Monday, September 9, 2013

Appreciating Poverty

I normally don't post about other people. I stick to insulting myself and poking fun of my kids and the occasional money victory and failures. I have been chewing on this for a while and I decided to put it out there. Take from it what you will. You can brush it off as someone with a disorder, someone that is a fool, or a lost soul. I have been around alcohols, drug addicts and people with eating disorders. Dysfunction is dysfunction. It is upsetting, horrifying, sad, and frustration. But for some reason this one is still bothering me. Maybe it is because I have never been confronted by this addiction. Perhaps I am numb to the others because of over-exposure. Or maybe it is the mind-set of the Americans that more is better, collect and consume. Maybe that is why this is bothering me so much. I feel as if we have been taught to have a disorder, an addiction.
Dennis and I go garage saling whenever we can. It is cheap entertainment and it is always nice to get a bargain. He looks for brass that he can buy and turn a profit on. I look for........whatever. Mostly, I just enjoy my time with my husband. But I don't mind scoring an awesome deal either.
We were out and about on a Saturday which is unusual for us. Dennis works half days on Fridays and we normally try to go when he gets home. But we were busy on a Friday and we decided to steal a couple of hours for ourselves and go "hunt" for treasures.
Every area around us is a high traffic area so finding garage sales is as easy as pulling out of the neighborhood. Signs are everywhere-all the time. We choose a main road and follow one of the many signs. Easy peasy.
This time we ended up in a very, very high end neighborhood. The house was stunning and it was probably the nicest home I have ever been in. The detail, the brick work just everything about it was visually pleasing. It wasn't a mansion but it was close. The landscaping was perfect. Well, you get the picture. The extremely wealthy and privileged live in homes and neighborhoods like the one we were in.
Nothing out of the ordinary struck me as we walked up the driveway. Nothing was organized, piles of things everywhere that you had to wade through to find a treasure. Some people are organized and some aren't with their garage sales. No biggie.
I found a decoration for the yard but nothing there was anything that we needed. The owner of the house came up and started talking to us. He was friendly and engaging. He told us how they were moving and pointed to the for sale sign and said that they had to get rid of quite a bit.  I noticed the haphazard boxes and mess in the garage behind him. But that was bound to happen when having a garage sale and moving.
He told us to go in the garage, through the laundry room, down the stairs, to the landing where the playroom was, down another set of stairs and into the basement(I'm not kidding we almost needed a map, the place was so large) and there was more that was for sale.
My grandmother was the cleanest person that I have ever known. Nothing was ever out of place. EVER. She taught me to scrub with the best of them. Her favorite saying was, "There is no such thing as clean." Meaning that you could scrub something all day and it wouldn't be good enough. Nothing was ever clean enough. Ok, she might have had a disorder or she loved a clean house. I think that I have found balance. My house is very clean by most people's standards but we also use and enjoy our house. That was something that she didn't do. Nothing was touched in her house but she was old school clean, I'm new school clean. I love her, miss her and I'm grateful for the wonderful lessons she gave. So whenever something is dirty in my house or out of place I say, "My Grammy senses are tingling." Sort of like, Spider-man but with disinfectant and a dust rag.
My Grammy senses hit a new level when we stepped in the laundry room. Stuff was piled shoulder high everywhere. Backpacks, shoes, boxes and who knows what else were sliding down. There was a path to walk through. It was suffocating. There was crown molding on the ceiling, and the most expensive washing machine and dryer in the laundry room.
We walked past the toy room. The toys were ankle high with none of the floor showing. None. But it wasn't really a toy room, it was a gorgeous sun room with windows and box seating lining the room. It was stunning and trashed.
The basement was easily the size of two of the levels of our tri-level. It might have been the size of our entire house but it was hard to guess just because of the sheer mess of it. There were boxes and boxes of brand new items piled everywhere. Shelves and shelves of items everywhere. Everything with the tags and stickers on them. Not one thing that I saw had a clearance sticker on it. Everything was purchased new.
There were a few people in the basement with us. They were cleaning as they looked. They piled stuff into containers and boxes. Perhaps because it was upsetting to see so much stuff being treated poorly or  because they were afraid of being trapped.
I ended up buy 40+ Christmas/Birthday bags, some Halloween toys for our trick or treaters, and the garden decoration. Nothing was dirty in the house, it was just piles and piles of stuff. We were there on the last day of the sale so I'm sure that there were plenty of people there making a mess. But after seeing the rooms that were blocked off, it seemed that the basement was in pretty good shape compared to the rest of the house. They lived like that. Mountains and mountains of brand new items everywhere. Their children lived in high priced avalanches of goods. Everything was the best of the best.
Even being there on the last day of the sale, I would guess that if they had back the money they had spent on what was left, we could have lived for a year off of it. I can't even image what they had on the first day of the sale.
I looked out the back window of the basement and saw the nicest grill I have ever seen. It looked like something from a movie star's home. If we sold all of our cars, we still wouldn't have enough money to buy it.
They had all the toys. They had everything that everyone aspires to. They were living the American dream or had lived the dream. Were they selling the house because of a job lose? I have no idea.
We are poor in every sense compared to them. Everything we own would be considered "trash" compared to what they have. And yet, we treat out "trash" better than their new, expensive things. I am so grateful for the little that we have. Do I look down on them? No. I wanted to cry for them. I wanted to help them. I wanted to teach them to save money, to organize, to appreciate what you have.
In the end, it is an addiction plain and simple but it struck me to the core. How could material things that we struggle so hard for mean so little to someone else? I'm not saying that I want piles and piles of things or even to waste money. But how can there be such a difference between people monetarily and morally? The gap in possessions and thinking was immense.
What does this mean for me or for you? Probably nothing. And yet, I'm still not sure why I can't get it out of my head. What I do know is I'm thankful for so much. A clean house, a balanced checkbook and a clear mind is what matters to me. I'm thankful for the little that I have and I'm thankful for being able to call you my friend.
Sonya Ann


D.Lynn said...

I hear ya girl and am glad to have you in my life also. It's a perspective thing I think... Things are just that = things but they mean different things to different people. I don't have the best of everything (ok, anything) but I love what I have and the people in my life too. Its a good reminder... thanks

McVal said...

Wow... Maybe they're getting ready to be featured on Hoarders! Or they've spent their way into a corner and have to start fresh. When Robb and I were moving from one apartment to another, my mom was cleaning out and behind our refridge for us. Something she said ALWAYS stuck with me. "You can't move every time you need to clean house."

slugmama said...

I think this is a real good example of when someone has all that they want, or more than they need, they don't value any of it.

I've seen this same thing with kids when their parents always give them everything they ask for. Usually those kids don't value their things since they are acquired so easily and they don't treat their things well....since if they lose or break it, they believe the parents will just buy them some more.

Cheapchick said...

Definitely sounds like a disorder. I am not a neat freak but our home is always clean and tidy (if you look really closely you might find a weeks worth of dust or so but not dirty). My stepkids always joked about the difference from their Mom's house to ours. My hubby is clean like me so it is difficult to understand how he lived with his exwife who can live so completely different from the way we do. He was constantly cleaning and picking up things there (she didn't work outside the home so theoretically that was her job) after working for 12 hours a day. I distinctly remember a few years ago when one of my stepsons had his teenage friends over. These are kids from the "rich" neighborhood a few miles away. They said our home was the nicest they had ever seen, and it was simply because it was clean. I felt sorry for that kid, wondered what he lived in every day.

ND Chic said...

There is obviously an emptiness that someone is trying to replace. I don't know why you would want to live like that with so much stuff. Growing up, our house was like a hoarders house. One could rarely sit down on the couch because it was always piled with laundry or whatever. Nothing had a place but it was us kids responsibility to clean it. My house is clean now nut my motto is that the less stuff we have, the easier it is to clean.

Sonya Ann said...

D.Lynn-Maybe that is the definition of a good life, love the people and the things that you have. You are a smart girl.

Sonya Ann said...

McVal-Your mom is brilliant! Honestly, maybe that is what they was doing.

Sonya Ann said...

sluggy-It was so sad. Maybe it is just respect-for things and people. Our old neighbor's had a junky house but they made way more than we did. Everything had to be new but was trashed in no time. It never made sense to me. Mind you, they are divorced, have filed bankruptcy,and have nothing.
I always try to take care of what we have because you don't know if you will have the money to replace it in the future.

Sonya Ann said...

Cheapchick-Wow that was an amazing compliment from one of the "rich" kids. Maybe it's not what you have but effort.

Sonya Ann said...

ND Chic-I'm sorry that you had to live in a home like that. You are impressive because you overcame it. It's hard to find the "right" path when you haven't been shown.

mama .bonnie said...

I read this and thought hoarder too. I remember when I worked retail, I worked in the fine jewelry department. There was a customer that came in every time there was a big sale. She would look at all the items, repeatedly, tell you she would think about it, leave, and then may or may not come back. I sold her MANY a pieces. No one wanted to deal with her because she sucked up A LOT of your time for what could be a no sale. But I didn't mine, I just chatted with her, let her make up her mind as to what she was going to buy. I thought I was special to her. Then one day I was shopping at the same mall as the retail store I worked at when I saw her at a competitor's store. She was doing the same thing to the lady at the fine jewelry counter as she did with me! Later in the day, I saw her again. This time at a third retail store's fine jewelry counter. It dawned on me then that she didn't care about the jewelry. She just wanted to treated special by someone. And who else to treat you special but someone who needs the commission from selling you a piece of fine jewelry. Only positive is she didn't return what she bought but how lonely her life must have been.......

Sonya Ann said...

mama-People are odd. How sad it would be to go from place to place just to have someone to talk to. I guess I am just used to people being and acting a certain way that something strange hits me hard.

Donna Freedman said...

Sounds like a shopping disorder to me, too. I feel sad for the family.
When I was broke in Seattle I used to babysit for a wealthy family. Their kids had every imaginable toy -- and no really memorable ones. The couple paid me $15 an hour to watch their kids but they did not seem happy; there was tension in the household whenever the two of them were in the same room.
When I look around our place I realize that some people would consider it pitiable: secondhand furniture, garden beds made out of old boards, 14-year-old car, aging shed filled with firewood.
You know what, though? We have everything we need and much of what we want. That's because love lives here and the Joneses can kiss my solvent backside.
If some people want to shop, fine. Go for it. But please don't go deeply into debt for stuff that stops mattering the instant you walk out of the store. You'll end up with bills you can't pay and a nonstop need to buy more-more-more to make up for the giant hole in your heart.

Sonya Ann said...

Donna Freedman-For the life of me, I couldn't understand how they couldn't feel shame. They didn't know there was anything wrong. They were inviting people into that dysfunction!!!
We have a very slight life as you can see by all of the pictures. And I am so glad!
The debt load that they must have would crush my soul. And if nothing else making children live in a mess like that isn't helping them. SO sad.

Frances said...

Seeing something like that is really sad and make you grateful for having a "normal" life. Hubby and I used to go garage saling a lot and once we found one where the woman was a hoarder. The house was SO full. Someone helping her with the sale told us that the city had condemned the house so the woman was trying to make what she could to be able to live somewhere else. It was so sad.

Sonya Ann said...

Frances-That is sad. There was a woman by my MIL that was hoarding yard. Her house was waste deep in yard. Friends of her's cleaned it out while she was in the hospital. She was quite old and frail and when the paramedics came to take her they reported her.