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Five Things I've Learned From Doing Estate Sales

I've officially become the owner of My Jennarocity Estate Sales - it's certainly not something I set out to do but certainly something my heart is in. This time of a family's life can certainly be overwhelming and emotional and it makes me happy that I can help make it easier. Now that I've gotten a few under my belt, I can certainly share a few things I've learned.
 
1. Purging is important, not just for you, but for the benefit of others.
 
The main reason estate sale companies are necessary is because the vast amount of possessions people acquire over the years. It becomes too much to handle - what is important? What isn't? What holds emotional value? As time goes on, things you own become less and less important, suddenly those lamps, frames, TVs are all banished to an unused room or to an attic - never to be heard from again. You think to yourself, I'll keep them just in case! They still work, they are in good condition, I'll use them again. But alas, you never get around to it. As you get older, money becomes more available, and instead of pulling out those old items, it seems easier to go to the store and buy new ones, and on and on it goes.
 
What ends up happening is you have a house full of "things" that are of no use or value to you, but could be a lot of use to those just starting out in life. Donating is fine - it's always good to donate - but you know what's better? Find that couple or that family, at church or school, who is just married and doesn't have much money, and tell them to go shopping in your home! You don't have to go through your things, you let them do it. They end up with new items to furnish their home and new life together, and you get the pleasure of knowing where your things have gone and that you've helped someone!
 
2. If you haven't used it in a year, you probably won't use it again.
 
Cleaning out those old magazines, books, clothes you haven't used - and probably don't even remember that you have - is very freeing. Keeping things requires space and storage. Not to mention, it's a constant burden hanging over you head, and never ending "to do!' that never gets "ta done." Every year, make it a point to go through items and donate them. Make that important and ask your family and spouse to do the same!!
 
3. If at all possible, move furniture around and vacuum underneath as much as you can.
 
What happens when you move furniture that's been sitting in the same place for months on end is that you end up with a house with a stale, musty smell, not to mention thick layers of dust and possibly pet hair. Moving things around often allows you to take stock of your furniture, what you like, what you no longer do, and it helps give you a new lease on your home (spoken from someone who constantly moves her furniture!!) If it's hard for you to move the furniture, hire a professional every six months or year to come in a do it for you. It will be worth it!

4. Some people have some really, really cool stuff.

One of the coolest things about doing estate sales is the absolute treasures you find. While it's cool to come across antiques and collectibles, what's very interesting is coming across someone's passport and seeing tons of stamps. I see a lot of newspaper articles cut out of things that were important to that person at one time or another, I see inscriptions written in old books. I love coming across old Bibles, especially ones with lots of notes scribbled in.

These are the hardest things for people to part with, either when they are downsizing or after their loved one has passed on. I know it seems silly, but have a plan for those keepsakes. It's very difficult for loved ones to throw away items of great sentimental value, even if they aren't anything of great importance. Keep all of these items together in one place and take stock regularly of what you want to keep and what you want to toss. If you are holding onto something to donate to an old university or to pass on to a child, why wait? Go ahead and do it now.

5. A shredder is a great investment!!

One of the most prominent things I find in houses is old documents - bank statements, pay check stubs, old credit cards, auto insurance policies. All of these are worthless but you don't just want to chunk them in the trash. When you have piles of paperwork needed to be shredded, it can be overwhelming. My shredder is going constantly - I have a basket in my office and as mail comes in, if it's an application for credit or an advertisement with my information on it, I put it in a basket that gets shredded once a week. I actually pay my 10 year old to do it and she loves it. I have noticed people who buy file folders just to store old documents, and then have to keep up with them for years on end. Here are some guidelines about keeping paperwork:

Auto policies should be shredded upon expiration, as well as credit cards that are expired or replaced, and bank statements.

Tax returns: The IRS says that most returns should be kept for three years after the original date of return, seven years if you file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction. Paycheck stubs could be kept up to a year, but no longer. Most stubs now are electronic, anyway, but printing them off to keep them is not worth the time or space.

Receipts, invoices, or warranties:  Receipts for your home should be kept indefinitely for any working items or replacement or repair. Warranties should be checked to ensure they are still in date or tossed if the item is no longer used.

I hope this helps even one person out there toss out a few things and lighten the load!

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