Unexpected party favors: What should I do with the things guests forget at my house?

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By: takeabreakwithme – CC BY 2.0
By: takeabreakwithmeCC BY 2.0
I don't throw parties often, but I've found myself with a growing collection of castaway sunglasses, casserole dishes, makeup, gifts from friends that were meant for other friends, you name it. Sometimes, even if I've figured out the identity of the abandoned item's owner, I'm at a loss as to how to get it back to its rightful home.

What is the etiquette for storing/returning forgotten items? If a guest claims an item, but takes forever to come pick it up, how long should I keep it? If they live far away, am I obligated to ship it to them?

Any advice would be appreciated — this pile of orphaned treasures is getting out of hand! -Caitlin

Is there an expiration date? Is it all on the loser to go fetch? What are your rules on orphaned treasures?

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  1. Once you've let the owner know you have their item, the owner of said item is responsible for arranging pick-up; If, like you say, you've had said item for a while and just want it gone, I would remind the owner again you have their item and let them know you'd like it gone by X date or else you'll get rid of it; You can honestly say you're cleaning out some stuff and just don't have the space to store the item anymore. Some people may have gotten busy and forgot you have their item and will come get it. Those who are not too attached to said item might just tell you to get rid of it instead of having the hasstle of arranging to pick it up.

    "But I have no idea who this item belongs to! /But some friends-of-my-friends came and I have no way to ask them"" — I have some ideas for that as well. You could get in contact with the people who usually come to your parties and tell them you believe someone has left this item behind and was wondering if they knew who it might belong to (perhaps their friends?). Once you've barked up that tree to no avail, you have done all you can regarding your responsibility and can get rid of (or sell) said item with a clear conscience.

    18 agree
  2. My sister in law forgot her cell at my house. With me in Maryland and her in Maine, I just shipped it to her. Same when I forgot my underwear (of all things) at family in Minnesota, my husbands aunt mailed it back. I did not expect my sister in law to give me anything. My aunt did not expect anything. Probably because they were family. But in reality if someone forgot something at my house family or not I don't expect payment if I had to ship it back (assuming it was small like a cell phone) . If it was something bigger, like a computer, I might expect them to pay for the extra packing and weight or at least a gift card to a favorite restaurant or store.

    5 agree
  3. I once left my coat at a party over the holidays, and I reimbursed my friend for the shipping cost. I don't think you should be responsible for shipping costs!

    When I host, I like to have a designated "drop spot" for people's stuff, like a card table by the door for coats on top and shoes underneath. It helps cut down on things getting left behind. It's easier for people to gather their things when they are out in the open, but isn't always feasible depending on the space and layout of your home.

    9 agree
    • I agree, I don't think she should be responsible for paying for shipping either. There's a point at which getting reimbursed for shipping is more trouble than it's worth but with the ubiquitousness of paypal it's pretty low (like under $5). Not to mention that if this is happening a lot than those $5 's can add up quickly! If someone isn't willing to pay the few dollars to get it back than why should she have to do it? Obviously if it's close family/friends that's different but in most cases I say it's up to the owner.

      I personally don't understand leaving things but I know it happens regularly. After my aunt hosted her daughters wedding she wound up with a collection of more than 30 umbrellas because it was raining when people arrived and clear when they left. Ten years later she was still handing them out to people who hadn't brought an umbrella if it was raining when they left (she has a huge house so no issues with storage).

      4 agree
      • I'm an out of sight, out of mind person! So once the host took my coat and put it in the closet, I said "I'm going to forget that" because it wasn't cold enough that I would need it when I left. And… I still forgot it.

        1 agrees
        • I'd say it was part of being a parent because as a parent I'm keeping a running mental list of where everything is but I've always been this way so I think I have to blame it on being mildly OCD. It's probably the same part of the brain that makes me obsessive about making sure every reusable container gets returned to it's rightful owner.

          2 agree
  4. I also have a 'pick up' spot. A small table with a drawer in it near my front door where I keep things that don't belong to me, an 'outbox' of sorts. Whenever anyone is leaving the house I check through to see if there is anything there belonging to them. Or I hang a bag with their name on it on a coat hook in my porch. This encourages them to see it the next time they are at my house, or me to take it when I am leaving the house and can drop it off.

    4 agree
  5. If you host a lot of parties, start a lost and found box. Drag the box out every time you have a get-together. When the box gets full (and a reasonable amount of time after the latest party you hosted), donate the whole thing.
    Personally, if I leave something at a party of a good friend, I'll call to ask about it. If I suspect I've left something at the party of someone I don't know, I consider the item lost to the universe.

    11 agree
  6. I agree with the above commenters. If you know who the item belongs to, contact them and let them pick it up at your convenience. If it's convenient for you to take it to them, do that if you want (like if you're going to their house anyway). When you get sick of storing it, contact them with a deadline, and get rid of it after that.

    If you don't know who it belongs to, contact the people who were over and may have left it, or keep it in a box until you have those people over again.

    If you have to ship it, I would recommend telling the receiver that you're planning on shipping it X way, and if they want it sooner, they should let you know so that they can upgrade the packaging to two-day or next-day delivery. If you can't afford the shipping, definitely ask them to pay for it, but if you can afford the basic shipping, it would be nice to do that yourself. It would also be nice for them to offer to reimburse you or treat you for coffee or something.

  7. We regularly throw house parties and I keep a lost and found. Every so often, I post pictures of things from the lost and found on Facebook, only visible to my "cool" list of people who get invited to our parties. People claim stuff and I arrange to get it back to them. If no one claims it, I keep it or sell it!

    8 agree
    • Yep, was gonna say exactly this! I get random pieces of clothing left at my house from time to time, and it's both fun and practical to snap a pic, post it on Facebook, and say "okay, which one of you slobs left this with me?"

      2 agree
    • Ha! My mother somehow ALWAYS has a full box of lost & found stuff. She will ask the same 5 people 20 times if this random (single glove, sweatshirt, chip clip, cabinet handle) belongs to them and then when no one claims it, exclaim "where does this stuff COME from??" It just seems to materialize in my parents house, and she's always determined to find its rightful owner. So, it's a neverending battle & a never-completely-empty box of miscellanea that she keeps in her hall closet.

      1 agrees
      • I thought my mother was the only one crazy enough to start a "Lost & Found" box. Every time I visit she asks "Have you checked the Lost & Found?" It must be a holdover from our days losing stuff as children! Haha!

        1 agrees
  8. I once left a beloved retro pea coat in the car of a casual party/clubbing friend. I had no clue where I'd left it. She moved overseas and back, and we didn't see each other or even talk much, but we had several mutual friends. The night before she moved away again (and like two years after I'd lost my coat) she stopped by a bar just to deliver it to me. I NEVER would have expected anyone to go out of their way to return it, or even store it all that time. It was a pretty awesome surprise, and even though i doubt we will ever see each other again, I have mad respect for that chick.

    8 agree
  9. My friends host many events at their house (band practices, watch parties, etc.) and have come up with a fun solution: they take a funny photo of themselves with the object and put it on Facebook. If they know who left it behind they post the photo to that person's page. If they don't, they just post the photo. My god there have been many photos of Nalgenes in precarious situations over the years.

    2 agree
  10. When we host parties, the guest list usually contains the same cast of characters. Most of them live in our neighborhood and we see them socially on a fairly regular basis, so returning items or having them swing by to pick up is not a problem.

    For those items whose owners don't come forward or who I can't identify on my own, we have instituted at our parties what we call "The Box of Sh*t That's Not Ours". I use a milk crate, put all the orphaned items in it and put a sign on it, and set it out someplace visible but not in the way. We have a kegerator, so the BOSTNO usually sits on one end of it opposite the cups, where folks are sure to see it. People look through and usually most of the items end up going home with their owners. The first time I utilized the BOSTNO one of my buddies found his favorite casserole dish, which he assumed his wife had broken and thrown away, but which he had actually left at my house (where, honestly, I had been enjoying using it) three months before.

    3 agree

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