A while back my hubby and my oldest were hit by an intoxicated woman as they were bringing donations to a local soup kitchen. The donations never made it, the vehicle was totaled, and if not for Michael’s quick reaction, the injuries sustained could have been fatal. As bad as the crash was, the lady got out of her old van, walked barefoot in the mud to ask my husband and son for help to push her disabled clunker and get it started so she could get on home. Like she was oblivious to the damage she had done to my beautiful Denali. People are weird.
It has taken some getting used to. Where before he would work away from home and come back every 10 days and stay for 4 during the work season, now he is home 24/7. Very different.
So he needed a hobby. It was my suggestion, as I untangled him from my hair. He chose one. Storage auctions. . .
At first I tried to dissuade him saying it was bad karma to profit from others misfortune. I think this is what prevents most people from participating in these things. Then we started calling the places and asking questions. I wanted to know if there was a way to return personal items to people, like birth certificates, photos, etc. I was told that almost everyone returns that sort of stuff to the people who have abandoned their units. Forgive my digression, but I feel the need to clarify that indeed these units are abandoned. There are usually several options for people to make good on the storage fees. One man said he would let people into the unit to grab a certain piece to sell for the money owed. Not all will do this. Another stated they would allow a work trade for past due fees. The thing is according to the lot owners we’ve spoken to, people have incredible egos, and they can’t look someone in the face and say “I’m unable to pay what I owe”, and none of these folks seem to care enough to make a financial plan. Despite the tons of books and discs we’ve foundin these units on this subject that would suggest otherwise. I wonder if Suze Orman saw it comin’?
One of the first units he brought home was full of collections. There seemed to be plenty of stuff to sell to pay not just the storage fees, but this guy had enough to live off the profits for months. And yet, as I was burning the trash (yes, people are crazy and they pay to store garbage!) and waiting for the wood stove to be less full, I glanced at a paper he’d written about how broke he was and how he couldn’t understand it. Meanwhile, my hubby was out on the deck cleaning cat hair off of over 100 Sci-Fi paperbacks, that did not look like they’d been cracked once. Americans, what the hell is wrong with you? He also had a lighter collection, micro-minis (yeah, a grown guy), and other collections. Honey, I would’a sold me some goods before I paid a dime to store any of it. Priorities.
So, I seem to have changed my mind in regard to the whole storage unit auctions gig. I no longer think of it as inducing bad karma. I’m not wishing harm on anyone, nor am I bent on destruction of anything. I think of it more as some sort of archaeological dig without shovels and brushes. Where you donate a certain portion of your findings to thrift stores rather than museums. You really learn a lot about people and things they desire. For instance, I had gone 52 years without ever encountering even one tiny Squinkie, go figure. And I had never had the Orbeez experience prior to the hubby’s new hobby. If you are unfamiliar with either of the aforementioned items please do Google, then even after you know what they are, tilt your head to the side and wonder in puzzlement still. People pay to store those.
Inevitably I find myself wondering what made the person abandon their stuff and the answers seem to be many, but most either have passed away and their children think it’s not worth paying what’s due, or they’ve been incarcerated, or they have so much that they honestly don’t care. That seemed to be the case for one particular unit where we found multiple Christmas trees stuffed into bins randomly with the ornaments (what was left of them) still on. It’s hard to have sympathy for someone who is so wasteful. We returned 3 overflowing boxes of photos and some life-sized plexi-glass cut-outs of herself to the tree crusher. That was the unit that changed me.
I had already decided I was going to wear gloves when handling OPS (other people’s stuff), yet as we sorted through this particular unit, it was a time when gloves just didn’t seem to be enough. I was looking through some small items when I came across a tiny gold-colored treasure chest. It said “TREASURE” right on the camel back lid. I shook it and it rattled like it was full of tiny stones. My eyes lit up and I opened it, quickly pouring the contents into my gloved hand. I had to look twice, then resist the involuntary impulse to scream and toss 40 year-old baby teeth across the room. My fingers clinched around them in rebellion against my mind, thank goodness. Preventing me from having to go look for those little nightmares with the sweeper later. At this exact same time Michael was going through a metal file cabinet and as I looked across the room ready to communicate my horror, I saw the look on his face. Then, I saw what was in his gloved (thank you Jesus) hand.
Now, even though it was evident that the lady who had rented this unit had been married, and also had a boyfriend (archaeological evidence), it seemed that her “appetite” was not satiated by either. As my husband tried to hold her battery operated “personal friend” he’d found in the file cabinet, farther than arms length, I saw his brown face go ghostly white. I wonder how she alphabetized that? I wish I could have heard what he said next as he squinched up one side of his face in a wounded animal sort of way, but I was laughing so hard I almost dropped the teeth.
This lady also abandoned some very valuable items for someone who thought every single one of her baby teeth were worth saving. All in all hubby’s hobby has turned out to be quite lucrative. Aside from the horrors, we have come across some incredible treasures. As well as crazy historical stuff that just makes my mouth water. One Lane Bryant cedar chest had a leatherette pouch buried in the bottom, and stuffed with papers. This is where we found JFK and Elvis magazines from the time of their deaths and what I would call a “playwrights dream”. Stacks and stacks of articles and court papers regarding an accident this guy had been in back in the ’50′s. It must have been an absolute life-changing horror at the time and why anyone would have saved the newspaper clippings and other pieces of evidence for posterity is beyond me. The court documents are on paper that is barely readable, browned with age, and dry as leaves. As I said, a mouth-watering chunk of history.
This same unit included perhaps 40 or more photo albums and they were full of very bad shots. Someone should have taken this persons camera, that was a lot of time and money wasted. No, I mean really bad, and lots of them too. They were all returned. It also had over 75 antique and vintage oil lamps, as well as 1,000′s of sports cards and other sports paraphernalia. I looked at it as a burden until I did some Googling to research their value. I would never have imagined what people pay for tiny paper cards with athletes faces on them. Nor would I have guessed how totally worthless books are becoming. Books are works of art in my opinion and we are losing that magnificent art form to a cold technology. I was very exited to find a copy of “Gaudeamus Igitur Juvenes Dum Sumus” with its gorgeous green cover embellished with 8 beautifully aged brass cabochons placed in the corners front and back, like tiny little feet to hold it up table-like when being read. I carefully touched the detailed cover and opened it to examine the pages. A priceless treasure in my mind. In actuality not so much. It makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever that a Joe Namath rookie card is more valuable to modern America than an antique book.
Not all are winners, but it’s up to you to make money or not. The hubby learned it’s better to not bid on what is imagined, and by that I mean if it’s not in view, don’t imagine it’s in the box. He watched one man open empty box after empty box that appeared to be gaming systems of all sorts. Nintendos, Wiis, and the like. Not one contained anything but packaging material. Poor guy was what they call a newbie, and that was a hard lesson to be sure. Hubster himself has learned from his own mistakes as well. One unit had over 100 giant loads of laundry. Some items had actually been washed, just not according to my standards. I don’t know what these people were thinking. There were also 3 jumbo containers of partially used liquid laundry detergent in the same space. Maybe they had no machine of their own and didn’t have quarters? So, do some hand-washing and sell those things for quarters. They could have bought a used washing machine with the profits these clothes have made so far.
I could never give away, let alone sell any thing I haven’t cleaned thoroughly first. So the laundry unit was lots of work. All the clothes went to my 17 year-old daughter who has made some very good pocket change from her own little second-hand clothing sales. My oldest is in charge of all nerd paraphernalia as that’s his expertise, and the baby of the family takes care of the LP record albums and such. His father was ready to put $1 stickers on all of the vintage albums until my kid did a minute or two of research to see that one album in the first handful was going for $185 online. Dad’s no longer in charge of pricing. Anything.
I do have to admit for the first day or two after he wins an auction it’s a little crazy. Considering it’s like a mini move every time he hauls a load home, it tends to look a little “Grey Gardeny” at times. . . only with plumbing and live flora. I’ve learned to control my impulse to run through the yard in my underwear with a brooch-fastened t-shirt wrapped ’round my head. I mean we live in the country so who would know, but honestly I just don’t really care for it when the kids call me “little Eva”.
What was once regarded as profiting off of others misfortune is now considered by us to be a service of sorts. We donate an incredible amount of the items to families who actually use the stuff rather than wait for it to biodegrade. Some crazy cosmic wonders have taken place also, but I’ll save that for another day. I have some collections to clean, list, photograph and post.