You might have been watching local news on Monday night like I was. There was a fire in Maryland and the victim was described as a possible hoarder. Instantly, I felt so protective of this woman, whose condition had been “outed” to her neighbors and friends. And, the tone the newscasters were taking made it worse, landing somewhere between derision and judgment. I was so angry– angry that in addition to recovering from fire-related injuries, she also faced certain public humiliation. I wondered, is this how we are meant to treat each other?
I go into people’s homes for a living. I choose to be be kind to my potential clients, and show them they can trust me with their belongings and memories. It upset me to think that these journalists hadn’t been educated about hoarding or were choosing not to be compassionate. It seemed they were reporting on it without knowing much about it.
For example, hoarders often feel isolated, and have no idea how prevalent their condition is. But according to research conducted at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, compulsive hoarding affects approximately 700,000 to 1.4 million people in the U.S. It’s so common, and yet rarely do you even know someone is dealing with this condition as they keep it a secret.
Hoarding is a mental health condition that may require medical intervention. It can be a serious health and safety concern, and there are county services set up to help. Educate yourself on hoarding, and if you suspect someone you know may suffer from this condition seek assistance from the Fairfax Code of Compliance Office, 703-324-1300.
Thank you, Treasure Hunters, for continuing to make our community a kind one.
February in Washington is often a very bleak time. Winter feels like it will never end. And, spring seems like something you read about once, but can’t really picture for yourself. It’s easy to feel more than a little dispirited.
I say ‘very special’ because I often have a tough time describing our relationship. I think of them as being something between a second set of parents and my retired best friends.
How it all began
I met David and Sandy when they were referred to me by Real Estate Agent Jay D’Alessandro, who was helping them sell their house. My business helping people downsize their homes was thriving, but I had been casual, with only verbal contracts and informal pamphlets. I decided to invest in myself and my business by writing formal contracts and developing professional presentation materials. I pitched my business in this new way to Sandy and David, and, while I wasn’t nervous, per se, it is a hard thing to take yourself seriously and to be open to new people and opportunities. I wondered what they would make of me.
As soon as I finished the presentation, David smacked his hand on the table and yelled, “Sold!” They were overwhelmed with ‘stuff’, and didn’t know where to begin. They couldn’t believe a business existed that so perfectly met their need.
A Match Made in Heaven
As we began to work together, I found out a lot about them. When you dig through someone’s house where they’ve lived for 30 years, you can’t help but understand what they’re about. You learn the story of their marriage, the way they raised their children, about the holidays they celebrated. The things we have in our homes not only tell other people your story, but they remind us of good times, of babies who grew into children, and all the times in between. So when you are faced with the task of eliminating these reminders from your life it can be pretty scary.
I knew that I needed to earn Sandy and David’s trust so that they’d be comfortable letting me come in and sort through their story with them. Sandy and David were embarking on a new chapter of their lives and retiring to Naples, Florida. And even though that chapter was exciting, Sandy still clung to the things that had meant so much during the previous chapters.
I respected what she was going through, but I also had to give them realistic expectations. They had to know they could not fit even half of their old home into their new house. It wasn’t possible. Hard choices were going to have to be made. I also told them that once they had made those choices, once they had let go of those endearing objects and “stuff”, they would be happier for it. In the meantime, though, that old rocking chair where Sandy had rocked her babies was filed under “KEEP AT ALL COSTS”. To keep it, though, I explained that Sandy would have to forego a couch in the Naples apartment. After much deliberation, Sandy agreed I could sell the chair, thinking that it would at least bring someone else the joy it had brought her. That sale may not have made them a ton of money, but Sandy earned the love of the chair’s new owner, and the freedom of knowing that those memories went with her to Florida. They did not live within the chair.
Relationships Mean the World to Me!
When I look back, their sale was okay. It wasn’t an amazing, massive sale, but I spent so much time with Sandy and David that I didn’t think about my commission. I loved chatting with them, and our meetings always took longer than we planned. I started to think of them more as friends than clients. Sometimes Sandy would come over to my house, and if I was on the phone with another client, she would start weeding my garden. We were that comfortable with each other! When it was finally time for them to move to Florida I actually cried. Sandy had become my confidante and ally, and she and David were always there for me and my family.
Since then, we have been to visit them in Florida several times. They love my kids, and get right down on the floor to play with them as if they were their grandchildren. They say you can’t pick your family, but with Sandy and David I sort of think I did add them to mine.
This business has brought so many incredible people into my life. Even my house used to belong to a client! We had such a great connection that she sold her house to me. We still keep in touch! Every day that I wake up there, I’m reminded that if you treat people well you will be rewarded for it. I also know that when I’m open to meeting new people, it almost always results in something positive.
So if February’s got you down, and you can’t get away to somewhere warm, slap on some self-tanner and give me a call. I’m always open.
New Year’s resolutions have never made sense to me. Just as you’re starting to reflect on the past year, and you finally having some time off at home with loved ones, suddenly you have to throw in some brand new thing that you’re going to change completely about yourself? That sounds like added stress just when you’ve started to relax. Who needs that?
Instead of altering myself, I’m going to do something that I think is way harder: admit weakness. So, here goes:
This past year was incredible. And incredibly hard. We expanded Listed Treasures into a real company, with a new website, a new team of employees, and a real payroll. I am so proud of how this company evolved in 2018. It was risky, and scary, and luckily, so far, it’s worked. (Don’t worry, I’m not getting braggy—the weakness is coming!)
But big risks take a toll. They never mention the toll in business magazines, do they? When they tell the story of how a company grew, they never talk about how difficult it was for the managers and staff to maintain existing friendships. They don’t talk about how hard it is to make personal connections with new colleagues or clients when you really need to zip to the next meeting. And, if you’re a parent, there is the loss of time and focus on your kids.
I also know I have sidelined friends and family throughout this past year. I regret that. It’s a hard thing to admit. I have new employees I want to get to know better. They work really hard for me, and I value them.
Uh-oh, this sounds like resolution
So maybe I am making a resolution? Now that the new website is up and flourishing (seriously, it’s so easy to use now!), and we’ve hired a team of people I can rely on, perhaps now is the time to take my weakness, acknowledge it, and deal with it. I’m going to continue to grow Listed Treasures, but at the heart of the company is the mission to make people feel valued. I have to walk the walk, spend more time with my clients, take my employees out for coffee, and really listen to my kids when they talk to me. I have to be the one to pick up the phone and call my friends, just to say hello.
I guess I’m resolving to reach out more. And I have a hunch that the more I do it, the more I’ll want to do it. Because connecting with someone else is what life is all about.
So, who’s free for coffee and a cake pop this afternoon?
Opening Doors, Expanding Hearts
We used to have very few Christmas traditions. With family scattered around the country, we used to spend Christmas morning bundled in the car en route to a celebration elsewhere. Since we moved closer to family in here in Virginia that all has changed. Frankly, we were unprepared for the feelings that would come when we found “home”.
We purchased our house on Dec 1st, three years ago, and rushed through some renovations, knowing we wanted to spend Christmas there. Moving is already hectic and stressful, but the deadline of Christmas felt even zanier. It was so chaotic, my husband wrapped a sheet around our tree and threw it in the moving van (we only lost a few ornaments!), and we began the journey to Virginia. We moved in Christmas Eve, and to celebrate got a new puppy. The puppy belonged to one of my husband’s clients, and, while we knew adding a puppy to the mix of moving and renovations wouldn’t help matters, the puppy looked just like my beloved dog (whom I loved for 15 years). I knew he was meant to go on the journey to the new house with us.
There’s a moment when you’re moving when you begin to doubt. For me it came when the kids were crying for the old house, and I started to realize my fixer-upper needed more fixing than I thought, and that mortgage was so big, and I freaked out. I thought, “Why did we move? And on Christmas Eve? I barely know anyone here! The new puppy is peeing on the new floor! What have I done?!” There may have been expletives.
But then, the doorbell rang.
What now? To my happy surprise, it was a group of strolling carolers, serenading my stressed out family with “Dashing Through The Snow”. My shoulders eased, my heart softened. The next day, someone dressed up as Santa, and cruised the neighborhood in a firetruck. My kids were ecstatic! Then, neighbors invited us to their Christmas Day open house, where we met lots of new people. One of those new friends invited us to a cul-de-sac fire pit get-together for that evening. Together with our kids and new friends, we roasted marshmallows, drank hot chocolate and started to reflect on our crazy move. In just 24 hours we had moved, made friends, and started to experience Christmas in a totally different way. We knew we had hit the neighborhood jackpot and this was going to be the place of memories for our kids.
I know most families have age-old holiday traditions, but we are actually in the process of trying to figure out what’s going to be special for us. My kids have experienced so much change in their lives (we’ve moved four times in my oldest daughter’s eight years). Now that we are close to family, we’re spending Christmas mornings quietly, cozily, at home together. We really enjoy the time together here.
It’s our turn now.
As the season gets closer, I think of that first day in our new house, and how our community opened its arms to us. I think of their smiles, joyful parties, and their caroling voices, and how each revived our spirits. Even the puppy seemed to respond to the community feeling and stopped peeing on the floor!
I want to give that feeling of community and welcome to someone else here in Virginia. That’s why this season I’m looking to you to help me to help others. I’m hoping you’ll tell me about which local charities are important to you on our Facebook page. I know most local groups can always use more volunteers and more awareness. So let’s all learn about each other’s favorite causes, and let’s all try to reach out and make someone else’s holiday sweet and merry.
Sometimes I feel kind of inundated with social media ideas on how to infuse my life with gratitude. But how exactly do I do this?
As Thanksgiving is coming, I’m trying something new. I’m going to verbally thank one person who made a huge difference in my life. This person is a regular, everyday hero, and there are so many like him.
I had a mentor who appeared in my life right when you need one most. In high school, I got cut all three years of middle school and freshman year of high school volleyball all by the same coach. Being a teenage girl is hard, and volleyball was something that made me feel good about myself. But it was demoralizing to be consistently left off the team.
Just as I was about to give up for good, a coach named Tracy came into my life. He seemed to think I had great potential. He believed in me, and coached me to be a better player. Tracy also forced me to toughen up a bit, and to understand that hard lessons often build character.
By his example, I learned leadership skills, and would demonstrate enthusiasm and support to my team, even when I didn’t have much faith in even myself. I ended up playing volleyball in college on a scholarship and I credit him for that. And not just that, playing volleyball in college set me on a course in life where I coached, ran a volleyball club, traveled with it, and eventually met my husband who was also a coach. And now we have two amazing children. None of that would have happened and my whole life course would have changed if Tracy hadn’t believed in me.
So I’m going to take this moment to say thank you to Tracy. I’m doing it here on this blog and I’m going to call him, too, so he hears me say it verbally. He’ll hear all about Listed Treasures, and this supportive community we’re creating together. I’m going to tell him I’m still striving to be the leader, on and off the volleyball court, that he taught me to be.
When I go into people’s homes for Listed Treasures, I try to be the kind of person the owners would send a thank you like this to. Sometimes things don’t go perfectly with this job, and I take it personally. I try to remember that Tracy would want me to see the good even in the bad. I’m hoping, through my daily interactions with my customers and clients, that maybe I could be someone’s Tracy.
Gratitude can feel like a big endeavor, but when I boil it down to one person, offering those two words, it feels easy. It feels good.
As if life wasn’t busy enough, my husband and I decided we wanted to move to be closer to family in the DC-area. We also knew the schools in Northern Virginia would offer a lot to our young children. So, we packed up the family, and moved seven hours away from our beloved Tennessee. My husband had several job offers, and picked one that seemed like a dream job. But two days after arriving, that job fell through, and we were left scrambling.
I was trained in early childhood education, but I struggled with putting my small kids into daycare so I could go back to work as a Preschool teacher. I would be working full time, only to turn that paycheck around to pay for my own children’s care. I knew I needed to find a way to use my talents to generate an income, but also be around to be a mom. To supplement my family’s income, I began to help friends in real estate to pack up for moves and get houses ready to sell. We had moved a lot, and I was really good at it! I loved going to people’s houses and learning their stories. Once, an owner left some items behind she no longer wanted, and on a whim, I snapped a photo and sold it on Facebook. This happened more and more, and pretty soon it seemed like I had a full-fledged business!
As Listed Treasures has grown, I have one child in school and pay for partial childcare for my younger child. I have the flexibility to be home for nap times and to be around for after-school care. By creating and growing my business my way, I’ve been able to be my own boss and still be a Mom. So even if my life looks messy, and the dog is barking, and there are wet kids’ art projects on the coffee table, I’m pretty proud of it.
But I certainly didn’t–and don’t—do it alone! I have to credit the support of other Momtrepreneurs for helping get me started–especially and including the ladies at Play, Work Or Dash, a work share space that also includes childcare, so working parents like me can continue to grow their home-based businesses on site or dashing off to a meeting. I could not have done it without them.
Are you a Momtrepeneur? Let’s connect!
We heard your suggestions and feedback and created an entirely new way of searching for and purchasing our great finds!
As of September 2018, all items for sale will be listed on the Listed Treasures website, rather than Facebook. This transition enables us post more items in less time, and include better photos and more details about the items. This will allow you to search our treasures by property, geographic location, or item category.
Looking for an end table in Fairfax? Want to see all the kitchenware for sale in a particular home? You can now filter your searches.
We’ll be rolling out other services including features item auctions, monthly jewelry auctions and VIP member access later this fall.
Welcome to Listed Treasures 2.0. We’ve been working all summer to update our website and business model to make sure your experience with us is as friendly, easy, and efficient as possible. We’ve added some exciting new features, updated the information about our services, and expanded our capacity so we can now manage multiple sales at once.
Within the next few weeks we’ll launch the Listed Treasures blog, which will feature:
- Stories of some of our most interesting homes and items
- Profiles of our charity partners and upcoming volunteer opportunities
- Updates from Gifted Treasures and the Volunteer Brigade
- Links to useful articles about valuation of antiques and collectables
- Tips on reusing and recycling common household items
- And much more!
In the meantime, take a look around the new site and let us know what you think!