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Old 01-10-2013, 10:00 PM   #21
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When we downsized we first went through closets, loft, attic to find stuff that we had been storing for the kids, photographed it and told them that they needed to accept custody or it would be sold.

Then we cleared the garage and took everything we didn't want to keep to the garage, priced it and put it in storage boxes. The collection was mind boggling. Several days before the sale we set up tables and set up shop for a real garage sale, the tough work had already been done.

What was particularly interesting were our customers. One was a physician who had just moved from England and purchased a house. He and his wife purchased furniture and we added, gratus, things that they could use. Another was a neighbor whose son and wife were returning from a medical dimission in Africa and were arriving the next week. I think we furnished at least half their apartment and we gave them a volume discount. Those were our 'earlies'.

I think we grossed over $3,000 that weekend and even then we carted the remainder to Goodwill.

This process took about 2 months. The house was on the market so as we sorted and disposed we needed to keep it all in good order. Frankly the need to keep organized made the process so much easier.

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Old 01-11-2013, 04:14 AM   #22
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I helped my good friends sell their recently passed mom's things at garage/tag sale.

We had a really interesting strategy. We had a pile of somewhat useless stuff. Every time a customer bought something and wanted to deal on price, we would, but we also required them to pick an extra item from the pile for free.

Most were excited at the chance. Some were irked. No matter, we got rid of a LOT of stuff that day this way.

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Old 01-11-2013, 06:06 AM   #23
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Lots of good ideas here.

For a full-blown sell-off, I'd recommend the estate sale service over the DIY garage sale, particularly if you have quite a bit of furniture, appliances or similar items with higher values. Or maybe the estate sale one weekend, followed by a garage sale the next. The majority of the shoppers at a garage sale will be looking for small, inexpensive items. It's been a while, but I recall that when we had large items at our garage sale the majority of those buyers had to leave and come back later with the money. We got burned on a couple of items. Not so with estate sales, where you will get a higher proportion of buyers that expect furniture, china sets and other high-value items.

The other advantage of using an estate sale company is they have regular clients who follow them by e-mail list. I get emails from several who send me notices and links to their web site, with pictures that can be reviewed in advance. You can find those kind of companies here: Find Estate Sales

Last, I've seen a new variation on the estate sales that may be worth pursuing. In our area, there are several local auctioneers who have invested in software that allows them to replicate eBay-style auctions. The company comes in to photograph and develop descriptions for every item, then handle all of the financial transactions after the auction concludes. Pickups are then scheduled for a single day. From what I've seen, every item can be counted on to sell. An example: Bold Bids Auctioneers Live and Online Auctions
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Old 01-11-2013, 06:35 AM   #24
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+1 on estate sale ... did the same with my grand mothers place. She had some decent antiques.

The assumption is there is decent "stuff" to sell ... if they won't touch it rent a dumpster - or 2.

Had a tenant abandon an entire furnished apt to chase his GF and his kids out of state. Just put everthing the garage so we could re-rent the place and called the Salvation army to "come n'get it". They backed up the truck and it was gone.
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Old 01-11-2013, 07:29 AM   #25
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I'll throw in for Habitat for Humanity as well--if the affiliate in your area has a "Resale Store", they are happy to come and pick up usable household furnishings, as well as construction materials, appliances, and just about anything else but clothing.

I love JoeWras' story about the "must take free thing if you want discount!"
“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching.”
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:35 AM   #26
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+1 on estate sale companies - one good value-add they bring to the table is their keen eye for pricing things accurately. This may be less relevant for one's own stuff, if you have a good sense of what your possessions are worth (or are willing to research it on your own). But it's definitely recommended for clearing out other relatives' houses. We used this for my grandmother's house and some of her "old" stuff, art, etc. was actually worth much more than any of us would have priced it.

When my parents downsized upon retirement in the 1980s, they did DIY garage and house sales over the course of a year that included stuff both from their principal residence, as well as vacation farmhouse. They divided it up into three sales -- a couple focused on furniture and household decorative stuff only (mainly held indoors, moving all the relevant stuff into a selected part of the house; and another focused on all the outdoor/garage stuff (lawnmowers, yard stuff, tools, etc. etc. as well as the usual miscellany of household junk). They even sold a car as part of one sale! These were advertised in local papers, indicating that they were not the usual garage sale. Lots of clientele showed up, including the pros who usually haunt estate sales looking for 'finds'. The whole family and a few friends came in to monitor the sales, manage the cash, etc. They made over $8000 I think, not including the car. The leftovers went to charity, or was thrown out. (Noting that charities like Goodwill and Salvation Army are much more picky now about what they'll take than they used to be). While definitely do-able, this DIY route was a lot of work, though.

Under both these scenarios, I second the suggestion of letting your kids 'tag' things they would like, either now or later. I would also advise that this be done in a way that allows for the potentially wide differential in value that one child/relative may want over what another wants, especially if any higher ticket items are involved. For my grandmother's state sale, the company allowed the children to tag things first, each item had a price on it, and the kids were allowed first dibs at purchasing them at the stated price! If it's a matter of gifting while you are still alive, you might at least make a rough estimate of monetary value of each set of goods requested, gift the items, and then 'even out' any wide disparity through your bequest (e.g., one kid takes a lamp for $100, and the other takes $10,000 worth of furnishings, tools, etc., so you stipulate in your will that the kid who received less will get the difference at the time the estate is liquidated upon your death).

When my father died, my mother still stayed in the same house, and got rid of all his personal effects through donation or some flea markets we did -- (actually made some money at the latter!). And even though it's been many years, we'd still like to find some use for more 'specialty' items that only he used, like all his extensive collection of tools and home repair stuff -- including hardware like nuts and bolts, etc. etc. No traditional charity would take that stuff, but what a shame to see it go to waste. So I contacted our local Habitat for Humanity and asked if they might want some of that stuff -- and they were very interested! Now that I'll have more time in ER, we'll invite them in this year and have them go through the inventory to see what they might be able to make use of.
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Old 01-11-2013, 11:06 AM   #27
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My sister and I recently emptied my Dad's condo when he moved to an assisted living facility. We started with many car loads of donations to a thrift store that supports a hospice center. Dad's building complex did not allow tag sales or estate sales or we would have tried to sell some things.

On his moving day neighbors came to say good bye and we encouraged them to take anything they wanted. A neighbor lady carted off an entire set of dishes and glassware which was great because in order to donate those things we would have had to wrap, pack and transport them. Some of the building staff came and took wall art and decorative items.

On the final clean out day we ended up having to put quite a lot of decent things in the dumpsters, which I hated to do but we had no more room to bring things home and his building was very restrictive on when you could use the elevators for moving.
Married, both 61. DH retired June, 2010. I have a pleasant little part time job.
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Old 01-11-2013, 11:23 AM   #28
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When I moved my Aunt's things out I was surprised at how difficult it was to give some of the stuff away, especially things like a motorized wheelchair, a powered lift chair and a hospital bed. None of the major non-profits were willing to send a truck to pick up anything.

An afternoon with the phone directory and a couple of conversations put me in touch with local organizations interested in some of her furniture. Much ended up in the dumpster. First world lifestyle. The HFH is a good idea.
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Old 01-11-2013, 11:31 AM   #29
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I downsized in a major way last year. I started by going through the house, one drawer/closet at a time. That stuff I donated to Goodwill. Then I went through my collectibles. I sold that stuff on Ebay. Finally, I looked at the big pieces of furniture. I donated those to a local charity helping families in need set up household. I could have made some $$$ selling the furniture on craigslist, but it didn't seem worth it.
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Old 01-11-2013, 01:45 PM   #30
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If you're looking to get rid of everything.

When my inlaws moved back in the early 80's, they hired an auctioneer. Anything the kids didn't want the auctioneer got rid of one saturday afternoon. Had chairs and such setup in the driveway where he held an auction. What was left a local charity picked up an hour or so after the auction. Most stuff sold pretty cheap but it was quick and clean. We took off moving them to Fl. on Sunday. Sold both his practice and home to the new Doc.
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Old 01-30-2013, 08:25 AM   #31
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my mom is contemplating an estate sale to downsize from a 1600 sq ft house into an apartment in a retirement community. She has also investigated estate sales, and one thing she's been told is not to start giving away stuff before the sale, at least not without talking to the person who will be running it. There needs to be a certain amount of "good stuff" at the sale for it to be successful.

I wish there was another name for selling everything you don't want to keep. To me "estate sale" has always meant sale of a deceased person's belongings. I don't want to talk about my mom's "estate sale", because she's still very much alive.
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Old 01-30-2013, 08:48 AM   #32
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DW and I retire soon and will be moving to Mexico in June/July so we are in the process of emptying our house. Very little will be going with us due to the distance and cost involved in moving our stuff plus a lot of it just isn't a fit for the new locale.

We have been spending each weekend systematically attacking one room after another. Each room is gone through in detail and stuff is put into various categories:

1. garbage - easily disposed of in weekly trash pickup
2. donations - stock up until enough to call for pickup
3. moving sale - all items priced and placed in large storage room awaiting sale
4. to move - another storage room for this pile
5. consignment - DW is making serious contribution to RE funds by selling off clothes, shoes and handbags not needed in Mexico
6. kids - not a lot here as they don't seem interested in our "old" stuff
7. records - sorted between trash, shred and keep; one of the most time consuming aspects due to all the personal records plus years of self employed business records

We'll call 1-800-GOT-JUNK for anything left after the moving sale.

The process has been going very well so far and also helps to get the house ready for showing once the For Sale sign goes up out front. And by starting well ahead of time and working it little by little on the weekends, the job has seemed quite manageable rather than a huge burden hanging over our heads.

Good luck with your emptying process!
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Old 01-30-2013, 09:25 AM   #33
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+1 on estate sales.
I helped my mother with downsizing last summer. We hired a woman who does this for a %. She brought folding tables and tablecloths and did a nice job of setting them up to display items. She also researched some items before setting a price (who knew that someone would pay $40 for a Barbie playhouse ). She also arranged for a charity to pick up unsold items. I was happy to turn over the whole process to someone else.

I suggest that making an inventory of the major items and request an accounting. Some of these operations are insured and bonded and other are not.
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Old 01-30-2013, 09:44 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by kyounge1956 View Post
my mom is contemplating an estate sale to downsize from a 1600 sq ft house into an apartment in a retirement community. She has also investigated estate sales, and one thing she's been told is not to start giving away stuff before the sale, at least not without talking to the person who will be running it. There needs to be a certain amount of "good stuff" at the sale for it to be successful.

I wish there was another name for selling everything you don't want to keep. To me "estate sale" has always meant sale of a deceased person's belongings. I don't want to talk about my mom's "estate sale", because she's still very much alive.
There is, but they ain't nearly as classy: Garage Sale. Yard sale.
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But you can hit'em upside the head a few times to make sure they are really out...
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Old 01-30-2013, 02:23 PM   #35
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Tag Sale and/or Moving Sale.

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