fullsizeoutput_1d.jpegTent city in the backyard. None of it mine!

This lush landscape is about to change.  Last year temperatures reached more than 50 degrees below 0, Fahrenheit!  It’s been a cool kind of summer but there were a few hot and muggy days and I did get the air conditioner out of the attic and used it a couple of times.

Saving the environment is one of the classic excuses hoarders use to justify the junk they collect.  They want to convince everyone that they’re doing their bit to save the landfills from filling up while turning their own home into a landfill.  A friend of mine had bought a house about 30 years ago that was previously owned by a hoarder.  After all this time his house still has that musty smell and closed in feeling.  I’ve had home improvement developers tell me that the only way to properly clean up a house after a hoarder is to gut the place all the way to the studs.  Tear out the walls and ceiling and even the floor that usually gets bowed under the weight of all that storage.  The property itself is usually neglected.  As you can see by the photo there is much work to be done here, the roof is 32 years old.  That’s well overdue and it’s getting replaced this year before the snow flies.  Needless to say I’ve been too lax around here and allowed my neighbor and house partner to talk me into putting things off so she can clean things up around here a bit first.  Ha!  Obviously I was in for a long wait.  Then her kids came along and made things worse.


fullsizeoutput_2a.jpegNotice the attic door of the garage is open and you can see the fan

The daughter who’s in her 50’s has been living in the loft of the garage with her boyfriend for many years.  What had started out as giving them a place to stay until they find another apartment has become more of a permanent residency going on about 10 years now.  The grand daughter who’s in her mid to late 20’s was pregnant when she moved into a small room in the basement.  Her kid is now going on 3.  She too has a boyfriend and the father of her baby living like that with her.  This is dysfunctional  and not temporary.   When the first inspector came to look at the new boiler I had installed he had to go into that little room in the basement to check the gas meter.  I don’t think he saw it.  He stepped out of that room immediately with a look on his face like he just saw something from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  He didn’t say a word, he just quietly picked up his tools and left.   I received the first letters from the city inspector in February.  When that inspector  came and saw this and he was horrified.  He kicked them all out and got them into a hotel for the rest of winter.  The garage and the basement are not fit for habitation for humans or animals.  Fortunately my neighbor is not an animal hoarder and she does take her garbage out to the bins.  So at least I’m not crawling with bugs and rodents.  I’ve got 3 cats so whatever mice do show up they are on them.  There is a difference between a hoarder house and a garbage house, though the two are often combined.

As you can see by the photo that as soon as the weather broke the kids came back.  They thought they were clever putting up tents, there’s no law against having tents in the yard.  Well the city wasn’t fooled and had to kick them out again.  And again when they snuck back.  Sympathy is draining fast.  Can’t find affordable housing?  Ha!  A friend of mine recently moved back here and stayed with me after living on the West Coast for nearly 40 years and he found a job and an apartment in three weeks!  The apartment was small and the job didn’t pay a lot but he didn’t have much trouble getting it together.  My attic that is my space is a lot more habitable than the garage and the basement but he wasn’t interested in making that permanent.  So it can be done!  Yes, rents and property has sky rocketed in the past few years and people need to learn to pool their resources and work together more than ever now.    We see immigrant families doing this all the time and eventually they become very successful and independent.

So this is not good for business especially my business where I take people on tours to estate sales.  I’ve worked sales in the past and would see someone come in on the last day and make an offer on all the books.  They’re a big wheel on Amazon, so they claim.  I don’t recommend doing that.  I’m an avid reader with a Bachelor’s degree in English and I do have a lot of books and I too sell books on Amazon and I can tell you right now, not everything sells.  I’m just a small seller, I limit myself to one box of books listed on Amazon and the rest I take to 1/2 price books.  I used to put them on the retaining wall out front for anyone to pick over for a few days then I’d take the rest to Savers.  I now have a Little Free Library that I’m painting and getting ready to install out front.  I’m naming it “The Happy Shaman”.   I’ll definitely feel like a happy shaman if I can get this house cleaned up and in shape.



This is my back stairs but not my stuff


Going to sales can be a lot of fun and sometimes we might even find something on the curb that’s good but if your not going to use it anytime soon or do something with it like fix it up and sell it, Hey people have opened shops doing just that so don’t knock it, and if you don’t have room in your house for it, then forget it.

I live upstairs from a hoarder and now the city is paying us visits.  How did it get this way?  How did I wind up owning a duplex with a neighbor that’s a hoarder?  Well, it’s a story that I’m going to share here.

To begin with, I lived in a housing coop for many years and the majority of the homes were duplexes.  The coop decided they needed to refinance and restructure and so offered some of the homes for sale.  It was a great opportunity and so me and my downstairs neighbor decided that we would partner on this house with a Tenancy in Common agreement.  Separately we wouldn’t have qualified for a mortgage so this was beneficial to both of us.  We get along alright and I could see she had too much stuff but at that time nobody took hoarding seriously.  Today that’s a different story.  Hoarding has moved up to the national highlights of mental illness and other delights and now I’m living with it!

I have no regrets buying the house, it was a good move though a bad deal it was still a good move.  Rents these days have made a lot of people homeless and I don’t expect things will get better soon enough.  I also live in a great location near two downtown districts and easy access to anywhere in the city.  I’m very centrally located, close to the river and across the street from a lovely park.  It’s quiet and practically crime free.  I couldn’t live in a better area in the city.

Her hoarding has actually prevented me from accumulating too much stuff.  Most of us have a pretty good grip on our stuff.  We might have some clutter and a messy house from time to time but hoarding is a whole different lifestyle.  Since I began realizing that it’s a huge problem I’ve been doing a lot of reading about how to deal with it.  I’ll have to tell you from the start.  You cannot talk to a hoarder and get results.  You can’t put your hands on anything that is theirs or help them clean out their house.  They won’t let you.  You’ll go to war and you’ll lose.

So, what does one do!  There are different types of hoarders but they are still hoarders.  You have the emotional attachment hoarder who just can’t part with something because it reminds them of a lost loved one or their childhood or some such.  There is the Big Idea guy who collects stuff and has big plans to do something with it that only come to naught and then there’s the clutterer who just can’t get organized or make decisions.  Fear of throwing something away they might need, or the emotion of guilt and protecting oneself by hoarding.  These people would like to keep their hoarding and their private lives a secret but the hoarding speaks louder than words.  It’s not a fun place to be as the world watches while you get your house cleaned out and city trucks and dumpsters are parked out front.  It’s a push over the edge when that happens and many times the hoarder winds up in a hospital or committing the drastic act of suicide.  This is bad, very bad and it’s only beginning to play out at my house now.  I do worry what’s going to happen to me if the city condemns the house?  I can’t tell you at this time but I can keep you up to date on events and the final results.

What I have done so far is call a lawyer and have the Tenancy in Common Agreement formally written up and filed with the county.  Something that should’ve been done when we first partnered on the house.  I paid for it myself because I didn’t think my neighbor was going to sign it if there was a fee involved.  It wasn’t much and will save me a lot more down the road.  I hope.  I talked to the city inspector and gave him a copy of the Tenancy in Common Agreement and the letters stopped coming to me with my name on them.  I do get copies now when my neighbor gets them because as a co-owner of this house I need to know what’s going on.  My neighbor doesn’t seem to agree with that, but it’s a fact.  So I would advise this to anyone who lives in a townhouse, condo, or anything that shares with a neighbor.  Get whatever you need formally written up and filed.  You also want to stay on top of what’s going on, so be sure to talk to the inspector.

Needless to say, I haven’t been going to sales for awhile.  This experience has been a wakeup call for me too.  I decided no more sales until I sell off the stuff I have accumulated just to sell and I’ve done a lot of that.  My last eBay sales I sold everything except one item.  I made some money on one and broke even on the others, maybe a I made a little but anyway I broke even.  Look at it this way, you win some, you lose some.  That’s just how it goes.  Timing helps too.  Something that doesn’t sell today might sell just before Christmas or a buyer’s birthday.

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