Hoarding Woes: Origins….Frugality & Garage Sales

I’ve noted before, that my parents were of mixed heritage.

My dad truly came from an impoverished upbringing. He went to work at 12 y/o. He was one of 11 kids from the ‘hollers’ of Panther, WVa. He was dirt poor and around harsh people. He was long gone from home by 16 years of age.

My mom (and four other sisters) were from a fairly successful German farmer in Wisconsin. He had plenty of land, money, status and a violent, cruel disposition. The girls worked hard and received little in the way of things or praise. They too were out the door and long gone by 18 years of age, at the latest.

My parents both survived the rigors of the Depression and they both watched the country slide into two World Wars. As youngsters they met, quickly courted and married and then separated as my Dad went off for almost four years overseas.

I mentioned, that prior to that time, my mom & Auntie had individually already made their way from the farm, to the train station, to Chicago by train, to Los Angeles by train, to Portland by train on the old Southern Pacific route. So, the girls had a mental ability to survive challenges with the idea one of them would be nearby soon to hold near. They did this for decades. No marriage, family, sister fights kept them apart for long. They were a formidable force for survival and ultimately acquisition.

The early garage sales, eventually became garage + yard + house + driveway. And, as you have seen the aerial photograph of my aunt's house, it became an enormous eyesore.

My aunt had enjoyed nice amenities while her husband lived. A beautiful home, nice furnishings and cars. My Auntie was well taken care of by her successful husband. But, he died young. He left her well off, but she had no ability to measure her worth or how long it would last. From the time her husband died she reverted back to a Depression era mentality of frugality that denied the existence of her husband’s stock investments, her Social Security checks, her savings. It was not discussed nor touched. Consequently, today she has a substantial cushion that was never touched. So how did she survive? Garage sales. With my mom.

My parents struggled to make ends meet. My dad worked two jobs for his entire life. My mom helped. And, she started this little venture of buying cheap and selling for a profit in her’s and her sister’s garage sales. They were successful. 

The Dynamic Duo, about 1971. Well into the Garage Sale trade by now.

If a little was good, more had to be better and the sales continued and continued. So, did the almost daily perusing of garage, rummage, yard sales, second hand & antique stores, estate sales and whatever other venue where they could buy something with an eye on turning a profit.

Seemed simple at first. And, they were pretty darn good at it. But, as I have previously remarked their inventory grew and grew, but their sales dropped off for various reasons. And, with sales declining, a behavior issue became obvious….they had to buy no matter what. Both husbands were dead by now. There was no one, including me, who could put a brake on this and it became ever more hidden from view.

This became a problem for my Auntie who did not want to touch her savings, but in the end she started dipping into the Social Security checks. For my mom, the buying was so pronounced she burned through all the money my dad had saved and invested, then through her Social Security checks and finally she took out a reverse Home Equity loan (an evil mechanism in my opinion).

So, those profitable, humble beginnings of buying an object for .75¢ and turning it for $1.75 eventually slid into the hoarding woes for two women that maintained tidy, clean homes for decades and then lived in self made prisons. Sleeping sitting up, no heat, often no lights, no washer and dryers, no stove………………………………

Recently, I have shown the sweet faces of those young women in their teens and twenties. I have also painted a word picture of my Aunt’s decline into dementia and dying, as well as my mom’s death. I am jumping about a bit. That is what my brain is doing of late. I know my aunt’s hoarding home awaits our return, for a substantial chunk of our life, to clean it up. I am not focusing on it too much right now.

It is just the contrasts are striking. That is what this is all about. Contrasts of what was and what is now. And, how to deal and endure.

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3 thoughts on “Hoarding Woes: Origins….Frugality & Garage Sales

  1. Susan

    Wow, I am so sorry that their lives ended that way, especially after all they endured, early on. And so sorry that you were left to deal with it all. They both looked lovely in the photo.

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