What oddity lurks in your clutter?

Clutter can take many forms, but there may be some instances when clearing out a closet, basement, or attic leads you to a dumbfounding discovery. In this Guardian article, a “clutter consultant” reviews some of the odd things she has come across while clearing out other people’s homes. Among the most freaky things she has found are a pickled monkey and a stuffed crocodile.

I liked this article so much that I think we should start an Unclutterer feature that highlights some of our reader’s more bizarre discoveries. Whether it be an unidentifiable lump of mystery mold, a monkey’s paw that grants wishes, or a ridiculous old album that you are embarrassed to own, we want your submissions.

Just send us a description and a photo of your freakish find through our Contact page and we will try and feature it here. The more bizarre (but tasteful) the better. We’re looking forward to your submissions. Also, feel welcome to comment to this post about some things you may have come across in the past but didn’t think to photograph!

40 Comments for “What oddity lurks in your clutter?”

  1. posted by Alan Rochester on

    Be aware that this is a small, local, London newspaper – epsomguardian.co.uk AND NOT The Guardian, national UK newspaper,guardian.co.uk

  2. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Alan — That is why we listed it as Guardian and not The Guardian … irrespective, it’s fantastically wonderful!! Such a great “find,” Matt!!

  3. posted by Melissa A. on

    Neat! I rarely find something unusual in my clutter these days. I guess that means I’m too organized 😉

  4. posted by Mary Rex on

    Since I am just beginning my quest to become truly organized, I have a treasure trove of weirdness from across the country…and find those objects hard to pitch. Often they have been a find which seems symbolic…such as a discarded playing card on the sidewalk, or someones teenage love note in my yard…which I then take home to divine the message. Years later they resurface in a junk drawer and still make me wonder what message they hold.

  5. posted by [email protected] on

    The first thing that popped into my head is something we STILL have in a closet. My husband got this really ugly “Socks, the White House Cat” stuffed cat with a plastic fuzzy head from a good friend when he was in high school. He doesn’t even keep in touch with the friend, but he refuses to get rid of this super-ugly stuffed thing for sentimental reasons! *sigh*

    At least I got him to take it off the display shelf it was on when we got married. It’s sitting in a spare closet now, completely useless. I told him about the “take a picture of it, then toss it idea” and he contemplated that. The next time we clean out that closet, I’ll bring the idea up again!

  6. posted by jamie on

    In 2005,after my father’s death, I had to hire a demolition company to tear down and haul off the detached garage where my father had hoarded all kinds of things: rusted lawn mowers, scraps of metal from his construction jobs, old ice chests, a few motorcycles that had not run since the 1970’s. The foreman came up to me at one point and asked what my father had done for a living. He handed me a small jar that was about the size of a film canister but weighed A LOT, at least two to three pounds. The guy asked me what I thought it was – I had no idea but had a sinking feeling while I was holding it. He told me it was liquid mercury. That was the strangest and scariest thing we found in that falling-down garage.

  7. posted by sue on

    A 5 gallon pail of spare change–luckily the credit union ran it through their counting machine and deposited the total in our account.

    An ancient accordian–no one in our family plays or has ever played an accordian!

  8. posted by Kelsey on

    I have a small shoe box of stuff that I used to collect still sitting in my room. Some of it my dad brought back from his auto body shop and some is stuff that I just happened to find. I have three forks, a spoon, a few lenses from glasses, two tops from trophies that are firemen, a glass bottle filled with all of the tiny things I found… I can’t bring myself to part with it yet, but at least it’s in a small box!

  9. posted by Richard on

    I’d love to find a bottle of liquid mercury. I played with it when I was a kid, but I only had a teaspoon or so of it.

    It is toxic, but if you’re careful with it, it can be fun and interesting.

  10. posted by Springpeeper on

    Flylady also posts messages from readers about the weird and wonderful things they’ve found while decluttering.

    My absolute favorite is the basket of lens-shaped cutouts from the manufacture of eyeglasses that one person’s mother lovingly stored and cleaned for years!

    Richard: I have fond memories of playing with mercury as a kid (and I lived to tell the tale). They don’t call it quicksilver for nothing!

  11. posted by spark on

    Ditto what Richard said! I’d LOVE to find a film canister full of mercury. That stuff is fantastic. We used to play with it in the Chem lab in high school. I had an outstanding Chemistry teacher who was just quirky enough to let us (some of us) do some slightly dangerous things every day in the name of chemistry (or science in general). I miss her.

    Mercury isn’t as dangerous as some would have you to believe. We played around with the stuff A LOT with bare hands, and I don’t, and never did, have even the slightest amount of poisoning.

  12. posted by infmom on

    My father-in-law never let go of anything he thought might come in handy someday. After he died, and my mother-in-law moved to the retirement complex, it fell to my husband’s siblings (who live nearby; we don’t) to clean up their house for sale.

    Thus they had the thrill of dealing with the fact that their dad never threw away a margarine tub in his life, and saved every styrofoam cooler in which the VA shipped his insulin, and filled up an entire drawer with rubber bands he saved from the daily paper. And on and on and on. Made me glad that pile of Stuff was in New York and we were in California!

    The weirdest bit of Stuff I’ve yet come across belonged to my mom. I don’t have a photo to share, because I’m not sure exactly where it is at the moment (note to self, way overdue for a cleaning in the storage room). When she moved from California to Georgia she left a lot of Stuff with us that she couldn’t afford to move. The most bizarre item was one fully feathered bird’s wing. I have no idea where she got it, or why she had it, but I kept expecting her to ask for it back someday so I didn’t follow my first instincts and throw it out.

    Now that she’s gone, I guess I’m free to do what I think best with all the remaining Stuff. I wonder how much of it my brothers will want, for sentimental reasons.

  13. posted by Shana on

    I know I have a dead bat in my freezer.

    It got into my apartment and my cat swatted it out of the sky! At the time it went into the freezer (in a container) so we could bury it later, but it’s been lost and found several times while defrosting, andnow it’s just too much of a joke to throw out – it’s clutter, but only about 4 square inches worth!

  14. posted by Michele on

    I am looking forward to the new feature!

  15. posted by QuiteLight on

    Pleeeease do it! I am hypnotized by the things people have hiding in their houses.

    In my library closet I found a huge bag of used, washed socks, presumably for rags (we have more than enough), mixed in with several pairs of semi-destroyed shoes. 4 pairs of jeans from the past decade with the inside seams worn out . No longer my size, not wearable in public, not suitable for donating. I couldn’t figure out why I’d kept them all this time until I went to throw them in the garbage, and clear as a bell I heard my Mom’s voice saying “You can MAKE something out of those!”. Wow, that’s not going to happen. Into the bin!

    A basic link to one of the FlyLady’s pages for more examples:

    There are more, but it’s not the most organized site, so search it for “flung”.

  16. posted by Some Dude on

    Milli Vanilli and Glitter? Brilliant.

  17. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Some Dude — Matt and I are thrilled that you noticed the graphic. We were worried no one noticed Matt’s dedication to only finding the BEST items for his graphic.

  18. posted by Tiffany on

    Dude, Milli Vanilli were the ultimate unclutterers! They even outsourced their singing voices!

  19. posted by Deb on

    “I’d love to find a bottle of liquid mercury. I played with it when I was a kid, but I only had a teaspoon or so of it. ”

    Yikes! This stuff is super hazardous. They don’t let schools have it anymore. I read where some kids found mercury in a junkyard medical machine and took small samples home. The tiny balls fell into floorboards and carpet, got into the laundry, etc. The hazmat people had to decontaminate five homes,the kids had to go through go through chelation therapy.

    That said, my stash of strange includes a jar with a pickled flying fish.

  20. posted by Missi on

    My weirdest kept clutter was a laminated drawing of a bunny that my elementary school teacher drew with my name on it. It was pasted to my school locker all year long and I still had it 20 years later- why?

  21. posted by Sara at On Simplicity on

    I take serious offense at the accompanying image. Milli Vanilli’s contribution to music is an essential part of American and –dare I say it?– global culture. To call it clutter is to disown what is best about artistic craftsmanship.

    Oh hell, I just still like Baby, Don’t Forget My Number…

  22. posted by Kimberly on

    I still have a hatbox full of notes that my best friend passed to me between classes in 9th and 10th grade, which would have been 1982 and 1983. I keep TRYING to throw them out, but I never do. I think it’s because those notes kept me going through some seriously rough times, and it’s hard to throw away evidence that someone once loved you enough to pen page-long missives to you three times a day.

  23. posted by Deb on

    @ Kimberly,

    Now this is where the younger generation has us beat. They don’t waste paper and create all that clutter with notes. All they have to do now is reach inside their backpacks and send a text to their friend across the room.

  24. posted by Karen on

    My sister and her husband bought the house of a lady who had passed away. The family promised to clean it out, they didn’t. On moving day, I got there after work around 6PM and despite working all day with about a half a dozen people helping, they had yet to move any of their stuff in, they were still dragging her junk out. Canned goods that were dated more than ten years old, her old douche bag, a large framed photo of her high school graduating class, broken furniture, old lace, you name it.

  25. posted by Christins on


    In high school I always took the box from my back-to-school shoes and put it in a corner of my room to hold all of the notes we passed all year. We had 4 classes and spent everyone of them writing notes and reading the notes that everyone else had written to us during the last class. All year. I got at least 4 or 5 notes 2 or 3 times a day. It was so bad that my back pockets were always wearing out from holding them all. 🙂 And they are all labeled by grade and in my moms attic. I tossed all of my journals from this time, so I am keeping these notes forever.

  26. posted by Dana on

    I have a small manilla envelope that contains all 4 of my wisdom teeth that were pulled sometime in the ’90s. One of them has a small cavity in it. I have no idea why I still have them. :-s


  27. posted by Battra92 on

    Souvenir Alligator Ashtrays. Something like this

    They are ugly, gaudy, wastes of space, zerotaskers (no one smokes here) and yet I find something charming about their ugliness.

    I only have 3 or 4 though and they are on a shelf collecting dust. They used to hold keys but I think I’ll hang on to them.

  28. posted by Kellye on

    Things I have found in my clutter at various points in my life:

    – an owl pellet in a Ziploc bag (pretty much an owl hairball; contains all of the inedible part of the owl’s last mousy meal, including a full skeleton and fur; taken to school once for show and tell)

    – a piece of petrified wood covered in crystals (bought off a rockhound)

    – a phone shaped like the replica of a cat (why did I ever think this was cool?)

    – a bullwhip (from my younger Indiana Jones days)

    – a set of maracas (from Panama…I think these got reboxed…)

  29. posted by Sparky on

    For the school notes, I think handwritten notes are very important to keep. Handwriting changes from the youth to when you’re older, and I’ve always been experimenting with mine. I can also tell my mood from it most of the time. Also, the doodles, the paper it’s written on, the context the note was written in – all of that disappears from a text message. I will always keep those notes; I’d rather throw out replaceable stuff than this. I really should laminate or protect them in a way. Most are double-sided and written on small pieces of newspaper. Any ideas on how to protect them and still be able to view them once in a while?

  30. posted by peaches on

    My sisters received this little secret diary key chain when they were about 8. They are 22 now. This items was lost in a drawer and the alarm would go off at 4:30 every afternoon. One of my sisters remembers setting it to remind her to watch her favorite cartoon. We moves about 6-7 years ago and it cames with us too. The batteries died a few times, but for some strange reason, we always replace them just so the alarm goes off.

  31. posted by Miss Lisa on

    At my grandma’s house (who never threw out anything), we found a small bag of dirt in one of her dressers. She was so embarassed by this discovery that she grabbed it out of my hand and attempted to throw it out the window, which was closed, and promptly cracked. Bags of dirt, even small ones, are heavy. I also found a brown bottle in her linen closet labeled “Snake Oil.”

    When I last moved I found a cassette of a film-school project I had done a number of years ago with my friends and the voice of one of my friends was on it. Since he had died a few years after we graduated, I was amazed that I had his voice in my stuff. I saved that.

  32. posted by Saxtor on

    When a friend was attending Columbia Univ. a group he was affiliated with hosted a dinner with Conan O’Brien. After the event was over, my friend was tasked with cleaning up the table. While doing so, he saved Conan’s soda can, complete with “friends” (slang?) in the rim to give to me. It is most assuredly one-of-a-kind, and impossible to part with, despite my Conan obsession having since tapered quite dramatically.

    When human cloning comes to the consumer level, I will be the first on my block to have my own Conan O’Brien clone…which would be a whole new level of odd clutter.

  33. posted by Sandra on

    Today I had movers come get my furniture for a cross-country move. My heavy, high queen bed has sat against a wall for several years, and I knew that a lot of stuff had fallen onto the floor that stayed there because the bed was too high for me to reach the floor, and too heavy and closed in by other furniture to move.

    When they lifted up the box spring, it was worse than I expected! Along two walls there was a small mountain of stuff, most of it newspapers, magazines, and food packaging, but also 12 books (including 2 that the library has already billed me for!) and 2 CD’s still in the bag from the store. Very embarrassing. I’ve sworn that in my new apartment, even though it’s a studio, the bed won’t be against the wall.

  34. posted by gypsypacker on

    I’ve noticed that people of a certain age get obsessive about keeping any plastic butter and CoolWhip tubs and use entire Social Security checks to purchase unitaskers.
    That said, I’ll share my dirty little secret. I keep a vintage douche bag box–only the box, not the bag– because my father invented the (female) brand name to spoof a lady writer who had given him trouble.

  35. posted by Michelle on

    I have kept notes from school friends as well like the person above.

    I have a book with one friends, another book with anothers and a box full of notes from the other friend.

    I also have a suitcase full of old journals from high school, late primary school.

    I also have a memory box which has trinkets and things I like to remember.

    And lastly a box full of cards, xmas, bday, etc and they go all the way back to my 1st bday i think. (I am 20) and it is nice coz one has my mums writing in it and I cannot chuck that coz I havent seen her since I was five or so.

  36. posted by Lynda on

    I don’t think I have any strange clutter that I don’t know about.

    However, there was the time I stayed in a guest house in Hay on Wye; the owner’s aunt had recently passed over. When clearing less public areas of the house, they found many items sorted in boxes which were labelled in copperplate handwriting. Including: “Decent Sized Pieces of String” and “Pieces of String too Bl***y Short to be Any Use at All”.

  37. posted by begoodbabe on

    Sparky, how about putting your small paper treasures in a photo album with plastic pockets, or in page protectors in a three ring binder? They will stay safe, flat and can be organized by date, author or topic, and can be read and enjoyed without having to take them out!

  38. posted by Sarah on

    Ahhh … the saved high school memorobilia.

    LOTS of notes from friends were saved needlessly.

    For some stupid reason, I saved hair twice. It’s a pretty disgusting find.

    I saved a hair wrap (it was all the rage at the beach that summer) that I clipped from my long hair. (A hair wrap was a thin braid wrapped tightly with several colors of floss and secured with beads).

    I also saved the clippings from a hair cut. I went from having too-long hair to long hair. Not sure why I thought I’d need the memento.


  39. posted by JuneBug on

    My Grandpa was a licensed powderman. After he died, we found reinforced steel chests in his basement with blasting caps and other paraphernalia. They were so old that the local police decided to call in the National Guard bomb squad to take of it. We know that somewhere on his 40 acres of very rural wooded property he had buried dynamite and more stuff. We haven’t been able to locate it and are not really looking that hard. Anything in it would be well over 15 years old by now, and the only things out there are moose and bear with the occasional lynx.

  40. posted by Patch on

    What a fun topic! I still have my wisdom teeth too, not in my mouth but safely tucked in a small treasure box for irreplaceables.

    I’ve been in declutter mode for the past Too Many Years to count so my house is down to mostly what I use and enjoy (except for one big closet), although I’m really interested in that “extreme minimalism” concept.

    I think the weirdest thing I had was a large (clean) Hefty-type garbage bag full of shoulder pads that I had removed from every garment I owned. I actually sold it on Ebay to a fiber artist who used them to make fabric murals; I asked her to send me a photo of her finished work, but she never did.

Comments are closed.