Thursday, June 11, 2015

Close Encounters with Hoarding

I don't have to watch any of those reality TV shows to know about hoarding. There are close encounters all around. It can be both secretive, and in your face. 

Years ago we wanted to rent a bungalow and approached the owner who lived around the corner.  The house had been sitting empty for a couple of years and it seemed reasonable she would like to make some money off of it. When we knocked on her door, she opened it just wide enough to stick her head out. I didn't think anything of it, but it should have been a warning. 

And maybe not letting us see inside the single car old-time garage was another clue. Oh, and the stacks of magazines piled up a couple of feet high against the outside of the double doors. She said she was saving them for mulch. But there wasn't a garden. 

When she took us inside the house it was empty, except for the basement. There she stored miscellaneous furniture. That included a large, painted  table. A three dimensional monkey sat in the middle. It was about fifteen inches tall, brown, with a cute face. The odd thing was, it didn't have plush fur but appeared to be covered in frosting. Yeah, cake frosting. So was the body beneath it petrified cake? 

I thought of Miss Havisham, Charles' Dickens' disappointed bride. Her cake was swathed in spider webs. The monkey wasn't as old. I wondered but didn't ask. The landlady said she would remove it. Not throw it out. Remove it. Which she did, (where to?), and we moved in. 

She literally lived 500' away. We always took the rent check over, and she always cracked the door open enough for her arm to snake and snatch the check. We never glimpsed the interior.

That's a tip-off that the saver has disintegrated from stashing to trashing. 

Toys R Us
 A distant family member hadn't let anyone in for years. We suspected, but didn't know how bad it was until she had a health emergency. While she recovered, the family went in to clean. They found meandering tracks between the rooms through mountains of printed matter. It was like walking through the tunnels in an ant farm. The debris from one room filled a small dumpster, and turned up a substantial amount of cash. 

Genetically closer, another relative just says, "Don't go up there. And don't touch anything!" Oh-kay.

Those are the stealthy stashers.

Out here in the country, gathering and guarding happen outside for all to see. Treasures spill over from the garage to the yard-- stacked, covered, and sometimes fenced in. 

If the porch is packed floor to ceiling, I'm bettin' the house is full too. 

 If I don't let you in next time you come over, call my kids. 


  1. My mother-in-law was a hoarder. We didn't grasp the extent of it until she died. We worked a whole week and only got cleaned out from under 2 beds. It took months to get her house cleared out.

  2. Sherry, I bet that was tough. Do you think some of it is a carry-over from living through the Depression? And for others, it's a mechanism to deal with depression!


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