Earlier this year we had to move my Grandmother into assisted living. She has Macular Degeneration which is a condition that severely effects her ability to see. She has been living with her illness for quite awhile, but finally failed to meet the requirements to safely drive on her own. Being a person that lives by herself, this presented major challenges for her every day life. To deal with these challenges my Grandmother decided to move into an assisted living community that could assist her where she struggled.
The house that she lived in was rather large, at least by my standards. It was a little over 3500 sqft and had tons of storage space. To make matters worse her and my grandfather (who passed away several years ago) were both pack rats who lived in the property for over 20+ years. This meant that all of that storage space was filled with stuff, too much stuff to fit in to 1 bedroom apartment at the assisted living facility she was moving into. So my grandmother did what she does naturally and instead of moving her old furniture into the assisted living facility bought all new furniture and left the old with the house minus a couple of pieces that had sentimental value.
While this was great for her, it did present a challenge for us in that we would still need to be responsible for cleaning up old house to sell it. This started us on the momentous task of cleaning out a house lived in by pack rats for 20+ years.
At this point I should also throw in that not only were they pack rats, but they also like to hide anything of worth in a special hiding spaces. Hiding spaces which were so hidden that they in fact would forget where they were and stuff would be lost forever (or at least until we started to clean the house). However, this meant that everything had to be checked to make sure it didn’t have a secret treasure hidden inside. I would say that this alone more than doubled our work load in getting everything cleaned up.
When we first started I really resented the fact that they had all of this stuff and saw no purpose for it. However, after a couple of weeks of cleaning I have come to really treasure the fact that they did save so much stuff. In sifting through all of there stuff I have come to learn things about my grandparents that I never knew and would never get a chance to know if they weren’t pack rats. I got to see pieces of forgotten family history, and tons of WW2 memorabilia that is now very special to me. Instead of stories I got to see the actual pieces of our family history packed up on a shelf in between what ever as seen on tv gadget my grandfather decided to buy.
I am not saying that everything that my grandparents kept was gold, most of it was junk, but it was easier to keep going knowing that eventually you would find something really cool. A lot of times I felt like a kid in school, annoying co-workers by bringing in items for show and tell. Old new paper articles, puzzle boxes, a real rolex, and several other things were brought into work along with a story about my grandparents. I think the biggest hit was a carved wooden beaver. I am pretty sure they are still joking about that and the beaver jokes will probably be around for awhile.
Any way, if you find yourself in a similar situation to what I am in now, make sure you take the time to savor it and look through everything. I guarantee you will find something cool or at the very least come out with an interesting story. I know I have come to greatly treasure the junk that my grandparents saved and glimpses of history I have seen in going through it all.