What could be secretly hidden in clutter?

Last week my daughter lost her AirPods. She said she was wearing a particular jacket when she last had them. On examination of the jacket, we found a small hole in one of the pockets and the AirPods had fallen through the hole and were trapped between the jacket and liner. Fortunately, that jacket had not yet passed through the washer and dryer!

This incident made me think about some precautionary measures to take while uncluttering.

Before donating or disposing, we certainly should examine the pockets of clothing but if the pockets have holes, or if we find the pockets have been repaired, we should make sure that nothing is trapped between the layers of fabric. We don’t want to be like the woman who donated her husband’s old shirt in which he had hidden $8000 cash. Luckily, she was able to retrieve the shirt and the money, but what a stressful experience!

When examining clothing, always check inside mittens and gloves. Did a ring slip off a finger and remain trapped inside? Is something trapped in the lining? Look inside the brims of hats as people have been known to stick cash and receipts up there. Due to the notorious lack of pockets in women’s clothing, some ladies have placed money, important receipts, and jewellery inside their bras. Check inside shoes too, underneath the insole and deep into the toes.

Verifying all the compartments of purses and wallets is pretty obvious but again, check between the purse and liner for any items — especially if you find holes in the lining or see that the lining was repaired. Hand stitching on mattresses or other furniture may be a clue that something could be hidden inside.

At a NAPO conference I attended, one professional organizer mentioned she found a diamond tennis bracelet like this one, (but with real diamonds and worth thousands of dollars) in an inside pocket of a suitcase to be donated. As well as pockets, always check the bottoms and lids of suitcases and briefcases for hidden compartments. If suitcases have linings with zippers, open them and check within.

For centuries jewellery boxes had many secret compartments to thwart thieves and the tradition continues today. Completely empty jewellery boxes and give them a good shake to ensure you haven’t missed a hidden niche. Once, when doing an estate clearing, I found cash hidden behind the liner of a jewellery gift box so do check inside all items that may have contained valuables.

Secret safes may be overlooked while uncluttering. There are book safes, safes that look like food containers, hairbrushes, and even surge protectors. This Pinterest board shows some amazingly creative hiding spots for valuables!

When you’re uncluttering someone else’s things, especially elderly people (who may believe their mattress is safer than a bank for storing cash), and anyone with dementia or other mental health issues, it is helpful to think about how a spy would hide their secrets. We don’t mean to suggest that anyone has nefarious motives but there are times when honest, upstanding people put items “away for safe-keeping” and then forget where that is. For example, a recycling plant employee found $100,000 cash hidden in the back of an old television. Fortunately, the money was returned to its rightful owner who had forgotten he had stashed it there many years before.

If you’ve found something interesting or valuable hidden in clutter you were about to donate or dispose, please share it with our readers so they know what to look for.

8 Comments for “What could be secretly hidden in clutter?”

  1. posted by laura ann on

    I only put cash in a home safe, nothing else makes sense like stashing it away in odd places that can be forgotten. Safes are fire proof for one hour, and the first thing to grab when evacuating from a disaster. Do not put cash or jewelry in a bank safe box. After cleaning out a deceased parent’s house, found several 20 dollar bills under a tablecloth.

  2. posted by Tina on

    The posting of secret-stash ideas on Pinterest is kind of a shame… More to thre point, this makes me think I need to communicate my hidden spots to my power of attorney. It’s so much work to clean out the home of a deceased loved one, I can’t see most people being able to examine everything with care.

  3. posted by Emily on

    I can’t wrap my brain around someone forgetting $100,000 in the back of a TV. A thousand, sure, but $100,000? 😂

  4. posted by infmom on

    When I was about 11 years old, my grandparents gave me a watch they’d bought for me in Switzerland. It was one of my prize possessions. One day when I was coming home from a friend’s house it started to rain. Since I had pretty well outgrown the jacket I was wearing and the sleeves were too short, I took off the watch and put it in my pocket to keep it from getting wet. And I never saw the watch again.

    There was a hole in the pocket. It didn’t occur to me to check to see if the watch had just slipped into the space beween the lining and the coat. I retraced my steps several times before I finally gave up.

    My grandmother berated me about losing “your little watch” for the rest of her life. She was never one to give up a grudge. She thought I’d done it on purpose.

    I’m older now than she was when she gave me that watch and it’s still painful after all these years.

  5. posted by Joan on

    Two comments. My daughter donated a pair of jeans, not realizing she’d left her driver’s license in the pocket. Fortunately, the buyer of the jeans sent it to her in the mail. Second, when my son was a child, he left his Matchbox car collection inside a chest of draws that was in the living room awaiting donation, and it was subsequently picked up, cars and all. Luckily for him, his dad was able to go to the donation center to retrieve the cars. Happy endings to these stories:)

  6. posted by Erin on

    Years ago I worked for a bank. A customer came in to empty her deceased mother’s safe deposit box and told a coworker the following story:

    While cleaning out the kitchen they noticed a lot of half empty boxes of cereal. At one point a box tipped over and the liner bag fell out–and under it they found cash. They then started taking all the cereal boxes apart and found cash in every one under the bag. This was after having thrown away a number of boxes!

  7. posted by xtinerat on

    When my great aunt died, my mom and her cousin found cash in the pockets of every. single. piece. of clothing in the closet. They were small bills ($5 and $10 bills) but, in the end, they had over a thousand dollars.

  8. posted by Marilyn on

    When my grandmother died, my mother emptied her home. In her cedar chest, Mom found several thousand dollars- rolled up in socks no more than $20 at a time. This from a woman who never had 2 extra pennies! We theorized it had started at a time when her marriage was rocky – squirreling away a few dollars from grocery shopping, gifts, etc. In this way, if she ever needed to flee her abusive husband, she could do so and not be penniless. Well, husband stopped drinking, marriage improved, and stash was never needed. It was a bittersweet discovery- testament to her resoucefulness, saddening for its raison d’etre.

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