Monday, June 7, 2010

My own personal episode of "Hoarders"

I'm sure some of you have heard about our downstairs neighbor, Michelle, (aka Crazy Lady). For those of you who haven't...
Michelle has lived in this building for 27 years, since she was in college, I'm not sure how old that makes her. Ryan and I have only ever seen her in dirty old night gowns with a ratty shawl, or an over-sized denim jumper with a man's button down shirt underneath. She has long grey hair that is either pulled half way back, or into a bun every time. I've always thought she looked like a bag lady and a shut-in, like a "Cat Lady." Michelle started knocking on Ryan's door the day he moved in. She wants to know what he's doing, why he's making so much noise, did he have people going in and out, did they have permission to be here? Sometimes Ryan would ignore her knocking and turn the TV up, or quarantine himself to the couch for a length of time as if he's sleeping, or not home. Michelle started knocking on the door while I was here when we started dating, and I think we became friends. She told me about how she has incredible hearing because she never went to "those rock concerts" like her friends did. She told me about how she has been the "victim" of much harassment and has thus barricaded her front door and only uses her back door, sent all of her mail to a P.O. Box instead of the mailboxes at our apartment, and set booby traps in her apartment so she'll know if somebody was in there while she was away. We haven't ever even seen her window shades open. She has told me about how much she loves her apartment, the old woodwork and fixtures, and has spent years collecting antique furniture and trinkets to go with our old world apartments. She has even gone as far as to not let the landlord remodel her bathroom to have a shower since she moved in when everything was still just bathtubs. She is very particular about her things, and is adamant about protecting her privacy--to the point of not making a phone call without blocking her own phone number.

Through our chats I have come to realize that Michelle is just a very lonely woman trapped both inside her apartment and her own paranoia. I have done what I could to show her Christ's love and kindness. And though anytime Michelle knocked I knew it was going to eat up 2 hours of my day, I actually enjoyed her because I knew that I offered the only social interaction she would engage in for days.

The last time I saw Michelle was when she came up to tell me about confronting the rental agent the day before about some issues she was having with the heat in the apartment, as well as people going into her apartment without asking. She went out that morning to find a notice on her door saying they were evicting her. As Michelle told me about it I thought she was going to cry. This had been her home of 27 years, and they were taking it away from her! I felt so awful for her. Crazy lady or not, she had built a home for herself here.

When Ryan and I came home from San Antonio this week we saw that the windows of her apartment were propped open, as if to air the apartment out--since we know Michelle would never leave her shades up, let alone her windows wide open, we know she's moved out. We stood outside joking about how Ryan should climb up the side of the building into her apartment and let me in from the inside so we could see what it was like. We decided that would be a bad idea, and just tried the apartment door from the hallway instead. This is what we found...

Window propped open to air the place out. It's been like that for at least a week... how musty was it??
You can't see them very well in this pic, but there were several dried flower arrangements.
Dried flowers=dust.

In this picture you can really see how dusty everything was; the floor was so dusty it was almost slippery.

The picture doesn't really capture it, but there was a pile of plastic bags by the door that was the size of a small entertainment center.

There was food left in the cupboards, and her bathroom cupboard/cabinet were full of products, and the kitchen was straight up disgusting. 

Obviously there was garbage everywhere.


  1. Oh my gosh. You guys are brave. This is sad though.

  2. So sad. It is so hard to know how to intervene (if at all) when you interact with someone who seems to be living an unhealthy existence.

    You should look up the Collyer brothers. They were the first publicised "hoarders" and were quite a news item when they were found dead in their appartment in NYC. Almost 130 tons (yes tons) of garbage was removed from their apartment (how would you like to live under that apartment??) Even now, police often refer to homes filled with too much garbage and 'collectibles' as 'Collyer residences.'

  3. Wow. I can't believe you went in and took pictures.
    Loving the new blog look, by the way. :)