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The Never Ending Move

Two years ago our family moved 2,200 miles across country to a small town in the Midwest. This is a VERY small town that does not get a lot of people moving there, but for the most part the people are friendly. Unfortunately, sometimes too friendly for our taste.

We moved from California where etiquette is slightly different from the Midwest. On the West coast, you call before you stop at someone’s house. In the Midwest, you drop by and that is perfectly acceptable. Being from California, one of the things we were looking for with our new home was privacy. This is treasured in Southern California where the houses are very close together. In our last house, my neighbor would talk to me from her bathroom while I was on by back deck. So privacy was an issue.

We found the perfect house. It’s on a couple of acres of land on a dead end road. One way in, one way out. We are the only house on the road. The rest of the land is farmland. Therefore, we have no neighbors, unless you count the corn. We purchased the house from the “Smith” family. Because we were moving long distance, escrow closed on the house before we started our move. The Smith family was having trouble closing escrow on their new house so they asked if they could stay in their old house until we arrived. Against my better judgment we agreed. We did not want to start off on the wrong foot in this small town. We were specific about two things; we told them the day we were arriving and that they must be out by then. Also, we were bringing several dogs and would need use of our barn immediately.

We arrived late at night in February. The house was indeed empty and Mrs. Smith had cleaned every inch of it. It was beautiful. We bunked the people and the dogs down for the night. The next morning we went to the barn to prepare it for our animals. Mr. Smith had left the barn full. Everything they had in the barn was still there. Mowers, tools, toys, bikes, everything. This was the beginning of our relationship with the Smiths.

After we contacted them and asked them to remove their items from our barn they started showing up at the house at odd times. The first time was 9:30pm on a Sunday night. Keep in mind that Mr. Smith works from home and they have 11 children to help. The next time was again sometime around 8:00pm. The thing is, they never called first even though we asked them to. They would just show up at random times and take some things from the barn. It took weeks for this to end.

This finally tapered off and stopped. Until one day, about a year later, I walked outside to again find Mr. Smith in the barn. He was looking for something he’d left. He just drove over, opened the barn doors, walked in and started looking around. Totally unannounced. And yes, Mr. and Mrs. Smith have our phone number. We didn’t see anyone again for a few months. Now two years have gone by since we purchased the house. This spring an unfamiliar car came up to the house. A young man explained that he had been friends with the Smith children. Had practically grown up on the property. In fact, he had made two wood outdoor chairs that were currently sitting out near our back garden. He was here to pick them up. Two outdoor chairs that had been left 2 years ago. Chairs which we were obviously using. He loaded them up in his truck and was gone.

Now, it’s Fourth of July weekend this year. We are quietly enjoying being home and are doing all of those outdoor chores you do on a long weekend. Lo and behold, here come some of the Smith children on their bikes. They just wanted to visit the house. They had to ride 4 MILES across town to do this. The thing is, I wouldn’t have minded if someone had called and said the kids wanted to pop over. I probably would have said sure, no problem. But I would have been sufficiently warned to make sure my dogs were put away and that I wasn’t wearing my old gardening clothes.

The question is twofold. One, when does it become our house, and two, when should they stop showing up on the property to pick up belongings they have left behind. This winter will be three years. Isn’t that enough? 0708-10

It became your house and property and the contents thereof the moment you signed all the legal documentation.   You got taken advantage of…pure and simple.  And you allowed yourself to be taken…repeatedly.   Your failure to have a backbone due to a fear of man (what will the community say if I get tough?) resulted in people beyond the family taking advantage of you.

The first few times I would have been tolerant.  But after that, I’d have confronted whatever Smith happened to be trespassing on my property with an ultimatum that any further unauthorized excursions onto your land and poking around in your outbuildings will result in a call to the sheriff’s and legal action.   I live in a rural area and unknown noises coming from the barn are grounds for me to walk out there with a loaded .22 rifle or the shotgun.   Had you been me, Mr. Smith might have been staring at the end of rifle barrel until I figured out who he was and why he was fritzing around in my barn.  Bottom line, if your sale contract did not contain an extensive list of items on the property that did not convey in the sale, the Smiths have no legal right to them once they have been left.  It is only by your good graces that they can retrieve what they consider to be theirs but there is a limit to that graciousness that no one should presume upon.

Your reputation for being a push-over was further confirmed when some unidentified person arrived on your property 2 years after you’ve moved in to lay claim to a set of chairs he alleges to have made.   To that request, the response should have been something along these lines,  “Well, that’s nice to know the history of the chairs but if the Smiths had wanted to keep them, they would not have conveyed with the sale of the house.  I sincerely hope you can make another pair for yourself.”   Or offer to sell them to him.

As for the kids coming to visit unannounced, I’d say suck it up.  It’s part of Mid-West culture to drop by for a few minutes to visit and as long as you don’t entertain the kids with beverages and sweets but stick to your task you were engaged in before they arrived, they’ll get the idea that visiting you isn’t all that fun.

{ 54 comments… add one }
  • Anon July 14, 2010, 7:37 am

    That is NOT part of all midwest culture. I live in Madison, WI and no one ‘just dropped by.’ Before that I lived a bit farther north, and there as well it was common curtesy to call first. Since cell phone have saturated our society, there is no reason not to call and say ‘hey, I am in the neighborhood.’ It is not accepted culture anywhere, and nor should it be.
    If someone were to try this, I would make sure to peek just my head out the door and calmly explain that you are ‘indiposed’ (let them come up with what they think you are doing. And ask them to kindly leave your property or authorities will be called. Explain you will be more than happy to allow them on the property if they would call and set up an appointment first. Then set up a no trespassers sign with a warning that you will shoot on sight. I don’t think anyone here actually would do that, but everyone puts up the signs in the country to ensure then friends and family call first.

  • ferretrick July 14, 2010, 8:03 am

    First off, I also live in the Midwest, and no one just “drops by” without calling first. That’s why God invented the telephone. If someone does do this, just say its not a good time, please call in future. Don’t apologize, don’t explain, just “I’m sorry, I cannot see you right now.”

    Next, yep, you are a big old pushover. The request to stay in the the home beyond the contract date is fine. Charge them rent of at least the amount of your mortgage payment. That’s very common actually. The house is now legally yours, and they are occupying it. Rent is due.

    When you first saw the items in the barn, I’d have been tolerant for a week at most, and would have made it clear that removal was at your convenience, not theirs. After that, you should have called immediately and told them they had till X date, absolutely no more than two weeks, to remove them or you would do one of the following, take your pick 1) keep the items yourself, 2) put them in the trash 3) dontate to charity or 4) call the Sheriff and have the items removed (as in an eviction, which is what this is). A real estate contract contains a clear clause that the property is to be cleared of all personal items-if they didn’t do that, the property is yours to dispose of as you see fit. They want the stuff, they can suck it up and pay for a moving truck to clear it all out at one time like everybody else.

    As for the chairs…I can’t even begin.

  • ferretrick July 14, 2010, 8:05 am

    Oh, and for that matter, Mr. Smith out in the barn…ever heard of a padlock? Costs $5.

  • Interestingly Laura July 14, 2010, 8:33 am

    My father lives on a ranch in Oklahoma, and while neighbors will “drop by” his house, my father will not tolerate anyone just wandering into his barn or other out-buildings. Why? It could be a law-suit waiting to happen. If a person injures him/herself on your property (and in a barn, there are plenty of potential dangers), you could be liable.

  • Maryann July 14, 2010, 9:04 am

    You can’t always leave having manners up to other people, especially once it’s been established that they don’t and they’re seriously inconveniencing you. These people definitely took advantage of you, but you’ve got to stand up for yourself. I hope you will in the future. You were generous and didn’t really deserve all this, but by laying down and accepting it, you’re inviting more.

    “One, when does it become our house…?”

    Legally, as Miss Jeanne said, years ago. Practically, right now, before they do it again!

  • yarngirl July 14, 2010, 9:32 am

    Well, I have to admit something *like* this could happen around here in Illinois. It’s not unheard of to be in the neighborhood and decide to stop by spontaneously. BUT these visits always start with “we were just in the neighborhood, is this a good time?” If the answer is no, the visitors just move on.

    But you really don’t do that with people with whom you already have a long-standing friendship or family tie to, people who you know feel comfortable telling you if it’s a problem, and people whose schedules you know pretty well (i.e. if they’re morning people, if they’ve got kids to get ready for bed, etc).

    Just randomly ambushing relative strangers whose phone number you have, and have no social relationship with, when you are making a special trip specifically to their house? Kids or not, that’s amazingly rude. I’ve got friends from all over indiana, illinois, missouri, iowa, michigan, minnesota and wisconsin. They’re all pretty sure nobody does this where they live.

    Please, don’t attribute bad manners to “midwest culture.” It’s not midwest culture, those people were just clods.

  • yarngirl July 14, 2010, 9:34 am

    EDIT: I meant to say, you really don’t do that with people with whom you DON’T already have a long-standing friendship.

  • ginlyn32 July 14, 2010, 9:39 am

    I am from the Midwest (Indiana to be exact), and the only people who ever “just dropped by” was my parents. I also knew I could go over there whenever I wanted/needed to as well.

    As far as I know, no one “just drops by” without calling first.

    I agree that the OP got taken advantage of. I think I would have told the Smith Family that they had 24 hrs to get their stuff or I would sell it. They totally had the legal right to do so. Also, haven’t they heard of NO TRESPASSING signs? They need to buy some and use them! And call the sheriff every time someone comes onto their property uninvited.

  • elicat July 14, 2010, 9:44 am

    I agree–OP is being a pushover. The first thing you do when you buy a house that’s not new is change all the locks–just in case (unfortunately).

  • Nadine July 14, 2010, 9:52 am

    I’m also from the Midwest (KS/MO), and agree with previous commenters that this is certainly not just “part of the culture.” Common courtesy is to call, even for a visit from children – maybe even more so when it comes to children. It isn’t rude to contact the Smiths and let them know that if they have a question about something or would like to visit, a call is necessary first.

  • Hanna July 14, 2010, 9:53 am


  • Challis July 14, 2010, 9:59 am

    are you kidding me? I really having trouble believing that a total random stranger came to your house to take outdoor chairs you had been using for years– AND YOU LET THIS HAPPEN.

  • Chocobo! July 14, 2010, 10:50 am

    Maybe it’s not so “Midwest” as it is very rural. Small communities where everyone knows everyone aren’t the ideal places for privacy. My family in the northeast who came from very small, rural communities do the same thing, even though they don’t live in those communities anymore.

  • Nicole July 14, 2010, 11:25 am

    I live in Ohio, in the country, and it is not that unusual for people to just drop in. BUT, these are friends, people I know well, and family and they know that I may well say that it is a bad time or that I was just leaving. It is part of the culture here and not considered rude if you know the person well.

  • Laura July 14, 2010, 11:28 am

    Another Wisconsinite here…

    We have people “drop by” and it ticks me off every time. I find it the height of rudeness, and I cringe every time my husband says “Hey, lets go see so-and-so”. I finally have him trained to stop doing that except close family members who don’t mind. It is not a midwestern culture thing.

  • Shayna July 14, 2010, 11:51 am

    Where I come from, if you have a long-standing relationship with someone, then yes, it’s ok to just drop by, because we know that if visitee says “Gee, I was just about to leave” or “Sorry, I can’t really chit-chat right now, I’m really busy” or even “Come on in! I’m just a bit busy if you don’t mind talking while I work”, we don’t get offended. So yes, it is a part of some cultures, and mostly found in small towns and villages I would think. I’ve never had anyone do it to me in the city.

    That said, honey, you do need to grow a back-bone. You’ve been had, repeatedly. And when that guy showed up about the chairs…well…I would have said, “That’s lovely. You did a fantastic job on them and we love them!” and give him a very long, pointed look. There is no way I would have allowed him to remove them from my property.

    The house legally became yours the day you signed the papers and escrow closed. Now you have to put that into practice.

  • Shalamar July 14, 2010, 12:18 pm

    I have a friend who recently called and left a message on my answering machine to say he wanted to drop by and give me back some DVDs I’d loaned him. When he did so, I refused to answer the door and pretended we were all asleep or out. Why? Because it was 10:30 AT NIGHT. As far as I’m concerned, you don’t “drop by” after dark unless it’s an emergency. (This guy runs his own business from home and works whacky hours, so he probably thought 10:30 was a perfectly reasonable time for an impromptu visit.)

  • Brenda July 14, 2010, 12:31 pm

    First, as mentioned earlier, a lock on the barn.

    Second, a gate with a lock across the drive.

    Three, a big sign stating that it is private property and trespassers will be prosecuted.

    Fourth, another big sign warning of the dogs.

    Fifth, the next time someone just drops by, tell them you’re afraid the Smiths moved out years ago and you don’t know anything about any *items* and you’re sorry you can’t help them. If it’s the Smiths, tell them you are unavailable to help them with anything at this time, and could they please call ahead to save themselves a trip.

    As stated by Miss Jeanne, we lived out in the country, and anyone just heading across our property, especially at night, would have been met by my armed dad.

  • EmmBee July 14, 2010, 12:40 pm

    Wow. I would have less of a problem with the unannounced visits, and more with the fact they seem to think your property is their storage unit. I would remove all the things they left that you don’t want to a pile on the lawn, take a picture, and send them a certified letter informing them they have until x day to remove the items, or they will go to charity/the dump/craigslist. Inform them any further uninvited access to your barn will be considered trespassing.

    You need to take ownership of your property, but I think you do need to give them some “fair warning” that you’ve had it, or you will have more problems on your hands the next time they come to get something they “forgot.” Locking the barn, while probably less convenient for you, is also a good suggestion.

  • Susie July 14, 2010, 1:54 pm

    This just doesn’t sound like an etiquette question to me. People are stealing your stuff, trespassing on your land, so no. You don’t have to figure out a polite way to deal with them.

  • SHOEGAL July 14, 2010, 2:55 pm

    I live in an old Boy Scout camp – in what used to be the “Dining Hall.” Sometimes old scouts would drive up the gravel road to just to have a look at their old stomping grounds. My husband always is extremely cold with these visitors, or any visitor really, I just thought – well, its curiousity and a memory for them – but he refuses to encourage anyone to drive down and drop in on us. This has worked – not too many people just drop by or come around.

    In the effort to be friendly and nice the OP was definitely taken advantage of – it is time now not to be so nice & accomodating anymore.

  • gramma dishes July 14, 2010, 2:58 pm

    Also from the Midwest. No, it isn’t universally culturally accepted practice to just “drop in” on anybody. Not family, not friends and most certainly not strangers!

    My Mom always said that it is the height of arrogance to assume that anyone has nothing else to do but entertain YOU as a guest. You are assuming that they don’t already have plans. (Even if those “plans” were simply to take a nap as soon as you get your toddlers down for theirs!) You are assuming that they really REALLY want to see you. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. You are assuming that they don’t already have company that day, and didn’t plan to include any additional people. And so on.

    You’ve let these people walk all over you. The chair guy was atrocious. I can’t believe you allowed him to take them!!! There’s a word: “NO!!!!” said firmly and if necessary, repeatedly.

    Change all your locks, including those on the barns and other outbuildings. Please draw your line in the sand and make certain that these intruders know that from now on what they’ve been getting by with will no longer be tolerated. And then follow through.

  • Amazed July 14, 2010, 3:44 pm

    It’s not a question of etiquette. It’s a question of real estate law. The LW needs a lawyer.

  • Livvy July 14, 2010, 4:09 pm

    I’m from Michigan – also a call-first state.

    I’d definately have rented them the house, and then provided a clear guideline on rent. When I showed up and saw my barn still full of stuff, I would have called them once, and given them a couple of days to get it out, or I would consider it mine to dispose of or keep as I wished.

    Here’s what I’d do now: I’d call Mr. Smith and let him know that you moved here specifically for the privacy, and you don’t appreciate drop-ins, especially now that all of his stuff is gone. If he asks for anything else, I’d ask for three years worth of storage fees before you give it to him!

  • mommaknowsbest July 14, 2010, 4:13 pm

    Live in Illinois, and yep people do just drop in.

    I would have done what the OP did —I would have let them get their stuff, even years later. Why? Because I don’t want it! I’d rather you come and get it (even if slowly) than to pay big bucks for a trash dumpster and throw it away.

    This exact thing happened to us, but we wrote it into the contract that whatever was there after closing was ours. We threw most of it away, but it kept the owners from coming back over and over. And yes, the family does come back, at least once a year to see the old place. And we are thrilled to show it off, but we also understand what a home means to a person–how precious it was to watch your children grow up there, maybe even married there, etc. so we let them see it and sit on theporch.

  • mommaknowsbest July 14, 2010, 4:16 pm

    Oh and by the way, does everyone realize how hard it is to call first when everyone has a cell phone and no one is listed in the phone book? How do you expect people that don’t know you well get in touch with you? Or even good friends that lostyour number and has no way to look it up or call directory assistance any longer?

  • Dina July 14, 2010, 5:05 pm

    mommaknowsbest, the original post actually says that the people in question have their number… and I haven’t used a phone book to look up someone’s number since I was in high school!

  • Kovitlac July 14, 2010, 6:58 pm

    I have to agree with a few others who have posted already – this is NOT a normal, tolerated staple of Midwest culture, anymore then it would be considered so somewhere else. I come from an area of about 80,000 people or so, and this is never considered normal. If you have a pre-existing relationship with your neighbors and has been agreed upon by both parties, that is different (we would allow our recent neighbor to borrow tools from our shed, and he in turn would take care of part of our property for us). But not blatant disrespect, or with people we didn’t even really know.

  • Casey July 14, 2010, 7:36 pm

    Mommaknowsbest, I have to ask, why would you keep stuff YEARS later to give back to the original owners if you don’t want it? At that point either it’s mine and I’m using it or ask the local dump because I don’t have it.

    OP you got taken for a ride. You may have SAID to call first but your ACTIONS said otherwise. I feel bad for you but I also think if you’re big enough to buy a house you are certainly big enough to put your foot down. I might have let the erratic moving out slide knowing there was an end in sight but I certainly wouldn’t allow someone to waltz into my garage or barn to rummage through my things long after or allow a random strangers to STEAL my CHAIRS. For all you know he could have been some creep who spotted them while spying your property and cooked up a story to take them.

    You wouldn’t look like a jerk to your neighbors for setting boundaries but I’m sure you look like a chump to those who know what you’ve willingly put up with.

  • Snewt July 14, 2010, 8:23 pm

    The barn was supposed to be for the OP’s dogs… what did they do with them while the barn was full of the Smiths’ stuff?

  • Tara July 14, 2010, 9:13 pm

    I honestly see no breach of etiquette here. What I see is a whole lot of trespassing. You need to put up a sign at the foot of your driving, clearly stating that ALL trespassers will be prosecuted, or something to that effect. Call the cops the next time someone shows up unannounced. Or, pick up the phone, go outside and tell the person to leave, and that you’re calling the cops. Then at least they’ll have a warning that they are no longer welcome. You could also put a gate across the end of your driveway. That sends a pretty clear message.

  • Starr July 14, 2010, 9:36 pm

    I live in central Illinois and can’t remember the last time someone called before stopping by except if they wanted to borrow something! Most of the time it doesn’t bother me especially if its family, but when my daughters friends (7 yr olds) stop by for no reason it drives me insane! I end up being a babysitter even when I am in the middle of doing something and have 3 children of my own to watch! And though it does seem to be the norm around here I have never and will never feel comfortable doing it myself. I never really thought of it as an etiquette issue…just being really rude.

  • gramma dishes July 14, 2010, 9:42 pm

    mommaknowsbest ~~ If people want to be called, they’ll be sure to provide the phone number.
    If someone doesn’t have my number, it’s probably because I don’t want them to call me.

  • Vrinda July 14, 2010, 10:46 pm

    Dina, just because you haven’t used a phone book since high school, it doesn’t mean no one else has. I use it to look up businesses’ phone numbers, and if I want to call a residence, but am not sure of the number, I go to the phone book to look it up. It isn’t hard to do or time-consuming.

  • Izzy July 15, 2010, 1:36 am

    “Oh and by the way, does everyone realize how hard it is to call first when everyone has a cell phone and no one is listed in the phone book? How do you expect people that don’t know you well get in touch with you? Or even good friends that lostyour number and has no way to look it up or call directory assistance any longer?” (mommaknowsbest)
    By the time you know someone well enough to drop by randomly, maybe you should already have their number, or have mutual friends. Nice try in excusing bad etiquette, but that excuse doesn’t roll here. And if your friends are hip enough to have cell phones, they might also have email/internet/etc. In this situation specifically, it was mentioned that they had the phone numbers, just chose not to use it

    To the OP: Man! So much fail! If only you’d written in three years ago to get this advice!
    You should have set a deadline (if you wanted to be gracious) or charge a three year storage fee…Pity it’s too late to do anything about it, chalk it up to experience >.<
    In other news, you should probably be grateful mr smith didn’t impale himself on a toy and sue you

  • padua July 15, 2010, 10:56 am

    OP- it’s difficult to set limits in a small community. my hometown has 2000 people, and people’s personal opinions often affect jobs and services offered. it can be frustrating when word gets out (especially if the family being ‘slighted’ by not allowing access to your house and barn) and people start taking sides. they often don’t side with the newbie. i’m hoping your community isn’t as judgmental as mine, but i did want to say i can understand the predictament you’re in. while i agree it’s important to put your foot down, i also know it needs to be done in a diplomatic way if you don’t want to be seen negatively by the rest of the community. my parents had problems with our renters (people who had lived in the community much longer than ours) and we kids were hassled at our very small high school. in our case, it certainly doesn’t help matters that the family in question carried the same family name the town was named after.
    good luck to you!

  • AS July 15, 2010, 11:59 am

    mommaknowsbest – if the Smiths had to visit OP’s property, lost OP’s number by any chance, and were aware that it is curtsey to call up before hand, they should have got the number from OP. 2 years is a long time not to get a number.

    I agree with other posters – OP is a complete pushover. Regardless of whether or not someone visits you unannounced, no one has any right to take stuffs out of your house. It was nice of you to allow them to stay even after you bought the house. But a house becomes your house right from the date it is handed over to you. Period.

  • Xtina July 15, 2010, 3:06 pm

    This is truly bizarre. The OP was far too nice to these people. I guess it is difficult when staring someone in the face that has *just* dropped in on your unannounced to go away, but after they did it once, the OP should have pointedly told them to call in the future.

    As for the freebie storage the OP provided, I think the best course of action would have been to tell the Smiths they had x amount of time to come and get their stuff or it would be removed. If they didn’t get it by the deadline, then remove it all to a local storage unit (pay someone to move it and charge it to the Smiths, and have the monthly storage bill sent to the Smiths as well–otherwise they would not have ever taken the OP seriously or done anything about removing their things). The unannounced dropping in/rummaging through the property should have simply not been tolerated–after a warning from the OP about trespassing, a call to the local police should have been made if they returned again without making arrangements first.

    The chairs should have remained at the house; that was ludicrous that the boy was able to take them.

    As for the kids visiting a few years later, that’s not awful–agree that they should have called first, but just a drop-in to see how the house looked years later isn’t too out of line.

  • jen July 15, 2010, 6:45 pm

    We had a similar problem when we moved into our house. The previous owners left a ton of stuff in one of the sheds, including a 100 year old family bible and a diary from 1914. There were also quite a few rusted old lawnmowers and car parts. They kept showing up to pick up this or that. We let it go for a bit because we weren’t using the shed and some of the stuff was precious (well, I would consider an old family bible pretty precious). Anyways, after awhile (about 6 months) we told them that we would be using the shed and if they could please come and pick their things up or we would be getting rid of it. They dragged their feet, so we told them that we would be donating the stuff to a the city museum by next friday. The stuff was gone the next day.

  • Dina July 15, 2010, 6:50 pm

    Vrina – everyone who I would call, I already have their number. If I don’t have their number, I have their email address. If I don’t have either… why do I want to contact them, again? (This is not including shops and services – for that, I have Google!)

  • Shalamar July 15, 2010, 9:53 pm

    This is reminding me a bit of my weird neighbour (she’s a story for another day – suffice it is to say, I’m pretty sure there’s something not quite right upstairs). A year or so ago in the summer, I saw her and her husband packing up their minivan. “Going on a trip?” I asked. “Yes,” she said happily, “We’re all heading off to the coast (a three-day drive) to stay with my mum for a week. Husband, me, our two toddlers, and even the dog!” “Wow” I said (thinking “boy, Grandma’s going to have her hands full”), “I bet your mum is really excited.” “Oh, she doesn’t know yet.” “Excuse me?”

    That’s right. My neighbour planned to “drop in” on her mother with two little kids and a dog for an entire week! According to her, “Mum never goes anywhere, so this’ll be a treat for her.” Riiiight. I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall when Grandma answered the doorbell.

  • Christine July 16, 2010, 2:14 pm

    I don’t know about the “it’s a Midwest thing.” It may be a “getting one over on the gullible West Coasters” thing.

    I grew up in south-central Indiana (and now I live in California!) and intrusions like these would have been met with hostility at best, and the business end of a shotgun at worst. Good fences make good neighbors, and all that.

  • The Cat Whisperer July 18, 2010, 5:14 pm

    Funny thing: the part of this story about the people who showed up to claim the homeowner’s chairs triggered a memory from more than 40 years ago.

    I was about 12 at the time and I was home by myself while my parents ran an errand. Someone rang the door-bell. I answered, and there was a man with a little tabby kitten.

    He explained to me that he knew my father from work, and he and his family were moving, and their kitten was freaking out about the ride in the car. He said my father had told him that if that happened, he could drop the kitten off with us.

    I didn’t know any better, so I took the kitten. The guy drove off. My parents came back a few minutes later.

    My dad hit the roof. Nobody had asked him about taking a kitten, the guy’s description didn’t match anyone he knew, and he and my mom didn’t want the kitten. He ended up taking the poor thing to the pound in spite of my pleas to keep her.

    Man, anyone who shows up on my doorstep and doesn’t establish their bona fides to be there is going to get a door slammed in their face and the police are going to be called. If they claimed they had a right to anything on my property, I’d regard that as a threat of robbery. The LW was a complete idiot to let these people stay on their property, much less take the chairs. Insane!

  • Twik July 19, 2010, 9:09 am

    Yep, the OP needs to realize that this is *not* normal, and put her foot down. Apparently, the Smiths still believe, emotionally, that they still own the house, and that the OP’s family are there on their sufferance.

    Note that even if “dropping in to visit” is acceptable without notice in their area, these people are *not visiting*. They’re not socializing with the OP at all. They are using the property for their own purposes

    The OP needs to put a padlock on the barn door, after telling the Smiths that anything remaining after a week will be considere abandoned property, and sold off. They need to tell random strangers who come to remove furniture that such materials are part of the fixings of the house, and ownership was transferred when the house was sold. And they need to tell children who arrive to “visit the house” that they’re sorry, but now is not a good time, and they’ll have to leave.

  • Timpani July 19, 2010, 10:09 pm

    Wow, I live in Southern Illinois and my friends and family drop by all the time. The people who rented the house we bought before we bought it receive no such courtesy. A whole basement full of stuff got thrown in a dumpster one month after we moved in, and one of the former renters had the gall to act put out when he showed up months later asking about his tools. Sorry! It all looked like rusted over junk from the 70’s! Ok, not really even sorry 😉

  • Enna July 20, 2010, 12:04 pm

    That’s bad. In the UK people in rural areas do own guns – even if I didn’t I’d be saying to the strange man who grew up on the property to go without his chairs (unless he is willing to buy them off you, they were left so they are now your properlty he didn’t pick them up sooner before the smiths left) or it will be a police matter: as a young woman I would not tolerate ANY one for personal safety reasons on my property.

  • Enna July 20, 2010, 12:05 pm

    I mean ANY strangers on my property

  • Doris July 23, 2010, 9:28 pm

    I’ve lived in the Midwest my entire life. The unspoken rules: call before visiting and no calls between 9 pm and 9 am unless you are in dire straits & then only call family or your closest friends.

    It seems word may have gotten out about your leniency with the Smiths – perhaps the man claiming to have made the chairs didn’t, but just took something he wanted.

    I would have assumed that whatever the Smiths left behind was meant to stay there. The first time one of them showed up to claim something, I would have acted innocent and told them since it had been there when you moved in, you assumed it was unwanted and had either made plans to use it yourself or had donated it to a charity.

    Now, maybe you should start popping up at the Smiths’ home looking for something of yours they must have “accidentally” taken away when they moved their stuff. Give them a taste of what you’ve been enduring.

  • Victoria July 26, 2010, 4:52 pm

    I live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and it IS common for people to drop by unannounced.

    I moved here from Virginia and, to me, one always calls before going to visit. This has caused me to not be included in many outings and get-togethers amongst my family members who grew up here. My grandmother told me to just go on over whenever I complained about being left out. So I guess it depends on where you live even within the Midwest.

    I agree with the padlock idea. And possibly a fence around the house proper.

  • Michelle Prieur July 26, 2010, 10:57 pm

    Cat Whisperer-sounds like you very luckily escaped something much worse than people still holding on to property. That sounded like a guy trying to kidnap you or worse; did I misunderstand that story?

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