Downsizing and Done

Dated: May 3 2021

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And, with the downsizing complete, here are the things I have learned:

Not everyone is equipped to handle an estate sale when downsizing. Some have donated all items after the family takes what they want. If you have a large family with a number of people wanting the same item, there are ways to handle that such as a coin toss, or drawing numbers out of a hat, but I am not going to address that here. Also, some people have rented storage facilities and boxed up everything to go through at a later date in order to get the home on the market. That is also an option.

 My situation was such that I wanted to clean out the home by way of an estate sale, and then box up the remaining items and donate some, and save some to sort through later. I already have a storage unit I can use until I make a firm decision on what to do with certain things. 

The following describes my experience. My experience is just that, what I experienced. Yours may vary.  

During my downsizing endeavor I was always planning on doing an estate sale, so during the weeks before the estate sale I had friends and neighbors drop by and chose any items they wanted, and we negotiated a price. My parents had been long-time residents in this neighborhood and had the reputation of being the “helpful, go-to” neighbors when a neighbor was in need, so I offered furniture and items to their friends and their neighbors first. This helped thin things out so I could display items. Also, these friends and neighbors sent their friends and neighbors. We also invited everyone to return to the sale. and encouraged them to advertise by word of mouth, and gave them contact info in case anyone else wanted "first pick." I sold some of the furniture and all of the recliners to neighbors, which left room for tables to display smaller items, such as lamps, nick-nacks, kitchen items, and the tons and tons of paintings we had, etc.

So, moving on to the actual sale. I suggest getting your garage sale permit, through the water department. You can do this on line. Before the sale, advertise on Facebook, Craig’s List, and social media garage sale sites. Decide where and when to place signs with arrows announcing the “estate sale.” If you can, put the address on the signs. Place these at intersections around the neighborhood a day or two before, then have directional signs inside the neighborhood. The day of the sale do drive-bys to make sure the signs are still there, and have extra signs available if some have disappeared. If you put these in someone’s lawn, ask permission, and invite them to the sale.

We also had signs up early Saturday morning at the sale itself announcing that we would have a grab bag from 3:00 to 5:00 that day, and people actually came back for that. And, we had return customers show up when the sale was over, while we were boxing up the "give-away/donation" items. I'll address that below. 

 

Large kitchen tables sell if you take the leaves out. Hutches do not sell very well, neither do pianos or cloth furniture (that may have something to do with having this sale near the end (hopefully) of the COVID outbreak.) We had to mark these way down to move them out. No one wants real silverware, especially if you don’t have the full set. The same with real china, unless you have the full set. My father had a big kitchenmaid mixer with all the attachments, sorry but that was mine, although I had a number of offers for it, so I put a SOLD sign on it quickly. He was a cake decorator so his turn tables, the old very heavy lead-weight turn tables that never wear out, went fast. I kept a couple of those for myself.

 

I sold my mother's high end jewelry on consignment at a jewelry store. Yes, they take a chunk out of the profits, but I still made more money than I would have selling the “real” jewelry at the estate sale, and nothing "went missing." It's not hard to find a reputable consignment jewelry store.  I found one close to my neighborhood just by calling around.

I sold my parent's cars on the Facebook Marketplace. I sold both cars in less than 30 hours, both for full price, with over 20 inquiries before giving out my address and having people at my home. I actually only advertised one of the cars, but had both available when people arrived to see them. Sure enough, the one I hadn't advertised sold first. I advertised these at 8:00 on a Sunday evening, so I could then drive to the tag agency if they sold during the week and sign in front of a notary ($3.00). If you file paperwork for the buyer of the vehicle it is $10.00 at most. I did pay for these since I was getting full price for the cars.

I had already donated some of my father's clothing, including some suits in good condition, although dated, to a good charity. I did find a couple of more suits, suit pants, and dress shoes after cleaning out another closet, and sold these at the estate sale.

The women’s clothing sold a little better than the men’s. I was going to consignment sell my mother's evening dresses and dress coats, but they were so dated the consignment shops didn’t want them.

Costume jewelry sells reasonably well. Just as a side note, if you have women show up asking to buy purses/shoes, they could possibly be from women’s shelters. I had some women show up and show ID and credentials for a local women’s shelter, so I boxed up the purses and shoes and gave them everything as a donation, having made a list of what they took to itemize on our tax return. They offered me $5.00 for everything, but I felt better just letting them have it all.

Some sports equipment sells better on the Facebook Marketplace than at the estate sale. If you have time before the estate sale, try listing them on the marketplace first. It doesn't cost anything, and you can get a feel for what the item might sell for. I had contacted a local pro shop for my father's golf clubs, bags, and accessories and they offered me $60.00. I did sell those on the Facebook Marketplace for $100, but almost took them off and sold them at the estate sale, as it took 3 weeks to get those sold.


Lawn equipment sells pretty well, as long as it is running.

Plated silver does not sell, nobody wants any of this. I couldn’t give it away. Console TVs and old computers, CRT monitors and printers did not sell. I put those out for big junk day. I have no idea what to do with the plated silver, I still have it in a box. If you have any coin or stamp collections, I’d hang on to those for a while. I am still debating on LP albums and leather bound book collections. I have most of those still, boxed, labeled and in storage (not the albums, those are in my home.) 

I sold smaller like items, such as the costume jewelry, scarves, DVDs, CDs, etc., in $2.00 groupings. The same for kitchen utensils, taped like items together (tongs, spoons, etc.) and sold these for $2.00 a grouping. Keep like items on tables together. Although, I had some people take these apart and only take the items they wanted, asking for a discount.

The last 2 hours on Saturday (I did the sale on Friday and Saturday) I did grab bags for $5.00 a bag. It’s amazing what people will try to cram into a bag, but that did away with a lot of the holiday decorations and the one of a kind small items. By that time we had moved all tables with the left over smaller items into the garage and the left over furniture was moved into the dining area adjacent to the garage. The clothing was already hung in the garage, we had a lot of that left over.

I didn’t sell the large appliances, as we are planning on renting the home at least for a while, and it will rent easier with a fridge, washer and dryer.

Having boxes in place for the items that did not sell was a brilliant idea. I also had newspaper to wrap up these items. I needed help boxing all of these items, though, and neighbors volunteered, and took some of the leftover items, I was giving them away anyhow. Some customers who had been at the estate sale on Friday showed back up when we were done and were boxing up the items, and I told them to take what they wanted. Some of these folks even volunteered to help us box, and of course we let them have what they wanted. My help stayed late on Saturday to help box. I didn't want to ask people to give up their Sunday too to come back. I had Habitat for Humanity ready for the pickup the following Tuesday morning, and informed them to bring a truck, or 2 vans. Yes, there was that much stuff left over. 

I did make a decent amount, and paid the help with food. Everyone liked Subway sandwiches, and then pizza on Saturday, and I had an ice chest with sodas and water for the help. Be sure to buy signs, have a cash box, and start out with $40 in change. 

This entire process was difficult, as anyone can imagine. These are my parents, for my 65 years. And, they were pretty awesome parents! They have been married for 72 years, and had lived in this home that they dearly loved for 51 years. They were a "rock" in the neighborhood, welcoming any new resident with open arms, and helping any neighbor in need. My father's yard was always the prettiest and won lots of neighborhood competitions with his golf-green like grass and colorful flowers. He was always outside, chipping balls, talking to neighbors as they walked their dogs, painting, maintaining, and caring for his home. It's hard to say good-bye to items with so many memories attached,  but these things that I sold and donated need to move on to help someone else out. After all, they had served my parents well. 

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Terri McQueen

It is my goal to make your selling or buying experience as simple and pleasant as possible. I will guide you through every step of the process, carefully listening to your needs and your goals. I have....

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