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Downsizing or parting with sentimental furnishings and personal treasure

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Are you downsizing? Thinking about what to do now that the children have gone away? Or are they adults? Is this a good time to reevaluate your lifestyle and surroundings? Do you need some much needed advice about what to do with all "your stuff"? Today we have as guest editor, Melissa Arnold, founder of Succor Estate Sales (pronounced Soo-KER) Melissa is especially savvy about what it takes to answer all your pressing questions about this issue. Enjoy the following from our special guest:

Stop for a second and take a look around your home. Meaningful and beautiful things that you love surround you: a wedding Ketubah, the pillar candle holders from the first Thanksgiving you hosted, the chess set you bought abroad–things big and small that remind you of a special time in your personal history. We all have them, so many things that begin to take on meaning.

Now, think about what happens to all of those things when you’re no longer around to care for them. Maybe your children have moved out of the house and you’re ready to start fresh. Perhaps these things are left to your children or maybe you’re the one they are left to. Whatever the case, it often becomes very hard to part with these sentimental possessions, be it yours, your parents or even a friend’s. Many people become overwhelmed and they simply continue to put off dealing with the inevitable. Sometimes, everything winds up in a storage unit that can cost a small fortune over time and is hard to sell later. Other times these items get donated to a charity or the family tries to host their own house sale of the items.

" ...it often becomes very hard to part with these sentimental possessions ..."

The smart thing to do, which is what most people end up doing, is to hire an estate sale company. These companies will come into your home and organize all possessions up for sale. What is typically a three-day sale will take place inside the seller’s home. Estate resale agents have the experience and expertise to price possessions without the emotional or sentimental attachment. They will market your sale to their roster of clients, their online community, and the majority of the time, if the budget provides through local print media. Services will cost a percentage of total sales, typically 25-40%.

When interviewing estate sale agencies, consider the following:

1. Are they experienced hosting estate sales in your area? How estate sales perform can vary from one part of the city to another. If your estate sale planner knows how your area performs, they can take advantage of that knowledge when pricing your items and market the sale accordingly.

2. How do they advertise? Because of the huge variation in estate sale demographics and social habits, it’s important that your sale planner utilizes multiple platforms to advertise your sale. It’s great if they’ve been in business for thirty years and have a good following, but there are multiple estate sales happening every weekend and you want to make sure that your estate sale is advertised in every way possible to bring in shoppers. Providing photos that depict the general idea of the sale will also ensure you’re targeting the correct shopper.

Cost-effective alternatives to high priced advertising include the following: estatesales.net, estatesales.org, craigslist.org, sending an e-newsletter to their subscriber base, the classified section of your local newspaper, and extra bonus if they utilize social media through the weekend to promote items.

3. Do they offer additional services? Yes, you’re hiring an estate sale company to sell your items because they’ll be able to make more money then if you were to do it on your own. Additional services to maximize your agent can also include; organization and donation of what’s left over, the removal of anything the donation company won’t take and the cleaning of the house.

4. If it’s important to you, ask if they are conscientious about how things are disposed–do they recycle? It’s shocking how much trash we collect over our lives. Even though you’re benefiting the environment by selling your stuff instead of letting what a donation company won’t take (and that can be a lot!) go into our landfills, you’re still going to have more trash than you believe is possible, and most of it is recyclable. So make sure to ask if your estate sale company separate trash from recycling and if so, how do they dispose of it?

5. Use your gut when making the decision about whom you want to sell your stuff. Trust is the #1 thing to look for when choosing your estate sale planner. The most important thing you can do when choosing an estate sale company is to pay attention to who they are and ignore the lines they feed you. This is a sales business, and while you want the company you choose to be good at selling, it is more important that you trust who they are as people. They will have access to all of your possessions, they will uncover things you never knew existed, and you need to feel confident that they will have your best interests at heart. People hide valuables in the funniest places, and if your estate sale planner comes across a fanny pack full of cash (this has happened before) you want to be sure they will give it to you. You want to be sure that when they come across hidden jewelry they’ll tell you about it rather than just put it out for sale–what if you would’ve kept that?

Maybe you’re not at a point where you need to host an estate sale–good for you. Keep surrounding yourself with things you love. Try shopping at an estate sale: you’ll find the most unique conversation pieces, you’ll find stuff you were planning to buy for a fraction of retail, and you’ll find the “thrill of the hunt” so many people already know about. And don’t forget, you’ll be helping the environment: reuse, it’s one of the three R’s!

- Melissa Arnold, founder of Succor Estate Sales.

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