Thursday, July 30, 2009

Taking the Garbage Out

This morning, I put three big bags of garbage out for the bi-weekly apartment pick-up. We make a lot of garbage. I wasn't particularly cognizant of this until about three months ago in our old neighborhood.

We lived next to a hoarder. Over the course of four years, this guy never put out garbage. Being a really sardine packed town home community, there was a lot of talk about the inside of this place. Once the poor water guy approached me after braving the basement of the house to install a wireless water meter. He was shaken up. He couldn't believe what was in there.

I had no problem ignoring the garbage dump on the other side of my common wall. My neighbor never bothered anyone. I never saw lights on in his house. I thought maybe he didn't have electricity. He was eccentric, a pack rat, pretty weird.

Just a few days before our sale closed, on the eve of the buyer's walk through, the neighbor died.

We arrived home to a side show in front of our home. Fire trucks, police, a crowd of onlookers. Everyone on the street was at their front window. I thought for sure the place was burning down and I could kiss my closing goodbye.

There was no fire. By morning the neighbor's front and back door was sealed with a bright yellow police line. We called to notify the buyer's agent because it looked like a murder scene next door. Apparently, the house had no working locks. They turned off the electricity (he did have it) to prevent a fire. The police line was to prevent looters or something.

The sale went though as planned. The buyer, a young guy, laughed off the caution tape and seemed pleased that the wreck inside (he'd peeked in the back patio door) would be cleaned up. He was happy to rent back to us for a month while we continued our search for a new home.

The last month in my old house was the hardest one I ever spent there. I'm not sure I'll ever think of taking the garbage out the same way. I'm always reminded of the weeks I spent watching three guys pitch 18 years worth of junk and plain refuse out of the windows and doors of that house.

Twice a week, I empty the trash cans and round up anything broken or unusable to send to the apartment complex trash compactor. While I do it I'm wondering, if I didn't throw this stuff away, where would I keep it? How could you live with that stuff stacked in the closets, then filling the corners and along the walls? Eventually, the family would walk along a narrow path or on top of layers of junk.

This is not my first experience with a hoarder. My summer vacations to my grand pap's cabin were adjacent to a widow woman with the same problem. I went in her house once to use the phone. It was filled with waist high garbage, the narrow pathways providing access roads around the house.

A high school friend lived in the same situation. I can still remember the kitchen cabinet doors open, their contents spilling onto the floor. But instead of falling out, there was this mound of stuff, a giant heap of food and spices, piled from the cabinet down onto the floor. It was unbelievable.

It took five dumpsters too clean out the townhouse next door after my neighbor died. The smell was ferocious. In the month we rented our place after the sale closed, I was there for four out of five dumpsters being loaded. This is what I think about now, every time I put a trash bag on the curb.