Settling an Estate — Disposing of the “Stuff” Left Behind.


As I mentioned in my post about my siblings’ visit, my brother brought me some boxes of things from my father’s house.  My plan is to sell the items for money to help support dad.  However, I am finding the whole process very frustrating.

It takes so much time to go to the various shops to try to sell dad’s items, and each dealer is only interested in one or two items.  I decided that while I am trying to empty dad’s house, I should get rid of a lot of my own stuff.  I pulled out some items that I had saved and moved over many years.  I also had boxes of old newspapers and magazines that I kept for historical memory.  I had newspapers from the lunar landing in 1969 and magazines from the same period.  And I had a Life magazine from 1940 and many others.  I decided to comb through those and get rid of what I am willing to part with.

It dawned on me that I had been saving these things to show my grandkids but they aren’t often here, and when they are we rarely have one on one time.  Generally when they visit it is for a holiday or special occasion — the house is full of family and we don’t have time to look at things that I think might interest them.  Many of my grandkids live too far away to visit just for an afternoon or even a weekend.  Instead I will send them the things that might interest them and let them read them, keep them or toss them.

One morning last week I pulled out a lot of the newspapers and most of the magazines and set them aside to share or discard.  Some I will send to my kids — such as magazines and newspapers from the year that they were born.  I also had saved magazines and news articles from the lunar landing and I will send those to the grandsons who are interested in the space program.    I set aside a magazine about the Statue of Liberty for my youngest granddaughter I thought she would be interested in that.

The other day, an “antique guy” who has a local store and buys items or preferably whole estates, came over and looked at the pictures, fancy cut glass, candy dish, etc.  I also had out some of my own stuff like my political pins, collectables, some dolls, etc. Again, there was little interest in most of the things that I had.  He did buy one old board game from the ‘60’s that was from my closet of “stuff” and one small thing from dad’s box of treasures. Together he paid $25 so I don’t know how it splits.

Now I am trying to determine the value of the things that I have.  Is it worth my time to go from store to store to sell items that bring in only $10 to $25?   I am especially interested in the value of certain things such as paintings and glassware since my uncle told mom they were valuable and not to just give them away to charity.  I haven’t found anything about the artists on Google, etc.  What did they do before the Internet?  Are there certain art books?

While I was going through this process, I read some posts by “the Estate Lady”.  She has practical advice about settling an estate and disposing of the property.  Her post about “Limited Edition” prints was interesting too.  My “paintings” might be prints, though I don’t know for sure as they are not numbered like prints.  They are signed by the artist’s name and date “-51” which I presume is 1951 since the clothing depicted looks fairly recent in design.

I took some books from the library to help me determine values, but I am not sure how much further I want to pursue this.  If the items have little value, perhaps I should just give them to family, keep just a couple of things for myself and the rest to charity.  I am tempted to keep too much and I know I don’t have room for them.

Instead of having my brother bring me any more things from that house, I will probably wait until he vacates and get someone in to make an offer on everything and help me empty the house.  So far my brother has been unwilling to let anyone in because he is afraid somehow they will take his things.  I believe it is also because he is a hoarder and doesn’t want anyone going through his things.

In the meantime, I will focus on disposing of the articles I have here for now.  And I will continue to try to push myself to go through my own boxes of things I rarely use and give away what I can.  Ever since mom died, I have become much more aware of how much stuff we accumulate over a lifetime and how difficult it is for the heirs to dispose of it.  I hope I can use this experience to reduce the work I leave for my children!

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About letstalkaboutfamily

I am a retired and was the primary caregiver for both my parents before they passed. I have children and grandchildren. This blog is an attempt to connect with other caregivers and share ideas and experiences. I hope you will let me know what worked for you if you had an experience similar to mine. The main issues I am going to talk about are elder care, death and dying, assisted living, family relationships and hoarders and hoarding. Other topics will come up as I address the issues and my relationship with other family members.
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13 Responses to Settling an Estate — Disposing of the “Stuff” Left Behind.

  1. boomer98053 says:

    For items that aren’t sentimentally valuable, how about a garage sale? Instead of you going from place to place in the hopes of selling some of your things – and using up lots of expensive gasoline – how about having people come to you? Ask someone to help you get it set up and run it. Between the two of you, determine “negotiable” prices. You can have a several tables of items all priced the same, e.g., $10 table; $2 table; and/or you can individually put color stickers on the items. My husband and I held a huge garage sale to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association several years ago. We had a poster board with a chart that showed what each colored sticker meant: Red sticker = $8.00, Yellow sticker = $3

    Another suggestion: make the duration of the garage sale that which accommodates you. I NEVER hold a garage sale for more than one day (Saturday AND Sunday) and I set a limited period of time, e.g., “9 am to 4 pm only!”

    I hope whatever you do, you end up happy with it.

    • Irene, I would have a garage sale in a minute if I could. I live in a neighborhood of seniors that is a rental community. We are not permitted to have garage sales. Otherwise, that would be a nice solution. We have asked permission for a one-day neighborhood garage sale, but they didn’t allow that either. In the past I have had some success (and some not so great) garage sales. Thanks for the idea though. Maybe it will help someone else.

  2. boomer98053 says:

    That’s unfortunate, to be sure. How awesome it would be, however, to have a once a year neighborhood “estate” sale! Perhaps getting on the Board of the association is one way of getting what YOU want. Hopefully other bloggers will have some other suggestions for yah.

  3. Terry says:

    it is a difficult job, I so remember, have you considered your own sale? or if it is big enough, an auction? or estate sale? or put together boxes that go to certain people and give them to them

    • No I just have a few items. I can’t really have the whole house sale until I get my brother out of the house. In t he meantime, he has brought me a few items in a box and some paintings. I won’t have him do this again as it is too little to interest any of the buyers. It isn’t valuable enough to be antiques. Some I am giving to family members but mom thought some items should bring in a good profit if I sold them. So far that hasn’t happened.

  4. Ellen Reaves says:

    There are probably neighboring churches that have flea markets for the community that might be an option for you. When I was emptying my Dad’s house (rather quickly because we needed the rental space), I only wanted to keep things that were extremely personal that represented him personally. I have reduced his estate to a few military medals, pictures and couple of watches and paperwork. I can’t clutter my life with his stuff. I think it keeps you “stuck” when you do.

    • I agree. I just don’t have the major part of mom and dad’s stuff yet. It is hundreds of miles away in dad’s home and my brother is still living there. I have to move him out somehow before I can truly get rid of all the stuff in there. After dad passes away, the will specifies that the house is to be sold. In the meantime I need the money from the stuff (and the house) to help take care of dad, but I can’t really get much yet for the stuff. Most of the value is in the house itself and that is waiting for now. I need to wait, but I am not always patient. 🙂

  5. jmgoyder says:

    If only your brother would leave!

  6. We went through this process recently. Because my mom was an antique dealer, we were able to have an auction house come in and clear their home. However, we paid for that service.

    At the end of the day, using anyone else will cut into your profit. Have you thought about using eBay? This takes time and you need to figure out if spending the time to sell it yourself and ship it is worth more than getting it out of your space and taking less for the items.

    eBay will take some of the money and you will have to take pictures, post and ship the sold items – but it maybe a good place for your magazines. Many people may be looking for a unique birthday gift!

    Best of luck — this is an exhausting process.

    • Yes, thanks, I have considered eBay. I have used it in the past. It can be time consuming and doesn’t pay for inexpensive items. I gave some magazines to my children and will give the rest to dad’s assisted living for use in reminescence programs. I don’t see myself spending the time on eBay now. I have too many other things I want to do with my time and the items I have, like the pictures, are heavy and would be difficult for me to take to weigh, pack and ship. In the future I expect to have someone come to dad’s house for the furniture and any other items that are left after my brother moves out.

      I know the dealers all use eBay to price the items they buy and often they sell more on eBay than in their shops. That is their business though and i consider myself retired and I want to stay retired! 🙂

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