At an estate sale recently, a large baggie filled with yellow corn-on-the-cob holders caught my eye. The price was $1 and out of curiosity, I opened the baggie to see exactly how many corn picks you got for that kind of money.
There were 66 pair of corn-on-the-cob holders, and I admit being surprised. Why so many? I mean, they come in packs of eight or twelve. So twelve times, these corn fiends plunked down money at the store for a gadget that gets used four months of the year. Are they Rotarians in charge of the annual Pig Roast? Do their grandchildren use them as swords in Barbie doll wars? Do they have acreage in Iowa?
I’m not the only one wondering. The woman behind me watches as I count and we share a convivial laugh. “People save the weirdest things, don’t they?” she says.
This is how an estate sale rolls. The doors, drawers, and cupboards of your home are thrown open to the proletariat and we rifle through your possessions, assessing your housekeeping, questioning your behavior, and often, pitying you for letting things get out of hand.
So why do it?
Sometimes it isn’t your decision because you are dead and your surviving relatives, tasked with the burden of emptying your home, turn to professionals. But more and more, families downsize or move overseas, necessitating a shedding of possessions.
Plus there’s something to be said for the lightening speed efficiency of a two-day estate sale. Professionals inventory and price your possessions, market the sale, run it, and when it ends, donate the rest to charity or haul it to a shop.
And while the term “estate sale” conjures up a chateau in the country, in truth, any homeowner or condo dweller can host one.
Before you do, ask yourself this essential question: Do you care who ends up with your stuff? With an estate sale, you are relinquishing control of how your things will be distributed. Some people are not comfortable with that. They like “gifting” their heirloom box of mittens to a special niece or nephew.
If you’re okay with selling your things to the person most likely to use them and give them a second life, then find an estate sale company and fling open your doors.
Here are questions to pose to the professionals:
- How much input does the family have on pricing?
- Exactly how is the estate sale advertised; where is it advertised and for how long?
- What percentage of proceeds goes to the family?
- Are valuables like fine antiques, art, or jewelry treated differently?
- What safeguards are in place to minimize damage to the home during the sale?
- If damage occurs, who is responsible?
- What happens to furnishings that don’t sell?
- If furnishings end up at a shop, do the terms and conditions change?
- Who cleans up afterwards?
Best of luck to you in this most difficult task, and if you do host an estate sale, save the weird stuff for me.
Photo collage by Nicholas Ballesteros