The Gucci Purse

My holiday season was filled with the urge to purge.  I swept through the house like a cyclone, pulling things out to give away, sell, and discard.  My daughter didn’t know what to think and my husband kept asking, “Are you sure you want to get rid of that?”  If you feel like your home needs to be on a diet, you know exactly how I was feeling!

Today in our guest closet, I came across an authentic vintage Gucci purse my aunt purchased for my mother when she traveled to Rome about 45 years ago.  It was still in the original soft dust cover and is still like new.  It is burgundy in color and not really my style, but when mom died, I kept it.

Question #1 … “Why did I keep this?”

As I held it, inspecting its near “mint condition”, I wondered out loud why people hold on to things instead of actually using them.  I can hear echoes of mom’s voice saying something like, “Oh, that is a very expensive handbag and I will only wear it on very special occasions.”

That memory led me to question #2 … “Why wait for special occasions?”

Why not throw caution to the wind

and enjoy the heck out of what you have,

regardless of the season or the reason?

When mom was living, it was up on the top shelf of her closet collecting dust.  Funny how it ended up on my closet shelf collecting dust.  Why would I hold on to things if I get no use or enjoyment out of them?

This brought me to a decision that honestly needed to be made … Will I ever use it, and do I love it so much that I can’t let go?  NO and NO.

So the Gucci bag will be sold.  Someone I adored kept it and she never enjoyed it.  I never enjoyed it either.  So this purse has led a very dull life!

Someone SHOULD enjoy it, even if it isn’t me.

In almost every estate I work in, we find the drawers filled with linens and candles galore.  One day, my assistant said to me, as we were cleaning out a sideboard full of candles, “Wouldn’t it be a great idea if some of these people actually enjoyed using these things prior to their death?  YES, it would; otherwise, what’s the point?

I have come to the conclusion that I won’t miss a thing that left my home in the past two weeks.  My home has a new, light feel to it and I am enjoying that sensation.

Now if I would only shed a few pounds myself ….

©2016 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

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Published in: on January 8, 2016 at 11:01 am  Comments (2)  
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A New Take on “Taking”

Tips for Letting Go When Handling an Estate

There’s nothing simple or easy about letting go, especially when you are handling the estate of a loved one.  People have the tendency to keep too much from the estate.  They often find comfort in the things and the memories attached to them.

Being able to let go:

  • brings closure and peace of mind
  • minimizes family and marital strife
  • prevents future worries when your children are burdened with the same stuff
  • help avoid storage costs
  • prevents cluttering your own home

When you keep too much:

  • You realize you no longer need what you kept.
  • Your own home becomes overwhelmed with stuff.
  • Storage costs far outweigh the value of what is stored.
  • Your kids and grandkids don’t want what you selected to keep for them.
  • You may experience guilt. “Mom would be so upset if I sold that.” or “Mom said it was valuable so I should keep it.”  Escort guilt to the door.  Life is hard enough without the burden of needless guilt.

What do YOU want?

It’s perfectly acceptable to let go of possessions, especially if you don’t absolutely cherish them.  If no one in the family wants the items, have an estate sale professional sell to those who will cherish them like mom and dad did.  Unfortunately, families rarely get to see how happy new buyers are when they find these items.  I’d much rather have someone who can appreciate the items, than to keep them stuffed in boxes taking up space in my home … unappreciated.

TIPS

  1. Don’t keep items just because.  Ask yourself if you really need it and have a purpose for it.
  2. Record a video of the estate as it was when your loved one lived there.
  3. Photographs are a great idea to preserve the memories without hanging on to the stuff.
  4. Give to those less fortunate.  Maybe your loved one had a favorite charity.  Even if you have an estate sale, arrange for the estate sale professional to donate the items that do not sell.
  5. Be honest and realistic.  Will you really use this item?  Why are you keeping it?
  6. Set healthy boundaries and realize that space is a limiting factor.
  7. If the estate needs to pay off debt, take as little as possible, so the remainder can be sold by a professional and proceeds applied to the debt.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Letting Go of Our Possessions is Hard

Most of us enjoy hearing the words, “Till death do us part,” during a wedding ceremony, where the new couple is floating in bliss and envision being by each other’s side until death separates them.  From my perspective, I see people who have a very passionate relationship with their material possessions, sometimes more so than with each other.  It almost appears that they believe they can take their possessions with them when they leave earth.

For over two decades, I have tried to figure out why people have such a difficult time letting go.  Often it’s the Depression Era generation that has accumulated the most stuff.  Their parents did not have much and probably possessed mostly utilitarian items during that era.  The Depression Era generation absorbed what their parents owned.  The Boomers have much more stuff to deal with, but they have only so much space to keep things.

Here are some thoughts on why people hold on to so much.  Where do you see yourself in these thoughts?

  • You just never know when I’m going to need this.
  • There are so many uses for this possession.
  • If I hold onto it long enough, it will become valuable.
  • It is already old, so it must be valuable.
  • I did without as a child; I will not do without again.
  • It was a gift and I will honor the giver by keeping it.
  • The more I leave the kids, the more they will have.
  • I worked very hard for these things and I will pass them down.
  • The things bring comfort and familiarity.
  • All these things make me feel close to my parents.
  • My children will feel loved by me when I’m gone, because I left them all these things.
  • I’m too overwhelmed to let it go (emotional attachment).
  • I’ll let the kids deal with the stuff after I’m gone.

Here’s the part where I try to put my clients at ease.  When in doubt, always have the contents of an estate viewed by a true professional prior to distributing or selling contents.  Most times, the heirs are not surprised to learn that much of what mom and dad amassed doesn’t have much value.  Some children feel the stuff may be “junk” and are pleasantly surprised to find that some pieces have significant value.  Family stories through the years can add to the anticipation that grandfather’s chair is valuable because it is old.  Yet, we know age is not the only determining factor of true value.

For every reason listed above, there is a counter-reason to let it go.

  • Many of your heirs won’t take as much as you would like to give them.
  • Boomer children already have houses full of stuff; adding more will only fuel marital strife.
  • Your younger generations appear to want very little but cash assets.
  • Leaving a huge burden for your children should not be your legacy.
  • Much of your stuff will be out of style and not genuinely desired by your heirs.
  • Your heirs may have different lifestyles and your stuff won’t fit those styles.
  • Many are trying to simplify their own lives, not add more stuff to clean and hold.
  • If you sell your stuff now, you can purchase other things you would truly enjoy.
  • These items were treasured by someone else, but not you and not now.

Holding on to possessions, for the sake of not wanting to let them go, can leave a negative impact on those left behind.  Gifting valuable items now is a beautiful way to pass along your treasures and watch your heirs enjoy them.  Making plans for the distribution of your possessions, while you are still in control of these decisions, is the best plan of action.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Exercise Discernment When Cleaning Out Mom & Dad’s House

Don’t take things just to take them!

Boomers, take heed.  As our parents pass away, the temptation to sock away their belongings is great, but take the time to really think about what you are doing.  Don’t keep it because you think your children or grandchildren might change their minds one day.  Don’t get stuck paying for ludicrous storage bills that far outweigh the value of what you place inside there.  Don’t fall into the trap of being a storage for your kids either.  In the blink of an eye, you will be wanting to downsize; the time has come to hold yourself accountable in all of this.  It’s either you who will do it or your children will do it, so why not do it for them?

TAKE only what is really special to you, because the kids will most likely not change their minds and it will be sold off for pennies on the dollar, when it falls in the hands of your children.

TAKE photographs, because they take up less space but you still have the memory of the item(s).

TAKE into consideration that if your children say “no,” they don’t want these items.  They really mean “no.”

TIPS:  Don’t sell, give away, or donate anything until a professional has examined it.  So many boomers throw away or give away personal possessions worth a small fortune, simply because they don’t know the values.  Tell everyone “no” until the appraiser has reviewed everything.  The cost to pay a personal property appraiser is nothing compared to the value you could find, not to mention the peace of mind it will give you!

KEEP the following:

  • Anything that can provide family history.
  • Family heirlooms if they are wanted and will be cherished.  Don’t force heirlooms on the children if their hearts aren’t in it.
  • All items of perceived monetary value.  Hire that appraiser to find out for sure!
  • Family photographs
  • Rare or unusual items (some antiques fall into this category).  If someone has room for them and wants them, that’s fine.  It’s okay to sell them if no one wants them.
  • Jewelry.  Have items appraised first for fair market value, not replacement value.
  • Items with historic significance.  You may donate if no family wants them.
  • Important documents.  These must be kept together until they are all sorted through by the executor.
  • Collections (gold, coins, guns, stamps, etc.).  Always have them evaluated by a professional.  It is unusual to find appraisers for different specialty collections.
  • Antiques, artwork, paintings, sculpture.  These must be evaluated by a professional.
  • Military items.  These items are sought by collectors but may also be vital to family history.
  • Safes, safety deposit boxes, and their contents.  Have a key or know where keys or passwords are located.
  • Anything you cannot identify.  Have a professional look at it for you.

Don’t take things just to take them.  Select a few sentimental items that are small enough for you to use or display in your home.  Great family or marital strife can develop if you take too much.  Remember, the more you take now, the more your children will have to deal with later.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

Guilt – The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Each day, I work closely with heirs attempting to deal with what their parents have left behind.  Some parents leave more than others, and some downsize long before their time comes.  Some are so attached to their possessions, they leave it all for their children to contend with.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear they use their possessions as an anchor to this world, not fully understanding that when you are called to enter the heavenly gates, you can’t take a thing with you.  You leave this earth much as you entered it, and we didn’t bring one material possession when we arrived.

On a daily basis, I hear middle-aged children tell me their mother “would kill them” if they sold or gave her possessions away, or that mom “always told me how valuable it was and to never sell it,” or that “I had to pass this down to the kids or she’d roll in her grave.”  They openly share with me that mother always stressed the importance of these things and they now feel badly, wanting to sell them.

Friends, this is what I call strategically applied guilt and I am offering you some helpful advice here with the hopes that you will read it, re-read it, and pass it along to those who need to read it!

  1. Every “thing” has a season.  That season of cherishing that item was during your mom’s lifetime, not necessarily yours.  Free yourself and make peace with this.
  2. You may need permission to let it go.  Here it is: It’s OK to let go and let someone else derive pleasure from it. There’s no sense in the item collecting dust, being stacked in your attic, or wrapped up in old newspaper in a box where it has remained since 1977.  Let it go!
  3. No, the kids and grandkids really don’t want it, most of the time.  Even if you have an idea in your head that they will want it in the future, most of the time they don’t.  Ask them what they would like to keep now.  If it’s not on their list, don’t force them to take it.  All you are doing is “passing the buck” to the younger generation that has no tolerance for “stuff.”  They prefer cash.
  4. Why would you clutter up your house with someone else’s stuff?  It’s not fair to you, your spouse, your children.  Make a pact with yourself that you will sort through it in a timely manner … not years, but weeks.  Hire an appraiser to uncover what has value so you can make sound decisions.  Get the kids on board and set dates for them to come get what they want.  If it is unclaimed, give it to a charity of choice; let it go to someone who will appreciate it.  It really is simple — you just have to make up your mind to do it, and forgive yourself for anything you think you are doing incorrectly.  Always look forward.
  5. I’m sure they don’t care about their material possessions in heaven.  Agree?
  6. Relieve yourself and your children of guilt.  Here’s how …

My mom gave me a great gift before she died (her death was not expected).  She took me to the guest room closet which had several packing boxes stacked.  She told me those boxes were filled with family photos.  “When I die, Julie, just throw them away because they are photos of people I don’t even know; I will not give you the guilt my mother put on me.”

When mom died unexpectedly and I was in her home cleaning it out, I walked up to that closet and replayed that scene in my mind.  I actually laughed out loud when I reached for the boxes, telling my brother what mom had told me.  Even though we went through the boxes, she was right and I had no trouble letting go.  I was incredibly grateful my mother gave me that “gift” and relieved me of that burden.  That’s love!

It’s OK to feel a pang of uncertainty.  It’s not OK to drag this stuff with you through life, allowing it to drag you down with it.  It’s not right to place it all on your children.  Learn from this painful experience.

©2013 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

Clean Out an Estate and Care for the Environment

Q:  While I’m cleaning out an estate, how can I also “go green” for the environment?

A:  Thank you for this excellent question.

Donating, recycling, and selling are less expensive than a dumpster and may provide cash for your unwanted items.  They may also provide a tax deduction or help out a worthy cause.  Use your imagination when deciding where things could go, other than black trash bags!  Can someone use your items in some form or fashion?  This is the ultimate in recycling.

Remember the following when cleaning out estates:

  • Have the neighbors in for free household chemicals, garden/yard tools, etc.
  • Create a donation network by discussing what you have to give.
  • Keep watch for charity drives in your community.
  • Web search for places to sell or donate items.
  • Gazelle.com, venjuvo.com, techforward.com and myboneyard.com all offer varying amounts of compensation for electronics.
  • Mygreenelectronics.com tells you where to find nearby recycling centers for electronics.
  • Paper, cardboard, and scrap metal are commodities that are traded.  Find a buyer in your local phone book.
  • Scrap metal and other household metals, photo frames, etc. are wanted by artists, or can be sold for scrap.
  • Charities are in a funding crisis; paper, books, games and toys help daycares, senior centers and after-school programs.  Give them a call; they are happy to give you a wish list.
  • Alzheimer’s facilities are always looking for clean linens, towels, etc.
  • Many religious organizations/groups set up homes for refugees, domestic abuse victims, pregnant women, disabled adults, etc.  They need many everyday items that you need to dispose.
  • Inventory the home before buying materials.  Garbage bags, boxes, and cleaning supplies are normally already in the house.
  • Worn sheets and towels, leashes and pet bowls are very much needed by local pet shelters.
  • Remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

Do your part to help!

© 2012 Julie Hall

Sometimes Life’s an Oxymoron

A potential client sat in her parent’s affluent home asking my opinion as to how we should handle the dissolution of the property.  In this case, I recommended a combination of auction and donation because it was not suitable for a good estate sale.  Imagine my shock when she basically refused the very idea of donation.  This was foreign to me.  With so many out there in need, and her being financially blessed, I just couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t want the towels, linens, kitchen items, and clothing donated.  I left the home not knowing what to make of it.  This appeared to be a picture of an uncharitable heart … hold that thought.

On Christmas Eve, our family went to a candlelight service.  Feeling a little blue because mom passed away and everything feeling weird without her, my father, family and I went to the service in hopes it would lift our Christmas spirit. 

A small boy no older than 4 years old was wheeled in front of me.  There, in a wheelchair that looked like something from outer space with every gadget and gismo attached, was this very tiny child with the most angelic face I had ever seen.  He was beautiful with his blonde hair and blue eyes and looked like “Tiny Tim” from A Christmas Carol

He was completely helpless and dependent on his parents.  The child could not move any of his limbs and stared up at the ceiling.  He never made a sound.  Finally, his father unbelted him from his lifeline and picked him up.  The boy was as limp as a ragdoll and showed no sign of life other than his eyes being open. 

At first, dad held him on his lap and he repeatedly kissed the boy on the forehead.  Then mom held him and she would rub his hair playfully, talk to him and kiss his cheeks.  Their faces and eyes held the most amazing peace.  I thought to myself, Now, that’s love.  What an amazing example of love, compassion, and acceptance.

When you witness something as beautiful as that, and then meet other people who seem to have so much but are not willing to share any, it’s a little difficult to understand human nature. 

I did not hear the minister’s message on Christmas Eve, because I was so engrossed in observing this family with their boy.  When I realized I missed the bulk of the service, I just smiled to myself, knowing the message I had received was much more powerful —  and a tender reminder that we have so much to be thankful for. 

© 2012 Julie Hall

Your Reality Check for the Day

My clients have taught me that in the end, the worth of an item is measured only by the joy it brings at a particular point in time.  Many of us claim to cherish our possessions, only to discover that with the passage of time, they don’t mean as much anymore, or they have become a burden to us in some way.

Perhaps our tastes have changed.  Our home is too cluttered, or the sheer volume of what we own has caused marital strife.  Maybe you feel guilty because mom passed away and you feel the need to take a lot of what she owned.

Today, more and more people are selling their stuff to downsize, make extra money, empty an estate, or to simplify their lives and not have their stuff own them.  I’ve seen each scenario described, and I have witnessed what appear to be love affairs between people and their things.

A recent client told me he was terminally ill and he had many collectibles and oddities he had collected over the years.  He wanted me to come over, sell what I could, and send the proceeds to benefit a wonderful organization.  What a beautiful thought, but it’s what he said that made me really think:  “Mrs. Hall, it’s time for someone else to enjoy these items which brought me so much pleasure.  I am blessed beyond measure.  These are just things that I had fun fixing up and looking at.  But it is a humbling thought knowing someone won’t make it through the night, and it’s time to move forward.  My job right now is not to worry about this stuff … it’s to live as long as I can!”

Suddenly, everything shifted as his words sunk in.  I always thought I was unique to my industry – that while I was an expert in personal property, I never truly had love for these things, just appreciation.  Clients like him have taught me what’s really important in life.

© 2011, The Estate Lady

From Clutter to Cash, Part 3

Here are the final 4 options for turning the clutter stored in your home and garage into cash.  Please pay special attention to Option #7 before you get rid of anything that might have value. 

6.  Do-It-Yourself – You can try Ebay, Craigslist, local advertising in your newspaper. These are time-consuming and often frustrating if you don’t know the proper way to describe the items, people never show up at the appointed times, money can be wasted in fees (especially Ebay’s, which are not cheap, but at times are worth it). For antiques, collectibles, jewelry, vehicles, larger collections: If you are determined to save the percentage you would ordinarily pay a professional, that’s ok. But keep in mind that professionals have the knowledge and skills to sell these items for the highest amount they can. If you are paying them a commission, they want it to sell for as much as possible too.

7.  BEFORE you sell or give away anything you perceive has value, make sure a professional appraiser takes a look at it. A professional who is paid for an opinion of value and not one that will offer to buy it, which to many is a conflict of interest, but you be the best judge. I have uncovered items worth tens of thousands of dollars that were slated for donation. The fee my client paid me was well worth having me come over, because my experience and skills uncovered what they thought was give-away junk. For example, they were very happy when I discovered in their basement a vase that was sold for $57,500.

8.  To sell or donate? – Should it just be donated, or can I try to sell it first? If it doesn’t sell, I’ll pack it up for donation. Whichever you prefer. If it is banged up and in horrible condition, recycle it or throw it away. If you would feel better giving your items to those less fortunate – there are many who are these days – please find a worthwhile charity or organization. By all means, give, give, give. You will receive a donation receipt you can use for this year’s taxes.

9.  Scrap it – If it’s metal and you don’t want it, or it’s broken or bent, don’t throw it away; scrap it! Find out the location of your local scrap yard and haul it there to get cash. It is not unusual for a truck load to be $100-$150 depending on the type of metals you have. They are looking for insulated copper wire, copper tubing, auto radiators, air conditioning coils, brass, aluminum, bronze, cast iron, stainless steel, and other high temperature alloys.

Please leave a comment at the end of this article and let me know how this has helped you.  What have you cleared out and how did you turn it into cash?

©The Estate Lady, 2011

Think Before You Throw – How to GO GREEN When Clearing Out an Estate

Do it for the earth and do it for your pocket! 

Donating, recycling, and selling are less expensive than a dumpster and may provide cash for your unwanted items.  They may also provide a tax deduction or help out a worthy cause.  Use your imagination when deciding where things could go, other than black trash bags!  Can someone use your items in some form or fashion?  This is the ultimate in recycling. 

Remember the following when cleaning out estates:

  • Have the neighbors in for free household chemicals, garden/yard tools, etc.
  • Create a donation network by discussing what you have to give.
  • Keep watch for charity drives in your community.  Typically, TV and newspapers will run donation requests during the holiday season.
  • Web search for places to sell or donate items.
  • Gazelle.com, venjuvo.com, techforward.com and myboneyard.com all offer varying amounts of compensation for electronics.
  • Mygreenelectronics.com tells you where to find nearby recycling centers for electronics.
  • Paper, cardboard, and scrap metal are commodities that are traded.  Find a buyer in your local phone book.
  • Scrap metal and other household metals, photo frames, etc. are wanted by artists.  (If you take scrap metal to the right place, you can end up with some $$$ in your wallet.)
  • Charities are in a funding crisis; paper, books, games and toys help daycares, senior centers and after-school programs.  Give them a call; they are happy to give you a wish list.
  • Alzheimer’s facilities are always looking for clean linens, towels, etc.
  • Many religious organizations/groups set up homes for refugees, domestic abuse victims, pregnant women, disabled adults, etc.  They need many everyday items that you need to dispose.
  • Inventory the home before buying materials.  Garbage bags, boxes, and cleaning supplies are normally already in the house.
  • Worn sheets and towels, leashes and pet bowls are very much needed by local pet shelters.
  • Remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

With my prediction of millions of households being liquidated in the next few decades, the very thought of the amount of trash the U.S. will generate is mind boggling.  Do your part to help!

© 2010 Julie Hall