farm life

The Things We Hide

Opening credits roll and the camera zooms in on a group of kids navigating a boat through a series of channels near the ocean. They’re looking for lost treasure and you can’t take your eyes off them because you’re invested. People make books, movies and T.V shows about treasure hunting (Outer Banks on Netflix for example), and viewers of all ages are on the edge of their seat.

My husband and I have very different ideas on what Treasure Hunting looks like. His version entails going through boxes in the sweltering Georgia heat while mine, involves searching for new blooms in my garden. Yet who wouldn’t want to know what’s in that old trunk, locked box, or what’s buried underneath the surface… right? So, when my husband tells me that he wants to go treasure hunting, I can see the appeal even if I’m not in the mood to join him.

X doesn’t mark the spot here and I’m usually groaning when the topic comes up. Yet when Rob has the itch, I know without a doubt that I’m getting roped into helping whether I want to or not. It also means that I am forced to reorganize inventory, so we don’t end up with a ton of junk stored inside our little house.  

Thankfully my husband grasps that even if I’m not nearly as excited as he is, it doesn’t make me any less grateful. Especially when I’m able to donate large quantities of items to those who need them most or furnish our house with unusual finds. Knowing that we possibly helped a single mother, a kid just beginning adulthood, or a low-income family in the process… is a completely different kind of treasure in my opinion. A more valuable one.

This past weekend my husband had the itch and because I knew I was going to be involved in the adventure… I decided to take a more proactive approach. I logged in online and I began to search for storage units that we could compromise on. That’s when I hit the jackpot. We would have to wake up early in order to place our bid using the coffee shop Wi-Fi, but if it all worked out… we would be busy for days.

After reluctantly rising to greet the morning sun, and refreshing the page several times, my night-owl heart fluttered when the winning banner danced across the screen. It’s not quite as glamorous as Storage war’s makes it out to be. That T.V show is dramatized to add a more competitive nature, but I will say that bidding on storage units can be a lucrative side hustle… if it’s done correctly. It’s also, a ton of work but the excitement of discovery is what makes the daunting task feel lighter.

Imagine helping a stranger move. Except that there’s no free pizza, and the payment comes only after you sell the things you find within their belongings. Unboxing, organizing, then packing it all back up again after taking several trips to the local garbage dump… and repeat. The upside (besides selling things) is not having any sentimental ties to the valuables that are in storage because it makes easy work of sorting everything.

It never fails to baffle me when we win a unit that someone has been paying on for years only to find that it’s mostly filled… with bags of garbage. What a let down! Why pay to keep things that clearly belong in a landfill? The hasty departure almost gives off an apocalyptical feel.

Contrary to what you may be thinking, poverty is not the only cause of units being listed for auction. In many instances we have discovered drug addiction to be the primary culprit. This is evident by the number of needles and drug paraphernalia that we find stuffed into old socks and bags of dirty laundry.

Other units have ended up in our possession when the previous owner has passed away. It’s heartbreaking to come across obituaries, yet these units typically contain the most significant treasure troves for just the change we’ve had in our pockets. Gold jewelry, real diamonds, full bedroom sets, brand new sofa’s, leather furniture, kitchen appliances, cell phones, computers and so much more. Stunning antiques, newspaper clippings from world events, old love letters, and items just waiting to be refinished and repurposed.

More gut-wrenching than death are the units that go to auction because of a divorce or jail sentence. Witnessing happier memories though photographs, wedding guest lists, childhood treasures, and High School yearbooks filled with hope for the future, only to see them end up in the rubble of things discarded and left behind. It’s enough to leave you twisting internally and wishing that you could save someone from themselves.

You can learn a lot about people by things they keep. Yet you can learn even more about them from the things they hide. Underneath the family photographs, and ever-changing events throughout an individual’s life, are the items that were once tucked into the back of their closet. Burner flip phones with messages to mistresses. Naughty toys, dirty magazines, and bizarre sex fetishes. We’ve identified cheating spouses in what looked like happy homes and long-term marriages, as well as sex addicts and pill-popping mothers.

Upon discovery it has at times, left me wondering if the people around these human beings knew who they really were. Yet the more I learn about humanity, the more I realize that we all have something to hide. Weather it’s the ugly parts of ourselves, some unusual extracurricular activities, or the things we do when we think that no one is looking… we’re all a little bit guilty of something. We’re all searching for acceptance and forgiveness in one form or another.    

The beauty of losing the stuff that we think is important… is that it makes space in our lives for better and healthier things. Weather it’s surrounding ourselves with the kind of people who lift us to a higher standard or finding a partner who respects healthy boundaries… we all deserve some wiggle room for growth. Who knows, maybe in losing everything, the drug (or sex) addict may finally have the strength they need to get help.

There is also a beauty in old things being made new again. Repurposing discarded items while simultaneously making the lives of other’s just a little bit easier. Perhaps a young mom who couldn’t afford to buy a brand-new pack-and-play, is able to get one because we donated what we found in a storage unit. Maybe a father that couldn’t furnish his house can have a house that’s just as beautiful as anyone else’s because of the furniture we refinished. Or perhaps someone, somewhere found healing from moving on.

The truth of the matter is that while you may not know who’s sitting next to you, I’ll bet that there’s something you regret or have kept hidden yourself. You know exactly what’s buried underneath the surface in your life. The gift is that you’re not alone. It’s never too late to box it up and throw it out.

Ya’ll have never seen my client work. Meet my amazingly talented friend Kayla who was both the makeup artist & the model for this shot that I took in my living room in the middle of summer. Her dress is one of our storage unit finds!

67 thoughts on “The Things We Hide”

  1. I have, at the outset, mixed feelings about buying someone’s storage unit and then selling their stuff. I don’t know all the ins and outs of that, although I’ve definitely heard of storage units being abandoned. I guess it’s hard for me to imagine how someone can pay to store stuff that they don’t care enough about to retrieve and give to someone who might care. It amazes me that you would find letters and photographs. Wouldn’t someone like a family member want those? But then I can’t imagine putting stuff like that in a storage unit. Letters and photographs are priceless to me.

    All that said, I really appreciate your sensitivity and the respect you show for what’s left behind, for the stories that these abandoned things might tell. Also, you are doing a service in your efforts to reuse and recycle. Thanks to you, a lot less is going to the landfill. That you donate some of these goods is icing 🙂

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    1. One storage unit that we bought was an elderly woman who had passed. Her daughter was notified, she came to the facility and collected what was of sentimental and everything else she put on auction. Another was from a woman who went through a divorce, she took what was important to her and moved to Florida. Everything else went up for auction. Then there’s the people who (as I mentioned earlier) end up in jail. One woman was arrested for child endangerment and couldn’t pay because she was incarcerated. Other times people move from one house to another and get tired of paying on the junk they never look at :-). Then you have the drug addicts who’ve basically pawned anything of value so they can get their next fix and use the units as temporary housing so that they can do drugs there but get caught and get kicked out. The facilities need to keep the lights on so these people’s things end up in auction. Anything personal (where the person is available to contact) gets taken to the front office, anything personal of a deceased or incarcerated person gets burned or thrown out. The beauty of it is that these things help a LOT of other people. We donate to local churches and goodwill’s, second-hand shops, food banks, clothing drives and so on. 🥰❤️ So you can absolutely look at from the perspective of “that poor soul!” But you can also see how much good it does to help others.

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      1. Oh, my, thank you for explaining the process. It’s good to know that people get an opportunity to go through the units before they are auctioned off. I guess these are similar to estate sales: relatives take what they want and the rest is sold off. With these storage units, you are indeed doing a public service here!

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      2. Thank you so much! Sorry I wasn’t as good in my post about explaining it I feel like storage wars the TV show is pretty common and well-known so I thought when I made a reference to it most people would understand what I was talking about 😬. I honestly should have explain in further detail because I myself don’t even really watch TV a whole lot LOL 🤦‍♀️

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  2. Wow, what a fascinating post! And brilliant the way you wove the secrets we all have into the discoveries you’ve made. I love your line, “we all deserve some wiggle room for growth.” Amen to that!

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  3. I haven’t been able to comment on the Yellowstone “Stay on the Path” post because it’s too close to home. This one is very close to the mark. My parents were hoarders and I’m borderline so giving up “treasures” is a task I understand. You have so much empathy and insight. I still check my doors to make sure ” I locked them”. 2 and 3 times at night and after my husband leaves for work at 5am.

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    1. I’m SO glad that you lock your doors Kelly, I still do it too. I don’t think I’ll ever really be the same since I had the break in.
      We’ve cleaned out storage units for hoarders before. It’s incredibly hard to walk away from some of the treasures we think we need to hold onto but sometimes getting some distance from it (by throwing everything into a storage unit) helps people to let go.
      One unit we tackled was done this way and the woman who put her things into the unit was able to let the unit go to auction to get rid of everything. My husband and I were able to help SO many people with the things that she let go of. It was AMAZING to be apart of that.
      Thanks so much for reading and I’m sorry you felt like you could relate to “Staying On the Path”.
      I am constantly reminding myself that I’m worthy of adventures, love, and happiness, even when I feel the most broken. It’s hard to let people down because your health and body can’t keep up. Just know that you really are worthy even if you’re disappointed. ❤️
      Thanks so much for making my day with your comment. I’m so elated that you’ve stuck with me as I’ve written these posts and taken the time out of your day to read them.

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  4. Your post has got a whirlwind of ideas rolling around in my head. First, I get the whole treasure hunt thing, even though I’m not someone who typically does that. I have one good friend who has a side business buying and reselling rare books. He is the kind who will go to a garage sale looking for something unique. Another good buddy of mine is into metal detecting, but he likes exploring exotic places. He was supposed to travel to England this month to go metal detecting in an area known for finding historical artifacts. His trip got canceled to travel restrictions due to, what else, Covid.

    I wrote a post a few years back about the same friend (names changed for anonymity) about an amazing treasure hunt experience three years ago. https://petespringerauthor.wordpress.com/2019/11/10/a-blessing-in-the-middle-of-a-crisis/

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    1. I can’t wait to read that Pete! My husband likes to do magnet 🧲 fishing too. Have you ever heard of that? He basically tosses a magnet on a string into a lake and see’s if he “catches” anything. 😆 I mostly let him do his thing while I read a book on the shore LOL! The cool part about where I live is that there’s a ton of historical sites for both native Americans and for battlefields/ civil war type eras. So there’s always something interesting to do, see, find, or explore.

      This last storage unit we did… we got TWO truck loads of goods for $40.00. Not. Even. Kidding! We donated a truckload (And some change) of high end clothing, furniture, housing goods… you name it! To say that the people receiving it were overwhelmed is an understatement. We stocked them up SO good. We even scored a desperately needed new mattress for ourselves. The amount of people who are going to be helped is mind blowing. I hate hauling everything in the heat (it’s so much like moving it’s not even funny) but the reward of seeing peoples faces when we show up with donations… absolutely priceless.

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      1. I can imagine the looks on their faces. You and your family should earn your share of good karma through your generosity. I totally get the feeling of satisfaction from making someone else happy.

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      1. No more traveling! Back home on the farm and busy getting things done and tackling stuff before fall and winter rolls around. I feel like it’s going to be here before I know it and I wish I can make summer last forever but keep cooler temperatures lol!!

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      2. Nikolai just started his first week back at school and he’s already telling me that three kids are out sick and he has a sore throat. Hopefully I can get him feeling better quickly! I’m on my way right now to pick up some hot tea and honey for when he gets home from school. How are you doing Simon? I haven’t had a chance to catch up on your blog again yet. Are you still writing?

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  5. I have heard of the show “Storage Wars” before but have never watched it. I love how this post turned into more than just that but rather gave us all more to think about what we hoard in life and what we should move on from.

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  6. I did not know about going to storage units and being able to take possession like that – very interesting. I have never known anyone with a storage unit. I am so disorganized and have clutter, all which I will tame completely when I am retired – no date for that yet. I often wonder how three people and a bird lived here. So, I learned something tonight LaShelle.

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      1. That is really wonderful that you are doing that LaShelle – how did I miss out knowing that? I don’t have TV at my house so I get my news from my radio or online and stream a few movies, but that is it.

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      2. That’s OK I understand! I don’t have Internet at my house so I don’t usually use the TV that much, that being said my husband is a LifeFlight aircraft mechanic and he gets to stay at hotels so once in a while when we get to stay at hotels with him we will watch TV 🤪

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      3. I have gotten used to not having TV and had not seen TV since cancelling cable, but watched the “Mad Men” TV series on Amazon and enjoyed it very much. I worked in the Creative Department of an ad agency for 18 months after graduating from college. That is great that you can go stay at hotels where your husband is working on aircraft.

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  7. Love this. I’ve often wondered why my mother, or my inlaws, or my late aunts kept what they kept. In all those situations there were items that didn’t make much sense to me, but they must have held a hidden memory, good or bad, for them. I don’t know that I could emotionally handle going through a stranger’s stuff, though. I’m fascinated that you do this.

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    1. It’s more my husband’s thing than mine but I LOVE donating and old love letters get to live on when I use them in junk journals and things like that. We also contact people (if it’s safe for us to do so) and ask if they want important or sentimental things back. Usually they say no. One person picked up a box we left out at a public meeting place. TONS of people just don’t want to pay on the crap that they never look at everyday and rather than go through it themselves they opt to allow the storage company to put it on auction. It’s kinda like buying everything in a garage or yard sale… for really cheap. Plus it helps SO many other people. We donated a whole truck full of things this last time! We take things to clothing drives, churches that hand stuff out to the homeless… all kinds of places! That’s what gets me excited 🥰💪

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      1. When you explain it like this I can see how I might be able to do it. I’m forever cleaning out the stuff in our house and I enjoy donating to charities where I know the household goods will be appreciated. I get what you’re doing.

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      2. What a great side gig!
        My first thought was who has the time (and $) to buy and go through other people’s stuff. Of course, I am saying this after having just gone through my own family’s stuff and taking many of the same actions you guys do.
        I would only add my wish that whoever owned/stored the stuff also noted somewhere on or with it why they had kept it!
        PS I love your husband’s job! Explains a lot about how and where you are able to live and travel so what a great primary gig, too!

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      3. My husband’s full time job is a life flight aircraft mechanic. He does the storage stuff on the side. He’s gone every other two weeks and is SUPER busy. He use to be on call 24/7 but recently got a new position that allows him to be home every other two weeks which is AMAZING. Its tough when he’s gone though! I run the farm by myself and he ends up with a long to-do list when he gets back LOL! to answer your question and to put things into perspective… 2 HUGE truckloads of furniture, clothes, appliances, and so much more for the unit I was referring to … Cost us $40.00. I have furnished my entire house with beautiful pieces from various units for about $100.00 total. Bedroom furniture, living room furniture, furniture for my kid, paintings, appliances, TV’S… microwaves and yet SO much left over to donate to others. Literally truckloads donated to churches, homeless shelters, goodwill and beyond. So yes it’s worth it and it helps SO many other people.

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      4. My phone kicked the bucket so I can’t see our old messages right now 💕 if I’m being redundant I apologize 🥰 for some reason ALL of my electronics kicked the bucket last week. My laptop AND my phone . I’m waiting for a replacement

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  8. I have to say that I never would have even thought this was somthing that was doable! Purchasing the contents of a storage unit. Wow. I wonder if my beau would be into that since he is a reseller of old stuff.
    I love that you “pretty-up” items to donate. What a generous spirit you have!

    I’ll be donating soooo much stuff as I get closer to my renovation. I can already feel a lightening…

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    1. Donating things is such an amazing way to give items new life and help others around us. It feels wonderful to do good! It’s probably more selfish than it sounds 😂. I just love it when people light up 🥰🤗

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  9. What an interesting side adventure! My husband and I love the Antique Roadshow and we might become garage sale treasure hunters in our retirement days. The thrill of the find seems quite alluring!

    I’ve cleaned out two hoarder houses and both times it was an emotional roller coaster. It’s almost like peeling back the layers inside someone’s head and I found the experience too upsetting. I was connected to those people though so maybe it’s different with strangers.

    Love the photo! Beautiful makeup, dress, and lighting. Simply perfect!

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  10. So interesting, LaShelle! I agree, no matter how much we all think we know each other, we all are bound to be hiding something in the depths of our souls, not ready to share it with anyone in the world- maybe even too afraid to admit it to ourselves out loud!

    As for the hunt- I am always on the hunt for a good treasure! My favourite past-time is browsing antique markets and shows for treasures (not to resell or anything)! I love the idea of the hunt… there is something quite appealing about bidding on storage units but when you mentioned all the work of the aftermath that goes into it, that’s when I am out! But man, how exciting it must be when you land on a hidden treasure!! Also, the pic is stunnning- the camera work, the dress, and the model! Wow!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for the compliment on my picture and I am so glad that you understood what I was trying to get it when I wrote this piece. I think some people were a little bit alarmed and I had a little bit of explaining to do 😅😬

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    2. I am so glad that you liked the photograph! The pictures that I’ve done for clients is very different from the ones I’ve done of my son. But I’m really glad that you understood the piece that I wrote because I feel like a lot of people kind of misunderstood it and that’s probably my fault because I didn’t go into as much detail on what all doing storage auctions entails 😅😬

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  11. I don’t usually read long posts but I dug in for this one and was amply rewarded. Your writing skills, LaShelle, took me into a world I barely knew existed. fascinating and written with compassion —

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  12. I want to come. Sounds like a blast.

    Thoughtful post. I think about these things and secrets; especially, those I’d leave behind if I die. I’m trying to tie up loose ends.

    Should we have any secrets? Is there anything that should be kept secret, or are secrets the log of incongruencies yet unresolved? just last week another friend died of a heart attack, and I was wondering how much of his affairs, and secrets, he had squared away before he passed.

    anyway, I want to go storage foraging – sounds even more fun than garage sailing.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I have SO many animals. I write about them often. We have 6 barn cats, 8 ducks, geese, probably about 30 chickens or more (I lost count), bunnies, a horse, a mini donkey, 2 dogs, a bearded dragon named Firefly… I’m probably leaving something out LOL. This next year were getting a couple of cows, I also have a cut flower business I’m in the middle of growing… it’s busy. I go to the coffee shop for Wifi 🙂 I deliver flowers to them every Monday and my blog drops on Tuesdays so I swing by on those days to get work down and deck their tables with fresh blooms.

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