Hoarders Great For Estate Sales… But The Work!


From a financial standpoint, the home of a hoarder can be lucrative for anyone conducting estate sales on a percentage basis, like me. From a labor standpoint, it’s a nightmare.

Imagine if you will (cue the “Twilight Zone” theme song, if you must), an active, involved couple with an inheritance and no children. She teaches college; he is the manager of a high-end department store. He likes to spend his spare time with a metal detector and a pile of stock certificates; she likes to spend her spare time with a credit card and an employee discount.

Now imagine this same couple traveling the world. They hoard soap and shampoo from every hotel room. They collect maps and travel brochures. They buy small, expensive, easy-to-carry trinkets. When they get home, they really don’t care to unpack. They’re exhausted, and they have rigorous schedules to keep. So everything, including their clothes, stays in their suitcases or is unceremoniously dumped into dresser drawers. Every drawer becomes a junk drawer. The next time they go on a trip, they buy new suitcases, new clothes, new jewelry, new toiletries. Because who knows where everything ended up last time?

I do. I know where everything ended up because when this couple died, the named executor took one look inside their home and ran off. For good. It took the lawyers months to track down the next of kin. Finally they found an unconcerned niece several states away. She sent her husband, another lawyer, to check it out. He walked into the home, walked out, and called me.

“We don’t want anything out of this house except the Civil War stuff,” he said. “Just hold an estate sale and send me a check.”

“Just.” Ha! I have been working in this house for three weeks now, eight hours a day, cleaning and pricing, but mostly cleaning. At night, I spend three more hours researching what I’ve found. The house has 11 rooms with 11 closets. There are 40 cabinets and 102 drawers. There’s a pantry, a patio, a garage (with an attic) and, tucked among the weeds in the far corner of the property, a shed that nobody knew was there. I handed a box of keys to my husband. “See if any of these fit the lock on that shed,” I said.

He was back more quickly than I expected. “I got it open,” he said. “It’s packed to the roof.”

Plus, the nephew has started to call. Evidently the value of the Civil War stuff surprised him. “I have a list of some other things we’d like out of the house,” he said.

One of those things was a hobo nickel from 1913.

Can you believe I found that nickel? It was with 200 other nickels in a tin can behind six boxes in a cabinet above the double oven in the kitchen, but I found it. I’m very proud of myself for that. Impressed, he now wants me to find a particular ring.

I’ll look, but one thing’s for certain — it won’t be in the jewelry box.