Thursday, August 27, 2015

Selling everything. Say thank you as you say goodbye

"Every day is a new day, and you'll never be able to find happiness if you don't move on." --- Carrie Underwood, American song writer (1983 -   )

Thinking about downsizing? Dreaming of getting out from under 20 or 30 years of accumulated stuff?
Maybe you’re moving to a smaller place. Or you want to hit the road free of clutter. According to national research, millions of Americans 50 and older are in the downsizing mode and plan to relocate to smaller spaces sometime in the next five to 10 years.

The process, however, can be challenging – emotionally and even financially. Women are often left to take on this daunting task. Some of us may be shocked to find out that our kids don’t want grandma’s dining table. Or a favorite niece doesn’t care about our treasured art collection.

What to give away and what to keep may feel overwhelming. The idea of sorting through everything brings on emotional fear and stress.

For those who take on the downsizing challenge, there are two ways to handle what can seem like an overwhelming project: Do it yourself or hire someone to hold an estate sale for you. (Click here for an earlier post on using an estate sale service.)

Longtime Battle Ground resident, Pam Wolle, took on the task herself this summer with help from family and friends.
“My life started to change with my husband’s death more than five years ago,” Wolle said. “I knew I couldn’t continue to manage our big rural property and that lifestyle. The process really has been under way for several years. But this year I was finally ready to drastically downsize,” she said.

That meant going through her ranch house room-by-room as well as sorting through a garage and farm out buildings.

Take time to sort, discard

She gave herself months to prepare for her sale by methodically sorting, discarding and labeling items in each space.
“By concentrating on one room at a time, I didn’t feel overwhelmed,” she said. “I could see I was making progress. It gave me encouragement to go on.”
The work took three months. Big items of equipment and furniture went out the door early, Wolle said, so that she had more working area to sort and package smaller stuff. In additional to the usual household items and barn equipment, Wolle owned and operated a marketing and product-promotion business from her home.
“There was a lot of stuff around here,” Wolle remarked.

As the sale approached, friends and family helped display items on tables, kitchen counters and garage shelves. Almost everything got a price tag based on research from reliable sources including eBay and and from experienced yard-sale friends.

There were pricing surprises such as a “collectible” muffin tin that went for $20 or the vinyl records that sold for less than expected.

“In making our sale preparations, we tried to not do something more than once,” Wolle said. “I asked my daughter to be my manager, to help me stay on track. I tried not to have multiple people telling me what to keep and what to sell.”
In advance, Wolle invited family to select anything they wanted from the house. She also put together tote bins for each of her grandchildren. The goal was to help everyone feel included.

The Wolle sold just about everything else she owned --- old skis, carpets, lawn equipment, household kitchen items, clothing, horse-related gear and notepads and paper left from her marketing business.
Her sale began on a Thursday and ended Saturday with different types of buyers showing up on each day. Savvy estate sale buyers were the early birds with more casual buyers including people who work Monday-Friday arriving on Saturday.

Stay firm on prices at least for a day

Wolle stayed firm on her pricing until the last day. “I was very cautious about coming down on prices,” she said. “That worked well.” She always had the plan that what didn’t sell would go to her favorite charity, the local Humane Society.  A few items went in storage.

Wolle said the biggest challenge is to stay focused, not be distracted by interruptions. To that end she recommends being prepared with supplies when you start the sorting and labeling process. Have such things as big heavy garbage bags, trash cans,  markers, gallon-size Ziploc bags at the ready.

“The idea is to be as efficient as possible and not get sidetracked because you have to go looking for something,” she said.
Three weeks after the sale, Wolle said she was feeling good about the project for its financial rewards and the emotional freedom that came from moving on.

She admitted that it was hard to say goodbye to certain possessions.

While researching estate sale tips, she ran across some advice that worked for her. “I actually ‘thanked’ some of the things sold in the sale that I’d owned for a long time,” she said. “I mentally thanked these items for the service they had brought me over the years. It was a way of letting go.”

Now, she’s looking to the future knowing that down the road she can buy something new, if she needs to.
DIY downsizing tips:
Give yourself lots of time (months) to prepare for your sale.
Devise a step-by-step sale plan.
Research pricing. Check online sale sites such as eBay and Craigslist.
Sort and clear out one space at a time.
Run your sale Thursday through Saturday.
Don’t drop prices until the last day.
Be prepared with supplies -- bags, trash cans, markers -- when you sort items for sale and during the sale.

What to ask when hiring  professional estate sale services:
Are you bonded and insured?
Will you provide a written statement of services?
How are you paid? Commission or percentage of sales?
Will you write receipts for sold items?
Do you prepare a written final accounting of receipts and inventory of items sold?
How soon after the sale will I be paid?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Julia. I love that you're sharing this information. One of the best pieces of advice I've heard from companies that help people downsize their home using estate liquidators is to not begin the process until you're 100% sure there's nothing left in your home you want to keep. These companies aim to sell off anything and everything that's in the house, so make sure you and your family members have taken all the item that you want to keep before they get tagged for sale. Here's a related article on the topic: