VASHON ISLAND, Wash. — We all make them. Then we leave them behind. Which makes Madisen Gatemen really happy.

She finds and collects grocery lists.

"It's something so small that can have so much meaning," Gateman said. "A grocery list tells you so much about somebody. "

It started when she worked at the Vashon Thriftway.

"People would come through the checkstand and say, 'Hey, can you throw this away?' I'd say, 'Sure.' And I'd kinda glance at it and be like, ‘Hmm. I wonder what's on there,’" she said.

What she found moved her. 

"It was so intimate and so vulnerable," Gateman said. "And that, I think, is really beautiful in such a simple way. It's somebody's grocery list. You don't think about it.”

Now she has more than 700. They're written on takeout baskets, on sheet music, and on guest checks. Each list tells a little story.

“One of my favorites is right there: bananas and mousetraps,” said Gateman, pointing to the brief list. 

Another is headed "Larry’s List." It reads like a to-do haiku: “Pepper bacon? Coffee. Lemonade. Frozen Hashbrowns. String for weed whacker.” 

“This person’s getting stuff done!” Gateman said.

Larry's List
Larry's List
Anne Erickson - Evening

Some are strange, and some are sad, like one that has a note scribbled on it: “This is the last time we went grocery shopping together.”

They're all revealing. 

"What they need. What they don't need.Their desires, their hopes,” said Gateman.

She displays her lists on Vashon Island - recently at Snapdragon Bakery. She wants them to be seen, and displaying them off-island is the main thing on her to-do list.

"They need to be touched," she said. "They need to be held and witnessed. They're important."

Grocery lists collected by Madisen Gateman
Some of Madisen Gateman's 700+ grocery lists
Anne Erickson - Evening

Meanwhile, Gateman has a message for the person who needed "Bread, Roast Chicken, Ginger Ale and Duck Leashes": She appreciates your work.

"Someone wrote this, carried it around all day, stuffed it in their pocket," Gateman said. "Maybe it fell out when they pulled their phone or their wallet out, and they probably never thought of it again. But I did.”

Gateman would love to get more grocery lists. Send them to Madisen Gateman, PO Box 516, Vashon, WA 98070.

KING 5's Evening celebrates the Northwest. Contact us: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email.