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Thread: Secret Hoarders

  1. #1
    Senior Member SiouzQ.'s Avatar
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    Secret Hoarders

    I have a little side job right now, helping clean out a small Madrid refurbished cabin of a long-time resident who passed away just after Christmas. I hadn't been over to her place in quite awhile, but knew she had a LOT of stuff, but not to the degree of the true level 5 hoarder I worked for briefly back in Michigan many years ago. At least you could still walk through her house and take notice of all the hundreds of books, papers, boxes, bags, clothing, kitchen stuff, etc...

    She had been ill for a few years, and many in our community helped her by taking her meals, checking her emails (she was almost blind from cataracts but refused to go to a doctor for a few years because she believed she could heal herself by meditation practices). We took her dog for many walks, got her rides into Santa Fe, took her to the grocery store. The one thing she NEVER wanted help with was cleaning up her cute little cabin.

    So the other day me and the real estate agent (my neighbor and friend) went over there to start clearing out her possessions, the idea being that we would save the cool stuff and then invite her friends over (once we got it organized) so they could take a memento of hers, or find something of use for their homes. When I first walked through I thought it didn't look too bad because there were no shoulder-high piles of stuff to worm through to get from one room to the other.

    But...there are many levels of hoarding. Hers was the bags of bags, boxes of bags, boxes of boxes, bags of boxes, the clothes. SO. Many. Clothes. Clothes stuffed in bags and boxes, under the bed, books everywhere. Doo-dads and trinkets, and dried flowers, and stones arranged in a shrine. Sheets, and more sheets, boxes of sheets, bags of sheets, drawers of sheets. Sleeping bags and comforters, so many comforters. Chairs, lots of chairs, most in decrepit and in unfixable condition. Dog and cat hair, tons of dog and cat hair, and an inch of dry desert dust over everything!

    AND MOUSE SHIT. So much mouse shit! Most things were ruined from the dirt, animal hair and mouse shit. So sad...she had some really cool stuff but virtually unusable from the lack of care of it. We don't have a lot of time to clear this place out so basically everything that is gross, dirty and ruined got bagged up and thrown in the driveway, lying in wait for the contractor to make a dump run.

    We have one more day of clearing out the rooms left and then the contractor has to go in and rip up the carpet because of the mouse urine smell.
    It's so sad to see all this stuff that could have been useful to someone be so ruined. It strengthened my resolve (as it always does) to not EVER leave behind such a mess for someone else to clean up. I purge stuff regularly, and most importantly, I take good care of things if they can be of use to someone else, and if not, I try to recycle it first or if that isn't possible, only then do I throw it away.

  2. #2
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    Sounds like quite an effort you put out, SiouzQ. And, yes, it is a poignant reminder for me to get back to decluttering and organizing what I have. Thanks for sharing.
    To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer." Mahatma Gandhi
    Be nice whenever possible. It's always possible. HH Dalai Lama
    In a world where you can be anything - be kind. Unknown

  3. #3
    Senior Member razz's Avatar
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    You are a kind neighbour. Seems that you are living in a supportive community which is so great to read.
    End of life issues are unique, even complex, but it seems that she lived as she wished with her neighbours' caring.
    Mice can multiply so quickly and take over. The smell will be the challenge.
    As Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    I agree with razz and happystuff--you are such a good friend and neighbor. She was lucky to have you.

    Such a shame that her things were so neglected, and it certainly is a reminder to not let stuff get out of hand. And then to co-exist with mice to that extent... when I watch shows like Hoaders it hits home that there are so many mental illnesses associated with accepting a lifestyle like that.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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  5. #5
    Senior Member SiouzQ.'s Avatar
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    It takes a lot of diligence to keep up with the mouse and pack rat problem out here. I'm not surprised that it got totally out of hand as her health began to deteriorate. I have a feeling though that she let it get out of hand before she got so sick though. When you pile boxes of papers and pillows in a corner and forget about them and keep adding to the piles over the years it is like inviting the mice to a lovely new permanent home.

    I'm not having a problem dealing with it, but my cohort (who used to be a really good friend of hers) is feeling very sad at the conditions her friend lived in during her past few years. All I can say is "G" did it all her way, right to the very end. No medical-industrial complex for her. She did have a hospice nurse who took care of her at the end but no hospital stay. I kind of applaud her for that, in a way. No one knew she was terminal; she kept such an upbeat, happy, and spiritual attitude about life. She truly was a force of good in the world.

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    This is a good reminder to look at my stuff with an eye to downsizing how much I have and enjoying what I have more. I am working on my photo albums, trying to catch up since I have not done anything with them since we got here. I just finished an album of my dad's stuff that I brought from his house--I have pictures and stuff that has not seen light of day since 1950. I'm not sure I will keep it forever, but I am at least trying to process it and get it out of the boxes--they had drawers full of mice, too. At least if I get it out into the light and look through it, I can make some order out of it. I never kept as much as he did.

    My husband said why not throw it out already, who wants it after you are gone? But I'm trying to do for him what you are trying to do for your friend--see what is worth passing down, getting rid of the junk.

    With my own photos, I am trying to catch up this year's so I can keep up with it as they come into the house. Keeping up with stuff is what you need to do and your friend could not at the end. My mom was excellent at that until she got dementia. Then my dad took over, and it was the piles on piles thing.

    So I am trying to go through everything now, with an eye to order now and keeping up with it going forward.

    But if I get dementia or cancer, I'll probably fall behind. I am seeing the wisdom of a big downsize at around 80-85.

    It hurts so much to see their house, that they did keep up with, fallen into disrepair. But it's gone now, and now I just have to deal with the trauma of the loss.

    I think sometimes we project our sadness about the loss onto the house and be angry that it didn't look the way it used to, that the owners got old and failed. I don't know.

  7. #7
    Senior Member beckyliz's Avatar
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    Bless you for doing this. I hope you're wearing gloves and a mask at the least.

    I follow a couple of estate sale companies here locally and occasionally buy a piece of jewelry, or something. One of them has an on-line sale going now and it's a LOT of Longaberger (baskets, pottery, etc. that was a popular home show company in the 1990s - kinda $$). At any rate, a lot of it is still "new in box." I can imagine this lady thinking she'd buy it and someday it would get a great price. Sad to say, it will go for pennies on the dollar. Just a reminder, use your "special" stuff and enjoy it while you can. If it breaks, it breaks. It's just stuff.
    "Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. But accumulate for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, your heart is also." Jesus

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by beckyliz View Post
    Just a reminder, use your "special" stuff and enjoy it while you can. If it breaks, it breaks. It's just stuff.
    This is an excellent reminder!!
    To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer." Mahatma Gandhi
    Be nice whenever possible. It's always possible. HH Dalai Lama
    In a world where you can be anything - be kind. Unknown

  9. #9
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    My DH has such a hard time understanding “ it’s just stuff.”

    however, I respect his basement full of parts to do electrical work, plumbing, carpentry because he can usually come up with a tiny widget that is necessary for any job. Yesterday I was proud of him because he cleaned out an entire large shoebox full of dimmer switches. These dimmer switches no longer work with today’s lightbulbs. He put them right in the landfill trash, he didn’t try to take them apart to mine tiny pieces of metal that he could then sell to the metal scrapper.

    He also threw away a shoebox full of baby food jars. I was proud of him for that! We got those years ago from a neighbor for making little jams for Christmas. We used a few of them but the rest sat around. He also gave up seven cookie tins.

  10. #10
    Senior Member SiouzQ.'s Avatar
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    The slightly hard thing for me in all this is that I get first pick at anything I unearth. Things that I have found that are very useful to me are an entire almost-full box of Fatwood Sticks (with help immensely in lighting the morning's fire in the woodstove). There is also a black leather sofa in pretty decent condition (I think it was ather house for only a few years so not ruined yet) that will look great in our living room and will replace our really crappy sofa that we currently have).

    There is also a really nice (but very heavy) KitchenAid mixer that I am vacillating on. I know they are very good mixers and expensive to buy new, but never in 5 years have I ever pined for a big mixer like that for the kitchen (I hardly ever bake). If I took it, it would have to be stored on top of the refrigerator and if I am honest will probably hardly ever get used. I also unearthed one of those little electric hand mixers, so I think that one will be much more useful to me and can be stored much easier. I'm pretty sure I will not be greedy for the sake of owning a KitchenAid and will leave it for someone else to have.

    The only other things I have taken are some small metal trinkets that could be used in an assemblage collage. They've already been neatly put away in the studio in our plastic keeper boxes (all bought cheaply from Savers). Who knows if they'll ever be used, but at least they are stored well!

    This is all good practice for me for when I start working at my friend's Estate Sale company next month.

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