Friday, October 31, 2014

Grey Gardens:
A Fascinating Story of Hoarding & Squalor

Hello Collectors! While writing my blog last month on Diogenes Syndrome I came across the story of  the Grey Gardens featuring "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" Beale.
It's a true story about high-society castaways keeping house in a dilapidated East Hampton mansion.

Of course, I could not wait to learn more about them!
Why am I interested personally? I clean up homes like this for a living!

I began "trolling" the internet.  I read all sorts of blogs, I ordered the documentary about the Beale's "Grey Gardens" and watched it, ordered the HBO movie "Grey Gardens", and watched it as well. I also have some video posts below of the musical.
Like you Collectors, I like to do my research.  

I am now a fan of all things Grey Garden. It's a fascinating story about two women who lived together at Grey Gardens for decades with limited funds in increasing squalor and isolation. If you want to learn more about Grey Gardens read below.

Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (1895–1977), known as "Big Edie", and her daughter Edith Bouvier
Do you expect Jackie to come?
“I told her not to come here. I thought she’d upset my act.” - Little Eddie
Beale (1917–2002), known as "Little Edie", were the aunt and the first cousin, respectively, of former U.S. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

The house was designed in 1897 by Joseph Greenleaf Thorpe and purchased in 1923 by "Big Edie" and her husband Phelan Beale. After Phelan left his wife, "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" lived there for more than 50 years.

The house was called Grey Gardens because of the color of the dunes, the cement garden walls, and the sea mist. Throughout the fall of 1971 and into 1972, their house was infested by fleas, inhabited by numerous cats and raccoons, deprived of running water, and filled with garbage and decay. The Beale's were exposed as the result of an article in the National Enquirer and a cover story in New York Magazine   after a series of inspections (which the Beales called "raids") by the Suffolk County Health Department. With the Beale women facing eviction and the razing of their house, in the summer of 1972 Jacqueline Onassis and her sister Lee Radziwill provided the necessary funds to stabilize and repair the dilapidated house so that it would meet village codes.

“In all my life, including years reporting about slums from Washington to Casablanca, I have never seen a house in such dreadful condition: attics full of raccoons and their droppings, toilets stopped up, a kitchen stove that had fallen into the cellar, a living room with literally only half a floor, grounds so matted with devil’s walking sticks and other thorns they were impenetrable, a large walled garden which was so overgrown it could not even be seen. Over everything hung the knee-buckling smell of cats and cat excrement. Whole rooms had been abandoned when they filled-up with garbage, as the Beales moved to the next room…’Big Edie’ had passed away, and ‘Little Edie’ was forced to sell, but willing to sell to someone who would not tear the eyesore down.” – Ben Bradlee

Grey Gardens, The Documentary

Albert and David Maysles became interested in their story and received permission to film a documentary about the women, which was released in 1976 to wide critical acclaim. Their direct cinema technique left the women to tell their own stories. (Courtesy of

Entertainment Weekly magazine ranks Grey Gardens as the #33 top cult film of all time.

Grey Gardens the Musical
Grey Gardens is a musical with book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel, and lyrics by Michael Korie, based on the 1975 documentary of the same title about the lives of Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale ("Big Edie") and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale ("Little Edie") by Albert and David Maysles.
Set at Grey Gardens, the Bouviers' mansion in East Hampton, New York, the musical tracks the progression of the two women's lives from their original status as rich and socially polished aristocrats to their eventual largely isolated existence in a home overrun by cats and cited for repeated health code violations. However, its more central purpose is to untangle the complicated dynamics of their dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship. (

Grey Gardens, The Movie (2009)
It's hard to imagine a feature film that could improve upon the classic 1975 Hamptons-gothic documentary Grey Gardens, co-directed by Albert and David Maysles. Yet this Grey Gardens, directed by Michael Sucsy for HBO Films, captures not only the pathos and peculiarity of Edith Beale, mère et fille--aristocrats who were aunt and cousin to former first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy--but it provides something deeper and richer: the background story of the glamorous Beale
ladies, and a glimpse at how they slid from gay 1930s high society to sharing rotting living quarters with litters of cats and raccoons.

Photo Courtesy of HBO
Drew Barrymore, the Grey Gardens standout, rises to the particular challenge of playing "Little Edie" Beale, whose accent, carriage, and mannerisms have developed their own camp following over the years. Barrymore's performance is a revelation: she captures the weirdness of Edie, but she knows what the documentary fans know--the reality of what Edie once had been, and what she was becoming. Barrymore's performance is delicate and strong, with a hint of sadness underneath the fading ingénue's brave face.
Jessica Lange plays "Big Edie," the mother who made more concrete choices to wall herself off from the outside world. Lange is excellent, though Big Edie is a less nuanced character than her daughter, and she seems more content with her lot, perched in her teeming twin bed surrounded by mounds of cats and trash. (courtesy of

This documentary/movie/musical is great for Collectors and non-collectors to watch. It might make you feel like you are not the only one. It might motivate you. It might make you more understanding if you are a non-collector.

Before I go, I will leave you with some fun quotes from the Beale's...

“One is a lone woman who hasn’t got much money and she’s fighting to get the same thing she always wanted – recognition as a dancer, singer, and entertaining artist. Here, I’m mother’s little helper, cleaning up after the cats.” – Little Edie

"I love the smell [of Grey Gardens]. I thrive on it. It makes me feel good.” – Big Edie

“Oh, Mother thinks its artistic this way, like a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Don’t you love the overgrown Louisiana Bayou look.” – Little Edie

“Two women can’t live together for twenty years without some jealousy. Not that my voice is better than Mother’s, but she can’t dance.” - Little Edie

"But you see in dealing with me, the relatives didn't know that they were dealing with a staunch character and I tell you if there's anything worse than dealing with a staunch woman... S-T-A-U-N-C-H. There's nothing worse, I'm telling you. They don't weaken, no matter what." - Little Edie

I could not have made this all possible without the amazing information I found on Grey Gardens Online! This good looking couple dedicates an entire site to the Beale's! Check them out to find out what ever happened to the home, and who is living there now. 

Also, a special thank you to the KOMMA HEM website for such incredible photos and all the great research you have online about the Beale's.

Rachel Seavey
Professional Organizer & Extreme Cleaner
Rachel Seavey, Blogger
Owner of Collector Care Organizers
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Do You Have COPD or Other Breathing Problems? Join Your Local BBC!

Hello Collectors! I have been speaking for some time now on behalf of the Better Breathers Club of California, sponsored by the American Lung Association. I talk about clutter and dust and the complications it can cause with breathing and safety. I combine my knowledge on Chronic Disorganization and Hoarding in a presentation that engages and informs. 

I love this Club! It offers all sorts of resources and information for Collectors and Non-Collectors. I wanted to give it a shout out, props, what have you and get the info out there to the public. If you are interested in learning more about your breathing problems and have meet others out there like you, then please think about joining.

More about BBC:

Better Breathers Clubs (BBC) are a core program and resource of the American Lung Association in California. The purpose of the club is to offer patient-centered and community-based educational opportunities and support to persons with chronic lung disease (especially COPD, but also asthma, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis [IPF], lung cancer, and other chronic lung diseases). These support groups meet regularly to give participants tips and techniques to help manage their disease.

For more information and to read the latest Better Breathers Club newsletter, click here.

To find a Better Breathers Club in your area, click on the locations below:

Chico: Better Breathers Club
Chico, CA
Lodi: Better Breathers Club
Lodi, CA
Oroville: Better Breathers Club
Oroville, CA

Redding: Better Breathers Club
Redding, CA
Roseville: Better Breathers Club
Roseville, CA
Stockton: Better Breathers Club
Stockton, CA

Clearlake: Better Breathers Club
Clearlake, CA
Daly City: Better Breathers Club
Daly City, CA
Eureka: Better Breathers Club
Eureka, CA
Fremont: Better Breathers Club
Fremont, CA

Hayward: Better Breathers Club
Hayward, CA
Mill Valley: Better Breathers Club
Mill Valley, CA
Novato: Better Breathers Club
Novato, CA
Pinole: Better Breathers Club
Pinole, CA
Redwood City: Better Breathers Club
Redwood City, CA
Santa Clara: Better Breathers Club
San Jose, CA
Santa Rosa: Better Breathers Club
Santa Rosa, CA


Bakersfield: Better Breathers Club
Bakersfield, CA

Fresno: Better Breathers Club
Fresno, CA
Tulare/Visalia: Better Breathers Club
Tulare, CA

Santa Barbara: Better Breathers Club
Santa Barbara, CA


Huntington Beach: Better Breathers Club
Huntington Beach, CA
Long Beach: Better Breathers Club
Long Beach, CA
Los Angeles West (UCLA): Better Breathers Club
Los Angeles, CA
Mission Hills: Better Breathers Club
Mission Hills, CA


Newport Beach: Better Breathers Club
Newport Beach, CA

Apple Valley: Better Breathers Club
Apple Valley, CA
Big Bear Lake: Better Breathers Club
Big Bear Lake, CA
Indio: Better Breathers Club
Indio, CA
Joshua Tree: Better Breathers Club
Joshua Tree, CA
Murrieta: Better Breathers Club
Murrieta, CA
Palm Springs: Better Breathers Club
Palm Springs, CA
Rancho Mirage: Better Breathers Club
Rancho Mirage, CA
Redlands: Better Breathers Club
Redlands, CA
Riverside: Better Breathers Club
Riverside, CA


Escondido: Better Breathers Club
Escondido, CA
La Mesa: Better Breathers Club
La Mesa, CA
La Jolla: Better Breathers Club
La Jolla, CA
Rancho Bernardo: Better Breathers Club
Rancho Bernardo, CA
Oceanside: Better Breathers Club
Oceanside, CA
San Diego: Better Breathers Club
San Diego, CA

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

3 Reasons Why I LOVE Working With Hoarders

What's up Collectors?! It's no secret I LOVE working with Hoarders. 
Last night at my chapter meeting \I was asked by peers, and it's a question I get asked a lot quite frankly.... Why do  I LOVE working with folks who hoard?

The work conditions are dangerous, and sometimes hazardous. I work with people that are depressed, overwhelmed, and I work with a lot of people who have suffered trauma.

There is a bright side! Even the most extreme cases bring us stories of joy. There is a fighter within all of our Clients. A fire inside that needs to burn. When we help someone save their home, or repair a strain on a marriage or relationship due to clutter we help fuel that flame. We help remind them of a time when they were happy, and we help them get their lives back on track. I am honored to be invited in to share such a sacred time in their lives.

Thank you!
Here are 3 more reasons why I love working with Hoarding Disorder Clients:
  1. They see a use for everything. A broken piece of ceramic on the floor to become a mosaic, saved hair from the bath drain for compost, that milk carton doubles as a flower pot and so on. Dear Collectors, Thank you for debating, arguing and literally showing me your points. I literally never would have known the many ways to use a bread twist tie. Your creativity is boundless. Thank you for being so resourceful.
  2. They make it work. Whether they are teetering across five feet of garbage, or stacking hat boxes in a corner with magazines and important mail mixed in my Clients know how to make it work. Like skilled survivalists climbing over and under to get a drink of water. Sleeping on their  beds with everything but the kitchen sink. Remarkable. The adaptability factor is intriguing.
  3. They make me laugh. And laughing is good for the mind, body and soul. Even in the most severe cases, we are able to find humor in something. Even when there is pressure of eviction, divorce and family members launching attacks, we find ourselves laughing throughout the day. After going through the 50th large home depot box of mystery items, and the 3,000 garments in their closets you really get to know someone well. You tend to joke around by that time. We are all exhausted, emotions have run high, and it's always good to get a good laugh in. I love how the majority of my Clients see humor in their collections and situations.

    As a side note Collectors, I LOVE going through your mystery boxes. Thank you for your time capsules, and random acts of organizing. 
Until the next blog Collectors, thank you for stopping by.

Rachel Seavey
Professional Organizer & Blogger

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