Posted by Susan Lewis on May 22nd 2016
My hubby and I just spent the better part of a week preparing for, holding, and cleaning up after an estate sale. No matter how many of these we do, they always leave me with questions:
Why does the family leave the birthday cards and family pictures? Even if no one wants the personal notes and photos, do they think strangers will want to buy them?
Why do folks save those little twist ties found on sacks of bread? I can understand saving two or three but a drawer full of them seems a bit much. And related to that – fifty empty ice cream tubs, old (used and half-dried) tubes of makeup and medicines, rusted pins and needles, and five full bags of Walmart sacks seems unnecessary.
Sometimes the family tries to help out. Once a lady proudly related that she had thrown away dozens of old fountain pens and mechanical pencils. AARGH! Those are extremely collectible and some can be quite valuable, but it was too late to rescue them as the trash truck had already picked up.
Unfortunately there are many families that want us to charge retail prices for items that used to have value but are no longer marketable. Most of us in the business know that you can’t give away collector plates, milk glass, 1980s baseball cards, or Grandmama’s pink floral Haviland china set. But the one-of-a-kind quirky items are the ones that sell – like the giant hand-carved walnut or that soapstone elephant or the old metal pencil sharpener still in the original box. Also of value is just about anything in the garage. If it’s in a corner of the garage and covered in dirt and grease it will be the first thing to sell!
If you ever hold an estate sale be prepared to haul at least one truck-load of clothing to your favorite charity store along with shoes, belts, purses, and ties. The family will get a receipt for tax purposes and you have a way to quickly clean out closets and bedrooms.
Also be prepared to look through all the books and shoe boxes. Books are frequently used as a place to stash bills and shoeboxes hold the coins. One of the family members groaned and rolled her eyes when we informed her that we had found five boxes of coins in the bedroom closet. “We broke the axle on the trailer hauling the boxes of coins we found in the garage. You keep them! We don’t want any more!” she said.
Always interesting and sometimes surprising things about regular folks can be discovered at estate sales. Go seek one out in your city this weekend! See if you can find a carved walnut or soapstone elephant. And if you ever do an estate sale, just be sure that you don’t throw away the fountain pens!