Woman Discovers Vintage Wedding Dress in Hoarder Home, Family Demands It Back

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When our loved ones pass away, they leave plenty of things behind for us to cherish. Some are intangible, like memories and lessons we hold close to our hearts, while others are physical, heirlooms and inheritances we can care for with all we have.

Sometimes, those items get lost in a mountain of tragedy, only to turn up later under the care of someone else. Is it their right to keep the item, or should it be returned to the original family line it once belonged to? After running into one such situation, one woman decided to as the internet’s opinion.

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Lost To Time

Having to handle the belongings of a family member who’s passed on can be very emotionally laborious. Some consider it part of the grieving process to decide what to do with a home full of memories, others find it too painful to even consider stepping through the door.

A house hallways packed to the brim with books.
Unsplash / Eli Francis
Unsplash / Eli Francis

And sometimes, there are other issues that add a layer of complexity to the situation, like if the family member who passed on happened to be a hoarder. When this happened to one family, they decided they didn’t want to dig through the decades’ worth of things that had accumulated and let someone else take care of it.

The Battle’s Beginning

They put the house on sale as-is, and one young woman decided to scoop it up for herself. She was willing to take it on and clear it out with the price they were selling it at, maybe even excited to see what treasures she could find. Little did she know this decision would come back to bite her down the line.

A hand holding a set of house keys, passing them to someone holding a box.
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

Years after she had purchased and cleaned the property, some unexpected guests started coming around, making unreasonable demands.

Everything, Including The Kitchen Sink

When she was at a loss for what to do, she turned to Reddit to ask for advice. She explained the history leading up to her issue in her post.

A high angle shot of a half-open door with a dark room inside
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

“I (26F) bought a hoarder house back in May 2018. It is a big 6 bedroom 4 and a half bathroom house.

When I bought it, the contract stated that I take ownership of the house and everything in it. The lady who owned it died, and her heirs could not deal with the stench and literal mountain of junk and waste in it (you could only open the door not even 8″, and some rooms had the junk filling them wall to wall and floor to ceiling).”

Some Amazing Finds

“Well it took me these last 4 years to finish cleaning, fixing and updating it,” she continued. “While doing the cleaning I made sure to check everything before throwing it out. Ended with more than $20k of money, some nice jewelry and antique furniture, and finally a stunning 40s style, lace covered wedding dress. This woman took care of that dress untill she couldn’t anymore, and it took just some minor work to restore it.”

An old lace wedding dress hung up against a blue background.
Photo by Found Image Holdings/Getty Images
Photo by Found Image Holdings/Getty Images

Upon seeing the dress, she knew exactly what she wanted to do with it.

Too Personal To Keep

“I currently don’t have a partner, but I decided that it would be the dress I will be wearing if I ever get married.”

Side view close up of young woman decorating Christmas tree at home with silver ornament.
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Envato Elements

Now, this woman was still in contact with the family of the previous owner, and had been passing on more personal items to them, listing personalized Christmas ornaments and childhood artwork as examples. She had one of the grandchildren, a 30-year-old woman, as a friend on Facebook to keep in touch.

The issue arose after she posted a certain photo to her Facebook feed.

Immediate Demands

“After repairing the dress, I put it on with the jewelry and posted a pic on FB,” she explained.

Someone fixing a wedding dress on a sewing machine.
Canva Pro
Canva Pro

“Well this woman saw it and asked for the dress and heirlooms back.”

She didn’t hesitate in her answer. “I refused to give them back, and legally they can’t do anything. Also if they meant that much to them, they should have cleaned the house on their own, not sell it to me,” was her argument.

Unfortunately, the family didn’t feel the same way, and now they were all calling her out on social media for her cruelty.

A Labor Of Love

She didn’t think she was in the wrong about this, but was open to hearing others’ opinions about the situation to see what they thought.

Close up of a young caucasian construction worker sweeping the floor at a construction site.
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Envato Elements

Luckily, people were largely on her side, and assured her she wasn’t wrong for keeping the items.

“It’s a lot to clean a hoarder’s house,” wrote one commenter. “They could have hired a service if they were mentally unable to do it but instead they dumped it on someone else who paid them to take the house and all that’s in it.”

They also added, “If they cared about the items they should have offered you money or asked you to keep an eye out. It’s yours, you did the work. I don’t care how cheap you got the house, it probably doesn’t ‘even out’ like someone said because hoarding houses are… disasters, simply put and it takes a lot to clean and restore them.”

Both Sides Makes Sense

One person argued that no one is in the wrong in this situation. “The previous owner of the home passed away and it was likely much easier for her family to sell the house as is. In these cases the family are exhausted trying to reach the mentally ill person with the hoarding problem and just want to remove that stress from their lives after she passed. […]

A selection of wedding dresses all lined up on a clothing rack.
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Canva Pro

I’m not going to say you’re [wrong] for keeping [the items], but it would be a very kind thing to offer these items to the family. Despite the fact the house was in ruins it doesn’t mean they didn’t love their grandmother and wish to have some of the things she likely would have left to them if she’d been able to get to them.”

Finding Purpose

There was also a needed perspective from a self-proclaimed recovering hoarder who wrote, “Legally, you are in the right. Morally, you are also in the right. And though I cannot speak for the woman whose things you now own, I can give you insight into how I would feel if I died before I could find homes for my treasures: I would want someone who cared enough to restore and respect the items to have them. You saw the beauty in them, as did she. You didn’t just chuck it all in a dumpster.

Piles of boxes and other items against a wall.
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Canva Pro

Take them, wear them, be happy to honor the original owner. Her family did not view these things as anything but a hassle.”

Who’s To Say?

With a situation as emotionally charged and sensitive as this, whether or not someone thinks the new homeowner is in the wrong likely changes from person to person. Our experiences directly influence our reactions to debates like these.

Islamic graveyard at Turkey. Graves with tombstones at Muslim cemetery.
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Envato Elements

If you’ve lost a beloved item that once belonged to a loved one, you might sympathize with the family. If you’ve ever had to sort through a hoarder’s belongings, you might better understand the homeowner’s perspective.

She is well within her right to keep the dress, and the family is justified in being upset. Our feelings ought to be honored (although not viciously, and the family certainly crossed a line when calling her out online), but the hard work of others should also not be discounted. Where that leaves you and your thoughts may vary, but as long as you maintain respect above all else, you’re in the clear.

If you’ve had to go through a difficult situation, like sorting through a hoarder’s belongings or losing a beloved item of a loved one, taking control of your emotions, your life, and your future can be even more important. Click HERE to get the personalized report and take control of your destiny now.

Daniel Mitchell-Benoit

Dan is a content writer with three years of experience under their belt, having mostly covered viral media but now shifting toward spirituality and astrology. He’s a strong believer in using one’s beliefs as a means of self-improvement and being in touch with whatever messages the universe has to offer.

He can’t wait to share his insights with a[…]