When I was about 37 years old my maternal grandmother, Goldie, suffered a massive stroke resulting in her final years living in a nursing home. At the time I considered it an honor that the family asked me to handle her final affairs including preparing for an estate sale to settle her financial obligations.
Goldie was a hoarder unlike any I have ever known. She filled her house, the same one I grew up in as a young boy, from cellar to attic with STUFF. Grandma Goldie’s house was a generational house, one in which great-grandparents, grandparents, children and assorted aunts lived harmoniously (most of the time). To accommodate all these relatives, a large house was necessary. My memories include two living rooms, two dining rooms, two oversized kitchens on the first floor, seven bedrooms and two closets that could easily convert to bedrooms, and a single bathroom on the second floor. Additionally, we had a basement and ground cellar which was great for storing the year’s harvest of potatoes (not talking about bushels; rather, tons of potatoes) and bushels of cabbage. Oh yes, I almost forgot the attic. This was where Grandma kept all the stuff that she might need someday.
In the attic, shared by bats and wasps alike, I stumbled upon various treasures along with miscellaneous junk. Goldie cut into snippets old coats for area rugs, old dresses for patching and quilts and other scraps which only God knew how Grandma had planned to use. I sorted through all her treasures and created two piles – truly trash for the burn pit and other stuff that fools at an estate auction might buy. Both piles were huge.
The day of the estate auction arrived. It was a beautiful Saturday in April. The crowds began arriving early, lined the highway for miles on either side with their cars and pickup trucks. One would have to be raised in an old Pennsylvania Dutch community to understand the significance of an estate auction. Not only neighbors who were mostly curious, but also family members who hoped to snag a family momento and antique dealers from as far as Philadelphia and New York City would attend these events to buy things for other folks to fill their houses.
Only a few family members knew that I, the grandson Larry, had spent a full week of 12-hour days sorting through Goldie’s stuff, cleaning it and arranging it in the downstairs rooms on tables for pre-auction viewing. I, the grandson Larry, also arranged for security on the day of the sale. Not all the attendees were honest, virtuous people and many of the smaller items were worth hundreds of dollars.
Two auctioneers were contracted to conduct the sale. They began at 8 o’clock sharp, pounded the gavel for the final item at 4:30 that afternoon. Undoubtedly, those fellows earned their commission that Saturday in April. And I, the grandson Larry, learned a valuable lesson about hoarding. At some point in a man’s life, he has to be accountable for all the stuff he chooses to store in his house.
Therefore, to answer the question posed by the title of this post. “Hell no, I am not a hoarder. If it doesn’t have a purpose and a use in this house, it will be donated to the thrift store.” A bit of wisdom, certainly not from Grandma, said, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”
Words to live by.
5 Replies to “me, a hoarder? (part 1)”
A timely reminder that I, who have filled my 1,200 sq ft space with … this, that, and the other … need to minimize! I have suits I haven’t worn since I retired in 2008, dishes never used, and more books than one person could read in a lifetime! The books will stay, but the rest of the stuff can GO! Hopefully it can go to someone who will make better use of it than I am! Thanks, Larry!
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I appreciate your comment, Jill. I’m a firm believer in the philosophy that you do not own your property; rather, it owns you. Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity confirm this. “We buy things we don’ really want or need to impress people we don’t really like.” Not my words, but those of someone greater than me.
Few things help us get our priorities straight quicker than sorting through a loved one’s belongings after they have passed. It really drives the point home that “stuff is stuff” and no substitute for human relations. My husband and I are downsizing our things, big time!!
Larry, you shared some wise words to live by in your conclusion. I wrote about this topic in a post titled “Hoarding” as an analogy to how some become spiritual hoarders.
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Yes, it applies, doesn’t it?
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