It’s a daunting task, deciding what to do with a lifetime of personal possessions. Whether a major move or the passing of a loved one, eventually we are all faced with this dilemma. Emotional ties to items, along with a surplus of stuff, inevitably makes the situation much more stressful. Nonetheless, a few expert tips may help ease the transition.
Be Proactive: The best way to avoid the burden of drowning in stuff is to purge before the need arises. Donate, give away, or sell items long before life forces the situation. One room or closet at a time is the easiest way to tackle this project. Keep only items you have used in the last year or items you truly love.
Detach: Take a step back and look at the situation from a non-emotional point of view. Keep only items which will be useful or a small memento that can easily fit into a dresser drawer.
Be Realistic: Grandma’s items may have more emotional value than monetary value. When it comes to downsizing, most people are attempting to sell very similar items. The market is saturated with dining room sets, china cabinets, china, glassware, figurines, collectibles and linens, just to name a few. Our millennial generation has little interest in purchasing these items. This high supply and low demand equals depressed prices. Even antiques do not have nearly the value they had only a decade ago.
Know Where To Look: Some items retain or increase in value. These items include brand name and high end items, fine jewelry, sterling, and fine artwork. Take a close look at jewelry: gold will be marked 10K, 14K or 18K. Sterling will be marked “sterling” or .925. Mid Century modern and industrial furniture are currently bringing a nice return. Many vintage and retro items also have collectible value.
Be Smart: Never assume your leftover items have no value. A houseful can appear to be worthless when in fact it is packed with saleable items. Before paying to have items removed, contact a professional. Most professional estate sale and auction companies will provide free consultations.
- A new option in the sale of personal property is online auction professionals. Unlike EBay, these companies do all the work for you. There are usually no up-front fees and generally you receive a percentage of every item sold. This option is great for those who do not have enough inventory to warrant a full estate sale, are in situations where estate sales are not allowed, or for those who want to sell items in waves.
- Traditional estate sales work well for people with significant high-end inventory. Estate sale companies handle all of the work from setting up and advertising to staffing the event. They generally charge a setup fee as well as a percentage of the gross sales.
- An experienced live auction house can prove very successful for those with a few very high-end items. They are fast and efficient but usually very selective about the items they are willing to sell.
- Consignment Shops are a good option for small amounts of clothing, furniture, housewares, and artwork.
- Selling items yourself via EBay and Craigslist can provide a great return. You will need to have computer skills and somewhere to store the items. You also need to be willing to meet the general public to pick up items and to package and ship items.
Everyone at one time or another is forced to downsize or to clear out an estate. It is never an easy task, but the sooner you get started the easier it will be when the time comes around. One of the best gifts we can give adult children is to accumulate fewer things for them to deal with later. Possessions are only temporary, but memories will last forever.
EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA members meet to learn, exchange information and discuss issues in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA and local senior resources, please visit our website at www.edenprairieaging.org