Oct 23

Real Estate: Is It Time?

by Joy Earls

How do you know when it’s time to throw something away? How do you know when something has passed its point of usefulness? When does a household item that was once so important become another thing to store or pile up or give away someday but not today?

When it comes time to sell your home or right size or just lighten up your lifestyle, will your material surroundings stop you from moving forward? It does for some people and even for those who don’t have a problem giving away obsolete things, it can still be a difficult job.

I just returned from an estate sale recently. The family was lovely and the people assisting with the sale were working tirelessly. I was exhausted watching people bustling in and out of the home looking for treasures. But I freely admit that I found one myself. I bought a wonderful dining set that I love.

My husband wasn’t there, but I know our household rule. When one new thing comes into the house, at least one must leave. In this case, it was going to be easy, as I definitely don’t need two tables and chairs in my kitchen.

The next day I cleared off our old round oak dining table. Carter, our son came down and when I told him what was happening, he asked what was wrong with this set. He had eaten meals around this old table for as long as he could remember. We drove it home in our van from Canada on a family vacation. While I thought he seemed sentimental, which I loved, I think he also thought all this work wasn’t necessary, as we had a perfectly good kitchen set. And there were so many memories of Thanksgivings and dinners and friends and family sharing time together. Why do things need to change?

I absorbed that feeling and went right up to our loft where we store things not used every day. I asked Carter to help me rearrange. We moved an antique desk needing repair to the right and some framed pictures to the left to make room for the old kitchen table and chairs. Then I went back to the house and found all the round table cloths collected over the years, which I neatly folded and put in a plastic cover. Surely one day, one of our boys will love the round oak table with chairs and use it in their home with this great assortment of covers.

When I put the cloths with the table up in the loft, my thoughts returned to that estate sale. There were so many cherished items in their home. I remembered the family sitting on a couch in the living room tired beyond words. Losing a family member is heart wrenching enough. Observing them deal with all these belongings looked overwhelming.

I have helped couples, widows, families and out of town estates prepare homes for sale. I remember looking at neat piles of linens perhaps from beds long gone. And I remember seeing rooms of furniture long past their usefulness. Some of these people must have had the same thoughts I did about my table. They think their children will enjoy them or someday they will be useful. But often families are all over the country or not interested in their parents’ things. What was once a cherished item can become another burden.

If at all possible, families should have discussions about family treasures. Everyone should be honest about what could be useful to them someday and what can be given to someone who will use it today. Antiques Roadshow has become a very popular television program. One reason is that viewers may picture themselves discovering something of worth in their home or loft. But how often does it truly happen that someone doesn’t know the approximate value of an item or at least that it is rare or unusual?

Most of our treasurers are not worth small fortunes. Instead, for some people, these collections are like anchors keeping their lives from moving forward. They also pile up unnecessary storage costs. Think first about collecting those cherished items. Keep what is important and enjoy what surrounds you. But at the same time don’t allow your material belongings to take on a life of their own and keep you from moving, selling your home, rightsizing or just simplifying.

Sometimes the best way to decide what you need and what is ready to go out the door is to ask for help. Your family may be the best gauge, but you may also want to engage a professional organizer, move manager or sometimes a “take charge friend”.

Next time you see a garage sale sign, take a moment and look at what is for sale. Then think about your own home and if those items look very familiar. Perhaps that may be enough motivation to start unloading some treasures. When you decide to move, it will be a much easier task.

Joy Earls is a Real Estate Broker/Owner of Joy Earls Real Estate. She truly enjoys your stories, calls and emails. You can find her at joyearls@joyearls.com or 406-531-9811

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