How I Accidentally Inherited A Stranger's Entire Home

Photographed by Erica Gannett.
We'd been apartment-hunting for a month with no success. The holidays were looming; we'd reached the point when you start to consider whether living in your car or on a friend's couch is a viable option. Needless to say, my then-boyfriend and I were more than a bit desperate when we walked into the Greenpoint apartment we'd soon be calling home — and I immediately knew that it was the one.

But as with any reasonably priced New York apartment, there was a catch — and this one was a doozy. The former tenant, Helen, had died and left behind all of her possessions. Her only next-of-kin was a daughter-in-law who had no interest in coming to collect any of her belongings. The landlord refused to deal with the furnished apartment — and with rent so cheap, we couldn't argue.

That's how we basically inherited a thrift store. Walking inside felt like stepping onto the set of All In The Family meets a "Life In The Fifties" exhibit. Despite the fact that I had my own stuff, I couldn't bear to just throw all of hers away. Our mugs co-habit; our family pictures are mixed on the fridge. It's definitely strange, but Helen's things are a part of the apartment — part of a history that's not mine to erase. (Though I drew the line and finally threw out her 1995 tax forms.)

Four years later, our things live together amicably — click through if you don't believe me.