Her house actually did not look at all like this icon, thanks to earlier heroic work by Nephew and Math Guy (edlersib's husband) and a family friend. They got out any outright garbage, went through papers, recycled most magazines and catalogs, etc.
However, that sums up the hugeness of the task. I've decided that youngersib was not a hoarder, but was a bad housekeeper who was really, really into shopping. For an ordinary person with an ordinary life, I'd say a shopping addict; but because she had such a limtied social ci5rcle and was so physically limited by illness and mobility issues, sometimes shopping was, pretty reasonably, the biggest entertainment in her life. And of course being a bad housekeeper means you lose items and have to buy new ones.
That said--wow! The amount of stuff still in the unopened package is amazing. I filled three boxes (somewhat smaller than a banker's box on average) with unopened hygeine and home-medicine products, one smaller one of unopened cosmetics--all of which the Purple Heart charity is interested in, according to their web site. Oh,and that's in addition to over a box that size, maybe two, for eldersib's family to use & some, worth shipping or taking home in my suitcase, for us three. I know I'll find something similar with the office supply/stationery stuff when I hit her study next trip.
But I think she had a pretty decent life, most especially for someone with her health issues, overall. One major reason I wanted to do this job is to get to know youngersib's recent life better: we were still just as emotionally close, but I didn't know her daily life. Between sifting through her belongings and conversations with eldersib, it's working. For instance, as I matched DVDs woth their boxes, I could tell she had been (re)watching the whole run of The Andy Griffith Show. Most of the CDs were ones I would have guessed, but some surprised me. For instand, I know she loved Dan Fogelberg's music when she was in college, but I wouldn't have guessed she'd have bought a CD. Some CDs were by artists I didn't recognize. The books, CDs, DVDs, and few remaining magazines showed a nostalgic but very active intellectual life, which I of course expected but was glad to see.
Some of the work was just putting stuff in boxes, as with the clothes that Math Guy had laundered. The only sorting was from drawers, closets, cabinets, the tops of some tables and counters, and the kind of little caches we all develop but Math Guy hadn't gotten to, a bag here and a box there. I just kept open boxes for each type of thing to donate, as well as one for eldersib's house and one for me, and put in items as I came across them. Trash in two bag-lined garbage cans, paper in big paper leaf bags from the garage. Time consuming, a little too much bending, but pretty easy overall. Of course, the Cow of Virtue I took to keep me company is the one called Industry. (However, she has no shoes.)
I did a fair amount of research the week before I left, and I'm really, really glad that some organization wants almost everything of value. I prefer that to just throwing out even good used items--let alone unopened packages!--and I know youngersib would want it this way. I guess it would be a lot less effort to just hire a dumpster, but even more than the emotional satisfaction I'm getting, what a waste! And Ann Arbor is great for donations. There's even a food charity (on a street called Carrot Way!) that takes cans and unopened boxes of food that are not more than six months past the sell-by date. So far, they're getting two small-but-significant boxes just of unopened packages of tea! We have to deliver to them (although as eldersib says, nothing in Ann Arbor is very far), but most of the charities will come to pick the stuff up, including Michigan Pug Rescue, for which I am boxing up pug-themed statues, mugs, t-shirts, throw-pillows; pug dress-up clothes; extra dog beds; and other stuff. Youngersib had a really large box just of dog toys with the tags still on! I'm paying to send medium-sized boxes of lighter pug stuff for the three out-of-town rescues I contacted before I found the Michigan group.
I am taking some stuff to ship home, including some of nostalgic value, some items I have always secretly coveted (including a set of sheets printed with planets and rocket ships), and some items that are light to ship but we can always use. I no longer have to buy new frying pans or more good coathangers. But that pay-off is far less than the emotional one and the knowledge that youngersib's shopping will benefit others.
I'm going back at least once more, probably Feb. 9-12. This time it will be easier, since I can make appointments ahead of time, for instance, for Habitat for Humanity to come in and judge what furnishings they want. I like to go into an all-out work fugue for something like this, and it'll be nice not to have to think about making phone calls etc. Math Guy will be in this weekend and get the water turned back on (bills slipped through by accident), although I labeled & left the Pee Pitcher in case it is needed.
Mood: Still tired but relaxing, glad to be doing it but glad to be home