The first time I entered the house, I wore a mask to protect my eyes, nose and throat. The dusty blinds were closed, the drapes drawn, an asthmatic’s nightmare. Mold, mildew and the smell of mothballs permeated the air. I coughed. I wheezed. I envisioned creepy, crawly creatures in the corners.
Where to start? Draw back the curtains. Open the venetians. Admire the OCEAN VIEW, the treasure, the selling feature of this property. Get rid of everything else immediately!
I start in what-might-be the dining room. Attempt to eliminate, shred the possibility of identity theft, clear out twelve or more filing cabinets stuffed with forty years of history: bank statements, invoices, receipts, recipes, coupons, newspaper clippings, cards, cartoons, (I understand the cards and cartoons. I save them myself, intend to send them to someone, then forget.) Uh-oh.
One drawer was filled with thousands of tiny pieces of paper, clipped prices of items available long ago, confetti. Everything alphabetized, neat, orderly. This hoarder would put the Dewey Decimal System to shame.
What about items of value? I asked a friend who deals in antiques, paraphernalia, collectables to take a look. He came. He viewed. He was polite, “Yes, a lot of stuff. Too bad it’s all junk.” But what about the fifty shell-encrusted owls, like the ones in the Mystery Spot Gift Shoppe? Surely someone wants these? “Ah yes,” he said. “I have a client who likes owls. I’ll take a few.” He eyed me sympathetically and hoisted two from the mirrored shelves above what looked like might be a wet bar under much memorabilia.
A few discoveries: phone books dating back twenty years, cases of Hydrogen Peroxide- expiration date 1980, stuffed animals, Monopoly games, hundreds of shirts- some never worn, portable typewriters, rolls of adding machine paper, answering machines, calculators, heavy dial phones, decks of cards, jigsaw puzzles, a bazillion decorative owls, minus two, key chains, watches, eyeglass cases, eyeglasses, walkers, crutches, a few potties, electric heaters, framed and unframed tiger pictures, a two ton organ, a five ton pool table, an assault rifle and a pistol. No dead bodies.
It took six people working dawn to dusk for a week to empty the 2500 square foot house. I finally realized about day three that there were heat outlets in all the rooms. I had begun to think the electric heaters were there because a forced air furnace was non-existent.
The Dewey Decimal system organization existed for the filing cabinets only. Everything else was everywhere, no system, no where. A tiger here, a tiger there, everywhere a tiger, tiger: tiger statues, pictures from magazines, framed and unframed photos, postcards, fuzzy toys, plastic pumas, velvet paintings, tigers- smiling, angry, hungry, magnificent. I also have a soft spot for these incredible cats. A part of me grokked, but I resisted the impulse to score. Whew!
Ceramic ducks. Owls, did I mention owls? Brass figurines. Blown glass figurines. Figurine figurines. Figurative figurines. Figurines de jour. Figurines de tomorrow. Figurines de next week. Figurines de next month, next year, many lifetimes.
I remember lusting after similar delightful, wondrous, precious, breakable, dust collecting treasures as a child, demanding them “Or else!” My parents usually opted for the “Or else.”
I spent many an afternoon in my room contemplating my boring, empty environment, realizing that my negotiating capabilities needed improvement.
The folks did cave occasionally. My various eclectic collections entertained me for about three minutes. Then I was out the door and done with them forever. The thrill is in the acquisition. I’m still learning this lesson. I’m not sure this is true for hoarders, but I understand the find high. Uh-oh.
I friend of mine recently asked me to talk to her boyfriend about being a realtor. She got me after a very long, dusty, musty stuff-filled day.
Tell Freddie I’d be delighted to show him the ropes.
Take my most recent listing for example. He’ll need a gas mask, a janitor’s cart, fourteen trucks to haul stuff to the dump. a crew of twenty, patience, a sick sense of humor, cases of bottled water (my hispanic helpers don’t drink tap water,) gloves, ladders, shovels, hammers, screw drivers, hoses, big black plastic bags, paper bags, boxes, (oh wait, a lot of this stuff may be at the house,) my right arms, Sylvia and Jose.
Day two: he’ll need additional tools, cleaning supplies, PG&E (to make sure the furnace like the one I finally found won’t blow up,) different people skills, Xanax, a sicker sense of humor, four Sylvias and six Joses.
Day three: he’ll need a Bee Man in a hazmat suit to ecologically remove the swarming wasps’ nests, seven Sylvias and ten Joses. He must remember to stay calm when Goodwill shows up and refuses to take anything.
Day four: He’ll start finding all the stuff he hasn’t seen yet. He’ll need an inhaler. Actually he needed an inhaler early on- but it’s so exciting to get a listing….
Day five: he’ll need more Xanax and vodka for breakfast.
Day six: He should call in a professional to empty the house.
Day seven: He’ll decide he’d rather be a Fuller Brush Man.
He can save a lot of time by just calling the Fuller Brush Company right now.
I’m sure he can find their phone number in one of the forty, dust encrusted 1980 telephone books strewn about the house, especially the ones for Gilroy.
I can hardly wait to show him the ropes!! I’ll have to find some ropes though. This was one thing this hoarder didn’t have.