As published in the Savannah Morning News - September 9, 2012
Getting Rid of Stuff!
Every time my clients decide to discard something, or donate it to charity, I cheer! I know it sounds strange, but there is so much stuff that accumulates over time, it’s a reason to celebrate! In Senior Move Management, our job is to help the Senior choose what will move, and what will not. When Staging their next residence, we have determined what furnishings will fit in the new home, but what about the rest?
Okay, I get it! Parting with stuff is not easy for most people, and this step is especially difficult for Depression babies that are now making a downsizing decision. For many Seniors, this may be the most difficult step toward our end goal…moving! It’s tedious, I know, and not so much fun. But it is part of the process, so let’s get crackin’.
We have to start sorting, organizing and deciding what to move and what you no longer want or need. Dust will become your new best friend! One important thing I can tell you from my experience: when sorting through the attic, books, garage, closets…wear a mask! My eyes swell, I get a sore throat, and can’t breathe if I don’t. Dust, dead bugs and droppings (hey, it’s the south), animal hair, you name it, it all ends up in my eyes and nose. A mask helps and you should do the same if you want to sleep easy after stirring up the dust!
So, let’s get in the sorting mood. While going through your closets, when you come across things you have never worn, or have not worn in 2 years, donate or consign it! Depending on a Senior’s mobility, I discourage keeping long dresses, skirts, robes, or anything that presents a tripping hazard. I have some clients that have had strokes, and many who have balance or walking difficulties. Wearing long garments is an accident waiting to happen.
Imelda Marcos, move over! Look at the closets loaded with shoes! What about all those high heels that you no longer wear? Let’s get rid of them! Try on your belts, and again, take only those that you wear, and that still fit. Pitch the purses you never use. It’s time.
Garages are really time consuming, so start now and work a little at a time until you tackle it. Garage sales are a great way to clean out a garage and make some money.
In the kitchen, keep one of everything to make a complete cooking set. No need for 3 sets of pots and pans, multiple lobster pots, and now for the dishes: keep a nice set, and an everyday set. Are you really going to make pies…really? Spring form pans, baking pans: same thing.
Now for the attic: have you been moving around boxes of tax records and files for years and don’t know what to do with them? Here’s where caution should be exercised:
Financial and Tax Records: a tedious procedure for move managers because no paper goes untouched! When sorting through a house, we find everything from deeds to property, to safety deposit box keys. It is important that we look at each paper to determine if it needs to be filed, or if it may be discarded. Since laws change, we are continuously researching what records you need to keep, for how long, and what can be discarded. I found the following information on Forbes.com, and hope it will be helpful:
How Long Should You Keep Records After Tax Day? by Kelly Phillips Erb, Contributor, April 12, 2012, Forbes.com
You’ll want to keep records and documentation on hand in the event that the IRS comes calling. Here are some tips to help you figure out which records to keep and how long to keep them:
One quick word of warning: even if records aren’t needed for tax reasons, you may need them for other reasons. Make sure that you check with your mortgage company and tax professional before tossing important records.
Shredding: Last week I mentioned there are shredding companies that come to your house and shred your documents right in front of you. You don’t have to remove paper clips, bindings or even 3 ring covers. It’s fun to watch as it gets ground up, and the bonus: it’s recycled. Don’t give the stuff to the shredder in black plastic bags because the recyclers don’t want black plastic in the mix. File boxes or cardboard boxes are fine.
Medical Records: I advise my clients to keep medical records forever. I organize them in yearly files, and they can go back to any year of significance to pull medical records.
Okay, so we have gone through the entire house: every cabinet and closet, the garage, store rooms and attic. There are piles of things left that are still good, and that someone will love. So what to do now?
Consider some of the following options:
Garage Sales: They take at least a week to organize, you’ll need lead time for advertising, and pricing is a challenge. Most things should be tagged with a price that is appropriate for a garage sale. My garage sales last no longer than four hours, as the good stuff goes in the early part of the sale. People will line up outside in the dark, so be ready when your ad says it will start! And, if you don’t want to do this yourself, there are services that will handle everything for you, including pricing, holding the sale, and taking a percentage of the profit for their efforts.
Estate Sales: These take research. Things of value, such as high-end furniture, art, rugs, silver, and crystal go into estate sales. Appraisals may be in order to determine the value on these items. If you have receipts for furniture, information on the art, along with bios on the artists, use them as back-up for your pricing. Again, lead time is necessary for advertising, and sometimes it’s well worth it to spend some money to have color photos taken, and a full or partial page ad designed in a publication that hits your target market. High-end items are not selling easily now in this economy, so donating or consignment is another option.
Consignment: As stated above, high-end furniture and art at not selling as much as reasonably priced merchandise. Another sign of the times, it is difficult to find a consigner who will take china, as they have been flooded with it because of the economy. People are unloading their stuff to make their mortgage payments and bills. Rule of thumb based on the consigners I know: if the merchandise is in demand, and in great condition, it should be listed for sale at half (or less than half) of the original purchase price. Then you usually split the sale price (50/50?) with the consigner. You are roughly going to get about 25% of its value back, if it sells. If it does not, they either return the goods to you, or they donate it. In most cases, you will have to get the furniture to their store. Factor the moving cost into your bottom line, unless you can move it there yourself.
Auctions: There are auctioneers in Savannah who will make a deal with you, and determine your share of the proceeds, should your items be sold at auction. If it is an “absolute” sale, you will not know what your take will be until after the item sells. Auctioneers will have a pretty good idea of what an item will sell for, however, sometimes they are surprised that an item either did not sell, or got much more or less than they expected.
Antiques: I like to bring in an expert to help me identify valuable antiques, art and rugs. One time I nearly threw out a painting with a frame that was falling apart. I found it in the attic, and the painting itself had come loose from the matt and was crooked in the frame. I did not like the subject matter, the medium, or basically anything about the painting. It goes to show you how subjective art can be! It turned out that the painting was more valuable than anything else in the house, and it is the reason I don’t trust myself to make those kinds of judgments. I always have an expert walk through the house with me to evaluate art, rugs and antiques. There are physical or on-line auctions, and local antique shops that may take your antiques on consignment.
Advertising: For starters, the Savannah Morning News has print and online advertising. You will want to advertise for garage and estate sales, as well as any advertising for specific pieces you wish to sell. If you put your phone number in the ad, be prepared to spend a lot of time answering the phone! It might be better to invent a temporary email address that you can delete following the event, and post that address in your ad instead of a phone number. Email allows you to communicate when it is convenient for you to respond to inquiries, plus you can attach photos.
Charitable Donations: Pick your charity, then call them. Ask if they take furniture, and if they will pick it up. Some are for profit, some non-profit. Some will make appointments, others have specific pick up days in your area and give you a range of time they will be there. I prefer those that set a specific time and come to your home, as promised. You will receive a tax donation receipt for your records.
Curb Side Pickup: Invaluable! We write it in our calendars, and drag the stuff to the curb that is not salable, or is not good enough to donate. Remember, if the condition of an item makes you think a charity can’t sell something, you are probably right. Many areas of the county have curb side pickup that will take everything but yard debris. We drag piles to the curb every month.
Okay, you are now ready to move! Exhausted? Probably, and even for those of us that do this every day, it is a tiring experience. But just think, you are simplifying your life, shedding yourself of all the stuff you’ve dragged around for years, and it has to feel good!
Next week in the Moving Mom series…Let’s Move!
By Brooke Bass, Associate Broker with Keller Williams Coastal Area Partners and owner of Gracious Moves LLC, a Savannah based Staging and Move Management Company.
A nationally award winning Realtor, Brooke has been successfully selling and staging homes since 1985. She holds the National Association of Realtors, “Seniors Real Estate Specialist” certification, and memberships in the National Association of Senior Move Managers, and Greater Savannah Coalition on Aging. For more information, contact Brooke at 912-655-9299 or visit www.GraciousMoves.com.