Finding Treasure in the Strangest Places

My husband and I are about to start a new adventure.  We are moving, although our destination is undecided, and it’s time to put our house on the market.  If you’ve ever moved, you know the next thing that happens.  Not choosing a realtor, not painting the woodwork. 


Michael’s plan to declutter is simple.  Dump everything in the trash.  Being something of a hoarder, mine’s a bit more advanced.  Go through the house, weigh carefully the pros and cons of packing or tossing.  Keep almost everything.

Our differences–which I call the Goldilocks System–actually make for a fairly sane strategy, because we’re forced to compromise. This pile is too large, this pile is too small, this pile is just right

Last weekend Michael decided to clean out the desk in our living room.  I told you his plan, and he was true to form.  All the papers in the top drawer were dumped into our recycling container on the theory that if we hadn’t looked at them for years, there was nothing worthwhile among them.  I told you my plan, too.  I took them out and began to sort, receipt by receipt, envelope by envelope.

Oddly enough for once, my system made sense.  Half of the older receipts had credit card numbers on them.  So with great pride I carefully piled them for shredding and tried to keep the “I told you sos” to a minimum.

Then I found treasure.  Among unopened envelopes containing pleas for money and credit card applications, were two checks.  Checks!  Written at the end of the twentieth century.  Checks mixed in with mail we had apparently tossed in the drawer as our movers were packing to move us from Ohio to Virginia.  Checks totalling about $200.

Enter my plan once again.  The checks had expired, but I didn’t assume they had been reissued and cashed.  Never look a treasure trove in the mouth.  So I did some research.  As it turns out one check had been referred to a website aptly called  All I had to do was do a bit of paperwork and the money will eventually be mine.  The second was as simple as an email. 

As a writer I hoard ideas.  Characters I’ve considered and tossed in one novel show up in another.  Plot fragments I’ve ignored too long work their way into new books.  Themes I forgot to use are reissued in a slightly updated form and valued more for what they can now accomplish.  Either I’m a novelist because I hate to let go of any idea before its fully used, or I’m a hoarder because I’ve seen how worthwhile, how useful, the simplest most inconsequential things can be. 

And in the long run, as long as the house gets cleaned and the books get written, does it matter?


  1. Karen Pollard on February 21, 2012 at 10:44 am

    I love treasure finds like those! We saw a program on TV about unclaimed money through the state. I thought,”Well, why not. I’ll check it out.”
    Well, guess what, I found $1500 in my name unclaimed and another $400 for my husband in his old home state. So exciting!
    Two other treasures I’ve always enjoyed finding is paper money from someone’s clothing in the laundry! I used to tell my children that any money they found while folding clothes, was there’s to keep.
    And, love it when you get out last year’s coat and find bills in the pocket you forgot you put there.
    Have fun with your treasure, Emilie!!

    • Emilie Richards on February 21, 2012 at 11:06 am

      Wow, Karen! What a windfall. I hope you did something special with it. Oddly enough we had just donated almost exactly the amount we “found” to a favorite group that helps Mayan students in Guatemala go to high school. Sometimes things come together, don’t they?

  2. Pat Sloan on February 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    I can’t wait to hear about your adventure! My brother and his girlfriend just bought a house in clearwater… so I see some FL visiting in my future!

    • Emilie Richards on February 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      You will always have a standing invitation. Wherever we land.

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