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Cleaning Out Your Parents House: Letting Go in Stages

Updated on August 10, 2014

Selling An Estate

The day you have dreaded for years is finally here. You have to clean out mom and dad's house. But where do you begin? Your elderly parents have a collection of what they call valuables and a lot of things you would rather just donate. But, how do you know what they mean by valuable? How valuable is that art glass? There is psychological value and there is market value.

We all get attached to certain things whether it is a favorite set of dishes or grandmother's rocking chair. It's tough to let go of our things used daily. That's why it's important your parents or elderly adults help choose the things they really want to keep and then help them let go of other things. This is an important part of the process that should not be skipped because they are psychologically saying goodbye to the memories as they let go of the items. It's also important to do this in a way that the elderly adult feels like the treasure is going to a good home and that he or she is making that choice, not you. It's an emotional time and there's a grieving process happening as possessions are assigned.

Letting Go Of Family Treasures

It's a big deal to let go of family treasures and furnishings. This is a process which needs to happen over time in stages. Do not be surprised if Mom or Dad wants you to have a certain piece because they can't bear to see it sold. Take it even if you don't want it.

Have A Plan Before You Let Go Of The Contents

Here are some ways to begin helping older adults make the transition to a smaller space.

1. Have immediate family members (adult children) come to the home and share memories and to go through belongings together.

2. Designate important belongings to come along into the new residence.

3. Consult an estate liquidation expert.


Find An Estate Sale Professional

Getting Rid Of Your Mom & Dad's Stuff

One of the most efficient and fastest ways to rid of a house full of stuff is to have an estate sale in the home. You can choose to hold the sale yourself or engage an estate sale professional to conduct the sale for you. An estate sale professional will be able to help you properly identify the value of furniture, art, and even jewelry you may have. If there are highly valuable pieces in the estate, you may choose to place those with an auction house.

When A Tag Sale Is In Order

The treasures left behind may be more appropriate for a tag, garage or yard sale sale. If there are lots of items like glassware book collections, linens in good condition, knick knacks, housewares and outdoor items including lawn mowers and iron furniture you are definitely headed for a more common sale in order to dispose of these items. Be sure to look for the hidden treasures hidden among the accumulated stuff. That's why it's a good idea to have a professional on hand to spot the difference.

Hiring A Professional With Know How Fuels A Successful Estate Sale

There can be hundreds of small items and the task of organizing and pricing lots of these items is a huge job. It is a good idea to bring in professionals who have done this before and can do it efficiently and will bring tables, staff and "know how" to your sale making the process much smoother. Marketing and advertising the sale is a vital piece of the puzzle too and something a professional will do for you.

The Professional Should Come With Connections

Estate sale liquidators usually network with others in the business such as delivery and trash services, antique dealers, auctioneers, and junk haulers. A home that's been lived in for 25 - 50 years can be full of furniture, personal collections, and junk. Without specific knowledge on how to organize and disperse it all adult children can quickly become overwhelmed.

The Stages Of Liquidating The Contents

1. Mom & Dad should decide which of the contents should be given to certain family members and they should not only give verbal but written direction about who will get what. If nothing was given in writing, the immediate family needs to talk about how they are going to divide the contents.

2. The next step is to divide the sentimental and requested items among adult children, grandchildren, relatives, friends, etc.

3.Decisions need to be made about how to disperse the rest of the home and whether to hire a professional estate liquidation professional.

4. Next, designate a family member to a few estate sale professionals to interview them about their services.

1. Contact a trusted real estate company who will know of services.
2. Check with friends who have used services.
3. Ask a local and trusted antique shop or antique mall for referrals.
4. Call a reputable auction house for referrals of estate sale professionals.
5. Look at advertisements in you local newspaper to see who is doing this work.
6. Watch for sales in your area and visit a sale run by professionals.

What's It Worth?

Members Of Online Antique Site Can Help You Learn The Value Of Your Item

A group of a 1000 members of I Antique Online enjoy discussing items they have found and can offer some friendly advice to others who are searching for some answers. It's a perfect group to present something to when you aren't familiar with the antiques and collectibles business as some of the dealer or collector members in the group.

Another Group Can Help Evaluate What You Have

Whadja Find is not a professional appraisal service. It's more like a group of friends who enjoy figuring out what you have and helping you identify and evaluate what you have.
With over 187 Collector groups on the site, there are plenty of other resources built into this
social network.

Don't Get Fooled

The Whadja Find Group is unique, because although it is made up of plenty of newbies, you will also find plenty of seasoned experts, antique dealers, authors, professional appraisers, estate liquidators, and plenty of helping hand types. With the power of this social network you will not only get some answers about your antiques and collectibles but also tons of members who are ready to buy what you have to sell. With thousands of people looking in, it's tough to get fooled.

The Stock Market May Go Up & Down: Another Reason Why Having An Estate Sale Is A Good Idea

What happens when people feel nervous about the economy, jobs, and the stock market? They go antiquing and invest in something they can touch, feel and understand. They buy second-hand, but true collectors are still collecting. High end buyers (those who buy the $50,000 sculpture), and the common collectors, like most of us, are still buying. Because people love to hunt for the next treasure and often find comfort in the hunt here are a few suggestions to help customers buy more at your estate sale.

  1. Offer your customers tea or coffee along with doughnuts, pastries, or cake.
  2. Fill old jars with penny candy. Customers will enjoy a bit of nostalgia.
  3. Make sure there is a complete range of pricing to cater to all budgets.
  4. Don't hesitate to sell. Ask customers what they are hunting for and tell stories about the items.
  5. Staging areas to display items to be sold will maximize the sales potential.
  6. Add color to the brown furniture.
  7. Put interesting items out front such as an antique sled.


Are you in the process of cleaning out your Mom & Dad's home?

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    • Kim Green profile image

      Kim Green 4 years ago from ROANOKE, VA

      You are right. eBay is a tremendous resource when quickly checking prices on items you've mentioned. I'll take your advice and add that to the article. I use it all the time.

    • mactavers profile image

      mactavers 4 years ago

      Lot's of great information here, but I'm surprised you overlooked checking out similar items on Ebay for a ball park figure. We just cleaned out my in-laws and to people that don't collect or go to sales, items such as Jim Beam, Avon bottles and collectors' plates may seem valuable. By showing family members that these items would be lucky to get 3-5 dollars decisions can be made quickly.