Dad grew up poor during the depression. His brother once told me if one of them got a dime he would go out and buy a loaf of bread. Their mother passed away when dad was 13 and the youngest child was 9. Their father had seven children to support but was often unable to get any work himself. Their grandmother, aunts and uncles and cousins lived nearby but all were living in similar poverty.
Often dad would go “shopping” at the dump with his cousin. He came home one day and said: “Cousin skinny and I are going to the dump – does anybody want anything?” His youngest sister said” “Get me a doll”. And my uncle told me: “Darned if he didn’t find her a doll!”
Even after dad was grown and earning an income, he used his handyman skills to fix up second-hand finds rather than purchase new things. They never had a lot of money and it stretched further because of his skills. Dad never outgrew his desire to shop at the dump either.
He often brought home finds from other people’s trash that was waiting by the curb for pickup. He found a VHS VCR and brought it home. He saw there was a broken tape in it and he removed the broken tape and the VCR was as good as new. They used it at their mobile home. He brought home a broken desk and fixed it up for mom to use. Of course, dad was also handy around the house.
He did all the maintenance on the family car He did most of the home repairs and also did many upgrades to the house himself. In addition, they paid for some professional help on some major jobs. Over the years dad built a garage, finished the basement, and had help putting up a dormer in the attic and to add about 3 more rooms upstairs.
As dad got older, he was less and less able to keep up the maintenance on the house. Once he told mom to call a plumber and then he told the plumber what to do! He also continued to pick up people’s trash as long as he was able to drive or even walk.
One day he was looking at a gas grill someone in a neighbor’s trash and as he was taking it, someone shouted out the window: “It doesn’t work!”
Even in their mobile home park, dad often went down to the fenced-in dump area to “look around”. He found items of interest and brought them home. Mom overheard some busybodies talking about dad one day at the clubhouse. They said he had been picking up trash from the dump. Mom was very embarrassed. She wanted him to stop because it didn’t “look good”. As she told me this story, I reminded her that he had been recycling items all his life.
Now in his 90’s he was unlikely to stop. She should ignore the busybodies and remind herself that she wasn’t responsible for his behavior. He had been a good husband and provider. “What about all the stuff he brings home?” she asked me? What will I do with it all if something happens to him?” I told her not to worry about it. If something happens to dad, I will help her get rid of the things he brought home from the dump and all the garage sales he attended.
Of course, when they moved into assisted living, I was the one who came to help empty the mobile home and move their belongings. My son came to help me and most of dad’s “treasures” went to a charity or back to the dump. Some of their belongings were moved to the assisted living center including that desk that dad had found and repaired.
My hoarder brother even threw that up to me recently when I asked him to move his stuff out of dad’s home so I can sell it to pay for his care. “Dad’s a hoarder too.” said my brother. So, that made it OK for him to fill the house with his junk. I don’t see it the same way. Dad only brought his finds to his own home – not to someone else’s home. And dad had all of his found items repaired and put them in storage in a neat way.
After mom passed away, my daughter and her family helped me go through the garage and my parents’ bedrooms at their northern home. My son-in-law took many computer parts to be recycled and many boxes to charity. Even my brother took boxes to charity. I believe he wanted to have more room to keep his own collections! In any case, dad’s so called “hoarding” did not create a mess that I can’t clean up. I wish I could say the same for my brother!