Excavating the relics of roommates past

Oven in the time of cholera.
Oven, the time of cholera.

Sometimes those things happen in your apartment and you’re like, “Well, that’s future Tim’s problem.” Like when someone decided to install a spice rack tenuously perched shelf of spices above the stove, leading to an almost weekly incidence of fumbling something that drops down into the inky abyss between stove and wall, not to mention all the spills thrills and chills that come with the kind of extreme, splatter-prone cooking we practice. But then! All the rodents of Brooklyn decide to gentrify your apartment at once and suddenly Future Tim is Present Tim and you’ve got to clean it all out to try to cut down these cheap eats so attractive to critters. And so, we excavate.

This photo is, if I had to guess, at least 10 years worth of untended gunk, detritus, dust, utensils, mouse droppings, grease, soy chorizo and other flotsam and jetsam of Brooklyn life found under our stove last night.

This kind of thing is, I reckon, a particular city trait, where apartments change hands by generations more than they do by leases, and a problem you discover today might have been caused by some great-great-great-grandroommate who probably had an .msn email address at the time. We cleaned it and are working on patching the entrance to the mouse brownstone in the wall behind it. And we moved the spices a long time ago.

We’ve found lots of other things in our apartment like this: mysterious holes in the walls, water-logged encyclopedias, a gigantic non-working amp, and, like, 30 dirty rags inexplicably attached to a board that we later learned was actually a piece of “art” by a former tenant, all of these cackling with echoes of laughter from apartment dwellers past. There’s no accountability to this: as a trade off for having the kind of large loft space, bohemian vibe and quirky character chiseled out over generations of Brooklynites, we are stuck with the broken vestiges of past lives, good bad or otherwise.

Anyway, out of curiosity, what’s the grossest thing you’ve found in your apartment that none of your current roommates are responsible for? Best answer wins a hot tub time machine to go back and tell off your Past Self.

Follow Tim past, future and present: @timdonnelly.


  1. Michelle

    I used to work for a record label and we moved office locations when I was still super junior. Me and some of the other youngens raided a dumpster that was inside full of stuff people were ditching from their offices and I found a framed double platinum record of Moby ‘Play’ . I took that home and hung it above my toilet, even though it had someone else’s name on the plaque.

    Fast forward a few years, and guess what I forgot to pack in my next move? I always wondered what the next tenant thought of that.

  2. The cabinent above my fridge was FULL of beach themed bathroom accessories. My boyfriend and I couldn’t believe it as we pulled out more and more things like starfish soap dishes and seashell-shaped toilet paper holders.

  3. The last tenant of our current apartment left a nice big pile of flour in one of the kitchen cabinets, which had turned into a nice big pile of maggots by the time we moved in. And in a college dorm, moving a dresser in the bedroom on move-in day revealed a re-wrapped but used tampon applicator. The students who lived there the year before us were guys, so there was lots of speculation about how it ended up there, and how long ago.

  4. David Colon

    My last apartment came with a painting of Captain Jack Sparrow’s head on the wall, it must have been six feet tall. That, and hooks in the wall that we think were used to keep the TV chained to it.

  5. Tim Donnelly

    This was by far not the weirdest thing I’ve found though. In my first sublet in Ditmas Park, I found a secret door hidden in my closet. Inside was an empty refrigerator and a box full of dozens and dozens of whip-it containers, both used and unused. So unless this was a pre-gentrification whipped cream factory…

  6. Shira

    I moved into a brownstone in Lefferts Gardens and under the sink was a rusty machete with a jagged edge. I always thought the place was haunted after that.

  7. Lauren

    My current house used to be a frat house…so yeah. The weirdest thing though is that my closet has a secret nook in the back and when moving in, I discovered there’s just a chair sitting there. I expected a creepy little Grudge-like girl to be in it, it’s terrifying.

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