← Back to All Columns

Columns

Buried Treasure

Several of my recent organizing projects have highlighted a particular benefit of decluttering: finding cash or its equivalent. Sometimes the valuable items or amounts of money found during the organizing process are quite significant. Such occasions make for some entertaining stories.

I recently worked with the grand-daughter of a woman who was a bit of a hoarder. The old woman had never thrown away a piece of mail for fear of identity theft, so she had bin after bin stuffed with mail stacked around the perimeter of every room and in the closets and under the bed. It would have been easy enough to recycle all of this old mail; however, the woman had a habit of hiding deposit envelopes full of cash in stacks of papers.

The grand-daughter and I carefully sifted through every bin. It was well worth the eight hours it took the two of us to paw through all the papers; by the time we were finished we had found over ten thousand dollars.

A week later I worked with a woman who, as we cleaned out a closet, found five thousand dollars she had rolled up in a sock for safe keeping. She had put it there years ago and completely forgot about it.

Another client hired me to help her declutter so that she could find a diamond ring she had misplaced. We completely organized her home and although we found a check for over six thousand dollars in some unopened mail, which was very exciting, we did not find the ring. However, due to the clarity the client achieved while decluttering, she remembered that she had put the ring in her safe deposit box.

Cash, checks and diamond rings aren’t the only items of value uncovered while organizing. Most of my clients have unused gift cards. Gift cards can be used like cash and do not expire, but companies count on many people losing them, forgetting about them or simply never using them. One client in particular had so many gift cards (Starbucks, book stores, grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, Target and other stores) that she and her family could easily live on gift cards for at least a month, probably longer.

Tips:

–Make a plan to declutter and find the hidden value in your home. Going through your closet might mean rediscovering clothing that you forgot you had and would love to start wearing. Cleaning out the garage might mean you could host a garage sale and make extra money or sell some power tools or a vehicle you never use.

–Don’t fall victim to fear. Criminals cannot steal your identity by getting your name and address off of a piece of junk mail or a magazine. You don’t need to shred that stuff.

–Don’t hide money—you are more likely to lose it than have it stolen. If you feel you need to keep large amounts of cash around, buy a little safe and have it bolted down.

–If you have safe deposit box, keep an inventory of what you have in it and let one or two trusted people know that you have one and what it contains. Don’t rely on memory when it comes to the whereabouts of valuables and important documents.

–Make a plan to use your gift cards. I suggest keeping many of them in the car so you have cards for restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores with you and can use them. Other cards can be used online, so keep them by your computer.