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Moving: Staging Everything

Updated: Feb 21, 2022

Moving: The Day of Reckoning Is Here!

Today I welcome Susan Gardner as a contributing author on a series of articles about moving. Whether you're moving cross-country to "be closer to the grandkids," finally going to your dream home, or finally going to a retirement community, you have to move. As our author would say, you get to "pick up every single item and put it somewhere else." Susan's expertise in this area is hard won. Enjoy this series.

-Ed Zinkiewicz

Nothing brings to light the clutter in a house more than moving. A house only becomes empty by someone physically picking up every single item and putting it somewhere else. The box stashed in the back closet will be opened, the bag of unfinished projects will not be ignored, and the strategically placed junk drawers will be emptied. Every piece of furniture will be moved somewhere. Every dust bunny will hop freely!

Professional organizer Peter Walsh describes two types of clutter that collect over years. “Memory clutter” is stuff, like an old school program or a newspaper clipping, that reminds you of important events. In the “someday clutter” category are items you don't toss because you “might need them someday.”

With the decision to move, “someday” has arrived. Either you need the item or you don’t. And with moving imminent, that fact holds true for memorabilia, as well. Whether you pack things yourself or have someone else pack, you have to make the decisions that set in motion the emptying of one place and moving things into another place. Indeed, the day of reckoning is here.

But, practically, how do you choose what to sell, donate, or “trash” among the things that you will no longer keep? Who wants your stuff and how do you get it out of the house?

To Sell

First, estimate the volume of all you hope to discard. When you look at broad categories of things, you can make long-range decisions. For instance, if you plan to sell a moderate to large number of items, you have different options than if you are selling a handful. You can go the professional-help route or the do-it-yourself path, or a combination of both. Starting with the big picture can help you avoid getting bogged down in the minutia of individual decisions.

If you decide you want to move ahead on your own, you have several options for selling items, depending on the quality and quantity of your things:

  • Yard sales, an old standby, are a good option for items valued at $100 or less. A yard sale is fairly easy to organize and execute, especially if you have family and friends who can give you time in the week prior and during the sale. You can have a yard sale at multiple stages of your downsizing process, clearing out things from your house as you go along.

  • Online ventures, such as Craig’s List or Let Go, provide a way is to sell items individually. I have had success with both and find making the sales easy to accomplish. An important safety tip is to meet in a public place for the actual transition. You can even arrange the meeting for a police station. Let Go is a smart-phone app that advertises your item locally. You take a picture of it and price it; then you are given the option of adding additional pictures and a description. So far, I’ve sold a ukulele and a car. The over-the-door chin-up bar got a nibble but didn’t sell! I liken Craig’s List and Let Go to a yard sale one item at a time.

  • Neighborhood list-serves, when available, combine the best of both options. You can take a photo of your nicer items and put a price on them. Then, assuming no policy-prohibitions, send the information out to local folks. You may want to stipulate that the buyer is responsible for moving the item. As a courtesy, be sure to repost to the list when the pieces are gone.

If your items are numerous and potentially quite valuable or if you have the need, then professional help options are there for you. If you think you may want to have some type of big sale toward the end of your downsizing, involve potential sellers early. They can let you know what types of items they need for the sale to attract the best buyers. Otherwise you may sell the “good stuff” easily yourself, but get stuck with things a commissioned seller cannot use to have a profitable sale. It is to your advantage and to the seller’s advantage to make the most possible at a sale as the professional seller takes a percentage of the sale’s profits after the expenses are covered. You pay the professional for targeted expertise.

  • Estate sales are available on-site and online. Traditional sales are planned and marketed by people who are experienced in evaluating, pricing, and staging items in your home. They staff the sale and take a percentage of the proceeds, and the sale attracts local buyers. Online-estate sales, such as through Everything But The House, are another option, specifically for households that have an estimated minimum of $15,000 in value and may have special items. Their staff take professional pictures of the things being sold and list them either individually or in a lot. The sale takes place over seven days. The staff handle payment, shipping, and delivery. The advantage of the online approach is a worldwide market, especially reaching potential buyers interested in specific types of items, such as collectibles or wood-working tools, for instance.

  • Auction houses are good options for items that are of unique value. The process usually begins with sending pictures of your items for initial evaluation to auction houses. The advantage of selling higher-end art or furniture, for example, through auction is the ability of the auction house to target the sale to a greater number of interested buyers.

The best advice I can give on selling the valuables in your house is to talk with your friends who have gone through this before, either as a seller or a buyer. Hear their recommendations and war stories, and then shop around for the seller who seems like the best fit for you.

One important factor is your expectations of the resell value of items. As a rule of thumb, realize that things of like value when bought will be of like value when sold. A couch bought for $1,200 ten years ago may bring 15 or 20 percent of that value, depending on condition when sold. Cheap items bought new will be sold cheaply when used. Higher-end items bought new will also be sold at the higher end of used items. Few things hold or appreciate in value over years beyond their initial value. If you think you have an exceptional piece, have it appraised by someone who specializes in the type of item: jewelry, art, furniture, etc. Setting realistic expectations is part of the job of professionals who deal with high volumes of items, and your trust in them is of utmost importance.