That Old Junk

On December 11, 2010, in Old Stuff, by JRand
No Longer Made

No Longer Made

Some of us are collectors and some are minimalists, essentially we are either pack rats or clean freaks.

My family’s summer home is quite old and has thus far survived as a shared family possession through three generations. Drawers and closets contain many treasures but our medicine cabinets have always served as storage locations for historic memorabilia. They have accumulated the daily personal products of many people for over 70 years and no familiy member has ever decided this was an unacceptable practice.

An old tin of Prickly Heat Powder from the 1040’s comfortably shares cabinet space with a new tube of toothpaste. We all know very well which are the items to be used and which are simply former necessities, now past their expiration dates and older than all of us.

But of course we have house guests and not all people understand this practice. Some “clean freak” guests probably open an old medicine cabinet out of typical secretive curiosity and make a ghastly face of disgust but close the door thinking, “thank god that’s not my problem!” But they close the door and move on, leaving our treasures in place.

When Bottles were Bottles

When Bottles were Bottles

Then, on a summer weekend, one guest was not only a clean freak but an organizational mastermind as well and almost destroyed the medicine cabinet museum out of the best intentions. Apparently she thought that the only reason we never cleaned out all that old junk was because we shared the rooms among the family and nobody wanted to either take the time to deal with other people’s mess or didn’t want to step on anyone else’s toes and sort through their old crap.

She had a plan to solve this deadlock for us and go through all of the bathroom cabinets with an eye to keeping only what was good and proper for current use. Thankfully, while terribly misguided, she was also well mannered. This undertaking was proposed to us over breakfast, apparently after being discouraged by finding tampons in one of the cabinets that dated back to the first invention of tampons.

“NO NO NO! Don’t throw ANYTHING out from those cabinets!!!” was an immediate and simultaneous chorus from family members. Our sudden and obvious outrage was no doubt shocking and likely hurt her feelings which was as unintended as her desire to do anything but be a very helpful guest. Ironically, as a family, we had never voiced any shared passion for the contents of those cabinets, it was a completely silent understanding. A somewhat bizarre 70 year collection of personal hygiene products allowed to accumulate by mutual consent.

Sweet Pea Talcum

We owe our clean freak friend a debt of gratitude; one  I know she would not understand. We now know that protecting these old curiosities before someone did decide to randomly throw things away is required. The oldest and most interesting items in the “collections” will all be put on the top shelves and closed in with a piece of plexiglass. And, as a part of our usual introduction to a new guest entering their room for the night, we now always point out that the medicine cabinets are actually mini-museum collections.

Our guests are welcome to look and marvel at the old stuff inside but the aspirin definitely could be as old as it looks and they have not sold mouthwash in glass bottles for some time … consider it all toxic, even if not marked as such, but highly valued. Please ask if in need of anything and one of the curators will make sure it is safe for contemporary use.

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