If you've ever seen the "Red Green Show," then you will have a true understanding of my story.
If you're not familiar with Red Green, you've probably heard of the TV show "Hoarders." If neither show is familiar to you, just look up the lyrics to Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant" and pay particular attention to his descriptions of the garbage.
That's kind of how it was when my husband and I bought a cabin in Maine.
Vacations in Maine have been a family tradition for about 25 years now. We liked the idea of a more permanent connection to our favorite getaway and, because of the slowing of the housing and real estate market over the past few years, good deals were available.
Of course, we wanted something specific. A place in need of cosmetics was OK as long as it required no major repairs. Most importantly, we didn't want a lawn since we wouldn't be there to mow it regularly.
In May, when we found a little Cape Cod on 2.4 wooded acres, we knew it was perfect. We made an offer and had settlement at the end of July.
The couple who owned it before us had health problems and had not been there for two years. They didn't want to bother cleaning out their belongings and sold the house with everything in it.
To say the house came "furnished" would be an understatement.
In addition to the furniture was a lot of other stuff. Upstairs, a beautiful vintage four-poster bed was literally buried in, well, stuff.
In order to get through the room, you had to shimmy down a narrow path. Stuff was piled about 5 feet high on either side.
While this might scare away many potential buyers, it was no problem for us. I love yard sales, auctions and flea markets, so cleaning out the house has been like a giant treasure hunt.
We found several brand new appliances still in their boxes, including an air conditioner, kerosene heater, steam cleaner, toaster oven and a double window fan with a thermostat. Other goodies still sealed in their original boxes included a 42-piece cookware set, a set of stew pots, trinket boxes, office supplies, candles, incense and, oh, yes, a yo-yo. Then there were the 10 bars of soap, three bottles of dishwashing liquid, three bottles of laundry soap and other assorted cleaning supplies, all at least in triplicate.
My hunch is the former owners bought stuff, forgot where they put it, or that they even had it, and then went out and bought more.
The place was also full of guy stuff such as boxes of nails and screws, switch plate covers, wire, hardware, rolls of duct tape, a piece of PVC pipe about half as long as the house and all kinds of plumbing and supplies, including a brand new toilet, tank and seat, along with a bathroom sink, pedestal and faucet.
I guess we'll be remodeling the bathroom sooner rather than later.
Of course, it did all come with a price. Garbage. But in a very real sense, this is where the fun begins.
We found a pair of glasses with the lenses duct-taped into the frames. I'm sorry I didn't take a picture of that.
One closet contained several garbage bags of shoes, most of which also had been "repaired" with duct tape. This was especially perplexing because we also found several pairs of brand new shoes, still in the boxes with the tags on them. But why wear those when you can go out wearing duct tape?
All over the upstairs were long, thin pieces of wood, duct-taped together to make one longer piece. One of these must have been a total of 16 feet long. We have no idea for what use these were intended.
The futon in the living room had been covered – and sealed with duct tape.
An ugly plastic cabinet designed to stand over the toilet was actually duct-taped to the toilet itself.
A lawn chair in the attic was duct-taped into an open position.
A piece in the bottom of a you-assemble particle board entertainment center had been put in upside down. As a result, the thing would not stand straight.
No problem. Duct tape to the rescue! Little pieces of wood, much like the longer ones described above, were taped into place to serve as shims.
In addition to being the king of duct tape, this guy had a penchant for rope. We found it on many things, including pipes, the futon and all manner of household accessories. The rope never seemed to be tying anything together. It was just there, like a decoration.
We even noticed rope tied around a bedroom lamp and wondered if maybe he was afraid it would escape.
While spending a long weekend at the cabin earlier this month, we hauled a pickup truck load of clothing and linens to the Goodwill store. We took another truckload of recyclables to the town recycling center. We hauled a pickup truck load of stuff home to Pennsylvania to sell at a yard sale.
All that hauling barely made a dent in the wall of stuff. We decided to use the room that will become the dining room as a holding area for garbage until our next trip up when we will be renting a Dumpster. Now the garbage pile there is 5 feet tall.
Using this room as a garbage storage facility has allowed us to clean and purge the kitchen, living room and downstairs bedroom. Although the single open room upstairs is far from clear, at least you can walk through it now.
Each step in the cleaning process makes the cabin feel a little more like it's really ours.
It is a dream come true, as long as you don't mind a little duct tape.
Johanna S. Billings