Discover “buried” treasure when downsizing, decluttering, or purging items from a household or estate.
Did you know?
- Past generations (and even some present ones) often had the habit of squirreling away and hiding treasure in the home.
- It’s smart to employ a little patience and do some detective-like sleuthing before tossing items to trash or to the donation box.
Why? There are many reasons why someone might tuck away personal items of value in the home:
- Distrust of Banks and Safe Deposit Boxes
- Postponing a Decision
- Ease of Access
- Hiding From Discovery
- Purposeful Saving
- Being Forgetful or Disorganized
Unlikely places of safekeeping and stashing a cache have been used for hundreds of years. Below are a few true stories that illustrate.
I remember my mother telling me that, she lived most of her life in a time when not many women worked outside the home. She, like her mother and grandmother before her, scrupulously saved a few dollars or cents out of their monthly household allowance. The custom in those early years was for a working husband to dole out an amount from the family budget to the wife, for her to run the household. For many wives, having any of the allowance left-over, was not an easy task.
Mom would regularly gather together her saved money to build up the contents of her “secret” little white envelope. This envelope was hidden on the side of an old jewelry box at the back of her underwear drawer. The “secret”, she explained, wasn’t from my dad, the secret was from her own mind! “Out of sight, out of mind”, she would say. “If you don’t see it, then it becomes a wonderful surprise when you need it, and there it is!”
Mom was so proud of this purposeful saving in her secret envelope! She said that having that cash gave her a deep sense of independence and power. It meant she was good with money and knew the value of it. It allowed her the pleasure of being able to buy special presents for her family whenever she wanted, without having to ask my father for extra money. And sometimes, when they would plan a vacation, she would joyfully show my father how much she had saved, so they could use it for extra spending-money on their trip.
A friend of mine told me a story of having received a beloved gift of a gold ring containing all the birthstones of her family members. One time, she was wearing the ring when her family took a vacation to Mexico. Rather than attract undue attention when out to dinner in public, her husband suggested she leave the gemstone ring inside a rolled-up pair of socks inside her suitcase in the hotel room. After her trip, my friend didn’t have occasion to wear her treasured ring for quite a while and it remained inside the sock roll.
Months later, when the family was helping to do a major decluttering project, that rolled-up pair of socks must have been perceived as “old” and somehow got tossed out! When it came time to wear her special ring again, those socks were nowhere to be found. Sadly, her treasured jewelry is gone forever, probably laying in a landfill.
Hiding From Discovery
Another friend told me the story of her siblings helping their aging parents move to a smaller house. A few of the sisters took many boxes of her mother’s old clothing to a thrift store supportive of a special charity. A few weeks later, a worker from that thrift store recognized one sister on the street and stopped her. The worker exclaimed how grateful they were at the shop, to have found over $400 in the pockets of that donated clothing!
Top Tips for Finding “Buried” Treasure
- Pause Before You Purge – Take extra time before you toss away or put that old sweatshirt in a donation bag, search the pockets. You might only find lint, but you might find something else entirely!
- Look in Small Spaces – When you, your friends, or other well-intentioned family members, are helping to clear away ‘the junk’, check the small spaces for figuratively “buried” treasure. Look inside pages and behind the books on shelves, between mattresses and other hiding places you can think of around the home.
- Reach in – Use a flashlight, reach to the back of drawers, the bottom of a sock, coat pocket, small envelope. The shoebox on the top shelf may reveal a pleasant, or at least curious, surprise!
- Ask for stories – When cleaning out spaces of others, it’s important to ask people who knew the person for any stories or memories they have about the home or items you are contemplating to purge. Ask “What do you know about . . . ?“, just like you may have heard on the Antiques Roadshow television show. That ugly old vase might actually be a collector’s item!
What Surprises Have YOU Found?
Do you have a story to share about a lost or found piece of memory? Please share your large or small find in the comments section. I would look forward to hearing from you!
When you do find a surprise, I hope you are able to snag the owner quickly to capture the story behind it. But, if that person or story is no longer available, you might let your imagination run wild!