My mother-in-law was a hoarder. Not a pack-rat or an enthusiastic collector of useless stuff, but a full-fledged, afraid to throw away the trash because she might need it someday kind of hoarder. When she died at the age of eighty-one, the amount of stuff she had managed to cram into her house and barn had reached mind-blowing proportions. And we had a mind-blowing challenge. In order to sell the property, someone had to clean up the house and for reasons that I still don’t understand, I decided I was up for it. So in the summer of 1996, I flew out to Virginia and had
the experience of a lifetime, a life changing summer, a near mental breakdown. It was a bizarre, stressful, exhausting, disturbing, disgusting, fascinating experience. Did I overdo the adjectives? Perhaps, but the eight weeks that I spent in that house was full of adjectives as well as expletives and more than a few tears.
Even without the hoarding, the place would have been fascinating. Originally, it was an outpost built in the early 1700’s in the mountains of northwest Virginia, not far from the Appalachian Trail. The small, square, log structure had one door, a couple of windows and steps that led to a flat roof with a waist-high balustrade and was used by Indian Scouts. After that the history is a little sketchy, but we were told that the property was used as a bivouac for Mosby’s Rangers during the Civil War and that a mountain family of ten had lived there in the early 1900’s.
My son was afraid to go up these steps by himself and he was twenty years old at the time. But then, he’s also afraid of bees, spiders and crickets. It’s actually kind of embarrassing.
My in-laws bought the property in the late 1940’s, added a few modern conveniences like electricity and indoor plumbing, made it livable (kind of) and used it as a vacation house. It isn’t my idea of a vacation home, but each to their own. In the late 1970’s, they decided to live there year-round and a contractor was hired to make the necessary improvements. I’m not sure what the contractor was smoking or what my mother-in-law was drinking, but the final product was obviously the result of a drug/alcoholic induced state. Windows that once opened on the outside world now opened into other rooms, the library was only accessible through the bedroom, the only practical entrance was through the kitchen and the refrigerator and stove, shower, toilet and sink were all in one room. She also put a round, red velvet bed, red chandelier and little refrigerator that looked like a mailbox in the master bedroom. Honest.
I was just getting started here. Seriously. We were maybe a week into our adventure.
By the time my mother-in-law passed (my father-in-law had died seven years earlier) every room was full of crap. Literally. There were mouse droppings everywhere. And stuff. Tons of stuff. Some of it was good stuff, some of it was garbage, but I had to go through everything to sort it all out. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do it alone. Some might call it an incrediably lucky coincidence, but I believe the Universe was looking out for me. I’ll save that story for my next blog My Sister-in-Law is a Saint and Sleeping With Mice. In the meantime, let me know what you think. Would you have taken this on? Or was I just plain nuts?
If I’ve asked you once, I’ve asked you 2000 times… Take out the trash!!!