many marketing and sales classes.

  5. I save all containers also and use many in my garden. I used to be embarrassed, but now it is called recycle, reduce, reuse and is considered hip and cool!

  6. I try not to hold on to things but… my dad saves everything and I have a container of old nails, some of which I hammered straight over 20 years ago in British Columbia and then dragged to Alberta when I moved here!

  7. My grandmother had really cool hat boxes :)

    • It might be. Thanks for sharing the link. I really enjoyed reading the thoughtful post about the sisters sorting through the accumulation of their father’s (and mother’s) things.

  8. And you can decorate the jars and cans if you want to . . . .

  9. Some jars are just too nicely shaped to put in the recycle bin, and to be honest reusing them for pickled and jams is the most efficient method of recycling out. Our grandmas weren’t so dumb.

    • You’re absolutely right. I just need to find the right balance between saving the best jars–and immediately recycling the more average jars.

  10. I find it really difficult to throw away glass jars – and I’m always ridiculously pleased when I find a use for one I’ve kept!

    • I know the feeling. Sometimes my husband wants an old jar to store nuts, bolts, etc. in the garage. I recently gave him an old jar that I’d saved for years that was just what he was looking for. When I handed it too him, I told him the entire “life story” of the jar–and he just rolled his eyes. :)

  11. I recently shopped with my 88 year old mother and she loaded two large jars of coffee into the basket. Knowing that she did not drink much coffee, I asked her why she needed the two jars. It turns out she was using the coffee jars (when empty) as a canister set. Being a child of the depression she would never have been able to allow herself the “luxury” item of an actual canister set. (Ironically, a canister set would have cost less than the two jars of coffee!!).

  12. Reading this post creates nostalgia of my growing up in the prairies in Canada. Certainly my grandparents and my parents saved everything that might possibly have a use again. When my Grandfather passed I asked if I could have one of the Watkins liniment containers he had. It so reminds me of him. Thank you for taking me back to that,

    • I love it. So often we tend to merely see clutter when people save things for possible future use. I really like the way you reframed it to see the Watkins liniment containers as something that reminded you of your grandfather.

  13. Hi. I save containers too, but it is a sad fact that putting something in a container with a lid means I promptly forget what is inside. I like labels. Baskets too because they are open. Jane

  14. Nope, you are not the only one Sheryl, I have an entire cupboard of stuff and just started making a craft out of an empty Poppycock can. Why through out (recycle) a perfectly good can right?

  15. This is my favorite entry so far. I know just how she feels!

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