When someone in our life suddenly leaves this world, we’re often tasked with going through their belongings. While the vast majority of us find ourselves reminiscing about heartwarming memories, others find surprising secrets they wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
My husband passed last July. I was going through his accordion file where he put all of his important papers, trying to find his car title. I found an envelope that I had written my name and number on the first day we met. He kept it in his accordion file under “very important documents” this whole time. It made me cry.
I lost my wife to an inebriated driver a little while go. It wasn’t so much what I found in her belongings, but rather on the day after the funeral. I managed to get access to her phone and found out that she had been sleeping with someone else all through our marriage. I completely got over her in record time.
I, unfortunately, lost my dad last year. I was actually very surprised at how many sentimental things he kept. He wasn't a total statue, but I never thought of him as sentimental. He still had a letter his mother had written to him when he joined the Navy and some trinkets that I gave him when I was still a child.
When my granddad passed away, we found the letters between him and my grandma from when they were young. She was only 14 years old when she got pregnant (my grandpa was 16 years old I think). She was sent away to give birth to the baby while her family tried to insist they send the kid (my dad) away for adoption.
In those letters, they talked about how much they loved each other and how they were fighting to keep the baby. My grandpa was working extra hours to save money and spent any free time he had making furniture for their future home. He wrote about how the boys at work all made fun of him for being so under my grandma’s thumb, but he didn’t care because he loved her and their unborn baby. I think it really helped my dad feel more like he was wanted, as he always grew up feeling like he ruined their lives.
When my grandfather passed away, we found three separate briefcases in his loft. Briefcase one had around 20k in it. Briefcase two had around 50k in it, and the third had his documentation and photo ID for different names, but my grandfather’s face. My dad and uncle finished the clear-out process by themselves and have never told me if they found anything else or what they did with the briefcases.
I found a really spooky diary at my great aunt’s house. It had entries like “I ended the neighbor’s life just now,” and “Your mother was the victim today.” Needless to say, my wee aunt is unlikely to have attacked anyone (or to have been so nonchalant about it), so it must be code for something. But code for what?
My grandfather wasn’t really in our lives as he was cruel towards our grandmother. When they divorced, he moved across the country and became a truck driver. Growing up, my mother never really saw him and the one time she did, he was sober but admitted his dry humor made it hard to talk to him. However, when my sister and I were born, she put an effort to send him pictures and Christmas cards.
Throughout his life he never talked to her or reached out and I assumed he never cared. However, in October of 2018, he ended up passing away and my mother came up to help his grieving brother sort through my grandfather's things. She ended up finding every wall covered in our baby photos and cards we sent him throughout the years along with the few our aunts and uncles sent him. My mother became so heartbroken because throughout her entire life she assumed he hated his past or just disliked us. But he probably just didn't know exactly how to interact with us.
My oldest uncle took his life years ago. He was depressed, paranoid and mentally ill. When my mom (his sister) went to his home, she found multiple dictionaries in different languages. He was working as a park guardian in Paris, so he learned a lot of languages to help people. He even had a complete collection of all Alexandre Dumas' books. He may have been terribly alone all his life, driving him totally crazy. But, I assume he also traveled all around the world, and in time, in his mind. May he find peace.
The closet in my mother’s old room was completely full of plastic grocery bags that grandma had been saving. My mom made a braided rug with them as a gag gift and it’s still around. The bigger surprise was how much of their wealth had donated to charities. They lived such a simple life that you’d never know they had that amount of money to begin with.
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I was asked to help clean out my friend’s grandmother's house after her passing since the family was planning the funeral and none wanted to go to her apartment without her. I expected little glass teacups and doilies. You know, old lady stuff. No, she had a tactical army knife on her coffee table, survival gear in the closet, books on war and maritime adventures on her bookshelf, sports gear, classic Wonder Woman comics, and a bunch of cool, unexpected stuff. It made me wish I'd met her before she went. She must have been so fun.
My mom's cousin. She would never invite us in, so we never ate there. We didn’t even have a drink of water. She lived alone for most of her life; never married, never had kids and with no real friends. She helped my grandmother take care of my mom when she was sick so my mom returned the favor by helping her through the years.
After she passed away, we cleaned the house. She had so much stuff. What was interesting is that she has at least six complete really expensive dish set. They had never been used and were covered in dust with lots of cutlery. (It was a pain in the butt to pack.) I still wonder why she bought so many dishes when she wouldn't want anyone in her house.
After my grandma suddenly passed away when I was 12, my family and I had been organizing her things. There, we found a somewhat heavy bag. When we opened it I was very moved to see she had kept many of the toys I had played with as a child. I was very touched by this, but decided to give some life back to those toys and handed them to my little cousins.
My father-in-law had hundreds of inappropriate photos of children, many of his kids and grand-kids, going back decades. They were Puerto Rican and there'd been hushed mention of him being a “black witch.” Along with the pictures, there were weird occult items and spells. He was doing what he did to gain “powers.” I ran from that family as fast as I could. I didn't even ask for support in the divorce as I wanted no continued connection or influence.
Last year, the guy I've always thought of as "my fat neighbor" passed away. To help clear out some of his things after everything happened, his wife had a garage sale. I poked around and was shocked to find out that all of his shirts fit me perfectly. I started a diet that same day and I'm back down to a normal BMI.
I lost my friend at 13. I grew up with her, even lived with her as a kid when my mom and brothers were homeless. Her room is still the same, so a year or so later, me and her younger sister were looking through her artwork and found Christmas cards. She passed away just before Christmas and you don't think of things like that.
When my grandma passed away in the late 2000s, we were cleaning out her house and found a large glass jar full of quarters. Each coin had a white label on it with her handwriting. One of the coins was a 1972 quarter. “Aug. 5, 1972 - arrived to the US” was written on the label. She had saved a quarter with the year of every single milestone since they came to the US. The date they bought their home, when they bought their first car, when she got her first dog, etc. My aunt has the collection now.
When my grandfather passed, I was helping clean out his room. All his children had already gone through and claimed what they wanted to remember him by. On his desk were trinkets, like a foreign coin, an old picture of my grandmother, etc. No one wanted these, but they must have meant something to him. Now they don't mean anything to anyone. It was sad. I took them, put them in a small container and put that in my "old stuff" box I have in the basement. It’s just stuff I can't bring myself to throw away.
My uncle lived with our grandparents and had a collection of DVDs. So when he passed, grandma told the kids to take his movies as she didn't know how to use the DVD player. My seven-year-old cousin found our uncle's adult film stash. My grandma couldn't really read, so she couldn't tell the difference. Thank god my cousin didn't tell her. The older cousins took care of it.
For some reason, my great gunt had the pocket-sized New Testament bible that my grandfather took to WWII with him. When I opened it up, his dog tags fell out. His next of kin listed was a woman who wasn't my grandmother. I found out that day that he was actually married once before and I was actually really shocked.
My mom took her life in July some years back. In the week leading up to her funeral, I found her notebook. She'd decided as far back as the previous October that she was going to end her life. She practiced writing out the notes she was going to leave for various family members. They started out shaky and emotional. Over the months, the cursive tightened up and there were fewer tear stains on the pages. In the end, at least from the note she left me, that writing was rock solid.
My friend's mom passed away about seven years ago. As my friend is an only child, I thought it would be nice to help her clear out her mom’s place. The mom was a bit of a hoarder and was in her early 80s when she passed. Fortunately, my friend was out of the room when I found a jar with a 40-year-old spermicide in it while going through an old trunk.
I knew it was that old as the woman was divorced in her 40s and never got over the failed marriage. Plus, you don't really need birth control of that nature in your 50s, etc. It was in a glass container and had separated into layers. I quickly tossed it into the garbage bag before my friend came back in and never told her.
30 years ago, my father used to work at a place that made metal figurines, medallions, etc. When I went through my dad's stuff last year, I found that he took about 10 ounces of silver from his old employer. The weird thing is that one ounce was hidden in a ski boot, a few were in a safe deposit box, a few more hidden in luggage. I sold it to a "cash for gold" guy and told him the story. He said that silver prices shot up in the last decade. Back when my dad took it, he risked his job and charges for less than $50.
We found what would have been risky photos at the time of a relative during WWII. A lot of the same copies had little messages and lipstick kisses on the back. We also found a tin box of letters that were… more than risky! She was beautiful in her day. The pictures were for soldiers. The letters were mostly from soldiers. She must have enjoyed them because she kept them. Good for her, though. She lived her best life.
I found a lockbox under my mother's bed. The papers stuck on the very bottom verified that she gave up her first child for adoption when she was 16. It was a closed adoption and I can't locate the man, but I have a 39-year-old brother. All I've been able to find out is that he was conceived by an attack, by the man my aunt married. My long-lost half-brother is also the half-brother of my cousins. And my aunt is garbage for marrying that man.
My grandmother passed away and I found a card addressed to me and my fiance. It was for our wedding (that was a year away). But the thing was my grandma never accepted that I was gay and probably wasn't going to the wedding, last I had heard from her. I guess she had changed her mind. It was definitely a good find.
My maternal grandmother and her mom and little brother fled nazi Germany when my grandmother was about five and came to Canada. My grandpa passed away a couple of years before she did and we found an old box full of paperwork from Germany. We found things like travel papers that have the nazi insignia stamped on them.
I had a moment of panic, but that’s just the way the government was then. Everything had that stamp on it. Turns out that they (despite being Aryan) hated what the party was doing and my great-grandpa had joined the resistance. His doing so put great-grandma and the family at great risk, so he mailed them a letter. It basically said “you need to get out. You’re being watched, but you can’t let them know you’re about to leave. Act as if you are going to do some shopping but head here.”
He set up an escape plan for them that eventually took them to the European coast where they got on a ship to Canada. They did it all without any personal items (they took nothing as they just had to make it seem as if they were popping out for groceries). They had no idea if my great-grandpa was okay and didn’t hear from him for over a year. He later sent a letter he was okay, had been fighting nazis but was now coming to join them in Canada. I have no clue how he knew where to find them, as they landed in Newfoundland and made their way to Saskatchewan, but they made it.
After my grandparents passed away, the entire family went to the house to "divvy up" their things. I found an old military ID in a wallet that belonged to my uncle who passed when I was a baby. It came with a large fish hook inside of it. Turns out, the fishhook had a vivid memory attached for my dad. While fishing, my uncle was hooked in the face with it and my grandpa had him bite down on a stick when he removed it. It was the only thing my dad took from the house.
My grandma hadn't passed at this point, but she had moved into a residential home. We were going through her home, packing things for charity, making sure she special things went to who she wanted them to go to. It was her larder that held the surprises. The UK started putting use by dates on food somewhere in the 1970s. In 1992, we saw that she had food that predated the use-by date.
When my grandfather's sister passed away, we found lists of passengers’ names from the ship they boarded as children when they had to flee from the nazis. She was only about seven when it happened and kept them all these years. She had their boarding passes, letters from relatives, and death announcements from family that stayed behind.
She kept all of her family's certificates, from visas to moving papers and had a collection of documents. I think she was probably trying to piece together her family tree, figuring out who fled where to and what happened to them. We also found an old Kodak camera with film in it. I have yet to find someone to develop it because it is that old. She was amazing and I’m glad I got to know her.
I live in eastern Europe and my grandma was in a concentration camp as a child. After she passed away, we were cleaning her apartment and we have found crazy amounts of dry food hidden, tons of sugar, pasta, rice etc. Decades after the war and camp, she was still preparing for famine striking one day. It was the saddest thing to find.
My dad documented a lot of the decades. He still had a gold ID bracelet from the 70s, pictures of him and his girlfriend from photobooths, magazines from 1939, a brochure from my high school play, all sorts of things. The two things that really got me though was that he still had my grandfather's wallet from when he passed and a couple of angry letters I'd written 10 years ago. I threw those out as soon as I got home.
My grandfather had major heart problems most of his life. He had to take nitro on the regular and his case was written about in a medical journal. The doctors told him that he should quit drinking 100%, however, a "nip" here and there wouldn't hurt him. After he passed away, while we were renovating the spare bathroom for my grandmother, we found a hole in the floor underneath the bathroom vanity.
Within this hole was a wooden cylinder with a lid that my grandfather had made. In it was a bottle of whiskey and written on the inside of the lid was a reminder that my grandfather wrote. "Remember, Just a Nip, unless it's a hard day. Then take two". Grandma knew nothing of it. We all thought that grandpa had quit drinking entirely after he was told to stop.
My much older cousin passed away last week, and my mom and I just spent the entire weekend going through his apartment. He was pretty lonely and living in a care home five hours away from his closest family, which was us. I was going through all his paperwork when my mom started laughing from the living room.
It was the kind of laughter that starts loud, goes on forever, and then ends up sad. Right in front of his TV was an eight-inch-high stack of adult DVDs. Not cases, an eight-inch stack of just discs. I ended up sending her outside while I threw them out. I should have checked for more, but we ended up finding more stashed everywhere. I think it was the only thing that kept her going this weekend, the laughter.
When my grandmother passed away, my mother told me a few years later that she actually didn't want to fight against it. My grandma suffered from depression and always wanted to depart. She was tired of everything and when she knew she was sick, she just gave up. No one in my family could do anything since it was her choice. So, she passed as she wanted.
That was something that broke my heart because I always remembered her smiling and seemingly very happy with her life. Now I suffer from the same depression that she had when she was alive. Of course, I can understand the things she suffered through now, but I never expected that from a person so beautiful and happy.
After my-then husband’s grandpa passed, we were going through his personal stuff with the grandma. There were photos of him as a young man hugging another woman. Turns out, he was previously engaged to her and even after the grandpa and grandma were married, he still sent this woman letters and money (to Italy from Australia).
The grandma is a kind lady, so she never asked him to stop. But one day the lady sent a letter saying that she wasn't going to write to him anymore. The grandpa was apparently quite upset and threw out all the letters and photos the lady had sent, but the grandma retrieved them from the trash. Overall, it was a sad thing to find out.
An unfortunate detail is that the grandpa was very controlling of the grandma. Any time she tried to talk to someone, he would tell her no one cared in a dismissive way. The best thing we discovered after he passed away was how sweet and funny she was! She was full of stories. Her voice got big and her smile too!
My grandma attached strings together to connect the dots between all the legal documents we would need when she passed away to collect the money. She also had the accounts and assets that she had left for our family. It was left inside her closet for us to find and she never told anyone. There was even a string connected to a horde of gold and silver that she had collected. I was able to pay for college.
I was helping my then mostly-innocent best friend clean out his grandma's house when called me, hyperventilating. He was screaming into the phone that he just found his grandma's adult toy. I kept it together long enough to ask what color it was. Then I started laughing. A few minutes later, there was a loud thud followed by, “Oh my God! There’s another!” I laughed until I cried. I still remind him about it. It's the funniest phone call I've ever had.
When I was going through my grandpa's things, I found a bunch of service and commendation medals from his time in the US Army. The find completely blew me away. I knew that he served, but he never told me that he saw combat, much less that he got any medals. It really showed me how humble of a man he really was.
My step-grandfather passed away recently at 95 years old. His children were being complete jerks to my grandma (his wife of 25 years) and demanded his belongings back within 12 hours of him passing. My dad rushed down to help her collect his things. Going through his bedside drawer, he found a well-used pump for a man’s member. He packed a box of important papers and left the pump proudly on top so his daughters wouldn’t miss seeing it when they opened the box.
My grandmother passed shortly before my mother’s (her daughter’s) 50th birthday. My mom was obviously distraught and didn’t want to celebrate, so we spent the day cleaning out my grandmother’s house. While cleaning out the guest bedroom, we found a diary with the entry she had written 50 years earlier — to the day — on the day my mother was born. It was a surprise because no one knew my grandmother journaled. It made my mom’s first birthday without her mom a lot easier.
After my mom passed away a couple of years ago, I found a letter written to her from a lady who was a friend at the time. The lady worked with my dad and our families did stuff together. Basically, my mom caught this lady with my dad and the lady wrote the letter to apologize and say nothing happened. She eventually split from her husband around the same time my parents split. She and my dad have been married for 30 years now.
My great-grandmother had a jar of peanut butter in her fridge. My aunt opened it to see if it was enough worth keeping. It looked full from the outside. Inside was a ziplock bag with a few hundred dollars. She kept the peanut butter around the edges to hide what was inside. We found money hidden all over her house, but that was the most clever.
My parents’ marriage certificate. My mother always claimed she and dad were married. Turns out, they didn't get married until I was 13 and my brother was 17. I think they finally got married because my dad was turning 65 and social security was a factor. My whole life, I had to listen to how living together was a sin, and you should be married before "shacking up.” I was 41 when I found out the truth about my parents. Now I feel like a lot of things I had been told was a lie. It certainly changes your perspective on the ideas drilled into your head during childhood.
After my grandma passed, my mom found a small notebook with dates and descriptions of every time my uncle had done something awful to my grandma and grandad. For example, "wasn't allowed to see the grandchildren on their birthday, the presents we bought were taken from us at the door and we were shooed away." It was so sad reading that notebook and that was one of the tamer excerpts. I'm the youngest grandchild, and on the very last page, my date of birth, time etc. was recorded. It was very bittersweet.
While cleaning out my grandmother’s house, there were a few very old cases of Olympia Beer (she didn’t drink but my grandfather did and had passed away 14 years prior). She also had 30 cases of bottled water and three cartons of Marlboros in her freezer (she quit three years before passing). My mom had said she stockpiled what she could because of living through the Great Depression.
I was going through my dad’s things after he passed and found book after book of his Russian translations. I had no idea he spoke Russian or even studied it. I did remember him teaching me to say, "I donʻt speak Russian" in Russian when I was a kid. But that was the only bit of foreign language I ever heard from him. It kind of makes me wonder what he did in the military during the ‘50s.
When my best friend Julia passed, her parents let me visit her apartment to say goodbye and take a few of her things. I found she kept the movie ticket from when we went to see Deadpool and I just broke. I taped it to the back of my favorite picture of her and her cat, Kiki. I'm not sure why I was surprised she kept it, but it broke me. I think I had a mini panic attack over it because we were never going to see movies together again.
My parents never combined finances in 38 years of marriage. Going through my dad's things, I found little pieces of paper with lists written down of money my mom "owed" him. Little things, $5 here, $10 there. It just felt so petty. My mom told me he never gave her anything for free and always wrote everything down.
When my siblings and I were sorting through my parents’ closet, we found pictures of my mom without any clothes on. We laughed a bit, commented on her graceful body and kept on looking through the pictures. That is until we found a close-up picture of my dad's body. You know, I really wish I hadn't seen that.
When I was nine, my grandparents passed away. My parents took us to the house so we could pick our favorite angel statue (my grandma had a huge collection). I was poking through drawers and found the "junk drawer.” I opened up a little box and found an eyeball. Turns out, my grandpa had a glass eye for most of his life and I found his spare. I never noticed before because he wore glasses and I was so young, but it would have been nice to know.
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