Abandoned and Found

Have you ever been in an abandoned house?

In 2001, This American Life told a fascinating story of a house whose family disappeared. And certainly, even if we don’t venture inside, we’ve all seen houses that appear abandoned. Do you ever wonder what’s inside? What happened? Why do people just leave so many things?

Sometimes the reason, of course, is death. A person dies and no one is willing or able to sort through what’s left. In some places, the reason is war or natural disaster. People run for their lives and going back isn’t easy.

I wonder about the stories. Someone bought those movie posters and books. Someone drank out of that coffee mug. Someone sat in the chair and watched TV. Why did that odd knickknack matter?

These left behind things aren’t always left in neat order on the shelves. Walking into a room perfectly preserved, everything in its place, just layers of dust added, is eerie, like a sci-fi movie where a beam of light took the people away. Walking into a room in which everything is in chaos, tossed and piled on the floor, as if marauders or tornados broke in is disturbing, like a horror movie. Either way, should we wander further in or get the hell out?

Much of human nature seems to be for wandering further in.

I guess there are two types of people in the world–people who want to go in and people who don’t even notice.

And as long as we’re dividing up humanity into binaries and contemplating abandoned objects, here’s another. There are two types of people in the world–people who find an object on the ground (or in the trash or the discount bin somewhere or another, wherever) and think, “I can make something with this!” and people who do the same but think, “I can throw this away.”

I suspect life may be simpler for people in the second camp, but I’m definitely in the first. I’m fascinated by people who believe they can make something with whatever junk/trash/treasure they find, and they actually do. I’d make more things with found objects if I had the space and the time. Even so, I have tucked away things that I am certain, certain!, that I will figure out how to put them into a project eventually before I die.

But one day I will die and someone (presumably my son, not a stranger wandering in from the street, but you never know) will have to go through it all. “What was she thinking? Why this?” they might ask. Indeed. I don’t even know.

So wandering through an abandoned space with all the lost, forgotten things sparks all kinds of ideas and wishes in my brain. This! And this! These objects need a new purpose, and it seems a shame not to give it to them.

No wonder wonder seeing Marie Kondo thank and say goodbye to objects resonates with me. I guess that’s a bit too woo for some people, and the people who lived in these now abandoned houses probably needed more help than beguiling lessons from a popular home organizer, but it helps me.

Also neglected houses do get me to declutter. So does watching Gray Gardens.

But maybe leaving a cluttered disaster behind isn’t a random act. Strangers may be wandering through your belongings and even making derisive comments about your taste and hobbies, but they will be wondering about you and giving you attention. They might even put one of your beloved treasures in their pocket and carry it into their own home, where it’ll live again.

Thanks for reading! And Happy Thanksgiving if you celebrate.


‘Tis the season for adding more stuff to other people’s stuff! If you’d like some art to be a part of it, take a look at my Etsy shop and spread the word. Thank you.

Or support the making of more art and more stories on Patreon. You will make a difference.

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