It’s half past nine in the morning. A white van waits parked in front of number 6 Carrer del Isard, in La Guineueta, a humble neighborhood north of the city of Barcelona. Jordi, in his sixties, has called a company to come and empty the apartment where he had lived with his parents since he was ten. “I will try not to cry too much”he promises with glassy eyes. His father, who lived alone, passed away a few months ago and now his children want to empty the apartment to sell it. “We can’t take everything, we don’t have space at home,” he laments as one of the workers loads crutches and an IV pole into the van.
On the table in the living room, empty frames. The family had already saved the photos they wanted to keep with the three or four most important memories. «It is better to empty the floor, you cannot take everything. Too many memories », says Jordi. The head of Barcelona emptied, Toni, and his workers proceed to store the belongings in boxes and bags. They do it with careful, sensitive stuff. He explains that they have the whole week “complete” and that he is already beginning to schedule the agenda for the next one. “Before the pandemic we emptied about six or seven floors every eight days, now we are in the forty or fifty a week,” he says.
The coronavirus has been a shock to some of these companies that empty floors and pack souvenirs. According to Toni, up to 70% of the jobs that have been entrusted to him in recent months have direct relationship with the pandemic. In fact, only in Catalonia, the number of deaths is close to 10,000 and in Spain there are already more than 65,000. The commissions they meet the most are from older people who lived alone and have passed away. There has also been an increase in the number of “emptied” in offices and business premises that have drawn the blind during the health crisis. “They have called us to empty premises that before March had fifty or sixty people working on the payroll”, concludes Toni.
In the second-hand warehouse that the company has in Granollers (Barcelona) can no longer accumulate more stocks. A lot of the things they receive have to be donated or left in a green spot. There are days when, explains Toni, they collect three or four armchairs that are in good condition. “I can’t take them to the store if the previous ones on display haven’t been sold before,” he says.
The next morning, the The charms of Barcelona dawns mired in traffic. This is where a large part of the products collected from the floor empties go to. “Once I got a Barça tracksuit that they told me Rijkaard had worn. You can get anything here ”, explains Jesús, the owner of one of the stalls in the enclosure. Commercial transactions at street level -sometimes fleeting, others based on the art of haggling-, posters that promise offers that cannot be said no to and objects that once belonged to other hands, the last trace of the emptied homes.