Author Topic: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .  (Read 11339 times)

GuitarStv

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This was quite sad.  And disturbing.  And unreal, all wrapped up into one big crazy pile.  My dad owns a farm.  He bought the farm 10+ years ago, and it had an elderly tenant living in a small house (that I think he build himself).  Dad let him stay there basically for free.  Eventually it became obvious that the old guy was not all there any more and shouldn't be living on his own (he's about 90 now) so dad tracked down this guys family, and contacted them.  They (eventually) moved the guy to a home.

This guy used to play violin semi-professionally.  He started doing instrument repairs after he retired.  My dad had never been in his house, but would always see the old guy playing something, or working away on some kind of instrument.  The old guy's family was supposed to clean out the house, so my dad could knock it down.  (Dad is building a new house where this house is currently standing, hasn't started, and will be living in a trailer soon because dad sold his house). The old guy's family refused to go in it because of how disgusting the place was (covered in mold, rotting stuff, thick layers of dust, and thousands of mice/rats).  Dad gave me a call because I like to play guitar, and he found some instruments.

I got down there with a full face respirator, gloves, and went through the house looking for anything of value before it gets knocked down.  What I found is a good example of how sometimes things that you have/love end up owning you.  Makes me want to cry.  Here are some pics:







Violin room violins crappy shot of some violins hanging (24 in total, couldn't get a good angle due to the amount of garbage on the floor):



Some of the more than 50 violins in cases on the floor (under a pile of clothing/electronics):


Only the pic of the cases even shows remotely how much dust, dirt and crap was in this place.  I can't believe that old guy lived in this.

GuitarStv

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2013, 01:32:14 PM »
OK, moving on the guitar room number one:



Pics don't really show it, but there's a ton of mouse crap on that bed.

GuitarStv

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2013, 01:32:52 PM »
Of course, when I got to guitar room #2 I pretty much gave up on trying to photograph each instrument . . . couldn't really open the door at first, but when I got in I saw this:


GuitarStv

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2013, 01:33:42 PM »
Dude collected stuff!  There was a part of a room with turntables . . . like 20 - 30 of them.  There was a spot with 12 pairs of binoculars. Piles of cameras, super 8 home recording crap, electronics, etc.  Eventually I found a room full of tube crap:


GuitarStv

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2013, 01:34:40 PM »
Eventually I moved on to the kitchen (see if you can spot the cabinets in the background):


Back wall of the kitchen . . . weird shaped guitars hanging out:

GuitarStv

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2013, 01:37:57 PM »
So, I cleaned some of the crud off the less crappy looking stuff, poured the rat/mouse poop out of the soundholes, and took stuff outside to get a breath of fresh air without a damned respirator and see if there was anything worth keeping:





Unfortunately I know dick all about violins . . . so I picked out the ones that looked like they were made of OK cuts of wood.  Three of them have markings that indicate they're over 100 years old.  Here are two of the old ones:





Triumphant arrival home (all this crap squished into a Corolla!):

Total stuff taken away includes a solid body electric, a semi-hollow electric, a ukelele, five violins, three acoustic guitars, a traynor guitar amp, strange wah pedal, a 4-string tenor guitar, and a mandolin. Hoping to sell most of it off.  The rest is going to be given away or bulldozed.  Unfortunately most of the instruments have pretty bad mouse/water damage.



I feel like a conqueror of the unholy mess of terror:

GuitarStv

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2013, 01:42:12 PM »
Doing this really made me re-evaluate how much I need the various things that I have.  That old guy couldn't walk around his house.  He slept on a bed full of guitars and mouse poop.  He probably hadn't been able to open the door to his garage in 20+ years because of the accumulated trash.  It's also sad that so many of these instruments never got to be played by anyone before being damaged.

Also, even with the precautions of wearing a respirator and gloves and showering off as soon as I got out of that place, I was very sick for a couple days after coming home.  How the old guy managed to live at all, it is beyond my understanding.

Albert

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2013, 01:49:58 PM »
Hoarding to this level is a mental disease. Has little to do with "antimustachianism"

GuitarStv

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2013, 01:58:37 PM »
I suppose this could go into the off-topic area.


I just equated 'having so much stuff that it makes your life miserable' with being anti-moustachian.  It was really a shocking thing to experience.  If a mod wants to move it, that's fine by me.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2013, 02:01:21 PM by GuitarStv »

DoubleDown

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2013, 02:04:08 PM »
Wow, that is sad, and what a job clearing all that out. But at least it sure looks like there could be some valuable instruments in there, hopefully you'll be able to make out nicely from it. You sure you got everything of any potential value before it's destroyed or carted away?

By the way, kudos to you and your dad cleaning that all up even if it was a necessity, and shame on his family. If you really want to go an extra mile and score some bonus God points, I'll bet it would mean a lot to them if you could salvage even just a couple of personal effects or photos and send them to the family members (I noticed one photo of a girl near one of the instruments).

GuitarStv

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2013, 02:14:46 PM »
No idea if I got everything of value out.  We were pretty short on time.

My dad's on a tight schedule to build his new house (he will be homeless in four months if the new house doesn't get built - he's doing a prefab so it's not quite as crazy as it sounds).  There is no time in the schedule to deal with this massive pile of instruments.

We went through and tried to pick out anything that can be sold.  Whatever isn't total garbage we're giving away to anyone who'll take an instrument.  Most of the stuff is pretty bad though.  I think the plan is to flatten the house and anything left in it this Friday.

Had a guy who plays violins come by to check out some of the 70+ violins kicking around, and I'm taking some of the old ones down to a music store here in Toronto to see if they're worth anything.  Most of them were in cases, so they were in better condition that the guitars.

Oh yeah . . . forgot to mention . . . I got electrocuted while trying to turn on a light in one of the rooms.  Home wiring job.  :P  That place is a death trap.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2013, 02:18:37 PM by GuitarStv »

dragoncar

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2013, 02:26:17 PM »
Wow I would have kept all the instruments, sold the valuable ones, and hung the rest all over a new theme restaurant called "crazy old violin man"

Daley

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2013, 02:27:20 PM »
This thread is heartbreaking, and gets to me personally because I know that someday I'll have to do similar for someone else in my family as they'll have nothing of this change while alive.

You mentioned there were a few salvageable instruments there that weren't necessarily worth selling but at least worth giving away. Might there be a 5 string banjo, uke, or a mandolin worth saving with a little love and care in that group? I'd like to do my part to try and help the salvage effort and give a neglected instrument or two some actual love.

Lans Holman

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2013, 02:37:56 PM »
I really hope I don't have whatever deep psychological problems turn someone into a hoarder as they age, cause if I do I'm ending up just like this guy.  Hope good homes can be found for some of those.

GuitarStv

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2013, 02:41:22 PM »
This thread is heartbreaking, and gets to me personally because I know that someday I'll have to do similar for someone else in my family as they'll have nothing of this change while alive.

You mentioned there were a few salvageable instruments there that weren't necessarily worth selling but at least worth giving away. Might there be a 5 string banjo, uke, or a mandolin worth saving with a little love and care in that group? I'd like to do my part to try and help the salvage effort and give a neglected instrument or two some actual love.

I'm back home in Toronto now, but if you live near Ottawa I could probably give you my dad's address if you want to check.  Not sure if there's anything left worth fixing up.  There was a banjo in good nick, that we gave it away.  Two mandolins, I grabbed the playable one, and the other one with the broken nut went to a family friend who knows how to cut a new nut for it.  There were dozens of ukeleles lying around - although to me a good uke kinda sounds like garbage :P so I don't know if they were considered good or not!

He's been working pretty hard to get rid of everything since last Friday, so I'm not sure how much is left.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2013, 02:47:57 PM »
My dad died last year, and was a hoarder. His house made this one look like walk through candyland. That, and the fact that 99% of the stuff we pulled out of there was pitched into the dumpsters due to being absolute trash or ruined to the point of being unsalvageable. I had stored my leather saddles and bridles in my old room and when I came to get them and some of my other stuff less than a year later, they'd been buried in garbage and my dad wouldn't let me dig through the piles... my saddles were fortunately okay other than being dirty and dry, but the bridles were rotting and covered in mold and had to be tossed (they were near a window that had leaked for probably decades).

That's great that you recovered so many nice looking guitars and violins - so sad that they were just piled up and useless for the most part, but you'll give them a good home. :)

I do want to suggest that you get some decent disinfectant on all of those instruments before really handling them or bringing them into your home. Mice in great quantities means the possibility of hanta virus and toxic mold (both of which we had to worry about in our hoarder house) - you do NOT want to get sick from that mess.


Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #16 on: July 18, 2013, 02:58:16 PM »
The triangle shaped guitar is called a balalaika.  It's a traditional instrument from Russia.

GuitarStv

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #17 on: July 18, 2013, 03:37:42 PM »
My dad died last year, and was a hoarder. His house made this one look like walk through candyland. That, and the fact that 99% of the stuff we pulled out of there was pitched into the dumpsters due to being absolute trash or ruined to the point of being unsalvageable. I had stored my leather saddles and bridles in my old room and when I came to get them and some of my other stuff less than a year later, they'd been buried in garbage and my dad wouldn't let me dig through the piles... my saddles were fortunately okay other than being dirty and dry, but the bridles were rotting and covered in mold and had to be tossed (they were near a window that had leaked for probably decades).

That's great that you recovered so many nice looking guitars and violins - so sad that they were just piled up and useless for the most part, but you'll give them a good home. :)

I do want to suggest that you get some decent disinfectant on all of those instruments before really handling them or bringing them into your home. Mice in great quantities means the possibility of hanta virus and toxic mold (both of which we had to worry about in our hoarder house) - you do NOT want to get sick from that mess.

The pics I'm showing are of the cleaner sections of the house.  There was a fair amount of just stored garbage ( particularly sad was the four or five shoeboxes we found of lottery tickets.  Must have been 10 thousand dollars worth in there . . .). There was a pile of molding newspaper in the garage about 10 ft tall and 12 ft wide.

Everything got a thorough cleaning with soap and water before going in the car, then water and mr. Clean when unpacking at home.  Vacuumed out the cases a couple times, pulled the strings off the guitars and vacuumed out the sound holes.  My clothes (hat, shoes, everything) were taken off and immediately washed on hot, with lots of soap.  I got sick on monday and tuesday, but am getting better today.  Can't be too careful with this stuff.

AlmostIndependent

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #18 on: July 18, 2013, 04:45:43 PM »
So sad. I wouldn't wish a situation like that on anyone.

Jamesqf

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #19 on: July 18, 2013, 05:05:31 PM »
I don't see anything sad about it, except for the guy being forced to leave his home & hobby.  I'd also check resale value on all that stuff: antique collectors pay big bucks for the strangest things, as for instance old tube radios http://www.ebay.com/sch/Tube-Radios-/38032/i.html  Or if you happen to find old Bakelite plastic jewelry, that can bring $100 or more a piece...

gooki

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #20 on: July 18, 2013, 05:09:55 PM »
I'm actively getting rid of all my "stuff" before I turn into this.

plantingourpennies

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #21 on: July 18, 2013, 05:39:43 PM »
Hi,

Just like to second the idea of putting the tube stuff on e-bay.

Sad all the way around.

Best,
Mr. PoP

Nudelkopf

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #22 on: July 18, 2013, 07:21:34 PM »
I'm actively getting rid of all my "stuff" before I turn into this.
Me too. I dated a guy once whose previous girlfriend had died of breast cancer really young (21yo). I always wondered if she'd packed up her stuff in preparation for death, or just didn't think it'd come that soon. (I've never known anyone else my age to die while still living at home). i'd feel sorry for my family if they had to go through my stuff after i'd died - maybe this is why you just get your landlord to do it for you? :-P

DocCyane

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #23 on: July 18, 2013, 08:43:09 PM »
This is a fascinating thread. Thank you for sharing.

I will be helping my partner deal with her aunt and her father's dwelling. Both are hoarders. And when they pass, there will be much to toss.

Hoarding is an interesting sickness. A friend's father has it, but he was a child in WWII Germany. Scarcity and fear were a large part of his childhood. (He was a Hitler's Youth, interestingly enough.)

So he became a collector. Every piece of metal. Every cork. Every newspaper. Because some deep down part of him is still a scared little boy in a warring country.

Rural

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #24 on: July 18, 2013, 08:58:35 PM »
The quilt on the bed in guitar room #1 looks to be hand-stitched, and if so it's almost certainly both an antique and valuable. It would not be good to wash it in normal circumstances, but you should tell your dad in case he wants to try. Don't bleach, but plain white vinegar in the wash would both help to disinfect and help keep it from fading or bleeding. Once it seems clean, it should be hung to dry, no dryer.

Sorry you had to deal with all that. Poor old guy.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2013, 09:00:06 PM by Rural »

Jamesqf

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #25 on: July 19, 2013, 12:06:35 AM »
The quilt on the bed in guitar room #1 looks to be hand-stitched, and if so it's almost certainly both an antique and valuable.

Yeah, didn't even notice that.  But it's odd to reflect that if he'd collected coins, postage stamps, paintings, or something else socially acceptable (and was a little better at housekeeping), no one would have thought anything of it.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2013, 12:08:27 AM by Jamesqf »

Zamboni

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #26 on: July 19, 2013, 05:26:38 AM »
Sad to see those instruments ruined, and good for you for finding someone who knows about violins to have a look.  It's really unfortunate that his family wouldn't help.

ace1224

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #27 on: July 19, 2013, 05:33:32 AM »
wow so sad.  also makes me want to purge everything i own

GuitarStv

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #28 on: July 19, 2013, 06:19:59 AM »
I don't see anything sad about it

Maybe I didn't explain properly what that house was like, most of the pictures don't capture the truly terrible state of that place.

The electrical work in the house was all done by hand, poorly.  The lights in the bedrooms were old lamps with the base broken off, wired up and hung from the ceiling by the electrical cord.  Wired up poorly as it turns out, I was electrocuted trying to turn on one of them, and a big puff of black smoke came up from the socket/switch.

The hallways/stairs had approximately a half foot of space that could be walked down, sideways.  Either side of the hallways (and stairs had things piled up about five feet high.  If you bumped something as you walked by, an avalanche of plastic figurines, electronics, old magazines, binoculars, camping equipment, etc. would come falling down on you.

The old guy's dresser drawers had long been too buried in junk for the guy to reach them.  So he bought new clothing at some point, and kept the new clothing in a pile in his living room on top of the pile of electronics that was piled on top of the violin cases.  He had no washing machine, and it didn't smell like any of the clothing he was using had been washed in quite some time.

Every surface in that house was covered in mouse/rat droppings and urine.  I was pouring mouse feces out of the guitars.  I saw many rodents scurrying away as I moved guitars.  That bedspread that people were commenting on was heavily encrusted with mouse poop.  It was also the only room that the old guy could have been sleeping in.

The roof leaked in several places.  This caused large black patches of mold to grow on the walls.  The wallpaper was falling off the walls in most rooms from the water damage.  It was impossible to see the original colour of the carpet under the years of black dirt that had been ground into it.

There was no central heating or air conditioning in the house.  All of the windows were nailed shut, caulked (with old peeling caulking) and covered with plastic wrap to keep the air in during the winter.  It was sweltering hot when I was cleaning.  We found three electric space heaters. . . that's the only thing that the old guy used to keep from freezing to death during the frigid Ottawa winters.  I guess he moved them from room to room to keep warm during the winter.

I'm not even going to talk about the state of the bathroom.

If you don't see anything sad about an 80-90 year old guy living in those conditions, then you've got a pretty hard heart.  My dad bought the farm from the original owners with the old guy living there, and basically let him live there for free for 10 odd years.  The guy was always pretty solitary/hermitlike and we had never seen the inside of the house up to this point.  If we had known what the state of the place was, we would have evicted him long ago.  For his own good.  Nobody should live like that.

The quilt on the bed in guitar room #1 looks to be hand-stitched, and if so it's almost certainly both an antique and valuable.

Yeah, didn't even notice that.  But it's odd to reflect that if he'd collected coins, postage stamps, paintings, or something else socially acceptable (and was a little better at housekeeping), no one would have thought anything of it.

He did collect coins, postage stamps, paintings, and other socially acceptable stuff.  I was mostly taking pics of the guitars because that's where my interests lay.  That place was FAR beyond a little housekeeping.  The pics you're seeing are after we'd removed bags and bags of literal garbage so that it was free enough to move around a bit.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2013, 06:22:10 AM by GuitarStv »

oldtoyota

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #29 on: July 19, 2013, 06:32:10 AM »
My first thought was "hantavirus." Since you found mouse poop inside the guitars, please be sure to clean them carefully--especially if you intend to sell them to someone else. You don't want to spread hantavirus, which is spread partly by human contact with rodent excrement.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hantavirus


kyleaaa

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #30 on: July 19, 2013, 07:00:44 AM »
I would caution that there are some very strict rules in most states about handling tenant property after they move out. You probably can't just take his stuff. I would DEFINITELY look into it because you might be opening yourself up to a huge lawsuit by the family if any of that stuff turns out to be valuable and you sold it. Is the old man still alive? If so, what you did is almost certainly illegal. If not, it's likely still illegal.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2013, 07:03:22 AM by kyleaaa »

GuitarStv

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #31 on: July 19, 2013, 07:38:44 AM »
If someone's lease ends in the US and they leave stuff behind, the landlord is not allowed to get rid of the stuff?  Really?  How long do they have to store it for?  Indefinitely?  Who pays for those costs?  That seems pretty ridiculous if true.

No, the older guy is not dead.  His family moved him to a home.  Technically I guess he was a tenant as my dad charged him 5$ a year to live there.

What we did is absolutely not illegal.  Tenancy laws in Ontario may work differently that the US.  Once a notice of termination of tenancy has been given (which my dad did) and the tenant has moved out for three days, the landlord can do whatever he or she wants with the stuff left behind.  (http://www.ltb.gov.on.ca/en/Key_Information/173726.html).  That said we did ask the family to move his stuff out (actually we really would have much preferred if they had done so).  We gave them time to do it.  They refused.

« Last Edit: July 19, 2013, 07:41:41 AM by GuitarStv »

LalsConstant

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Re: Helped my dad clean out an old hoarder's place this weekend. . .
« Reply #32 on: July 19, 2013, 02:32:58 PM »
IANAL.

I repeat, I Am Not A Lawyer.  Nor do I claim to know what's law.

However, I think GuitarStiv is right and I can share this.

A million years ago, I used to have a minimum wage job clearing the crap out of rental properties and gutting them for make ready crews.  This was for a private investment company that had apartment complexes (where I mostly worked) but also had some rental houses and some commercial retail units.

Admittedly I didn't have to deal with very many actual hoarders (there was one apartment where I literally used a shovel to get empty bottles and other trash off of the floor but that's another story).  My job however was to inspect the unit immediately after the tenant left and note whether anything had been left behind. 

Probably only about half of people who leave a property actually take all their things with them.  We threw crap away all the time, especially if they left just one or two pieces behind, we just threw them in the dumpster.   No one ever called after anything we tossed.

I was to immediately remove anything that looked like it might mold, fester, catch on fire, have animals living in it, etc. regardless of how long the tenant had been gone.  So we "stole" from people after a fashion, but no one ever inquired after their forgotten mustard or kerosene even or soiled bird cage even once.

The bottleneck was sometimes we did have to store this crap.  We often hand circumstances, due to having many elderly residents, where someone would suddenly leave due to death or incapacitation, and their families, if they even stepped in at all, would leave the unit more or less intact. I have a depressing story about that... but back on topic.

We did have some space for storing all this crap.  But it took time and money to move it.  Think about it, its no harder to pull the truck up to the apartment and have the men load it up than it is to pull it up to the storage unit, and if you do the latter, you had to load it up, move it, and unload it

So in these cases, what wed do is if it had many items left in it, is wed take out anything sketchy and put it lower on our priority list so it would just sit there for 90 days.  There were always plenty of work for us to do after all so why create more? 

I was even told at the time that 90 days was WAY overkill, the company just did that to cover its butt.  Supposedly it was the company's nearly the instant the tenant left, but we delayed.  They were really worried about someone suddenly dying and the next of kin not being found immediately I think.  "Oh sorry we threw all her crap away 5 minutes after she was dead."

So we did have to move and store some of the abandoned items.  However most of our storage for this stuff was consumed by the junk we took out of certain units whose restoration was a priority.  This complex had mostly elderly residents and as a result there was always a big demand for certain easily accessed units from current residents.  In that case the manager was willing to incur the extra cost and hassle to get those units ready again ASAP.