here I dreamt I was an architect
September 17, 2006 6:08 PM   Subscribe

What would you leave behind in your home for succeeding residents? What do you wish someone else had left for you?

When my father and his siblings sold my grandparents' house a few years ago (after they had lived there for fifty years), they left behind several things that they thought the new owners might wish to have: blueprints of the house, old maps and guidebooks to the town, etc. Nothing terribly personal, as they never met the family moving in. I thought this was a really nice idea worth adopting. I've always been the kind of kid who likes to go around exploring all the nooks and crannies of wherever it is I inhabit. Discovering old things people leave behind is a thrill. Anything from old maps and photos to time capsules and secret caches.

So, have ever you ever left something behind for someone you didn't know (whether openly or in secret)? What, if anything, has been left in the places that you've lived? What do you think you'd like to find in a new house?

Also, what other sorts of things can you think of to leave behind? Standard time capsule things such as newspaper clippings are good, but bonus points for more creative suggestions. Artistic photos? Scrapbooks?
posted by metabrilliant to Home & Garden (52 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Toilet paper in the bathroom. Taking the last roll with you when you leave is really stupid.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:11 PM on September 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

TP, liquid soap, and paper towels.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:13 PM on September 17, 2006

Best answer: How best to care for the trees, shrubs, and other plants in the yard/garden. We lost two evergreen trees recently and I wonder if I should have watered or fertilized them more (they weren't a type I recognized and I didn't bother to look them up).

Also, documentation for the appliances that were left.

Super double bonus for a conversation discussing the political situation in the neighborhood association, and/or old newsletters.
posted by amtho at 6:16 PM on September 17, 2006

The people who moved out of my apartment left stuff.

Things I appreciated: Cleaning products, nice shower curtain and rings.

Things I Didn't Appreciate: Trash, food in the cabinents and fridge, crappy desk they were too lazy to take apart and get rid of themselves.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:17 PM on September 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Seconding the care for trees/ garden and appliance documentation.

Beyond that, extra light bulbs for any fixtures that didn't take standard bulbs, a list of places that have done repairs on the house in the past (septic, roto-rootering, etc) and how much they charged.

Oh, and a list of the names of the neighbors. That would be nice.
posted by quin at 6:28 PM on September 17, 2006

The things (in order) I've been most grateful for: clean and stink-free house, clean house, detritus-free house, TP, lysol and sponge, insect spray, current phone book.

Although no one's ever done it, a bottle of wine and a couple local take out menus would be awesome. Moving is exhausting and the food prep stuff is always split across a dozen boxes anyway.

Trivia about the house or town sounds nice, but moving day is the worst time to properly appreciate it.

Seriously, if the place is clean enough to immediately unpack into, the whole day/week is sooooo much easier. Easy enough that there's time left to track down the box with the TP, and the box with the snack foods.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:30 PM on September 17, 2006

Great question! Leftover paint and wallpaper so they can make touch-ups and repairs. Old photos of the house if you have any, especially "before" pics for any renovation you have done. It might be nice to sit down and write out as much of the history of the home as you know.

When we toured my house the garage had a huge pile of the old wood trim the owners had pulled. I so looked forward to refinishing and reinstalling it. When we moved in, it was all gone. I was so pissed!
posted by LarryC at 6:30 PM on September 17, 2006

Best answer: lucky concealed shoes?
posted by dreamyshade at 6:30 PM on September 17, 2006 [2 favorites]

I leave a six-pack of beer in the fridge, for when they finish moving all that heavy furniture. (No bonus points.)
Speaking of secret caches, supposedly the builder of my parents' house left a bottle of wine inside the newel post - we have yet to tear the thing up to find out.
posted by zoinks at 6:32 PM on September 17, 2006

--- Product manuals for the appliances. (refrigerator, furnace and such).
--- Records of furnace maintenance/inspections
--- List of the perennials planted in the garden so that you know what will show up next spring.
--- List of service folks who have worked on the place (plumbers, HVAC, etc)
--- Rules for the garbage
--- Brand and color numbers for all the paint colors used in/on the house.

And I agree with amtho, tips for dealing with the crazed condo/coop/homeowners association.
posted by octothorpe at 6:35 PM on September 17, 2006

Best answer: I got my place in LA from a couple who had bought it from the original owners' family and renovated it. They found all sorts of small items (keys, postcards, an iron) during the demo and rebuilding, which they cleaned up and arranged in a curio cabinet the original family had left behind. By unspoken agreement, this was to be considered part of the house.

My contribution was a copy of an early b+w photo of the house (which I got from the local Historical Society), and a recent color shot taken from the same spot and angle, framed identically.
posted by rob511 at 6:39 PM on September 17, 2006

The couple who had my flat before me left a fantastic welcome pack that I still refer to two years later, with interesting notes on the tenements history (right down to which stained glass panels in the close windows were replaced in 1930something), not-quite-gossipy tips on the neighbours, numbers for all the tradesmen you could possibly need (including a choice of three chimney-sweeps!), take-away menus, a list of good local shops. They also taped little notes to all the keys saying which locks they went with, and left me loo roll and a full bag of coal for the fire. Which all made moving in a pleasant experience.

The best thing I've ever seen left were all the architect's drawings my parents found when they moved in to their current place (mostly because the house was designed to match the original owner's octoganal wedding cake and had bizarre details, like what is now the downstairs loo originally being designated as a flower-arranging room). So anything to do with the history of the house is a good thing to find, I think.
posted by jack_mo at 6:58 PM on September 17, 2006

Definitely TP. The relatives of the old lady whose estate I bought my house from left a number of spare stained-glass panels that match the existing ones, as well as the furnace manuals, which really helped (steam heat). Unfortunately, they *took* the kitchen cabinet doors. huh?
posted by notsnot at 7:12 PM on September 17, 2006

I rent, so not much CAN be left behind, but one of the previous occupants of my apartment drew a map of the breaker cabinet and a map of the apartment, with corresponding numbers so you can see which breaker goes with which outlet. The tiny map is always in the breaker cabinet, and it has helped me a few times when odd combinations of electric equipment stopped working.
posted by easternblot at 7:13 PM on September 17, 2006

I'd love to see an interior photo of our 1931 house in older days. We were able to buy old exterior shots from the King County Archives, but I have no idea what it looked like inside, though it seems obvious it looked nothing like it does now.

We left behind an extra fullsize fridge in our first house, it had also been left for us. But we made sure to ask the buyers if they wanted it before just leaving it there.

The people who sold us the house came very close to leaving us an upright piano, which would have been awesome, but at the last minute they gave it to an urban church, who came and picked it up as we were moving in.

We also found a library card from someone who lived in our house in the 1950s when we cleaned a heater vent, However, I suspect that wasn't intentionally left.
posted by GaelFC at 7:19 PM on September 17, 2006

I've moved into 2 houses- the first previous owners left it with real class: they left only toilet paper and a bottle of champagne in the fridge with 2 glasses and a note congratulating us for the purchase of our first home.

I'm tempted to go onto a rant about the awful mess and piles of crap the previous owners of this home left us, but I'll refrain.

I wish houses had logs like a ship. Our current house has had 2 additions, and we're pretty sure it had some major re-arrangements too- the kitchen is not over the original foundation, but we don't know where it originally was. A log of major changes would be very welcome.
posted by Steve3 at 7:25 PM on September 17, 2006

This is exactly leaving things for the next owner, but when we had a major remodel done in 2000 we placed a number of magazines in the wall to be discovered the next time the place was remodeled. However, in my neighborhood it's quite likely the house will not be remodeled but torn down and replaced with townhomes.
posted by ShooBoo at 7:30 PM on September 17, 2006

Best answer: Secret things for nook and cranny explorers:
I had a place with holes for, but no fittings for, additional electric outlets. So each was a box about 3"x3"x5", with a plastic plate screwed over it. Before I moved out I put in little toys that were popular around that time (pogs, snappy wrist bracelets, and a rubber dinosaur, plus a Star Trek trading card, something like that...).
posted by whatzit at 7:35 PM on September 17, 2006

How about a list of all the repair people you used -- plumber, carpenter, gardener, landscaper, pool maintenance, etc. -- who presumably you trust enough to use them, and who are aware of any ins-and-outs of the stuff that's part of the house?
posted by crunchland at 7:38 PM on September 17, 2006

When I was five, we moved house. On moving day, as I explored the empty rooms, the previous occupants had left a couple of small model airplanes for me and my brother to play with.

Considering our toys were still in boxes and parents were busy, this was an excellent idea.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 7:42 PM on September 17, 2006

My grandparents built their final house & lived in it for forty+ years. Grandpa was quite the mechanic & woodworker so there were three hidden spaces in the house. A gun closet in the basement behind a swinging bookcase, a false wall in the garage to hide the really expensive tools and a secret closet in the attic (if you counted the windows in the roof, you could figure out where the closet was).

When Gran sold the house, my mom walked the new owners through the house and explained how to get into each one. Six months later, the neighbors reported that the new owners had ripped out each one because they were 'creepy'.
the only thing the people at my condo left were swatches of very wild polyester prints under all the sinks in & in some of the cupboards. I guess they used them as rags but polyester?
posted by jaimystery at 7:59 PM on September 17, 2006

Some kids I know were thrilled to find seashells lined up on the windowsills of their new bedrooms.
posted by leapingsheep at 8:00 PM on September 17, 2006

When we moved into our house earlier this summer, the previous owners left a CD full of house pictures that they took. They also left a box of stuff that was intended for home repairs that they never got around to doing (things like replacement matching door knobs, replacement lightbulbs in obscure form factors and the like).
posted by mmascolino at 8:10 PM on September 17, 2006

Snapshots of the house and yard over the years would be fun. And photos of the neighborhood. Our previous owners left paint cans of the different colors so that we could do touch ups. That was nice.
We would have really loved it if they had left the keys to different padlocks for the outdoor shedspace, padlocked crawl space (from outside), padlocked side gate, etc.
posted by gt2 at 9:34 PM on September 17, 2006

When I moved into my house, the then-owners were nice enough to let me "interview" them about the repair/upkeep history (when the roof was replaced, the deck treated, etc.), what perennials existed in the gardens, little repairs that needed attention, the vagaries of the different house systems (e.g., electrical, sewage, alarm), what all the keys were for, and what the neighbors were like -- that sort of thing. After I sold it, I left a long document with this information with my own new history added, like manuals and warranties for the major systems I'd recently replaced -- furnace, windows, AC, that sort of thing. I think the neighbor history was particularly nice, because there were some fairly skanky people living across the way. I just tried to think of the kind of problems you generally only learn through experience with a new house and neighborhood, and tried to ease the new owners' way through that a bit. I also included a phone number if they had questions -- something my an agent/lawyer/common sense-deploying person would probably advise against, but they were a nice couple, so what the hell. I think a "house dossier" of this sort, along with the food, TP, and immediate creature comforts is probably the most useful thing you can give to the new home owners/renters.
posted by melissa may at 9:47 PM on September 17, 2006

We bought our home in 2004. It was built in 1964 and we bought it from the original owners. They left the blueprints, info about some remodeling they had done (permit numbers, etc.), manuals for all appliances that were left, and all the warranty paperwork for the roof, which was recently replaced.

But the coolest thing they left was 2 pictures of the house being built, including a shot of the two tiny saplings in the front yard, which are now two huge maple trees.
posted by peep at 9:58 PM on September 17, 2006

The couple that lived in this house before us left a bunch of bins in the basement, perfectly labelled – extension cords, coax, lightbulbs, etc. It was clear they were both far more organized than me, but it got me on the right track. Also, they left me a few extension cords, etc.

They left those little 3-prong to 2-prong converters in a box down in the basement too. That was tres handy when I realized that there were only two modern outlets in the place.

They left their earthquake emergency kit water and a few other preparedness things - I guess they moved out of the bay area? It's nice to have and it's motivated me to get my own stash in order.
posted by Gucky at 10:09 PM on September 17, 2006

Best answer: I'm going to go against the grain here.. but.. absolutely nothing. The last thing I want when I move in somewhere is finding anything, and it's going to be a bit freaky if I start finding crap in every cupboard, caches under the floor, and what not.
posted by wackybrit at 10:39 PM on September 17, 2006

I am touring houses now and it's incredible what people leave behind. One place had girlie posters all over the inside garage walls.

I leave one roll of TP and baking soda in the fridge. It should be tabula rasa as much as possible.
posted by scarabic at 11:07 PM on September 17, 2006

A bottle opener for the celebratory bottle of wine. Nothing like digging through piles of boxes trying to find the one labeled kitchen utensils.
posted by gfrobe at 11:28 PM on September 17, 2006

Semi-related anecdote: My parents pulled out an old fireplace form our living room at the end of last year. Under it we found a newspaper (presumably from the day the fireplace was put in), from December 1954. It was almost 51 years to the day when we found it and it was quite exciting. When we put mew carpet down in the living room, we put the newspaper back down, as well as a new one.
posted by cholly at 12:01 AM on September 18, 2006

Fire extinguishers. I always buy new ones when I move.
posted by paulsc at 12:38 AM on September 18, 2006

Speaking from recent experience, things I'd leave, or want to receive:

- The manuals for everything
- Tea, milk, biscuits
- Loo roll
- Clear labels on the fuse box so I know which one's which
- A clean house, that apart from the above, is completely empty

Thing I'd not want to receive:

- Hidden surprises, like crappy workmanship
- The last occupants' mail for the next six months

But I never understand the whole 'digging through loads of boxes to find a spoon' thing. Just pack your first day's stuff in a separate box and put in in the car.

I like the idea of an owner's log, Steve3.
posted by dowcrag at 1:54 AM on September 18, 2006

Energy saving light bulbs.
Toilet paper.
posted by NinjaTadpole at 3:26 AM on September 18, 2006

What we've left behind:
-Owner's manuals and repair histories for any appliances left in the house.
-Map to the fuse/breaker box.
-Map showing where the underground utilities run.
-Care instructions for trees and perennials.
-Trash cans, labeled with the address of the house, and a note about trashday and trash rules.
-Description of major remodelling.
-Cool facts about the house (f'rex, the stairway in the house was mail ordered from Sears in 1898; there are 8 planks of bird's eye maple on the main floor).
-Odd lightbulbs, and the nightlights on the stairs and in bathrooms.
posted by jlkr at 4:13 AM on September 18, 2006

I recently bought my first house, and we definitely appreciated the take-out menus left behind. There's a really good Chinese place we'd never have found on our own otherwise. I would have greatly appreciated garden information / pictures, too - I've been trying to identify various plants for months now.

The previous owners said they had some paint left over from a recent kitchen re-paint that they were going to bring over for us so we could do touch-ups after our remodel. Then they never did, and we wasted a bunch of time waiting until we finally gave up and went and got matching paint made up. So I guess the caveat there is that it's really nice to leave things, but please don't say you'll leave things and then not do it!

A couple of other odds and ends we've had to figure out on our own that would have been nice to know:
- Location of polling place
- Time/date of farmer's market, annual street fair, whatever other occasional neighborhood events might be good to know about
- Tip-offs as to which neighbors are likely to be helpful/troublesome
- Names/numbers for plumbers/electricians/etc. who have done work on the house in the past
posted by Stacey at 4:37 AM on September 18, 2006

Communicate with the new owners about stuff you're leaving. Most contracts say you're leaving the place broom clean, which means everything is removed. An acquaintance sold a house on which he had put a new roof, and he had some leftover shingles which he left in the basement for patching purposes. At the closing, the buyer complained there was hazardous material in the house and demanded a $500 credit for "debris removal". In my recent experience I discussed with the buyer what he might like, and got rid of everything else. Among the things I left was a box with blueprints, manuals for all appliances, info on paints used, a few maintenance tips, numbers for tradesmen who had worked on the house, etc.
posted by beagle at 5:54 AM on September 18, 2006

Things my home's previous owners left that have come in very handy:

- little tags next to all of the outdoor plants and trees with their scientific and common names.
- a container of the paint used throughout the house (came in very handy when a contractor fell through the ceiling)
- a list of local polling locations and information on signing up for the neighborhood mailing list.

A history of the home and surrounding area would have been awesome, but Texas sort of did that for them by sending me the original land grant documents. Turns out my original land grant prohibits me from making or selling the booze on my property. Totally changed my plans for the house.
posted by idigress at 6:04 AM on September 18, 2006

A live monkey is nice.
posted by rhymer at 6:37 AM on September 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Somebody left me a statuette of the Virgin Mary in an apartment. I also left it behind, although I hid her a little bit in the hopes that she'd remain indefinitely.

Oh, and if the place has gas heat or stove, I would recommend leaving matches. I had completely packed everything up in this place, then realized that I accidentally blew out the stove's pilot light in my cleaning frenzy. I had to knock on doors to borrow some, just so I didn't blow up the place before my lease ran out.
posted by MrZero at 6:54 AM on September 18, 2006

I'm still trying to get rid of non-working large appliances left in my garage. Never had manuals, house info, local info left. I'd appreciate all of those.

When I sublet, I used to always leave a homemade lasagna in the fridge.
posted by QIbHom at 6:57 AM on September 18, 2006

A shower curtain is really useful. Imagine moving into a new place, wanting to bathe, and not being able to until you locate the box with your shower curtain in it.
posted by hsoltz at 7:01 AM on September 18, 2006

Things I wish the previous owner had left, but didn’t: labels on the jumbled mess of keys for back door, alarm system, tool shed, etc.; info on the house’s wiring quirks; instructions on how to turn the damn shower on (not immediately self-explanatory and took us 20 frustrated sweary minutes which could have been prevented with a quick note). A note about the poison ivy in the back yard would have been rad too but I got to figure that one out on my own.

Things I wish he hadn’t left, but did: heaps of dog fur under the stove, human hair in the fridge, jelly drips on every kitchen surface, a sharps box in the attic (hell?).

Something he actually got right: leaving a few rugs and curtains. In some cases this stuff may be included in the contract to buy, and factored into the final price. Included or not, though, it’s a kindness to leave behind a small foot-wiping rug inside the front door, and curtains on any windows that expose the house’s interior to the street or neighbors.

If you think in terms of the house’s specific quirks, and the next owner’s basic, immediate convenience, you’ll come up with the right things to leave behind, other than a clean house, which is just courtesy. We didn’t buy from such an owner and six months later I still curse the name of Mickey Parker when I find unexpected filth in odd corners.
posted by jessicapierce at 8:12 AM on September 18, 2006

I'm kind of surprised this hasn't been mentioned - but when I next move, I'm planning to leave behind all the custom-fit window blinds. Even if they don't like the colors, having window coverings (especially if your windows are non-standard sizes) is very nice when you get undressed for bed the first night.

I nth the breaker/outlet map - we have that, and it's very useful.

I have friends who were left not only the blinds, but also the custom window treatments which match the paint colors. The previous owner was an interior decorater, and they've been decorating to match the cutains, rather than change the curtains to match their stuff, because they were so nice.
posted by timepiece at 8:20 AM on September 18, 2006

During the final walk-through when I bought my house, the owners were very quickly telling me things about the house that I really needed to know (alarm system, dishwasher, etc.). I was a little irked, but held my tongue. Good thing, too. When we got to the office, they showed me The Book of the House. It was filled with everything an obsessive compulsive homeowner would keep; receipts, manuals for all appliances, paint swatches, pictures and notes of all additions/remodels, landscaping notes. It was put together by the owner before them, and they continued the tradition - as will I. Nice little house tradition.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:40 AM on September 18, 2006

Oh, almost forgot... The one thing I didn't appreciate; odd bits of furniture (futon? half a bed frame?) left in attic.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:49 AM on September 18, 2006

Best answer: First off, leave some USEFUL stuff. A diagram of which breakers control which outlets/lights. Labels on all the plumbing valves that tell what they shut off. Schematics and manuals for the furnace. Maintenance records. In-progress photos of any work you did, such as wiring behind drywall.

Then there's the fun stuff: Any photos of the house taken before renovations. I'd kill to know what my house looked like when it was built because from what I can tell it looked nothing like it does now.

Go down to the planning office and get plot plans of the neighborhood when it was first built up. Maybe your local historical society has information on what your neighborhood used to be like, or historical maps.

Stick some old receipts in the walls. It's always fun to see what things used to cost. "$400.00 for an iPod in 2006? Oh my GOD! And it didn't even play hologram movies!"

Leave something random: A package of Twinkies. Old remote controls. Little action figures climbing up the studs.
posted by bondcliff at 9:07 AM on September 18, 2006

The summer I was thirteen, my brother and I discovered a small box with costume jewelry with fake, but sparkly gems, in a sandbox of the house that we have moved into a few months before, previously occupied by a family with children.

This was probably an accident, though I always liked to think it was meant as a secret treasure left behind for us new kids.

Sorry to say I don't know where that box is now, but it was a treasure to me that I kept for many years.

If the next family has kids, I'd recommend some secret partially hidden treasures for them.
posted by marsha56 at 9:54 AM on September 18, 2006

When I moved into my current apartment, the cupboards were full of canned and boxed food. A decent idea, except that half of it was expired and the rest was clearly stuff the last residents hadn't wanted to eat (creamed corn soup, anyone?). Not terribly classy.

Leaving some munchies is a nice thought, but don't abandon your expired cranberry jelly for the new tenants.
posted by lindsey.nicole at 11:44 AM on September 18, 2006

Response by poster: Wow. Thanks for all the great ideas, people. Definitely tons of things I'd love to try... Please feel free to post with further suggestions; I'd love to hear them.

(49 comments and 20 favorites on my first post? Best $5 I've spent, ever.)
posted by metabrilliant at 6:11 PM on September 18, 2006

When i moved into one apartment, I found a large hunting knife in a leather sheath under a radiator. I don't even want to know the story behind that one...
posted by Windigo at 10:31 PM on September 18, 2006

I usually leave the yellow pages behind. The new resident might want to order a pizza before the phone company delivers a new copy.

When I was moving out of my first college dorm room, I superglued a penny to the inside wall of the closet. I'd like to think it's still there, confusing a new frosh every September....
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 11:51 AM on September 19, 2006

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