SUMMERTIME, SO SOON TO END

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.

HOARDER HORRORS

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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.

Hunkering Down For Awhile

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There’s not many yard sales this time of year and it’s been a hard one!  Taking a break and hunkering down for awhile is something we all ought to do from time to time.  I’ve been busy reading away at those books I get carried away buying at the sales and have a number of shelves to work my way through.  Some I sell on Amazon, some I pass onto friends, some I put on the curb for anyone to pick up and the rest I’ll take over to Savers or lately I’ve been taking them to Half Price Books,  after I’ve read them, of course.

Half Price books doesn’t get you much money, but it’s a good way to get rid of them and I did get $20 once on something I only paid $5 for.  Not bad.  Most times it’s only pennies, but I buy books to read so getting anything for them when I’m done is good enough for me.  I often browse while they tally up my books and of course I never leave the store with  the money.  There are good deals to be found there, stuff you been looking for and hadn’t found yet at a sale, etc.  When I worked at estate sales as a volunteer for Ebenezer, there’s been a couple of times when a customer came on the last day and made an offer on all the books, big time Amazon sellers they claimed to be.  I don’t think I want to know what that guy’s house looks like, I already live upstairs from a hoarder.  Not everything is going to sell on Amazon so I advise don’t pack your house full of books thinking they’re  going to make you a big seller because they won’t.

For those of you who like to stay warm and dry and indoors like me.  Reading is a good way to pass the time and live another life in a book.  The Open University is also a good way to go.  I’ve begun taking Art History courses online, it’s free and easy and you can also pick up certificates to add to your portfolios.  Just Google up Open U.  You’ll find it.  Lot’s of courses offered in many interests and professions.

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I’ve always liked boxes.  I’ve collected boxes since I was a kid but I don’t have too many.  The Coffee box I found in London at the Kilburn Park boot sale.  Speaking of coffee.  One of my finds once was a Gevalia coffee brewer new in box and still wrapped.  $12 at an estate sale!  Other shoppers who missed it were envious and commented on my lucky find.  Needless to say I was quite chuff leaving that sale.  I only started using it less than a year ago and now it’s not working very well.  It started to brew less and less and I don’t know where all that water went because I don’t see any leaks.  So I got online to find some answers. One suggested an easy fix by taking the bottom off and pulling a hose with a thing in it that often gets clogged and causes this, just squeeze it out and clean it then put it back and plug the hose back in.  So I did that.  I tried again and it didn’t work at all.  Then I read that you have to leave the machine for a couple days to dry out before trying to use it again.  So here I sit waiting for that.  Meanwhile I got to thinking that I had thought Gevalia was a trusted brand and this was an expensive machine so I looked up reviews, etc.  The reviews were good except a few people got suckered into coffee subscriptions they didn’t understand when they bought their machines online.  It pays to read everything so you know what you’re getting into.  Online shopping seems to be getting tricky these days.  Anything to scam more money out of you.

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I once wrote about this fake Sony Camcorder that a friend of mine bought off the street from someone unknown and it turned out to be one of many fakes being sold at the time.  Just a cheap camera that pasted on a brand name and sold by dubious sellers.  I have to wonder if my Gevalia coffee maker could be a fake too.  I suspect it was bought online because it appeared to be in a shipping box.   It didn’t last very long and of course I’m in no position to return it for a refund or exchange.  So, buyers beware.  $12 isn’t a lot of money, I think this stupid camera cost my friend maybe $25?  I don’t know, he thought he got a deal!

Another sale I was at the guy had rooms full of cd’s, Rolling Stones and other big names.  He was obviously unloading his online stock of what turned out to be pirated copies.  Cheap fakes that played once and then erased, bad recordings.  The guy must’ve been kicked off eBay for complaints.  The cd’s all went cheap.  But just the same, it’s still money I’ve earned and lost, but lessons learned.  It all comes back to that saying,

“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!”

Boomers, Millenials, X-Geners

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This little pincushion and needle holder I had found in a yard sale and it turned out to be a collector’s item that sold well on eBay.

It’s that time of year again, Yard Sale Season!  Kicking off the Cinco de Mayo weekend in Bryn Mawr!  Complete with Food Trucks, Raffles, and T-Shirts!

OK.  That’s not the title of this blog.  Now I’ll get to it.  I read an interesting piece in a Facebook article that the Millenials and X-Geners are blaming the Boomer generations for their ruined futures.  How Boomers were more about “feelings” than reality.  Boomers ignored climate change, did nothing and bankrupted the futures of the generations after them.  Well, there may well be some truth to that but as a Boomer myself but at the bottom of that generation and with some feelings of being cheated out of an old age outside of dire poverty, I do have a response.  Rather than blaming today’s problems on the Boomer generation how about a little trip down memory lane.

*1950’s  presented the big Communist scare.  What did any of us know about communism except what our parents told us?  I remembered being told that how would I like to have to share the family house with strangers who’ll just move in willy nilly and take what that please from me?  We were dumb kids too little to understand and uninterested to believe anything else.  The same can be said for kids today.  Parents can tell them anything and they’ll just believe it, unless they are so mature beyond their years that they’ll actually do research to suss out the truth.  Anything with the word “Social” was communistic and forbidden.  Who’s responsible for this propaganda?

*1960’s was the turmoil years of the old mindsets.  Many positive happenings that changed the world we live in today and it was the Boomer generations that put their necks out for it all:  Revolution and Civil Rights are at the forefront.   How much does anyone think would be going on for these actions today if they weren’t done back then?  We’re still at it and Black Lives Matter proves that.  I remember a nurse telling me back then she made nothing because nurses were expected to be “Angels of Mercy”. Nurses were all women then.  There was also the rise of Coops and Communes.  We don’t hear much about communes anymore but a few are still around.  Natural foods was also emerging.

*1970’s I remember as the oil shortage scare and the “Throw Away Society”.  I was still too young to own a car and didn’t even drive until the late 70’s, but I do remember the gas lines from watching the news and being told that there’s a limit of oil deposits and how they would be tapped out completely by 1990.  All untrue!  There was also talk about pollution and tapping out the natural resources of the world.  We hadn’t heard of climate change back then.  In fact I don’t remember even hearing about the ozone hole above Antartica until the 1990’s.  I had heard a little about electric cars though, and some were actually produced but soon disappeared.

“Who Killed the Electric Car?”  A film made in 2006 is an easy find on eBay or Amazon.  It’s been awhile since I watched it so I don’t remember much, but I do remember it did talk about the oil crises of the 70’s and how that was soon forgotten after the gas lines ended.  GM who produced those electric cars found ways of taking them back and destroying them.  Now why do you think they did that?  Did we forget that burning gas is polluting our world?  Well. . . sort of.  Not long after that pollution controls were introduced, the catalytic converter and elimination of leaded fuel had become law.  Appeasing that crisis!  Also during the 1970’s every household had a television.  A sure way of propagating information to the masses, molding the mindsets, culture and ensuring a future of consumerism.  IMG_0077.JPG

Does our Throw Away Society have yet to reach it’s peak?  This photo was taken only a couple of years ago at one of those new buildings near the University of Minnesota campus.  Yes, this heap of rubbish came from Millenials and X-Geners who go deep into debt with student loans and blame the Boomer generations for all their woes.  A few people do try to change things and recently began taking in the trash the wealthier ones had thoughtlessly tossed away and have opened a free store.  I remember free stores in the 1970’s.  Lately I’ve noticed eBay sales are slow and good used items are losing the interest of these new generations who think passing up a good used and well made piece of furniture such as a bookshelf for something new and cheap made out of chip board and will ruin as soon as something liquid is spilt on it.  Alternative energy is still difficult for the average homeowner when it should be so cheap to be nearly free.  Who’s responsible for this?

I can only hope that reusable energy doesn’t disappear and is forgotten like the electric car once was.  Yesterday it was television that propagated the masses with pure Capitalistic B.S.  Today it’s Social Media. Will the Millenials and the X-Geners be remembered future generations as the ones that blamed others for their problems and did nothing too?  I would like to think not.  In a positive light I see some changes for the average working person getting out from under oppressive working conditions such as Taxi companies that Uber and Lyft resolved.  The price gouging hotels all cried foul on AirBnB’s during the Super Bowl.  I had even heard the phrase, “Social Capitalism” once.  I hope to hear more of that.

Chipped McCoy is the Real McCoy

fullsizeoutput_141.jpegChipped art pottery is always steeply discounted and there’s a rustic look that can be added for everyday use.  Collectors always look for the perfect piece and they pay well for it.  But for those of us with smaller budgets and big desires we can settle for the less than perfect and display our finds casually outside the display cabinet.  I think that’s much more fun.  Chipped pottery has a charm of it’s own and the chips that are usually on the base can easily be hidden or even repaired.  The chip on this over 100 year old McCoy vase is obvious, but the bowl has been repaired and the the repair was well done and difficult to spot along the rim.

These old pieces were once common and popular in the days my grandmother was young, and I’m old now myself.  Because of the flaws I picked them up quite cheaply at a yard sale.  They probably don’t look like much now but perhaps another day they may become popular again.

fullsizeoutput_110.jpegThese Bakelite handled kitchen utensils are once again popular in the kitchens of the vintage decor and the spatula, which I have used, is flexible and very functional.  I sold these on eBay awhile back.  They too are from my grandmother’s era.

44A801B6-3894-41FF-9B78-8CEE539A3732.jpgThe kitchen match holder was once a standard item in every kitchen.  My Gran used a woodburning stove to cook on.  A big old thing in the kitchen that also heated the house.  Gas cookers often had to be lit with a match too.  Match holders can still be found and are fairly inexpensive.  However, the day will come when we won’t see anymore of these things.  So even if it is chipped, scratched or flawed in some way, it’s the character of the item that really counts.

Weapon of Choice is a podcast and episode 9 titled: Save the Paper Clip, by Julie Stearns of Junket: Tossed and Found is well worth listening to.  Back in my parents and grandparents days, things were not just used and thrown away, they were saved and even used for other purposes.  My generation was raised on the throw-away society, and look a the mess we’re in now.  What comes next?  Julie is doing huge things to contribute to our society now to make better and wiser choices.  I hope she does succeed in someday mainstreaming re-use.  The motto of robber barons is: “Poverty assures a steady supply of Labor”  We can resist that and create our own economic security as Julie has successfully done with her own little shop.  Show those barons that they need us more than we need them!

REAL OR FAKE?

This appears to be a wall panel that was cut into 2″ X 3 1/2″ rectangles and then pieced back together inside a frame.  The whole thing weighs about 12 pounds and has the look of something looted from a temple.  However, is it real?  I’m having a hard time determining that because some of the cut marks don’t look like they go all the way through and makes me think they were just put there for the appearance.  On the other hand, there could well be a real seam and the tiles fitted together so well the seams cannot be seen, only the surface cuts.  It’s a lovely piece just the same and for the price I got it, I may at least break even on the re-sale or make a little profit.  Here is the centerpiece Buddha.

There is no question that this Mayan mask is real.  It’s very heavy and the stone clearly shows wear that can only be natural.  I had sold this on eBay but probably would’ve been better off taking it to a museum.

So, is it legal?  As long as the items you buy in the U.S. and resell in the U.S. including ivory, you should be alright.  It seems confusing but this article in the National Geographic explained how that works.  I don’t like to feel I’m supporting looters in the antiques trade but they are hard to avoid and much is unknown after the item’s been sold to a collector put on the market.  However, it goes to show they are out there and we shouldn’t be afraid to take something to a museum even without proof of where it was purchased.  Hanging onto receipts helps, though yard sales don’t provide receipts,  estate sales do. Photos help and a passport can provide a record of your travels.  Estate sales agents don’t always have the answers or know if something is real or fake or looted.  Most of them are very good, but as with all of us, knowledge comes with experience,  lots of reading and research.  There’s no real school for this, it’s a self taught degree.  A course in art history wouldn’t hurt.

REGIONALITY

IMG_0415.jpgYard sale season has begun and the finds are endless!  Today is the beginning with the Apple Valley sales and next week is the most popular Bryn Mawr sales.  Food trucks, canoe raffle, nearby coffee shops with bathrooms and all!  The calendars are still incomplete but here’s a list I’ve started: May 6- Bryn Mawr, Tangle Town, Summit Hill; May 12/13 Plymouth Ferndale North, Harrison Hills; May 20-Little Canada, Burnsville, Linden Hills, Como Park. Carag, E. Harriet, Kingfield, Seward; June 3-Armatage, Andover.IMG_0090.jpgThat curious word “regionality”  means just what it sounds like.  I thought I was the one who made it up but when I checked online I found that it is a new word and somebody else had beat me to it.   Every region has it’s own personality and tastes but with the chain store/franchise boom, now globalization and the movement of people these tastes may shift somewhat.  However, every region still preserves something, we have out beaches, forests, lakes, rivers, prairies, mountains, and always the weather that define every region unique.  People dress themselves to adapt to these various regions and things they collect over time and use to decorate their homes also reflect the region they live in.  A great way to learn the personality of a city is to explore the gardens people create on their front and back yards or even on their windowsills.  There’s no better opportunity to explore these gardens than going to an annual neighborhood yard sale.

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