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Thursday, November 19, 2009

"When Life Becomes a Dump"

I find it interesting how some people choose to live. Case in point, the apartment I was cleaning earlier today. When you have so much stuff in your own apartment, that you have to live next door with your neighbor, that's not a good sign. And why the neighbor let those people live with them is beyond me.

See, the apartment I've been working on was formerly occupied by a young married couple (younger than myself) and their two children -- a rambunctious trouble-maker of a boy (more and more so as he gets older), and his younger sister. That's four people, a moderately-sized family by American standards. They seemed normal enough, yet always had trouble paying the rent, the mother swore up a storm in front of her children, she had no parenting skills, and they left debris and destruction wherever they went (mostly in the form of broken toys, trash, and cigarette butts).

They also had a serious hoarding problem.

I was in their apartment about a year back when the landlord and I were installing new ceiling fans. There was no floor, or, I should say, there was very little of it visible. Stuff filled every available corner, yet somehow, four people lived there.

Now, I should note, up until last summer (2008), I was one of their neighbors. They had moved in shortly before I did, and I moved into that building straight out of college. That means, they were tenants there for seven years. When I was in there replacing the lighting fixtures, things were already getting out of hand. Since my roommate and I moved out (and into the place we're in now -- also owned by the same landlord), things have apparently gotten far worse. More problems, more junk, more hoarding.

Recently, the landlord finally told them, "Hey, I've had enough. I'm not renewing your lease. It's time to move out." Apparently, they were very bitter, and when they vacated the apartment, they left it in really bad shape. Greasy yellow walls (from years of cigarette smoke), a carpet I wouldn't let a baby crawl on, mounds of stuff (mostly broken), trash everywhere, and... unfortunately an entire basement full of miscellaneous junk, including mounds and mounds of dirty laundry. Yes, dirty unwashed laundry.

Previous days were spent painting the apartment. Today's task -- for me -- was to clear out the basement, and dispose of the hundreds of items of clothing. By the end of the day, the landlord and I had filled a closet-sized trailer full of broken toys, kid's bicycle parts, piles of old homework papers and newspaper clippings, a number of unused carpentry books, old CD's, pieces of furniture, more cigarette butts, broken electronics, ratty stuffed animals, etc... all of which was taken straight to the local Milwaukee dump.

Later, when we returned with an empty trailer, I set to work bagging the mounds of dirty laundry. We saved that for last. By the end of the afternoon, I had filled six large black trash bags and two large boxes -- all of it with clothing. And it didn't help that the much of it was unwashed underwear and old lingerie. I felt dirty just being in the same room.

How do people live like this? And by choice? What compels people to degrade themselves to such a point that this is their standard of living? And with kids too no less! How can one family become so lazy in life that a dump is a perfectly acceptable place for them to live?

I think the word I'm trying to find is: "flabbergasted". I just don't get it.

But hey, the apartment walls (and ceilings) are now cleaned and painted. The old carpet is being ripped up and replaced with new. The basement is emptied of "stuff". Fixtures have been cleaned. And the once disgusting living space is being scoured, repaired, and renewed. When we're done with it, it'll be a whole new apartment.

I just hope the new incoming tenants have a much higher standard of living.


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Jon Baas

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