This weekend we are holding an estate sale at my parents condo in Florida. This is the culmination of close to 3 years and multiple visits by my brother and me to Florida since our Dad passed away in October 2013 to sort his massive collection of historical items. When our Mom passed last July the collection became ours. A small amount of the collection included items my Mom cherished and many of these items will be preserved. Since we both live up North and each have homes already filled with our own things, it would be impossible for us to retain the collection in full. Although initially the thought of getting rid of things brought sadness to both of us the reality was that we are both nearing the time to downsize our own homes and between us none of our six kids want much. Collecting is great for the person who is the collector but it is difficult to pass on in integrity to future generations.
The song "Let It Go" Let It Go from the movie Frozen has particular meaning to me. When I think of Frozen I think about the art of collecting. Collecting allows someone to mentally remain in a particular period of time by holding onto items that bring that period to life. The collector becomes "frozen" or paralized in their own reality world of the collection. To my Dad, this basically encompassed all of western civilization. He was a compulsive collector of antiquities, coins, books. postcards, American ephemera, historic documents and newspapers, autographs, postcards, stamps, Judaica, Native American baskets and pottery, fossils, ancient weaponry, bone china, historic reproductions of ancient museum pieces, lps and cds, dvds, Civil War memorabilia, World War II collectibles, presidential and celebrity autographs, political campaign buttons and much more.
A close to 2400 square ft. three bedroom condo was filled to the brim from floor to ceiling with rare collectibles. Many items were located on bookshelves or behind glass showcases as well as in file cabinets. When these became filled the floors, closets and all visible and undersurfaces became home to the overflow. Items of value where interwoven with items of relative intrigue. To an outsider the collection would appear to be a hoarders paradise. To my Dad it was all part of in his legacy.
Dad's passion was the art of collecting and he went to all lengths to amass his habit. He was always on the prowl. Some say there is a fine line between collecting and hoarding and often this came into question as we sifted through many of his items. To my Dad though, there was a purpose in every item purchased. His brain was wired to be the original internet. He collected in a manner that hyperlinked items to other items in the collection. To better explain this if he owned a book on Thomas Jefferson, he would also have an item he invented, a photo of that item, a book with a reference to it, possibly the patent and then maybe a related item by a similar inventor. The items would be crossed referenced in his head and located in several places throughout their home.
The complexity of the collection was "mind boggling", a favorite expression Dad used. Because he spent close to 60 years putting this collection together it was much more than just stuff. It became very important for us to find a right home for everything. This became a project that truly is culminating after 18 monthes. Because neither of us lived locally to the property it became more difficult a challenge to manage. My brother works full-time as a Professor so it was harder for him to spend the time necessary to manage this process and thus it became primarily my project. I had more flexibility as a realtor to be able travel when needed. It took several trips to grasp and go through the inheritance. It was necessary to cull through each and every items, sort it, select and distribute items of sentimental or intrinsic value to family members and then decide what to do with the rest.
The first step of the process involved going through each book in the collection. The books were the bulkiest and took up a majority of space throughout the condo. It would be impossible to ship these to Boston as there were so many and the cost and space would be prohibitative. There were close to 8000 or more books. Many were rare, autographed and first editions. A larger portion were new books that one would find at a Barnes and Nobles type store. The books were interspersed and I had to go through and separate the rare signed books.
I researched how to sell books online and set up Amazon and Ebay accounts as I first thought I would attempt to sell them on my own. I also joined a Facebook group dedicated to advising online sellers. Because I don't live in proximity to the books it became obvious that it would be hard to sell these online unless they were shipped somewhere for fulfillment. I would not be local to ship things with a quick turnaround. Realizing this I asked for advice through the Facebook group and subsequently a Tampa area bookseller reached out to me to buy some books. Through her she referred me to a an area bookstore seller who was interested in buying many of the books in bulk. (I think he actually also may be a hoarder type). After sorting through the ones I wanted to keep he bought over 3000 books. My son, who also has a similar passion to my Dad ending up with about 500 books that are in my basement now.
Next I had to deal with the collectible items. For some guidance I read Maria Condo's book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It became apparent that keeping much would only add to the clutter I was trying to rid in my own home.Although I ended up shipping several boxes of old photos, memorabilia and collectibles north to later diceminate, I tried to reduce this and will similarly re-sort things on my own turf. As best as possible we located specialty dealers or auctioneers for rare items, donated books to a Holocaust museum in St. Petersburg, donated consumer goods to a hospice resale shop, and finally got the condo down to the point of doing an estate sale.
Last summer I went online to research estate sale companies and found a few near my parents place that specialized in high end estate sales. After interviewing them we ended up choosing one that markets to end users and collectors and was well known in the area. It is best to hire a professional company to come in and handle this process. They will bring in specialists to appraise each item, set up and market their sale, run the actual days of the sale and then help the owner dispose of any unsold items by either donating or giving things away at the instruction of the owner. It is important to find a reputable dealer and to obtain references and permissions to hold a sale, particularly if it is in a condo or apartment building. The estate sale company has a following of consumers in Florida who often seek out these sales for their own collections. As part of the process they require the owner to stay away from the property during the sale. Although hesitant at first it is easier to not be there when strangers are going through your property. My hope is that the items being sold will find buyers who will appreciate them as much as my parents did.
I now totally understand the emotional and physical challenge of preparing a home for an estate sale. Although at first it was very hard to let go of many items, you just have to make up your mind to finally do it. About three weeks ago my brother and I went down to Florida together to finalize the details of the sale with the estate sale company and handed over the keys. We agreed to sell it all as it was time to move forward and let go of any freeze holding us back from selling the condo. As an SRES I now have firsthand experience that I can share with my clients and their families. I can be the local person to help if a client lives out of state but needs help with the process of selling their parents estate in the areas I serve as a realtor. If you are a baby boomer or have parents who may need help preparing to downsize their home feel free to reach out to me as I am building a team to help clients with each stage of this process. You can email me by clicking here firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to visit my Facebook page
Of note, I am now getting ready for my next blog which will be about preparing the real estate listing for my parents estate. Stay tuned.
Wendy recently joined Coldwell Banker Needham. She has been a realtor for over 8 years and knowing the area quite well can share a hands on local perspective. She has also recently earned the SRES designation and looks forward to helping other baby boomers as they approach their next transitions. Feel free to contact her directly or click here http://www.wendybcb.com if you would like to learn more.