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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Hoarder

After all, nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a mermaid ornament...unless it's 74 identical mermaid ornaments...still lying untouched in styrofoam sarcophagi in individual boxes.  The estate sale company I work for is dealing with its first hoarder.  It is (it's really a "I am selling this house because I can't physically walk through it anymore, much less sleep in it" sale, not a case of death) not only a person who threw (and still throws...a knowledgible source told us her current residence is just as bad) nothing away, she is a shopaholic. 

Therefore, not only are there newspapers, and hangers, and used candy-wrappers, and pens and pins and crumpled stationery and so on and so on...there are designer purses, and clothing still with the price tags affixed, and other items still in the plastic bags in which they traveled from the store--some with sales slips included--which were apparently lost immediately upon their arrival at the house.

We've filled three of the industrial-size dumpsters with trash from the ground floor alone, and we haven't touched the garage or the basement (which is as large as the rest of the house).  I went out to Home Depot today and bought myself a respirator, because the mold is so bad in the basement that just a few minutes getting the lay of the land down there gave me a hoarse voice and constricted lungs.  I am wearing long sleeves, long pants, and rubber gloves, and tomorrow I intend to wear my most delapidated pair of jeans and my old hiking boots.  Curiously, I have not seen a single roach or other nasty bug, and there is little evidence of mice.

The owner of all these things (more than 10 times what the house should normally hold--even after we've thrown away many metric tons of garbage, the rooms are so full of saleable stuff they are hard to navigate) has (or had) money...like I said, there are designer items around, underneath the piles of debris.  There is also some really nice furniture that we've dug out, and as I told my boss, "If we sell half the picture frames, we'll break even on the cost of the sale."  We've found more than a dozen living-room style table lamps so far.

I've always thought of myself as a packrat, but this sale has provided both a cautionary tale and a profound relief...I'm not bad off (there but for the grace of God and daily meds go I!), and there's no way on this earth I would ever want to have even a quarter of the amount of paraphernalia this person has collected.  After I get off work I'm anxious to run home and (besides take a thorough and lengthy shower to wash all vestiges of the house from my skin) clean out even more of my own possessions: just as a gut reflex.  I'm even winnowing my shoe collection.  But I need help with my closet.  I hope some fashion-savvy girlfriends can brutally cull, so I'll be chic and uncluttered.   And frugal--neatness really does save money, because when you know where your scissors are, you won't be tempted to buy another pair, and another. And another.  And another... (and those are just the pairs we found in the dining room!)

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