omg -what a wreck!!

peegeeMarch 15, 2014

Stopped at an estate sale in a nice area to see inside the house which will be going on the market....arrived 3 1/2 hours after the sale was jammed with cars and people who were leaving with items. There was STUFF everywhere. Absolutely. Everywhere. Mind you, it was clean and I suspect was kept fairly ordered and organized to a point and to sell, everything was brought out: it was so overloaded I asked if several homes contents were combined, but no. Boxes and boxes of miscellany, everything piled high, counters stacked up, tchotchkes erupting, hardly room to walk and turn around; not a space on any surface. Furniture everywhere....Sort of finished basement crammed, and garage stuffed to the gills and filled with tables loaded with more kitchen and other items from in the house....stuff spilled out into the yard and down both sides of the drive. And the sale had been ongoing for hours! I left with an overwhelming urge to go home and get rid of things - anything! But on my way I couldn't help feel sad - hopefully the owners loved their place and had a positive experience living with their *stuff*. But the house was worn and tired and a time warp with hideous wallpaper and flooring, a really ugly dated kitchen, etc. and it likely would have been an overwhelming task to move things around enough to have room to do any updating, cosmetic or otherwise even if they had wanted. I had a suffocating feeling imagining the owners trapped in time by the sheer unworkable volume of their possessions. Whew! Yet it has given me pause to reflect on the possible contentedness of those who lived there versus the idea of needing to be on trend. Maybe they never updated, but then had sufficient money until they passed to pay their bills and buy good food, etc. Hmmmm. A lot to think about including what is really important in life.

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A few months ago, I was browsing the real estate listings of a town in which we used to live. A grand old home that I used to drive by daily was for sale. I only knew that an elderly woman had lived there, but I had never been inside the house. The MLS photos were just like what you describe here... the woman had passed, and the photos were taken before her estate sale. I was astounded at the amount of possessions she had... on every inch in every corner of every room.

I believe there is something about those who lived during the Depression era that tend toward such collecting of possessions. However, given the overwhelming amount of mass-produced home decor available to us today (and add to that, CL and ebay), there must still be plenty of this going on today.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 4:27PM
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That feeling (the need to throw things away) happens to me every time I watch Hoarders. I actually turn the show on strategically so I'll start cleaning things out!

I have seen other people reference that same feeling on Facebook before, so maybe there's something to it...seeing other people with heaps of things makes you see what's really important to you and what is just "stuff."

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 4:43PM
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Peony (wish I had thought of that name!) the owners likely lived through the depression. What you describe is what I saw: way, way, WAY too many possessions for the size house or what anyone would ever need, not in the usual hoarder sense of saving every scrap of paper and margarine containers, etc., although who knows what may have been disposed of to get READY for the sale, and if relatives claimed things..!
Jeannie, I remember seeing so many flashlights in giant box after box of trinkety items , plus more flashlights in the basement and garage, and thinking, good grief! Yet in thinking about it, I have many flashlights around my house! Since getting home I've already collected a box of stuff for donations!....YES: "seeing heaps of things makes you see what's really important to you and what is just "stuff" "

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 7:17PM
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Bumping up as I said I would after reading Anele's "Cluttered Life" post.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 11:10PM
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Hmm, I wonder. My parents were from the depression generation and they were not anything like that, nor were most of their friends, so I'm not sure you can use that as a general blanket statement. There are always people who tend to hang on to everything, and there are people who get more that way as they get older.

But when my parents retired and moved, everything, everything from the house where I grew up went into a small uhaul truck with room to spare and then some (no garage sale to help clear up, either), and it took a single morning to clear up their retirement house after mom died.

EDIT As someone who's old enough to have known a lot of folks from that era, I would have said that in general the people I knew placed a much higher emphasis on saving rather than spending and well understood the difference between the satisfaction that comes from knowing you have enough resources to get by if hard times come around, as opposed to the fake security of being surrounded by piles of stuff. They didn't frivole money away.

This post was edited by writersblock on Wed, Mar 19, 14 at 23:39

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 11:33PM
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Peegee, thanks for bumping this up and posting it on the other thread.

I just started blogging and wrote about this very topic the other day. I'd asked, "What will your estate sale be like?" and someone (the only person who commented, ha, ha!) mentioned that she better clean up her closet!

The Hoarders show has the same effect on me as it does for you all! My basement was really messy from the kids/laundry the other day. I was not at all in the mood to clean, so I started watching TV and Hoarders came on. Not only did I get up within 2 minutes of turning on the show, but I did so HAPPILY-- with GUSTO. The show made me enjoy cleaning at 10 o'clock at night! Talk about power.

It is funny, PeeGee, that you mentioned flashlights. We have so many, too! We have had several power outages (finally have a generator!) so we've armed the house/kids with flashlights, just in case. But, if someone were to come and look at our things, it would seem excessive. And it is!

I know this is morbid, but sometimes when we are about to go on a trip that is a teeny bit far (like an hour of highway driving), I look around the house and think about what someone would think/see if we died that day in an accident. What would they have to deal with, what were we in the process of doing, how messy would it be, etc.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 11:38PM
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Anele, I do the same thing every time we go on a trip, and to a smaller extent, almost every time I leave the house. When we are leaving for a trip, dh doesn't understand why I'm running around vacuuming, making sure the bathrooms and kitchen are clean, things out away. Well, not only do I want to come to a neat and clean house, but if someone were to come in while we were out, I wouldn't want them to think we were slobs, etc. while the thought that something could happen to us certainly crosses my mind, but also, you never know when someone might end to enter your home unexpectedly during your absence (burst pipe, etc).

I can't stand to even drive my kids to school w/o making sure to clean up the kitchen, make sure our beds are made, etc. Of course on occasion I do need to rush out w/o cleaning up but then hate the feeling of knowing it's messy when I'm leaving!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 8:43AM
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For me leaving things tidy at night or when we all head out in the morning is done because I know it makes me feel better to come home (or wake up to) a place that is in order. There is a feeling of serenity in being in an environment that is uncluttered and not filled with 'undone' reminders ie dishes that need to be washed, items on surfaces where they don't belong, beds that are unmade and looking messy etc. It jangles me to live in that sort of setting so long ago I started using little 'systems' as I call them. A 10 minute pickup before I get into bed. A 10 minute clear out before I go to work. It just makes life a little easier and more pleasant, and that little bit can make a big difference in levels of stress and aggravation!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 8:56AM
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Fourkids-- yes-- I don't like that feeling, either! I don't make beds other than mine, though. I should start. Would like to enlist the kids but they are so rushed as it is in the a.m Getting them to bed earlier would be hard b/c my husband comes home late often, and I want them to see him for a little bit! I'm glad I'm not the only one to have these thoughts!

Runninginplace, I agree-- esp. when I will be gone for awhile, I always think (along w/my thoughts of not returning) of the wonderful feeling we'll have when we come back to a clean house. FlyLady does the same thing with the "you can do anything for 15 minutes." My problem is that some of my jobs take a REALLY long time. The other day it took me over 2 hours to clean the kitchen . . .this was after ONE meal. I have a dishwasher but always do the pots/pans by hand. I clean while I cook, but can't do it all when I do . . .and even so, that makes my cooking time even longer. Cooking is another one of those jobs that takes me so long. I can't figure out why. I don't even want to tell you how long I spent last night. The meal was OK but not worth it. Even when I break steps up throughout the day, it takes too long!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 9:09AM
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Peewee, while I can't know what was going on with the owners of that house, I have to say that while my grandmother wasn't a hoarder by any means, by the time she died at age 86, she had lived with senility that started in her 60s. As far back as I can remember, my grandmother was forgetful and progressed significantly as she aged. Her home, built in the 1920s was once a beautiful Tudor style home. When she died about 15 years ago, it had the same tired wallpaper on the walls, the original bathroom and kitchen, the same furniture I remember from my youth (including the plastic covered fabric pads on her dining chairs that seemed to be common among her Italian friends). There was plenty of "junky" stuff around, mainly because of her senility though it never was anywhere near hoarding. Though my cousins had a grand time going through her basement pantry throwing out items with expiration dates 10 years in the past!

While she certainly had the means to update her house, I'm sure in those last 20 years, it never crossed her senile mind. I'm sure the familiarity of the decor was a source of comfort for her. And certainly everything, though dated, worked. Perhaps, even without the loads of "stuff" in that house you saw, had owners who were in a similar situation...elderly and senile, with no reason in their minds, to "update" their worn and tired home.

As I mentioned on the other thread, I'm soooooo thankful my parents are not accumulators...when it's time to leave their home either from death or downsizing or to assisted living, my siblings and I won't have much to worry about. Dh's siblings just went through this when his mother sold their approx 3500-4000 sq foot home of nearly 50 years and downsized to a condo-she was an organized pack rat who couldn't part with anything (35 years of teacher supplies...projects, decor for bulletin boards, etc) not to mention a retail therapy/compulsive shopping as a way to manage her grief when FIL passed away. It took about 5-7 years to slowly get rid of her things and lots of arguing with MIL through it all!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 9:09AM
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My home is only 6 years old, so not dated, IMO, yet! However, when it gets to a point that I personally feel it's becoming dated, I think I'll just put it on the market rather than spend the money to re-do. There, that's settled and I feel better. ;)

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 3:19PM
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When it's time for my parents' estate sale, it will look like that. But here's the thing: my mom loved to entertain, and has beautiful pieces. And she hosted two weddings, and bought items for those. And when my grandmother died, many of her and her late husbands things came to mom and dads house. They also entertained and were well-read. So for now, things are either tidily stored in cupboards, closets, and basement. But if you were to lay it all out on tables, it would look sad. Maybe it is, but it is all evidence of lives well-lived. And I am the one who will have to disperse all of it.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 9:03PM
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I've been to estate sales like that. Makes my skin crawl! My late FIL was a hoarder like the type on that show. I can't tell you how gross it was to go in his home. The outside was just as bad, and cars, trailers, etc full of boxes of JUNK. Ugh.

My late MIL was not a hoarder, but she was a collector and shopper. When she died, we were moving her DH to his sons' house and packing up her things. She had 9 alarm clocks in her bedroom. Some were packed in boxes to sell at her "next yard sale", but she'd shop constantly and bring home things because the one she bought the week before wasn't as nice or had the same features as the next one she bought. She'd sell this stuff at yard sales, but she'd stop at more on her way home and pick up more junk.

My father was disorganized, and he had LOADS of multiples of things-he'd go buy new if he couldn't find what he was looking for. So when HE passed, there were literally gathered piles of expensive flashlights, watches, black dress name it. He'd leave things in his office, find he needed it at home so he'd go to the store and buy new instead of going back to his office to get it. ALL THE TIME.

I recently did some deep cleaning, and I put a flashlight in every room, as well as one in each vehicle and one on the breaker box. I put lighters in each room that has candles. I put scissors in my office, kitchen, in my gift wrapping boxes, in my DH's desk, and one in the drawer of the side table in the family room. As I did that I thought, when I die my kids are going to think I'm crazy-but really-it's just UBER organization. I put things where they're going to be used, so we're not always searching for them and then going out and buying more (like my Dad!).

I HATE clutter, so I frequently purge, but as noted, I only keep what is used, where it's used. I refuse to hang on to STUFF. So I often get rid of tchotckes and gifty things I receive (I mean, really, how many boxes of note cards am I ever going to use in my life?)

And I too, am guilty of thinking of what my house looks like if I should die! I actually was once in a bad car accident and had to have people come into my home while I was in the hospital. And I DID wonder just how my home looked when they went in. Thankfully it was a Saturday afternoon-I'd straightened up the house earlier!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 11:44PM
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I think you are so right, as long as you are happy. No one else should judge. Shows like hoarders and people that need intervention as per their families, I understand. But just because say I'm a neat freak, doesn't mean that someone opposite me isn't happy with their home the way it is - live happy!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 1:03AM
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Couldn't agree with sherryquilts more. Aside from sanitary issues, if I want lots of stuff and someone else wants clean counters who am I to judge, and who are you to judge what makes me happy.

I dare anyone to take away my "pretties". After I am dead and gone there will be time enough for that. In the meantime, if I like to glance over at a pretty vase or bowl that brings a smile to my face or happy memories, I have a life well lived.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 5:32AM
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"After I am dead and gone there will be time enough for that."

If a person leaves a house packed with stuff he or she hasn't looked at or used in 30 years that puts an enormous and unfair burden in terms of time and emotional stress on children or other relatives who have to take care of it after the homeowner's death.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 8:07AM
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If a person leaves a house packed with stuff he or she hasn't looked at or used in 30 years that puts an enormous and unfair burden in terms of time and emotional stress on children or other relatives who have to take care of it after the homeowner's death.

Oh, well. Then they should have come to help me when I was alive.

If that's the biggest "problem" I've given them, they've been lucky.
Deal with it.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 10:15AM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Have to agree with kswl and others. I spent lots of hours driving from Virginia to Pennsylvania after we moved away. We spent every holiday up there, many weekends, vacations, and for the last three years of my parents' lives that turned into EVERY weekend and all my vacations from school. Hardly saw my DH and son. Once we needed to clean out the house, it was a nightmare. We had to take time, but it was never enough. Younger sis did not help at all except for one weekend. We ended up trashing lots of things that we didn't have time to move, store, or advertise for sale. We also ended up leaving some things-new owners gave us an afternoon to get out a few more things, but that was it (sister negotiated the sale and timing-ugh). This was a large house that we could have started working on much earlier if my mother had permitted it. I plan to have the attic, basement, and garage completely empty (well, mostly as far as the garage goes) before my son needs to clean out this place! I have no desire to put that stress on him, even though he lives only a few minutes away!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 10:53AM
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We are going thru a horrible clean up of my in laws home. Its four hours away. My husband is seventy and this is not easy. We begged them to clean out for years. The amount of "saved" stuff is insane. We have made four trips there in two months and are not close to having the house ready for sale. Even though there were times when family members could have used items stock piled in the basement, they could not part with a single item. They did not suffer during the depression, were intelligent people, and were financially stable. I will never understand this desire to hang on to items that are not needed, useless, and broken. Just venting a little here. I am just so frustrated with the mess they left for us to clean up!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 11:10AM
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robo (z6a)

My parents are super nice but...they're 'keepers.' They just had to go through a move and it was hard.The good news is they did manage to pack and purge quite a bit. It's always been an awkward relationship between me, them, and their stuff because they will ask me to come help them go through stuff and purge, but then I feel like 'the bad daughter' or 'bad cop' when I do as their reactions aren't necessarily thankful or positive (even though they're the ones who asked for help).

So I've started to stay out of it, although I would love to help. My mom has started getting help in, someone to paint and clean, and it's amazing because the helper will say the same stuff I do, but without the emotional weight of the family relationship, my mom listens and often does what the helper suggests with no one's feelings getting hurt. So that's a huge win-win.

I know there are two sides to every story and I may seem tactless, but I think their reactions basically come because they WANT to keep all their stuff, so me suggesting this or that could go to charity goes against what they emotionally want instead of what they intellectually know would be good for them. So I'm kind of caught in the middle between brain and emotion, like someone asked to help another person stay in a strict diet. It's not rewarding!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 2:04PM
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Circus Peanut

I had to take an unpaid leave of absence from work last year in order to help clean out a family member's house; she was in the terminal stage of breast cancer and had always been a packrat type; her illness made it even worse. Her elderly mother also has cancer and could not physically help out, although she did what she could.

HEAPS of clothing all over the house, corridors between piles in the bedroom leading to the bed and bath. At one point I think I counted 26 pairs of sweatpants. Even before she got sick, she didn't do laundry, she just went out and bought new clothes. I did laundry for about 9 days solid before sending most of it to Goodwill.

Dozens if not hundreds of rubbermaid containers in the basement, filled with discount fabric, crafting supplies, tschotschkes and just plain stuff. Enough upholstery fabric to reupholster Cleveland. Half-used jars of expensive face cream. Decades of broken Christmas kitsch. Old shoes. Every outfit ever worn by anyone in the family. Manuals for long-obsolete computers and software.

It was a hellish few months. I couldn't just bring in some cleaning company and say out with it all! because she had a number of quite valuable items packed away amidst the junk like needles in a haystack. They desperately needed to salvage anything of value for sale. (After her death, her husband is now facing bankruptcy because their corrupt insurance company dragged their feet on the costs of the chemo; he needed to keep his job and take care of their disabled child, so also couldn't be very available for much of the cleanup.)

Jaysmom, it's not always your children that pay the price of your hoarding stuff, whether you feel they deserve it or not for whatever transpired while you were alive. I did it out of love, pity and necessity, but I know that had she been in a coherent state of mind, this is not the legacy my cousin would have wanted to leave me.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 11:03AM
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When the time comes, siblings will sell, throw out, or donate everything here. And it will be a chore.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 7:36AM
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Went to one estate sale where the house was packed. The home was a 1920's style Chicago bungalow which the estate sale company had bought - house and contents. It had been owned by a couple and their only-child bachelor son. First mom died, then dad, then son. I asked the lady running the estate sale - she said it had taken them weeks to purge junk to get the house in the state it was in - at least you could walk through the rooms and see the furniture. She was planning on multiple sales; there wasn't enough room to display all the treasures.

When a neighbor died, his sister called me over to help with a few handyman items (change light bulbs, etc.). The house was not packed with clutter; a very quick glance and you'd think all was normal. But he had some sort of appliance collection habit. In the eat-in kitchen were two TVs - the broken one on a stand and the working one on top of it. In the living room there were three - the broken 60's console TV, another broken one on top of that and the working one stacked on top of that. Out back, the original AC (broken) compressor was under the porch with the working one on the pad. In the basement, there was an evolution of the washing machine display. Back row a wringer, middle row a broken 1960's automatic and front row the working automatic.

When a widow neighbor died, her two kids got a really big dumpster and emptied the entire house into it. No estate sale nor garage sale. I had been in the house one time when she asked me to check her AC because it wasn't working. It wasn't really that cluttered, but she had a clothing obsession. Her late husband had made galvanized pipe racks in the basement. Row after row of clothing - hers, husband's, the kids from childhood to when they moved out of the house. It looked like a Goodwill store.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 9:03AM
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