10 Stories About the Things You've Found While Moving - Atlas Obscura

10 Stories About the Things You’ve Found While Moving

Moving is a pain, but it can lead to interesting surprises.

Moving can lead to incredible discoveries.
Moving can lead to incredible discoveries. Alexander Csontala/Public Domain

Let’s face it. Moving is stressful. But you find things you forgot you have as you pack your life into boxes or clean out a desk, and there can be a surprising sense of discovery upon arriving at your new home. Whether it’s an unexpected feature of your new abode, or strange remnants left behind by the previous occupants, or something of your own you never knew you had, these surprises can sometimes offset the unpleasant realities of moving itself. Over on our Community forums, we recently asked our readers to tell us about the greatest things they’ve discovered after moving, and the stories were, well, kind of moving!

Check out some our favorite responses below, and if you have a great discovery of your own that you’d like to share, head over to the forums and keep the conversation going!


Unexpected Shrine

“I lived in Austin, Texas for a little while. The house right next to mine wasn’t lived in, but while walking through the neighborhood, I realized that the property had some sort of shrine on it. It ended up being this crucifix in a mosaic grotto. It was so unexpected and so beautiful. I’m not religious, but I loved having it right next door.” allisonkc


Hidden Patio

“When I moved into my first home, its yard had been neglected for a number of years and the English ivy had taken over. The first project I decided to tackle was uncovering the brick walk in the backyard that led to the bird bath, and as I was peeling back the ivy, the ‘walk’ got bigger and bigger until I uncovered a whole brick patio. Been my favorite place to hang out since. Still needs a little work but it was definitely a pleasant find.” meganleighscott


Portrait Behind the Walls

“In 1990 I bought a crumbling old building in Helena, Montana, to use as my art studio. It had been built 100 years previously by a Catholic order, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, as a ‘Home for Wayward Women.’ After the nuns sold it in 1905 to move to bigger digs, the building served as a furniture warehouse and neighborhood eyesore until I bought it. During renovations, I was dismantling a wall when I ran my crowbar through a cardboard patch and realized there was something intriguing hidden behind it. What I then carefully extracted from the mess was this gorgeous portrait of what I’m sure was one of the early residents of the home. Were it not for the rip of my crowbar, the photo would be pristine. What’s so remarkable is her shining smile, a real rarity for the time! ‘Wayward’? Perhaps. But not unhappy! Ever since, ‘Our Foundress’ has presided over my gorgeous historic gallery at Tim Holmes Studio 14.” TimHolmes

What's in your chimney?
What’s in your chimney? TranceMist/CC BY 2.0

Confederate Cash

“In the early 1980s, my sister and her hubby bought their first house in Raleigh, North Carolina. The house was more than 100 years old. Being good new homeowners, and as instructed by all the first-time buyer’s classes, they required the seller to prove the fireplace worked or provide a credit to make it working. Usually this is great advice to any home-buyer—make the seller fix it first. Sigh. At closing, the seller demonstrated a great (pun intended) working fireplace, and the seller said, ‘Thank you. You were right, the fireplace wouldn’t work because the flue was clogged. Clogged with a huge amount of Confederate money.” The seller was smiling the smile of someone who had just found and converted a treasure trove to substantial cash.” Oss


Heirloom From an Ancestor

“Helping my parents move from my childhood home (this was over 15 years ago and it is still a fresh memory, childhood home, you get it), we discovered an old steamer trunk in the attic that no one remembered owning. We opened it up and inside there was a large plastic bag with a note taped to it that read, ‘For Alice Io and Molly Callisto, from your Great Aunt’—my and my sister’s names. We opened the bag and inside were two huge, beautiful, hand-made quilts! One was a tumbling block pattern and the other, a log cabin design, which is the one I chose. My parents had no recollection of receiving the quilts, or even an idea of which great aunt might have written that note. I thought how cool it was to own a bit of family history and craftsmanship even if details were missing. Last March, I took the quilt to an event for National Quilting Day hosted by the Southern Highland Craft Guild, where member Connie Brown was providing appraisals and tips on repair and preservation for family heirloom quilts. I placed the quilt on her table and told her I thought my great aunt had made it. She responded, ‘Not unless you are over 100 years old.’ Turns out my quilt was made in 1870-1880! My great aunt was passing along a true family heirloom. I wish I knew more about who made it and where, but at least now I know what a true treasure I have and how to make the repairs necessary to ensure it is around to hand off to my niece.” Aliceio

Watch out when you open up that old bathroom wall.
Watch out when you open up that old bathroom wall. Jessica Merz/CC BY 2.0

Razor Refuse

“I haven’t come across this myself, but I have heard a lot of stories about people tearing down their houses to find the bathroom walls full of razor blades. Apparently it used to be common to have a slit for razor blade disposal inside medicine cabinets back in the day, and the blades would just start to accumulate inside the wall!” maren


Decorating Advice

“The kitchen in our first home had a drop ceiling with a large fluorescent light fixture. On closing day, I left the lawyer’s office and went straight to the house, took down the light, and tore out the drop ceiling to reveal the wooden beams that ran throughout the rest of the house. ‘What this kitchen needs,’ I thought to myself, ‘are a couple of retro pendant lights. I’ll go to the big box home improvement store, and see if I can find a couple later.’ After cleaning up my demo mess, I went out to the storage room off the carport to leave my tools, and there, on the workbench in the back, were two pendant lights matching exactly what was in my head. All they needed was a good cleaning and a fresh coat of spray enamel to brighten them up.” bobsawyer


Weird Windows

“My husband and I bought our first home in 2009, in Round Rock, Texas. About two months after we moved in, I went out to get the mail, and as I headed back to the front door, I noticed that two of the front windows of the house had white curtains. I thought, that’s weird, I didn’t think we had any white curtains in the house. Well, after some investigation, I realized the two windows, complete with glass, screens, and curtains, were backed by drywall! One is in front of a bedroom closet, and the other is in front of a bathroom! They can’t be accessed from the inside of the house. I just wish I knew what on Earth happened there! So weird.” leahkorn

Newspapers have a way of piling up.
Newspapers have a way of piling up. Howard Lake/CC BY-SA 2.0

Birthday Surprise

“When I was looking for a new home, I found a house built in 1935, where the original owners had tried to insulate the foundation sill by using folded newspapers. One of my first jobs after moving in was to remove all those newspapers, and the first one I pulled out … was from my birthday!” bjprays


Peace Offering

“When I was in sixth grade at a Catholic school for girls, I got into a serious fight with another kid in my class. Each student in my class had a little shelf to store their books and writing materials when they weren’t needed. My shelf was—a habit that unfortunately hasn’t changed until today—terribly untidy, it was full of unnecessary stuff and crumpled paper, and nothing was properly stacked, I usually just threw stuff on top of the messy pile and hoped it wouldn’t collapse. The head girl of my class, in my objective opinion back then, a neurotic, named Cosima, took offense at this sight. She kept nagging that I should tidy it up and keep the sloppy mass of school materials in order. I refused. The conflict got more and more tense, until she finally threatened to auction off my stuff. Cosima only got halfway through shouting ‘Who wants a horse-shaped eraser?’ toward a group of our classmates when she was interrupted by the splashing sound of ten-year-old me hitting her in the face as hard as I could.

Since we were attending, as I mentioned, a Catholic school for girls, this was (while extremely satisfying for me) quite the scandal. The teacher called my parents, there were several serious conversations about nonviolent communication, and as I normally was a happy and friendly kid that didn’t solve conflicts with physical force, I soon felt sorry for hurting Cosima (even though it did have the pleasant effect that this persnickety nitwit never bothered me again). I was too proud to apologize, but during lunchtime I did my best to make a nice stack of the wrinkly math and latin exercise sheets on my shelf, and put a piece of paper on Cosima’s desk. I had painted the word ‘Peace?’ on it, in big and colorful letters. A little later, everyone got cardboard boxes for their things, so any mess became invisible. Cosima and I never spoke again and pretty much avoided each other for the rest of the year, so I never knew if she had found the paper and how she reacted. The following summer my family moved to a different town, and I had to change to a new school. I didn’t want to leave my friends and teachers and classmates behind, so I waited on emptying my shelf until the very last moment. When I couldn’t possibly push it any further away and had to take my things from the cardboard box, on it’s very bottom I found the peace offering I had put on Cosima’s desk months ago. She had scribbled a single word into the corner: ‘Yes.’”Lemony