Take Apart Your Stuff Before You Give It Away

I almost lost my high school diary this weekend. Thankfully my old filing cabinet was so heavy, the person taking it away had to pull all the drawers out before she could carry it downstairs. That’s how she noticed the diary, some childhood photos, and assorted papers, all of which had slid behind the drawers.

I should have expected this. I should have known to pull the drawers fully out of the cabinet before handing it over. But I only opened them and emptied them, ignoring what might have fallen behind.

What fell behind were photos of my preschool graduation ceremony, some receipts, and the miniature Five Star notebook in which I wrote screeds against the evils of amusement parks. (I was a weird teenager.) This journal is so excellently terrible that I’ve killed at live events just by reading it aloud. But I hadn’t thought about it in years. I never even would have known it was gone, if this nice Craigslist buyer hadn’t pointed it out.

And you can’t always count on the buyer to point these things out, especially if there are hidden valuables. One Lifehacker staffer lost her grandmother’s rings this way in an estate sale. And if there is no buyer – if you’re throwing something away – check every crevice. Rip that thing apart. Don’t be like the man who accidentally sent $185 million in Bitcoin to the city dump.

Whenever you buy or inherit furniture, or anything of that size, do a thorough check. You might discover something cool, or something you need to return to the original owner. You can be someone else’s hero, or the next guest on Antiques Roadshow.

So before it leaves your home, any piece of furniture, or anything with enough crevices to hide a photo or an earring, should be taken apart. Pull out the drawers. Dig behind the couch cushions. Hell, dig inside them. You don’t have to destroy the thing, but give it a damn good look before you hand it off.

I thought this was obvious – until I didn’t.


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