Author Topic: In your final days, don't fret about your stuff  (Read 6157 times)

DocCyane

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In your final days, don't fret about your stuff
« on: October 21, 2013, 06:58:32 AM »
Yesterday I helped clean out a hoarder's house, partly out of the goodness of my little, black heart and partly so I could score some items for my eBay business.

In addition to the mess and dirt, we had to deal with the emotions of the owner. It was challenging and I felt tremendous pity and frustration in equal doses.

For perspective, this woman is in end stage cancer. She has months (maybe) to live. She moved from her home to a care facility home and within weeks has "crapped up" the place with wall to wall stuff. So now she has two houses full of items.

She said fretting about the two houses full of possessions is keeping her up at night. Bu when it came time to make decisions, she wanted everything to be sold or recycled or donated. Not one item could just be tossed in the trash. (And there was some pretty awful stuff.)

All I can say is that when I know the sand in my hourglass is getting to the final few grains, I hope I have the strength to realize hanging on to ancient Tupperware will neither extend my life nor bring value to my final days. I hope I can hand out my possessions to those who love me and do me kindness. I hope I don't act like a dragon on a treasure pile, acting as though I cannot part with a single coin because I plan to take it all with me.

Such an eye-opening experience.

Norrie

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Re: In your final days, don't fret about your stuff
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2013, 08:25:11 AM »
This advice will likely work well for those of us who are not hoarders, but not at all for people who are. It's a recognized disorder, not just a personality quirk, so it's not surprising to me that in her last days, the woman that you met is clinging tightly.

It's incredibly sad (and incredibly difficult for family members and friends).   :(   

MrsPete

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Re: In your final days, don't fret about your stuff
« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2013, 12:01:31 PM »
I helped clean out a hoarder's house once (after his death, so we weren't dealing with his emotions -- we were free to toss at will), and it was unbelievable.  He didn't differentiate between something genuinely valuable (like your favorite frying pan or your parents' wedding photo) and garbage (like a box of dried-up ink pens or well-beyond its expiration date food).  I don't think those of us who don't suffer from mental disorders can really understand the mindset.

I sometimes watch Hoarders on TV (yeah, I'm ashamed), and the worst woman I ever saw was planning TO BE BURIED with some of her stuff!  Talk about not grasping reality. 

I'm not 100% certain, though, that those of us without Hoarding tendencies won't be a bit concerned about money at the end of our lives.  I mean, who's watching Breaking Bad?  Why did Walt get into drugs?  He fears he's going to die, and he doesn't want to leave his family in need.  When my grandmother was taken into the hospital, she clearly feared she was going to die . . . and even though she couldn't speak, she took off her wedding ring and put it on my finger.  I knew exactly what she thought:  She feared she'd die, and someone in the hospital would remove it and we'd not have it.  She always thought anyone outside the family was out to take what's ours.  And right up to her death, she was concerned about the family land being distributed amongst the family.  Once they put her on morphine for the last two days of her life, she didn't care about ANYTHING, but up until that point, she was concerned that everything would be done fairly.  She kept giving me instructions. 

Jamesqf

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Re: In your final days, don't fret about your stuff
« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2013, 12:07:38 PM »
That "genuinely valuable" thing can be tricky.  Quite apart from sentimental/practical value, stuff like ancient tupperware can (sometimes) be worth quite a bit of money to collectors.

I bought my house with contents from an older woman who didn't want to be bothered with cleaning it out.  She wasn't a hoarder, just had a normal accumulation of stuff from living in the same house for 35 years, but I still made a couple of thousand selling selected bits of it.  And am still using some of her late husband's tools.

Forcus

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Re: In your final days, don't fret about your stuff
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2013, 08:54:04 AM »
One very sad thing that I saw and stuck with me, regarding "stuff", was the death of my wife's grandmother a few years ago. She wasn't a hoarder but had lots of stuff and ordered lots of stuff from QVC. The family fought over stuff (there were some collectibles, jewelry, etc., but nothing truly worth alot), which was sad, but the worst part was disposing of everything else (and there was lots of it). They hired an auctioneer and on the day of the auction all the stuff was spread out on the front lawn, dirty, in broken cardboard boxes. Some of it was so valueless it was picked through and unceremoniously dumped back on the lawn. Really changed my outlook on things.

Norrie

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Re: In your final days, don't fret about your stuff
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2013, 10:50:42 AM »
Forcus, last year, my husband and I went to several local estate sales. Some of them have over-priced stuff that is more than we need, but most had exactly what you described, as well as having 1/2 used tubes of toothpaste, open packages of adult diapers, baby powder from 1972, etc. They literally opened every cabinet in the house, and sold everything that they could.

It really gave me a new perspective on what I own, what the inside of our cabinets look like, and what I want to leave behind for other people to go through. The whole thing made me really sad, and I made my husband swear that he'd never sell a 1/2 used box of my tampons or whatever.

Frankies Girl

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Re: In your final days, don't fret about your stuff
« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2013, 05:59:55 AM »
My dad died last year, and we cleaned out our childhood home this past spring, and probably threw away thousands of dollars in vintage or collectable stuff, in addition to stuff that was actually still "new" technically. Nothing we could do about it tho as most of it was ruined.

He spent the last 5 months of his life in a senior living apartment complex (finally was convinced that it would be safer and better), but kept the house and continued paying all of the utilities and ordered us to not touch anything over there as he still thought he'd be able to go home at some point and get it cleaned up himself (he was terminal and unable to walk 5 steps without exhausting himself, the house had mold/filth and rotting food - so complete and total denial).

Despite the fact that he could barely walk, he'd already junked up his area around his easychair - he wouldn't let anyone toss out old newspapers (the community even had a recycling dropoff) and they took up one side of the couch right next to his chair, and he had bits of trash and bottle and cups gathered around him that no one was allowed to throw away.

My sister and I both broke down several times during the cleaning process - anger and tears at seeing something beloved that was ruined, or how our dad could live in such conditions.

Material things can be nice to have, but growing up with, and seeing first hand the horrors of hoarding... I'm much less attached to stuff in my own life.

DocCyane

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Re: In your final days, don't fret about your stuff
« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2013, 07:12:02 AM »
I want to thank everyone for sharing their stories, which can be painful and sad. I hope we all take these lessons to heart and embrace the simplifying of our lives.

MountainFlower

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Re: In your final days, don't fret about your stuff
« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2013, 09:59:38 PM »
My dad died last year, and we cleaned out our childhood home this past spring, and probably threw away thousands of dollars in vintage or collectable stuff, in addition to stuff that was actually still "new" technically. Nothing we could do about it tho as most of it was ruined.

He spent the last 5 months of his life in a senior living apartment complex (finally was convinced that it would be safer and better), but kept the house and continued paying all of the utilities and ordered us to not touch anything over there as he still thought he'd be able to go home at some point and get it cleaned up himself (he was terminal and unable to walk 5 steps without exhausting himself, the house had mold/filth and rotting food - so complete and total denial).

Despite the fact that he could barely walk, he'd already junked up his area around his easychair - he wouldn't let anyone toss out old newspapers (the community even had a recycling dropoff) and they took up one side of the couch right next to his chair, and he had bits of trash and bottle and cups gathered around him that no one was allowed to throw away.

My sister and I both broke down several times during the cleaning process - anger and tears at seeing something beloved that was ruined, or how our dad could live in such conditions.

Material things can be nice to have, but growing up with, and seeing first hand the horrors of hoarding... I'm much less attached to stuff in my own life.

That is heartbreaking.  I'm sorry. 

ritchie70

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Re: In your final days, don't fret about your stuff
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2013, 12:04:46 AM »
My wife and I cleaned out her mother's house a few years ago. We wore dust masks most of the time due to dust and odors.

Her mom wasn't physically able to get in and out of the house any more, so we took photos of everything and had to get approval for disposition by showing her photos on the iPad. Exhausting and resulted in pages of handwritten notes on legal pad. What I learned between that and the condition of things is that the core problem, for her at least, is inability to determine value (family heirlooms and plastic grocery bags got similar treatment.)

Don't get me started on her "milk glass collection" that appears to mostly be cheap florist vases and thrift shop finds.

I have a pretty good pile of "I might want this" but it's neatly sorted in boxes in the workshop, and it's reasonable stuff for the most part.

kms

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Re: In your final days, don't fret about your stuff
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2013, 02:50:55 AM »
My wife and I had seperate life changing experiences with hoarders a couple of years ago.

Back when we were both still attending university my wife had a "job" helping a nice-but-crazy woman sort out her things. What started as taking care of her rental properties (she had inherited quite a bit from her mother and bills) quickly turned into trying to save a hoarder from plunging into complete disaster. Said woman was crazy in a esoteric kind of way, never having really worked for her living (she described herself as a self-taught dance therapist) and massively in debt. Her mother's property was what kept her head floating right above the surface but she spent tons of money on useless junk. When one of her houses had to be renovated she was there to help throw stuff out but instead ended up shuffling junk around from one room to another. And we're not only talking about small items such as used and empty pens that she kept in her own apartment, we're talking about kitchen appliances from the 50s that were probably a health and safety hazard for the entire neighborhood. I think ritchie70 hit the nail on the head: inability to determine value.

Around the same time I was helping my dad move an older lady, sister to my mom's best friend who'd died of cancer a couple of years ago. This woman had been living in the same apartment for 30something years, having moved to Germany from Canada. There were still unopened boxes in her basement with stuff that she had decided was worth moving across the Atlantic ocean more than 30 years ago. Her entire apartment was filled with junk, so was her basement and the additional storage unit she'd rented. And she still valued all these things highly even tough she hadn't seen some of them for more than 30 years! We weren't allowed to throw anything away, like old dresses, used shoes with holes in them, knitting magazines from the 70s, an old TV that had stopped working a long time ago, etc.

In the evenings, when my wife and I were having dinner, we'd talk about the events of the day and quickly realized how amazed and disturbed we both had been by the experience. This has led to some massive clearing out on our part. From that point on we'd decided only to keep around so much stuff that we could easily move anywhere on this planet the very next day. Our friends have already started by wondering how empty our apartment had become over the last few years but to be honest we're not missing anything. We've also completely stopped buying new random crap simply because we like it, or because it's nice to have or to look at (that was long before I found this website). Also, every two to three months we go through our aparment and look for things we hadn't used in a while. I'm afraid that my parents on the other hand have gone the exact opposite way. All the stuff said woman did allow us to throw away my dad took, and it's still in his basement. He now has some old 60s cameras, radios and whatnots that don't work and are worth less than a zero each.

rockstache

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Re: In your final days, don't fret about your stuff
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2013, 07:49:19 AM »
This post is really resonating with me in a big way. My grandmother and my dad are not hoarders per se (not obsessively acquiring new things), but they do both have a huge problem with getting rid of anything, mostly for sentimental reasons. Since living with them (separate apartment in the same house), I have become positively ruthless about getting rid of things. I refuse to hold myself down in one location (geographical or emotional) because of a bunch of junk. Last week my husband and I cleaned out the garage which was full of their stuff, and took 920lbs of trash to the dump. And it was almost all legitimate trash...not even worth selling. It was amazing how much lighter I felt afterward. I already have everything I need in my life.

infogoon

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Re: In your final days, don't fret about your stuff
« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2013, 10:45:22 AM »
I had a distant relative who was a not-especially-functioning alcoholic. After he died, the kids went to clean out the house and found out that he'd been coming home from the bar and ordering things from the Home Shopping Network all night long. There were dozens and dozens of unopened FedEx boxes scattered around, full of ceramic tchotchkes and Ginsu knives.

Dezrah

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Re: In your final days, don't fret about your stuff
« Reply #13 on: November 06, 2013, 01:32:45 PM »
I also have some family member who I suspect are borderline hoarders.  Because there is strong evidence of a hereditary link in such behaviors, it has made me very self-conscious about making sure I never fall into such patterns.  When I do things like clean out my closet I actually force myself to get rid of more than makes me comfortable just as practice.

Mr. Minsc

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Re: In your final days, don't fret about your stuff
« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2013, 07:26:21 PM »
On our dairy farm there's definitely buildings with generational junk piled in them. ;)

Funny story, a few years ago my uncle and has wife went on a trip to Europe for a couple weeks.  During that time his son called the scrap metal fellas and got rid of some old vehicles and other scrap metal.  I don't believe my uncle was exactly pleased after he arrived home. ;)