Downsizing: eight tips for home unfurnishing

What can you do to avoid finding yourself forlorn in your late parents’ home, broken up about the breakfront that’s going begging? Some suggestions:

1. Start mobilizing while your parents are around. Every single person, if their parents are still alive, needs to go back and collect the stories of their stuff. That will help sell the stuff. Or it might help you decide to hold onto it.

2. Give yourself plenty of time to find takers, if you can. The longer you have to sell something, the more money you’re going to make. Of course, this could mean cluttering up your basement, attic or living room with tables, lamps and the like until you finally locate interested parties.

3. Do an online search to see whether there’s a market for your parents’ art, furniture, china or crystal. If there is, see if an auction house might be interested in trying to sell things for you on consignment. It’s a little bit of a wing and a prayer.

That’s true. But you might get lucky. I did. My sister and I were pleasantly surprised — no, flabbergasted — when the auctioneer we hired sold our parents’ enormous, turn-of-the-20th-century portrait of an unknown woman by an obscure painter to an art dealer for a tidy sum. (We expected to get a dim sum, if anything.) Apparently, the frame was part of the attraction.

4. Get the jewelry appraised. It’s possible that a necklace, ring or brooch has value and could be sold.

5. Look for a nearby consignment shop that might take some items. Or, perhaps, a liquidation firm.

6. See if someone locally could use what you inherited. Dad had some tools that looked interesting. A farmer gave $25 for them. Pick out five shelters and give them a list of all the kitchen items you wound up with. “By the fifth one, everything was gone. That kind of thing makes your heart feel good.”

7. Get advice about downsizing. Search on “Tips for Seniors Downsize Your Home nz” – heaps of suggestions will come up. .

8. But perhaps the best advice is: Prepare for disappointment. For the first time in history of the world, two generations are downsizing simultaneously: the boomers’ parents (sometimes, the final downsizing) and the boomers themselves. A 90-year-old parent wants to pass on stuff, or my siblings and I will have to clean up the house. And my siblings and I are 60 to 70 and we’re downsizing.

This, it seems, is 21st-century life — and death. Is there a future for the possessions of our parents’ generation? It’s a different world.

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