Getting Rid of Stuff


I like a very cluttered house.  My favorite design comes from Laura Ashley.  I like cluttered, classical British countryside design, with a house full of quirky mementos and conversation pieces.  I have a niece who is thirty-something Rachel Ray disgustingly uncluttered, complete with those horrendous grays.  I want pure color. For me, there should be a crazed mix of old and new, classic, very good antiques, and things that have been rescued from the city dumpster.

There’s a problem.  When my mother died last year, my sister and I inherited everything.  We had and still have a mess.  Part of the mess is getting rid of – stuff.  Our mother had excellent taste, beautiful china, crystal, and furniture.  She also became the keeper of – family.  I swear my father’s family never threw anything out – ever.  The problem with that is after a century or so, that ‘stuff’ becomes valuable.

What to do?

I spent months looking for the right solution.

  • Estate sale
  • Yard sale
  • Donations
  • Auctions
  • Private sales
  • Consignment
  • Antique store
  • Online auction
  • Online high-end sales

Each one, I was told, has its good points. We donated quite a bit of things to local charities.  Private sales are interesting.  I lost nearly $1000 on a guy who has  yet to pay me.  Moral of the story is cash up front.  That aside, I have done better that way.  Remember, there are no rules.  The middle person and (usually) the buyer are out to screw you.

Consignment is iffy.  Standard is if anything hasn’t sold within 90 days, it becomes property of the store.  I put a few things on consignment.  It is a joke.  After my nightmare experience with Ebay, forget that.  I am going to try one of the high-end site for some designer things.  Haven’t had time – yet.

I did fairly well on two yard sales, bring in a total of about $5000.  I plan on doing another one in several weeks.  You need to be careful,  and hope for luck.  A friend says the secret is in the advertising.

When my sister and I were packing up the parents’ home, I contacted several different people who were highly recommended as both representatives of estate sales and auction houses.  The estate sale person has been a nightmare. She made promises that caused me to spend thousands of dollars I did not have, moving things I could have sold elsewhere.  Then, when I pressed her, numerous times, she lied, backed out of things, then recommended me to someone who was a cheat.

Someone doing an estate sale is going to price things to move – rock bottom, far below value.  They are also going to take around 40% as commission.  For this, they will unpack, pick-up, clean-up, price, arrange, promote, hold the sale, then clean up afterward, and dispose of what remains. I have no problem with that.  My problem is the rock bottom prices, and what appears to be collusion with antique and junk dealers who take advantage of the situation like vultures. They wait until the last day, when prices are slashed in half, then swoop in, to buy what they want, and maybe even negotiate off that amount.  They take what they buy and mark it up – tremendously, and put it in their antique stores. Why not tell the owner what the true value is, and facilitate a relationship with an antique dealer, and help the owner get more money?

A few weeks ago a highly respected owner of an auction house offered me $500 for everything in a storage unit.  If they thought something was worth more, they would re-evaluate what they paid me. Um…no.  I have five boxes of Native American pottery worth that much, per box.  They have it on an online sale, dirt cheap.  Once again, a dealer swoops in, and the seller ends up paying anywhere from 25% – 50% commission.

The local dealers are discovering I’m not stupid and know the value of what I’m trying to sell.  It puts a chill on any relationship, especially of the third parties and the buyers want to get what you have for absolutely nothing.  There is nothing wrong with making a profit. There is something knowingly wrong about advertising how religiously conservative you are and then try to cheat someone.

I don’t like rules or regulations.  I’m beginning to think, though, there should be some new rules and regulations governing estate sales and auctions. People who are in a crises are being taken advantage of, seriously.  There is no morality or common decency in the business.  Like I said, there is nothing wrong with making a profit.  What is wrong is cheating people when they need help.

I think I know what to do.  The problem is figuring out how to do it.  When I figure it out,  you will be the first to know.