Sunday, August 17, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For!

Hi, everybody -

This is sort of a cautionary tale with a happy ending. Some years ago, an elderly widow gave me some wonderful things: Dior evening bags, mink hats, etc. "What do I need with them?" she said dismissively when I asked her if she was serious. Then her late husband's pension was cut, and she "decided" that we had a consignment deal! The worst moment was when she screamed at me across our (large) building lobby, "WHERE'S MY MONEY?". So, I wrote her out a check, gave her back the rest of her things, and learned never to enter into a deal with anyone without a signed agreement!

Flash forward to the present: looooong story short, she passed away a few weeks ago. Through a series of coincidences (and a little pushiness on my part), I was handed the task of cleaning out the apartment by the overwhelmed family. I didn't ask for a fee...instead, I asked for her clothes and accessories, and 50% of anything I sold myself when an antique dealer or some such came up. Her brother signed the contract, and I found myself in a beautiful mid-century apartment.

Where two HOARDERS had lived for fifty years!

This is the very tip of the iceberg. There were six huge closets, each stuffed to the bursting point. I realized just why the family had felt so overwhelmed by the task! After the first day, my body ached so much I knew I needed help. So I hired a local guy who often does cleanouts, and has a much higher tolerance than me for yuuuccch.

Then there was "Murray's room." It was only after me and my helper had spent an exhausting eight hours cleaning some of it that I learned it hadn't been touched in THIRTY FIVE YEARS!

These photos are of only one wall. There was a solid wall of junk between the door and the window, so we devoted our efforts to clearing it out. My helper dove into the more disgusting parts (no details here, sorry), and we made it all the way to the window, which, according to the man's niece, had not been opened in forty years!

I made arrangements for the Salvation Army to come later this week and pick up what I thought would be about 22 contractor bags of clothing and linens (this is not counting Murray's clothes, which I have not touched). We've gone way past that already! The woman must have had 3,000 turtlenecks, many New With Tags. Her vintage clothing was in the barricaded closet in Murray's room, and what I found there was very worthwhile. It was a cedar closet, and she had kept her things in garment bags! For instance, here is a beautiful heavy silk made to order wiggle dress, along with its matching coat:

Not to mention designer purses, vintage bathing suits (a vintage bikini!), fur of the best hauls I've ever landed.

And all I've had to do for it is work for nine to ten hours a day, every day, cleaning out closets, sorting through objects, bagging garbage--you get the idea. I've seen my husband and my dog for about ten minutes a day before I shower and collapse into bed.

I wanted her things for years, and I got them. Along with an aching body and a deep desire never to see another cutesie figurine of a schnauzer or a ski-ing elf again.

Thank God for aspirin, coffee and those Thermacare wraps you can put on your lower back. I have no idea when I'll actually get to list the stuff. Maybe by next year.

Elisa aka hoardmeister

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