Getting rid of Mom and Dad’s things can be really hard. After all it’s like we are throwing away a piece of them and we feel the guilt – oh… the guilt. As the eldest sibling, and final executor to my parents’ affairs the responsibility fell on me when my Mom died. However I am lucky. I have brothers and a sister that supported me and we shared this difficult task.
It didn’t hurt that helping people to do this is one of the services I provide families with when they have to make such choices.
It is especially hard to do this directly after a death in the family. I have seen and experienced this first hand. People react in one of two ways. They either freeze right up and don’t want to deal with it at all, or they want everything to be gone overnight so that the memories they associate with the things somehow won’t be so hard to take. Both scenarios will cost you – in terms of money, time and emotional energy.
Sometimes the person is still with you but so sick that you and they know they will never go home again. This is also very difficult because you have to take care of affairs even before they are gone and it just feels wrong. This is one of the reasons why people don’t do wills – it’s as if the making of a will is an invitation to the Grim Reaper to come and get us. Nothing could be further from the truth. It makes it so much easier for you or the person that is left to take care of your affairs to deal with making decisions – such as what to do with your stuff.
Just before my Mom died she and I went to the bank and took care of her affairs. We discussed who she wanted as pall bearers, what songs she wanted played at her funeral, what picture she wanted used in her obituary and so on. Just thinking about this now brings tears to my eyes.
Having done this really helped us get through all the sad days to follow.
I received an email this week from a lady who wanted to know what to do to start the whole process of selling her mother’s goods.
Here is some of the advice I gave her:
- Don’t mix selling and appraising. Pay an antique dealer that you trust (get recommendations) or an auctioneer to give you an appraisal. You want them to quote you a range of what you could expect to get for certain items if you sold them – not the price they might be in a store.
- Once you have an idea of what things are worth then call in someone to buy the items. You should do some calculations of your own. Add up as many of the items you have quotes for and calculate 65 % – 75% of this amount as a “Buy All” price. This will prepare you if a dealer comes in and says “I will take it all for $$$$”. That way you can say yes or no right away because you will have figured it out beforehand.
- If you sell only specific items then dealers will “cherry pick” the best items and leave you with the less valuable stuff to sell on your own or get rid of – trust me that will be hard work. Give the best prices to those people that buy the most volume. However if you have some very valuable items then do sell them separately.
- Talk to relatives before dealers. Tell them you will be selling your Mom’s things and ask if there is anything they might wish to buy. Of course it is up to you if you want to give things away but relatives can be just as greedy as a stranger. Use your discretion. Doing this will save a lot of family feuds “If she had told me it was for sale I would have bought it”. You won’t believe how many times I heard that when I had my antique store. You may have some family members that truly do value the items and are totally prepared to pay for them so ask.
- Keep up your courage and spirits. Time really does ease the pain but it never gets rid of those wonderful memories.
Do you have any stories to share? I’d love to hear them.