Behind the Door (AKA The Treasure Hunt!)

doorBehind this innocuous little half-door is a magical, dangerous world….

Or so I would love to have believed.  

I love attics, and basements, and other unexplored areas of the home.  Big cupboards, hidden rooms, trunks and old suitcases.  So much “Scope for Imagination” as Anne of Green Gables would say.

In this particular case, however, I thought I knew what was behind yon door.  Our teeny-tiny-attic space with a narrow strip of flooring, which was jammed with mostly useless stuff.  Ugh.  It was dusty and dirty and I suspected that there might be mice.  (Nearly 60 year old house, suburban area = possibility of mice)  I hadn’t found mousies, nor traces, but….

Anyway.  I finally decided it was time to make better use of this space.  So the DH and I contracted our handyman to floor the ENTIRE space, not just the mohawk strip down the middle.  Handyman was dubious.  He wanted to SEE said space before quoting the price.  Spring 048

I told him he was going to have to guess.

“Guess?” he said, looking surprised.

“Guess,” said I.  “I’m only emptying that space once.  And that once is going to come on the days leading up to you putting down the floor.  I’m not emptying it just for you to look, then quote, then take another month to get to it.  Once.”  I declared this, hands on hips, very stern expression, I’m sure.  


So, grumbling, he crawled up in there, bumped around, nicked his head on the nails protruding through the roofing boards, cursed.  He coughed, he sneezed, he cursed some more, then quoted.  

We said yes so fast I think he got whiplash.  Three weeks and a lot of snow days, complaining and dusty, coughing fits of our own later, we have a floored attic storage space.  Doesn’t look like the same space, does it?

Attic blog 001Oh!  But the Treasures we found!  Now some things I knew were up there because I put them there.  I feared, however, that they might have gotten damaged or bent or broken beyond repair.  

Like Barbie’s Dream House.  What a delight!  I knew it was up there.  I put it up there when I moved in.  This was one of the freakin’ coolest things I ever owned as a kid.  It had a murphy bed.  It had bookcases and bunk beds.  It had mini-Ken, Mini-Barbie and some friends for a swingin’ late seventies party!  I’m telling you, man, it was happenin’!  I loved this thing.  Attic blog 2 003

My sister had The Barbies – the real ones for whom my mother knitted sweaters like this one below, and for whom she’d made fur coats, and dresses galore.  

I had the mini-me versions, for some odd reason.  Anyway, it in no way diminished my fun.  Had to have a bit of nostalgia over that one.  

Then there was the chandelier.  

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  I had NO idea what was in the disintegrating box right up against the far wall.  It’s a crystal chandelier, complete with strands of crystal drops, and….wait for it….neatly boxed lightbulbs.  Seriously.  The lighbulbs were all intact in little cardboard boxes.  Love.  It.  No where in Attic blog 2 006this house to PUT it, but love it and am keepin’ it!  Ha!  (I also discovered it’s VERY hard to take a picture of a crystal chandelier…just sayin’!)

The sled I had known about because I’d moved the dang thing a few times, and the kidney-shaped dressing table chair for the dressing table that’s under the bed. (You can see the sled’s runners and the yellow curve of the chair in the picture above)  

The dog was UBER curious about all the goings on up in the attic.  I couldn’t catch him at it, but he would stand on the landing of the stairs and put his paws up on the attic doorframe and peer in like this, trying to figure out what Spring 006the devil we were doing in there with all that dust and yuck.

We recycled so many empty boxes!  OMGosh.  Speaker boxes.  Stereo boxes.  A box for a humidifier that looked 100 years old.  Boxes for computers, rice cookers, and flattened and preserved moving boxes.

Then, we found some things that neither I nor the DH remembered seeing, any more than we remembered that there might be a crystal chandelier lurking in the attic.  We found the 1930’s Royal Typewriter.  A gorgeous thing which still works nicely, thank you.  (And with which our boys are fascinated!)  

Last but not least we found some artwork that should NEVER have been stored up here.  UGH!!  I’m hoping my local frame shoppe can help me with it, because I want to put up the two Swedish art pieces which belonged to my DH’s Swedish Grandmother.  I have the place all picked out.  :>Attic blog 2 010

With the floor in, we carefully planned what went back in the attic, neatly and crisply fitting in between the joists in row on row of labeled, inventoried plastic bins.  It’s a miracle of organization!  

It’s brightly lit (thanks to two new light fixtures!), it smells of sawdust and new plastic, thanks to construction and new bins, and it looks like Martha Stewart might have had a hand in it.  (Although if she really had, the bins would be all one size and would match in color scheme and the labels would be printed on matching or coordinating labels rather than done by a Sharpie on stickers on a multitude of odd shaped and colored bins!)

Its useful.

It’s perfect.

It’s boring.

Attic blog 2 008The magic and mystery is gone, chased by new lighting, new bins and organization.  It’s what I wanted and needed, but I confess to a pang.  

There will be no more discoveries of typewriters and tea cups and chandeliers.  (Forgot to tell you about the teacups….)  It was the best use of the space, and man, did we need the space, but….

What about you, Bandits and Buddies?

Have you ever found treasures in an attic or basement or closet or cabinet?

Have you had, as I always did, the belief that attics were magical places full of flotsam, jetsam and treasure?

What’s the weirdest or coolest thing you’ve unearthed in clearing out a disordered space?  Gotta say, that typewriter is uber cool!!

Do you have a sled?  We’re supposed to get MORE SNOW in DC on Monday.  URG!  May have to keep the sled down from the attic for now….

Spring 045

There’s the crumbling chandelier box, and you can see the camping lantern I had hung from a joist so I could see….

And I gotta say…OH! The stories I could make up about all this stuff.  There IS still magic in that part of it, for sure!


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  • Kaelee says:

    When my bachelor uncle passed away, we had to clear out his house which had belonged to my grandparents. They had built it in 1914. I don’t think too much stuff was thrown out between then and 2006. There were also a lot of sheds full of stuff. I know we probably sent a lot of stuff to the dump that we may have been able to sell as antiques but it was a case of just too much to take in or on in a short time. However most of the nieces and nephews and a lot of the great nieces and nephews got treasures and a lot of them came from the attic and outlying sheds. There wasn’t much of a basement to find treasures in but a few coal buckets did find a new home.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Hey Kaelee! Looks like you nabbed the chook in addition to that coal bucket! Don’t let him IN the coal bucket – I shudder to think of what your bathroom would look like if he got covered in coal. Snork!!

      How cool that you got to prowl through all that! But you’re right, sometimes, it is just overwhelming!! When it’s been THAT long…yikes. :>

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Delightful post, Jeanne! I love exploring old attics, especially my grandmother’s when I was a child. It was pretty neat, considering it had two separate rooms and feather beds in each, along with old fashioned dressers and windows that looked out to the railroad tracks across the street. I loved sleeping there.

    When my mother died, my sister and I had lots of fun going through her treasures, finding old things that she’d kept that belonged to us when we were younger. I found an old flapper dress, pearls and hat I’d worn once in a play.

    Good memories.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Hey Jo! My aunt’s old house was like that – with two attics and old dressers and iron beds – and we spent HOURS up there, my sister and I. So fun!

  • Jane says:

    Hello Jeanne,
    We always lived in apartments, so I never got to enjoy searching for treasures in the attic or basement. I remember watching The Goonies and seeing how the kids found a treasure map in the attic and I was so bummed we didn’t have one for me dig around in. I have raided a few closets and found some of my dad’s old records and coin collection.

    Did you find the email I sent a while back?

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Hey Jane!! I LOVE the Goonies! How totally cool. I was going to mention that in my post, how they found the map and everything, but I wasn’t sure anyone would “get it” – I should have known better!

      I lost my internet for a week or so there, so I’ll go double check for your email. I couldn’t get into my regular email or my business email! Yikes!

  • Amy Conley says:

    The I’m like you, I love attics, old chests, long ago packed boxes reopened to try to get rid of a few things…never happens though.Usually I just add more things to the box.
    One box I went through when I was about 9 or 10 and found my baby book. Now my parents divorced when I was 5 and I never had any contact with them until I became the the classic rebel teen. I wanted to put faces to all those aunts and uncles who thought enough about me when I was born to get me things. It was also seeing how I grew foods I liked. I was mad at my mother for never giving me my book years before.
    The chest at my grandmother’s was fun because it was full of things of my mother’s, aunt’ and uncles’ things.One of the many awards we found was one for a Betty Crocker Cooking Contest my mother won during high school. We lost it! We were all laughing so hard because my mother is the WORST cook ever! My grandmother said my mother only won it because it was a contest so she had to win. LOL
    The best find was in a back corner of the vestibule closet. It had my great-grandfather’s union card, a long lost cousin’s Silver Star medal from WWII, all great finds for this sometimes geneologist.
    Now my daughtet’s best find was my folder of rock stars I kept posted on my wallls until I was 18. I still have that folder too.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Oh, Amy, I’m LOL about the baking contest! So funny!

      Oh, as a genealogist myself, I’m THRILLED for you about the union card and the silver star! How massively cool!! :>

      I wish for you too that you could have found those things sooner, but hopefully finding it at all let you reconnect with those family members! More coolness!

      Snorking about the rock stars too. I think my mother threw those away at the first opportunity. Hahaha! She thought Peter Frampton was a hippie. And he was nearly shirtless!! Oh, the horrors!! Don’t know what she’d think about today’s hotties w/o shirt-ies all over the place. Grins.

  • Mozette says:

    In my townhouse, under my stairs, I have a door. It’s a storage facility. Every townhouse here as one. It’s for your ironing board, christmas tree, tables, chairs, clothes horse… anything really that you don’t use all the time, but you need sometimes.

    However, I use mine for a collection of things that people wouldn’t use normally. I have an ironing board I rarely use – if ever! – two typewriters, a two-wheeled shopping trolly, a briefcase, an oil heater, an art easel, suitcases, an empty fish tank, a two-step folding ladder, an outdoor sun umbrella for an outdoor setting i no longer have… then there’s all my market stuff there. There’s a tressel table there, a card table and a sheet of metal too… there’s a few little eskies and a vacuum there too. I have stuff hanging up like hats, extension cords, christmas lights and vacuum bags. It’s all hidden away nice and neat ready to use when I need it…

    My storage facility is done out once a year to make sure nothing lives in it, and I know what’s there. I also make good use of storage space in the office wardrobe too… all my Christmas decorations are in boxes upstairs and I have a vintage suitcase in my bedroom filled with Glo-Mesh handbags I’ve collected over the last 7 years – there’s about 20 of them to pick from to use on those occassions I really want to use that style of handbag. 😀

    People don’t know I have this stuff… and they won’t until I’m gone and my family gets to fumble through my stuff, wondering exactly what to do with it all, but I have loved collecting it all. 😀

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Mozette, that is just COOL. I envy the organization – we’re getting there, but it ain’t that good yet! – but total coolness on the Glo-Mesh handbags. I had to go look that up, as I was never that cool. Snork!! I keep such odd things that I’m sure my boys will just roll their eyes when I’m gone and they’re sorting stuff. “Why did she keep THIS?” Hahahah!!

      • Mozette says:

        And you know… it’s the odd stuff that they’ll roll their eyes at which will most probably bring in the green folding stuff… and a lot of it too! 😀

        Wouldn’t that be a hoot! 😛

  • Helen says:


    I loving going thru things like this we don’t have an attic and I don’t know anyone that does or basements just sheds and rooms when my uncle moved out if the family hone there was so much stuff toys that my father and his siblings had played with when they were kids so many old photos which I have a lot of it is really is fun

    Have fun

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Ohhh! I love the old photos! And old bears and toys too. :> How cool that you got to go through it.

      Do you not have cellars or basements much in Aus? There are areas here that don’t, but usually that’s because of the way the ground water is. In the midwest and southern parts of the US, you have basements for tornado and hurricane protection. In florida and coastal areas, no basements. Pretty odd, but true.

  • Patty L. says:

    How exciting finding new treasures. My attic is packed and will eventually need to be cleared but for now I will let the magic stay in the messy attic.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Grins. Yep. Let it lie for a bit longer…

      I have to confess that it isn’t so exciting to go up there with it all neat and tidy. Hahah! Not nearly as hazardous either. Ha!

  • Shannon says:

    I do have a storage unit since I live in a condo. Most of it I haven’t looked at or used in three or more years. I keep saying that some spring or fall (since the place has no heat and no airconditioning) that I’m going to go clean it out. I will finally throw away that box of language books. I say I’m going to get rid of other junk. But I imagine (procrastination excuse) that I’ll just look at it all and say, I just can’t throw this away. What worked a lot when I was moving was to bring a friend as a bag holder who say, pitch it, you don’t want to move that.

    As for Washington DC snow, I have been depressed with not getting out to walk because of the snow/ice in February. I just want to cry at more snow/ice. It’s so frustrating, the hotel near me has 3 days to clear its sidewalks, and they wait 2.5 days and they have a long sidewalk, so there’s long strip of ice between me and everywhere I want to walk for two days. Then I hope that the Federal Government will have a snow day even though I have stuff to get done. If I get a new DVD, I have some DVD Christmas presents…

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Shannon, I’m SO with you there! I’m in DC too and the sheer number of days we’ve had kids out of school is crazy. And even as the self-appointed Queen of Winter, and loving it like crazy, I’m ready for crocuses, tulips, jonquils and robins. :> I’m ready for CHerry Blossoms! Yay!!

      Had to give a wry laugh about the hotel. How frustrating! And like you’ve I’m jonesing for some decent weather for walks and runs and biking! :>

  • Becke says:

    I’m embarrassed to say my kitchen held several discoveries. I have high ceilings in the kitchen so the cupboards go well beyond my reach. This winter we cleaned it out. We sent a trunk load to Goodwill. And not one thing I couldn’t do without. Obvious since I couldn’t reach it without standing on the countertops!

    In my imagination it would be a Stephen King or Dean Koontz chiller if I opened it!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Hey Becke! How cool that you got it sorted and out! Sometimes it feels really fabulous to just get stuff OUT of the house, doesn’t it?

      LOL about the King/Koontz chiller in the attic…bwahahahah!!

      Also smiling because my sister is very petite, I’m not. I got the “tall genes” as she puts it. We lived together in college, and the cabinets in the little house we rented were tall, like you described. You reminded me of her frequent yells of “TALL PERSON! Come get this dish down! You put it up too high!” Grins.

  • catslady says:

    I am such a pack rat that I could fill your attic up in no time lol. I think I’d make a library though. We ran out of space ages ago and so we live among some of my clutter. All we have is a hole in my closet that you would have to take out all my clothes to get up in the craw space. My husband went up once when he put a fan up on our living room ceiling. We always talked about making an opening in the hall with one of those ladders like a lot of houses but it never happened (like a lot of other fixer uppers that never were done – sigh).

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Hey Catslady! I love that ladder idea. We toyed with that – along with the idea of adding on up above the living room and dining room where the little door is. :> It’s just not cost effective, alas.

      And I know what you mean about pack rat-tiness. Unfortunately both my DH and I are prone to keeping the stuff we shouldn’t. LOTS of paper. LOTS of it. DH is a CPA, so there’s a tendency to keep it 12 years longer than the IRS says you have to….Grins.

  • Hey Jeanne!

    I’m that way with closets. I confess no one in my family actually had an attic stuffes with stuff. Now Grandma Cindy Jane had a root cellar, but it usually held jars of canned food she and my aunts put up every summer, wooden boxes of potatoes and bags of onions hanging from the ceiling, as well as some cured hames, and often boxes of old clothes. It smelled musty, earthy and I suspect a mouse or two and tons of spiders considered it home!

    Closets on the other hand, were often full of books, or big enough we could make play houses out of them! In fact, my sister and I had the upper part of our capecod row house to our selves as kids. One section had this long strage closet that had actually been finished with walls and wooden floors, but no lighting. We’d drag in flashlights and doll houses and play in there for hours in the winter or on rainy days. Mom even found us in their taking naps on more than one occasion!

    Now I have a nostalgic urge to clean out my office closet to see what treasures I’ve stored in there!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Oh Suz, how COOL about the the play space!! That’s awesome! I love root cellars too, just for all that yummy stored stuff that grandmas and Aunties put up in cans and jars. Yumbo!

      And if I’d had a closet like that one in your cape cod, I’d have been in there all the time too!

    • Caren Crane says:

      Suz, I love root cellars! And come to think of it, my sister Holli and I had a huge closet (took up one wall of our room). It had two huge sliding doors and shelves on the end walls and along the wall above the clothes rail. These were very sturdy wooden shelves. It also had a linoleum tiled floor and was deep enough to walk in, play in and – best of all – hide in. There was the exact same closet in my sister Susie’s room. We had the best time in those closets! Thank you for reminding me of that. 😀

  • Caren Crane says:

    Oh, Jeanne, I adore attics and storage closets. Basements kind of freak me out, but I love the mystery of the jumbled junk and unmarked boxes.

    The coolest storage closet stuff I ever came across was in the house I grew up in, in Nashville, TN. The original structure (a carriage house from the 1700s), had a pitched roof in the upstairs bedroom. This became my room when I was 14. There were storage closets under the eaves that ran the length of the room on either side.

    In those were fascinating things like the huge picnic hamper with melamine plates, cups and utensils. Loved that! Then there were the heads. Deer and antelope heads from manly hunting trips my dad took out west with his hunting buddies (grandfather, uncles, great-uncles, etc.). They kind of freaked me out.

    But the not knowing quite what was in there lit up my imagination. Wondering about those things is one of the marks of a writer, I think. We always ask ourselves, “What if?” I think that’s one reason I adored C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. A magic wardrobe? I am in!!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Ooooh, more closet spaces! And visions of Lion, Witch and Wardrobe to boot. Yes, that was an inspired bit on CS Lewis’s part wasn’t it? We all love to explore the recesses… Grins.

      Totally cool about the picnic hamper. I want one of those, but can’t justify getting it as the DH and I don’t ever do picnics, thanks to his allergies. Sigh. :>

  • Deb says:

    Jeanne, what a neat post today. The contractor portion of your piece made me laugh. I love the Swedish welcome sign.

    I have my dad’s sled from when he was a kid. He is 83, so it has to be at least 79 years old. But, what’s lovely about it is that my mother painted snow-covered evergreen branches on it with a beautiful red cardinal sitting among those boughs. It’s a double treasure.

    I know what’s in my attic and most of it needs to be pitched. Like you, it’s a one time pitch party, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.

    My husband went to an auction several years ago and bought a box of unseen items for only $14. Mostly junk, but we did find a set of 5 dainty teacups and saucers with a matching sugar bowl. There was also an old silver lighter that he said looked just like his dad’s. Other than those things, it had a broken watch, a couple of loud dinosaur toys, and a plastic ball.

    • Deb says:

      I should add that my attic is above the garage and only accessed in the garage with a ladder. It can’t be finished off for a room. However, my sister’s bedroom was the attic and my dad laid beautiful wood flooring in it, built a long hallway-like closet, and put small sectional couch in the corner, so it was more like a teeny-tiny apartment. Perfect for a young teenager.

      • Jeanne Adams says:

        Deb, how fun about the teacups and the lighter and OH! the sled!! Love it!!

        That kind of attic-over-the-garage storage is one of those “near impossible” places to clear. It’s totally out of sight, out of mind. :>

        My contractor was still shaking his head when he got here to work. He really didn’t believe we’d get it cleared out. He was way too visibly shocked that we had. Ha!

  • EC Spurlock says:

    This post really touched a nerve with me! Like Kaelee, we recently went to my aunt’s funeral and with my sister and cousins are now tasked with appraising and cleaning out a house that they moved into in 1921 and NEVER THREW ANYTHING AWAY. Because we were flying we couldn’t take much back with us, but we did uncover some treasures that we had my sister put aside for us. These included my grandfather’s concertina that he brought from Russia, his pocket watches and razors, a ton of old photos and home movies, a case of old vacuum tubes still in their original boxes and a machine to test them on, cans of old theatrical movie shorts (no telling where those came from), and a pair of cufflinks my grandfather had made with his and grandma’s wedding picture on them. You could tell these were Depression children because there were cans and handkerchiefs filled with old coins and change squirrelled away in all sorts of odd corners! We also found a lot of old documents that will probably add to our genealogical history once we can get them translated. I also have the ornate wooden drawers that were once part of my grandmother’s sewing machine until Grandpa took it apart and turned it into a belt sander; DH put a board across the top of them and they now serve as a combination tea cabinet and microwave stand. And we haven’t even started on the double basement yet…

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      OMGosh, EC!! Wow at the treasures! And, OH! the documents! Wonderufl!! Pocket watches. Oh, sigh!

      How amazing. I had to smile about the change squirreled away. My mother did that. We found change and sometimes dollars in paper clips in the oddest places. :> At some point Daddy convinced her she didn’t have to do it, but…

      What a treasure trove indeed. And the double basements…oh, my, golly@! :>