Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dirty Jobs

So Karen, what did you do today?  Today is one of those days that if I told you what I did you might look at me as if I'm slightly crazy.  But, guess what?  I'm going to tell you anyway.

Let me preface this by saying I come from an area that values frugality and is the opposite of our 'disposable' society.  Part of this comes from the fact that our area is known for it's large Amish & conservative/Old Order Mennonite communities.  If there was ever a group of people who embrace this idea of using what is available, and getting the most use possible from something before throwing it away, it's them.

Another aspect is the influence of a generation that remembers all too clearly the hardships of the Great Depression.  My grandmother was a child but remembers how much they struggled.  

So, I've grown up seeing my grandmother collect & wash the 'disposable' cups, dishes, or silverware at a picnic.  If an appliance is broken we are more likely to fix it than to replace it.  Clothing was mended & patched.  Gardens were planted.  And, food was never to be wasted.

This has stuck with me.  In some ways it's good.  I would consider myself to be rather frugal and I don't feel like I have to have the newest and best of everything.  The downside is I've had a hard time letting go of things.  Clutter is my worst enemy & seems to always be nipping at my heels.

I've come a long way in finding a balance.....I think.

Last night my friend asked if I'd help her empty out a under-the-steps closet space that she has in her kitchen.  She lives in an older home that had been her parent's.  She bought the house from her mother about 7 years ago.  When she bought it, this space was filled with old canning jars (with food still in them) that were probably ancient and outdated at that time.

She just never could tackle clearing out this space on her own.  She needed help.  So help I did.  As I was pulling out old jars of cherries, applesauce, green beans, and tomato sauce it was clear that these had been put up at least 10-20 years earlier.  They were dust covered.   Some were leaking.  Some were moldy.  They were just gross.

There had to have been at least 100+ jars that we pulled out.  Once they were out we had to decide what to do with them next.  I told my friend I'd take them home, empty them, & see if any of the jars were salvagable.  If so, I could use them.  If not, I'd have my husband take the rest to the dumpster at work.

So what did I do today????

Have you ever seen the show 'Dirty Jobs'?  I could have been on that show today.

My husband had carried all the boxes of the jars to the basement.  I set up a little workspace with a 5 gallon bucket for dumping.   A trash can for lids, rings, and unusable jars.  And I went to it.

When I started dumping the contents I almost gave up immediately.  In many of the jars the smell was most reminiscent of vomit.  Seriously.  Add to that the sloshing, plopping sounds it made as I dumped jar after jar of old food into the bucket.

I would make runs out to the field behind our house as the buckets got full to dump the contents & then come back & dump some more.

Next I took the jars upstairs & rinsed them all thoroughly under hot running water while scrubbing the rims of the jars (where the food was most sticky).  Then, I ran them through the dishwasher on the heaviest cycle with the hottest water.

I did batch after batch like this.

The end result?  Even after washing them I realized some jars wouldn't be usable.  I checked for chips, rusting where the rings had been left on the jars, & interiors that just couldn't be cleaned well enough.  Oh, and my hands & my house smell like the contents of those old jars.

But, I did end up with quite a collection of clean, shiny, almost as good as new canning jars.

Was it worth it?  

In retrospect I'm not so sure.  But I needed more canning jars & now I have them.  And, I did my own little part in recycling.

I'm just glad I'm done.


  1. Oh my lands, what a job! I bet you came across some very cool canning jars. I love the variety in appearance of many of the old jars. I cannot imagine how awful all that smelled, though. Way to go:-).

  2. Yikes, 20 year old food! I have a strong gag reflux so that wouldn't have worked for me. :/

  3. way to go Karen! I do know what that may have looked/smelled like. My MIL allowed jars of food to sit many years too. Maybe that is why I try very hard to only "put up" what we need in a year and then use it! Enjoy using those jars next summer/fall when you put food away for your family. And, your frugality, I am with you on that one. I remember my Mother saying, "only the rich don't scrape their butter papers."
    Lois Jean

  4. wow, you're a great friend to do that ... glad you at least got a handful of great jars out of the deal ;-)

  5. Wow! You definitely deserve more than a few sparkly antique canning jars! That was quite the job! It is also amazing to me how long they were under those stairs ... I bet both you AND your friend are happy that job is done!

  6. Ugh! I can't imagine the smell. But I probably would have done it too for that many jars. I'm sure your friend is thrilled as well :)

  7. this is good site 03147891418
    i like this

  8. Use the jars for pen holders, vases and bug catching. It'll work great!


Related Posts with Thumbnails