Hoarders Anon

My grandmother was a hoarder. The real shit. Her parents had enough money for more than mere survival during her depression era adolescence, and she lived the rest of her life with terminal guilt. She came through that and WWII with a deep sense of the value of material things. Not a desire to have them so much as a recognition of how precious they could be.

She never threw anything away.

Not food.

Not magazines.

Not newspapers.

Not trash.

Recycled, yes. GAVE away, yes. Donated to charity, rarely. But never outright pitched. In fact, she went to yard sales and dragged in MORE SHIT every week. She and my grandfather always lived frugally, though he was a doctor and they didn’t have to. The only reason their very small house didn’t have dead cats and a TV crew by the time she died is that my grandfather recognized the problem. At some point, probably once most of her eyesight was gone, he started going along behind her throwing stuff out. In the three years between her death in 2006 and his in 2009, he filled up three roll away dumpsters with garbage she’d dragged in.

And Mom and I (and Mom and Kaylee, and Mom and her friends) still have a ton to go through. We hit the highlights. Fifty trashbags and an equal number off to be donated, plus stuff we actually wanted and other stuff we set aside for auction. But the basement is still impassable, and the storage area over the garage is only accessible because Poppa held a “free yard sale” right after Mummum died and invited people to come take whatever they wanted.

Some of the worst offenders? Doilies. Mummum could have bought stock in doilies if it had been a company. She specialized in doily collection. We stopped counting at 500, and I think we found twice that number, most (all?) handmade lace. Some pristine and probably quite valuable, others in rag-like condition. We had to dig through piles of cloth napkins and placemats to find, buried at the bottoms of piles, and not anything like together, my great grandmother’s handmade quilts. And food. Oh God the food. We threw out ketchup from 2008, macaroni and cheese that expired in 1985, and a six pack (a six pack!) of chili from God knows when. And that was just the side porch; we are afraid of the pantry and kitchen.

But my favorite collections are the ones that are by far the most depleted. Poppa, being a retired doctor, one who kept up his medical license until the day he died, made a serious effort to dispose of the old medicines once Mummum was gone. (He merely hid them until then, I suppose, knowing which ones merely rotted and which became outright dangerous.) Still, he missed a few. And I’m glad he did. I love the old bottles and tubes. I don’t want to own them. Too many visions of Sam finding one and licking out the dust and getting poisoned or something, but I did take pictures. If you follow my personal thread on facebook, you got to see the food last week. But here, in a blog exclusive, are the drugs. These all date from the 1950’s and 1960’s

Toryn1 Toryn2Rawleigh Pyribenzamine Premarin mercurochrome Glycerin Eurax Empirin

About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


Hoarders Anon — 18 Comments

  1. I remember my mom having Emprin Compound, and mercurochrome for sure. Isn’t is fascinating what people will keep? I now have stuff that my sister kept from cleaning out our mom’s house, and in turn, I couldn’t throw out when I cleaned out my sister’s house after her death. I should probably take a picture of the main box of junk and use it for my next Blipfoto Journal entry. Thanks for reminding me not to become a hoarder.
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    • It’s so damned hard to get rid of things that were precious to a loved one. Mom and I have had to fight every hoarding tendency.

  2. These are amazing finds. Stuff like this somewhat makes it worth slogging through the garbage. You’ve been on my mind in recent days. MTM’s brother is a major hoarder. As in, walkways through the trash that’s piled to the ceiling kind of hoarder. And, he’s a garbage collector. He went and got a job that feeds his addiction………
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    • Oh man. Poppa kept Mummum from reaching that level in most places. Most of them. But there are spots that are just awful. Feed that addiction indeed. I can’t think of a worse job than garbage collector. I mean, Mummum was a trash picker. I’m a trash picker. Scott and I are still using the kitchen table we picked out of our apartment trash a dozen years ago. To have that JOB and have to resist stuff? Impossible for a hoarder.

  3. Many of us have hoarder stories. My grandma bought cans of mushrooms and olives, neither of which she liked or ate, because “they were cheap.” She bought them by the case, which were stacked in every niche and corner. After she died, we went through her things, much as you are doing, and found bills of varying denominations stuck between the pages of her many books, newspapers piled under the beds, and brown paper bags folded neatly and arranged in bundles tied with twine, each with a double bow exactly in the center.
    Thinking of you as you rummage through your personal history. Some of the old bottles may even be valuable to a collector of that sort of thing, unless they hold sentimental value. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Oh GOD – yes – Benson’s was Mummum’s discount store of choice in Florida, and Kellman’s in Louisville. She mourned when Kellman’s went out of business. We’re putting the bottles in the auction. I think somebody will buy them. I returned quite a bit of the contents’ to pharmacies, where they can dispose of them appropriately.

  4. Those Toryn tablets look like candy little kids like to eat, so I could totally see someone’s kid getting that bottle & going to town on decades expired Rx Meds…no bueno for anyone involved. The hormone replacement therapy makes me think of jelly beans, again not good for kids…
    It’s crazy the kinds of things people will “collect” & hold onto for no particular reason. Can you imagine every thing else you guys would have found if your grandfather had not started going behind her & pitching things as she went along. Those are some pretty interesting medicinal finds you’ve got in picture form though…

    • Yup yup yup – or sudafed! And we KNOW some of the things he got rid of! (The collection of pictures he donated to a museum because they were cool old black and whites of people nobody had ever met; the newspapers from the fifties and sixties that went in the free yard sale; the old dog and cat food cans from a million years ago when they had pets!!)

  5. I remember mercurochrome from when I was a kid! You painted it on with a little glass wand that was attached to the lid inside the bottle. You can see it in the pic posted here if you look closely. Known to some as “monkey blood.” (yeah, kids can be gross!) It burned like hell. Cool bottles, these! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  6. Those bottles are incredible. Please tell me someone wants them, even though you can’t keep them? A museum? A doctor’s office? Someone?

    I am becoming an an anti-hoarder. If you don’t count Felix’s toys, we have less stuff now than we did when we bought the house 8 years ago. I get a weird thrill from donating trunks full of stuff and having yard sales.
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  7. I’m sure a local museum would LOOOOOVE getting their hands on these goodies! (Somebody probably mentioned that in a comment already, if so I apologize for my laziness).

    I’m the person friends and family want around. I go through people’s piles like a tornado making piles: throw away, give away, pawn away. I call these sessions Gotta-go Festivals. They show me stuff and I yell GOTTA-GO! Good bonding sessions. I’ve cleaned up my sister’s entire storage spaces: linen closet, bathroom closets, under the counter kitchen spaces… Some say I’m a miracle worker. I tend to agree with some people. 😉
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  8. In a weird way, that stuff is kinda cool! (Ok not the bags and bags of junk, but the historic medicine and finding some unexpected treasures that are neat to document.) I think my husband has a fear that I will hoard like this and he will be trapped cleaning out an impassable house… he is constantly making me purge and throw away. But I’m not actually a “hoarder” and every time i do start to save things up, I think about my children and grandchildren having to get rid of it all!!
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  9. It’s fascinating to look at those old medical bottles and labels – I mean I can’t imagine the time you are having going through all of that – but it’s like a piece of history at the same time – at least from where I sit. My stepdad was older and lived through the depression and never threw anything away. We are still going through my mom’s house to get rid of his stuff 4 years later.
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  10. I LOVE those bottles. Appreciate the treasures, the past and the history and get a skip for the rest. Glycerine is also used in icing. Want to try the stuff in the bottle for it?! 🙂
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