What Should I Do with All of my Stuff?

While our homes are benefitting from a strong seller’s market, with multiple buyers competing for very low inventory, younger generations who have different values, spend differently and prefer “fast furniture” there is little market for the contents in the home.  Estate sale companies are only working with the cream of the crop which leaves a huge gap for everyone else.  

Right now “Junior Seniors” are making the move to senior communities earlier capitalizing on the San Diego real estate market and the benefit of a one sided sale (selling and not buying a home).

Although our clients are making thousands more on their homes, NOT making money on their belongings is a tough pill to swallow.  

“John” a widower who’s been in his home for 40+ years was referred to Silver Linings Transitions because of our partnership program “Get Settled. Get Sold”* with Realtor Bryan Devore, of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. 

When Bryan and I met with John, he had an offer from an investor which was considerably more than he’d paid for the home.  The average home price in San Diego has gone up 17.5% in the last year.

Bryan felt the client could do much better and they agreed on a one week listing.  The results paid off.  The weekend the home went on the market Bryan received multiple offers and was able to get John $250,000 more than the investor’s offer.

Bryan also negotiated a “rent back” allowing John to stay in his home for two weeks after the close of escrow.

While Bryan was handling the sale of the home, the Silver Linings Transitions team was organizing the entire move – working with the client to design a floor plan of what he’d be taking, coordinating all the move logistics, getting everything packed and most importantly getting him settled into his new home.

John was particularly concerned with the contents of his home and what would be happening with what he wasn’t taking.  He’d kept a nice home and his furniture was dated but in good condition.  He and his late wife collected Asian artifacts from travel but he had no records or receipts.

After calling in several estate sale companies and realizing this wasn’t going to be an option, we reached out to other resources to get the most money we could while also clearing out the remaining contents of the home.

Before Covid when an estate sale could be easily organized with no restrictions, a client could expect a 50/50 split and to net somewhere between $3,000 and $7,000. 

Knowing he’d made considerably more money on the sale of his home didn’t offer John much consolation.

When my grandmother passed away, my mother offered me (the only grandchild) her china.  While I adored my grandparents and had other favorites from their home, I explained to my mother I wasn’t even using my own china.  

I frequently remind clients just because their family doesn’t want their belongings, it doesn’t mean they won’t be remembered or aren’t loved.  

For my mom’s generation (The Boomers), the Silent Generation and most especially the Greatest Generation, “things” mean something whether it’s a sentimental item representing travel or a loved one; a gift given or made for us by a loved one; a representation of our life and sometimes equally as important a life we aspire to live (think skinny jeans).  For seniors who are from The Greatest Generation and The Silent Generation who’s formative years were affected greatly by The Depression, items also represented value.  Collectible items were purchased believing these items would be more stable and would be worth money when sold.  Items were  well cared for and “used up” and made to be more durable to reflect spending habits of the time.  

In a culture of “fast furniture”, where everything from groceries to furniture can be delivered to one’s home in as little as one or two days, today’s consumers want new and seem to be more about experiences than “things” perhaps due to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and their social media personas.   

There are many other reasons clients hold onto belongings including concern about value,  believing it may still be needed and also the desire to reduce the impact on the landfills.

  1. Most professional organizers will share the most important thing to consider when starting the process is to get into the right mindset.  How do you want to live your life and will the items you are holding onto support this life?
  2. Perfect is the enemy of done.  If you wait to do things perfectly you’ll get stuck rather than gaining momentum.  Break the task into smaller pieces.
  3. To get a general idea of an item’s value, look it up on eBay under “sold items” or use an app like Google Lens which allows you to scan the item and find similar ones prices for comparison.

Once you’ve made the decisions about what items you’ll be keeping and which will be finding new homes, here are some tips to gently discard.

Give away your belongings:

  1. Give to loved ones -Take on Swedish Death Cleaning meets “Show and Tell” meets Football Draft- Host your own “live auction” gathering family or loved ones together in person or virtually to claim items they’d like.  You can assign each member a colored sticker and pack the items up after you’ve finished. If you chose to do this on a birthday or special occasion, incorporate fun stories and make it a “show and tell” experience.

2. Freecycle.org – The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,344 groups with 9,054,265 members around the world, and next door to you. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and neighborhoods. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.

3. Buy Nothing – A Buy Nothing group is a Facebook group hyper-localized to your town (or if you live in a big city, your neighborhood), where locals can post items they want to give away or are in need of — for free. The founders of the Buy Nothing Project call their Facebook groups a “gift economy.”

4. Charity Donations – Check with your account about eligible tax deductions as guidelines have changed.  We have a list on our website of charities that will pick up donations from your home.  For a current list and more detailed information, email info@gator4218.temp.domains

5. Nextdoor – similar to Buy Nothing groups on Facebook, you can join Nextdoor in your neighborhood to post items for donation or sale.

6. CraigsList Curb Alert – If you visit Craigslists in your area, it’s pretty easy to post items for “FREE” or using the term “Curb Alert”.  Take some photos, bring the items to your curb and put a sign that says “FREE” on it.  Most likely, it will be gone by the end of the day.

Sell your belongings:

I personally use Google or Yelp to find local merchants and read their reviews.

High end collectibles, artwork – If you aren’t sure what you have, we recommend an appraiser who can evaluate your belongings and can broker a sale.  In this case, you will pay their hourly fee for an evaluation – around $95/hour.  They will either broker the sale for you or perhaps make suggestions on avenues to explore.  You can also contact a licensed auctioneer who will give you a percentage of the items after they’ve been sold or will make an offer directly to you.

Estate sales – If you will be moving, once you have determined what belongings will be kept, contact estate sale companies in your area. Not all homes are eligible for an estate sale even if there is enough value to hold one.  Gated and deed restricted communities are usually not eligible as are apartments and condominiums where there is restricted parking.   If you are in a community that allows an estate sale , there has to be enough value for a company to hold an estate sale as they will spend as much as one week preparing for a sale and they need to be able to recoup their costs after paying a commission (usually between 40-60%).  Estate sale companies often book out far in advance so you can’t be working on a tight timeline.  

Online Auction – Again, this option is best when you be moving and the home will be empty.  MaxSold.com allows you to host your own online auction  or you can work with our company to handle it for you. Items are photographed and cataloged to sell usually at least 14 days before the home needs to be emptied.  The auction should be live for 10 days (give or take).  The items are bid on and purchased online and a time is given for pick up.  These are taking longer due to Covid restrictions and what used to be one day now may require more.  The pro to this approach is that no money is handled.  The con is that you can not set a reserve price and may not be happy with the sales price.  

Buy Out –  When you are moving, a liquidator will offer pennies on the dollar for what remains in the home.  They will assess what items can be sold to offset the costs involved to pack and clear the contents from the home (including unsaleable items).  You’ll need to specify if they are also to clear hazardous materials or appliances.  In some cases, you will owe the liquidator but it’s usually less than calling a hauling service.  Many liquidators sell items at swap meets or other venues to offset their costs and donate what can be salvaged to avoid dump fees.  If this is important to you, you should ask about the company’s policies.  This is something that should be scheduled several weeks in advance as they are booked solid.

Consignment – if you have nicer items, it’s easiest to send  photographs via email in advance to make sure they’ll take the items.   If they agree to take them, it will be your responsibility to get the item to the shop (typically an appointment time will need to be made).  It is the client’s responsibility to check for commissions. Most consignment shops will offer 50% at the start of the sale reducing the price until items are sold.  If they can not be sold, items are donated.

More often than not, people’s belongings keep them stuck in a home they are no longer “living” in.  As we age, children move out and our daily activities become simplified, it’s important to ask yourself what you want from your life and your home.  After a year spent in quarantine, if you haven’t read the book, repaired the item or made that soufflé, perhaps it’s time to be real with yourself? 

Whether you are doing it yourself or with assistance from a friend, loved one or a company like ours, it’s important to acknowledge the courage it takes to face the project and speak kindly to yourself as you go through the process.

*“Get Settled then Get Sold” Working together with Bryan Devore, the Silver Linings Transitions team coordinates all the logistics and gets the clients completely moved and settled into their new homes.  Once they’ve moved, Bryan presents the best options* for selling their home taking into consideration their timeline, the condition of the home and what’s in their best interest from a financial and emotional standpoint. We are able to defer upfront moving fees so seniors can move into their new homes without paying cash.

*Options for selling the home include – a traditional sale, an “as-is” quick close or a renovate to sell.  In all cases, marketing fees and most of Silver Linings Transitions costs are included. 

We assist anyone selling a home but specialize in clients moving into senior communities (in and outside of San Diego).