The joys of being self-employed…an organizer’s advice to potential clients

Nothing better than a happy client!

Nothing better than a happy client!

It’s a bit amazing how many people are surprised that I’ve been through college…and I have chosen to be a self-employed professional organizer and senior move manager instead of a venture capitalist or a banking executive or an accountant, or just about any other “white collar” profession.  Yes, I’ve chosen self employment.  I also chose to be in a field that requires some manual labor in people’s homes.

Being self-employed, or I should say a sole-proprietor, requires you to wear a lot of hats.  You are the boss, you are the labor, you are the marketer and sales force, you are the writer, you are the website manager, you are the creative force, you are the bookkeeper and tax preparer, you are the social media director, you are the bill collector, you are the “everythinger”.

A lot of people still see us as “glorified housekeepers”.  Housekeeping is a very honorable profession.  But that’s not our profession, and we have to work hard with many clients to get them to understand the difference. As professional organizers, we also have to work hard to get paid in keeping with our skills, and our needs to be able to offer our services and stay in business.  If it’s expensive for you to live in the bay area, it’s just as expensive for us.

So, how can you, the consumer, help us best serve you?  Here’s some advice:

1.  Please do not demand “a free consultation.” Most organizer’s who have been in business for several years and really know their profession, will offer an “assessment session” for a fee,  rather than a consultation.  The paid assessment gives us a chance to really give you something of value – a complete and thorough assessment of what is going in your home and how to fix it.  You should get a plan and resources.  You should be satisfied that your assessment fee has been worthwhile to you.

2.  Please do not ask for “discounts on rates”.  Trust me, no organizer is getting on a plane to have lunch in Paris, on your money.  Often our fees have to take into account not just being at hour house performing specific tasks, but also the traveling to and from your house, loading and unloading our cars with supplies for your job, answering your emails and phone calls, paying for insurance to cover us at your house, being a member of a professional organization and taking classes to keep up our skills, as well as a whole host of expenses associated with running a business.

You should tell an organizer what your budget is for the job you have so that you and your organizer can negotiate on which services are offered that will best  fit that budget.

3.  Please don’t argue when we say we may not be the best fit for your particular project.  It’s always a surprise to me when I do my best to interview a potential client about their project and determine that my areas of expertise do not fit.  Instead of recognizing that I am saving them time and money by making suggestions that another organizer would be a better choice, they want to argue with me that I should provide the service anyway.  It’s not “one size fits all”.  Each organizer has a particular skill set and does better with one type of client than another.  If your mother is a hoarder, I am going to recommend an organizer who specializes in working with hoarders and that is an honest benefit to all.

4.  Please pay your invoices in a timely manner.  Your organizer should have given you the terms of their billing in advance and you should be prepared to honor those terms if the work has been provided.  It’s very frustrating to have put in your best efforts for a client, present an invoice and then be told that  they can’t find their check book, or have to mail the check later for a variety of reasons. And if they don’t, you are left chasing them around for money.

5.  It’s really nice when a client thanks you for your efforts on their behalf.  You’d be shocked how many people don’t.  I can tell you we finished a large move very successfully and when we were leaving I asked the client if they were happy and they said  “well, nothing was stolen”.  Well, okay, thanks!

 


Who should do the packing…

packing

Let the movers pack, and let All Things Home unpack and organize your new home.

Most people consider one of the most dreaded chores of moving to be packing.  It’s the call we get the most often, and it goes like this: “We thought we could pack ourselves, but the movers come tomorrow and we are no where near ready.”

Clients tend to underestimate how much time it will take, and how many boxes and moving supplies will actually be needed.

So, how do you choose to pack yourself, call in professional packers or hire the moving company to pack?  The answer can be different for every family and each moving circumstance.

Are you moving down the block or across the country?  Do you have a ton of breakables, valuable collectibles, irreplaceable objects of art? Do you have a month to devote to your move or two days? Are you moving yourself via rental truck or are you hiring the pros? All these questions need examination as part of determining who should pack.

Generally, we recommend that if you can afford it, let the moving company you have chosen pack you.  At least, let them pack the breakables, collections, anything too heavy, too large, too cumbersome and especially, anything you will want their insurance to cover should it break.  No moving company can insurance the contents of a box unless they have packed it.

Certainly, it is safe to pack soft goods or non breakables yourself. We don’t recommend using your linens to pack breakables, but from time to time people insist on doing this.  A moving company will not do so.  We and they, will want to use a good clean, sturdy moving paper.  Just as we recommend using good, clean, sturdy moving boxes and not those that have been found outside the grocery store or that have been stored in the damp garage for years.

All Things Home offers a service called “pre-move prep”, which includes going through the house to prepare for the packing…gathering like items together, putting anything that can spill or drip into resealable plastic bags, making sure caps are on tight on all products, the coffee grounds are out of the coffee maker, checking for keys in drawers and removing all personal items – RX, credit cards, passports, etc. Our goal is to do anything that makes the packing go faster and more smoothly. And ultimately, help the unpacking go all the easier.


One way not to leave things behind…declutter before you leave.

While for Americans, this title is going to be off-putting, it’s a subject that I deal with regularly…working with seniors and elders, everyone asks “who’s going to take care of all my stuff when I am gone?”.   The best possible answer is for YOU to declutter before you leave…

The Case for Swedish Death Cleaning

A bestselling book argues for a new approach to decluttering


Although I’ve never visited Sweden, I find myself attracted to simple, clean-lined architecture and furniture. I love Swedish pop music. And herring. Plus, I live in Minnesota, with our cold but beautiful winters where I (a short brunette) am surrounded by tall blonde people.

It’s no surprise to me that I would also be drawn to another Swedish import of a darker nature: Swedish death cleaning.

Swedish death cleaning, or döstädning, is the premise of a recent best-selling book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, by Margareta Magnusson — a Swedish artist and author who is “between 80 and 100,” and quite charmingly reflective about her life and the things surrounding her.

Specifically, she tells her adult son in a phone call, she feels it is time for her to death clean — to rid her house of nearly all of the clothes, furniture, dishes, art, photos and keepsakes that her family will not want to clean up when she is dead. (I love imagining this call and her son’s bewildered expression.)

We have written extensively about decluttering your home on NextAvenue.org, including a four-part series reviewing the latest organizing techniques with special attention on Marie Kondo’s hit book, Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. One of the most-read stories we’ve ever published was titled “Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff.” That article delved into the sad truth that boomers’ parents are leaving behind decades of “stuff” that is worth far less than they hoped and challenging to sell or donate.

Magnusson seems to come in right at the center of these two narratives with a very charming cadence and to-the-point message. Her bottom line: “Someone will have to clean up after you. Whoever it may be will find it a burden.”

It turns out that death cleaning isn’t so different from any other kind of serious decluttering projects: organize items into piles, label items to give to others or charity, learn whether certain items are worth something, create a small “throw away” box with keepsakes that are only precious to you but worth nothing to those you leave behind. And simply (similar to Kondo’s advice to purge anything that doesn’t “spark joy”): “If you don’t like something, get rid of it.”

When it comes to a death cleanse, the “how” is not important. Rather, it’s that Scandinavian persistence that it simply be done. And that persistence is necessary because going through your belongings — especially the meaningful ones — can be very difficult. The author’s own experience of getting lost in the memories while reading old letters shows exactly how time-consuming and emotional death cleaning is.

But think of the rewards for your loved ones. Magnusson evokes her Viking ancestors’ ritual of burying objects together with their dead family and friends to assure the dead wouldn’t miss anything in the next life and their survivors would “not become obsessed with the spirits of the dead and constantly be reminded of them because their possessions were still scattered all over the tent or mud hut.” Your stuff may literally haunt your family when you’re gone.

Her call to action is universal. Do you have to be 80+ to embark upon your first round of death cleaning? No. You may be decades younger and not yet thinking regularly about your demise, but saddled with closets and drawers bursting with items that mean little to you. Death cleaning is for all of us.

Bonus: Your uncluttered, simplified life will bring you pleasure. Put on a little ABBA in the background while you clean and you’ll really feel it.

By Shayla Stern

Shayla leads the editorial team and content strategy as the Director of Editorial and Content for Next Avenue at Twin Cities PBS. She has spent a career in digital media journalism and digital strategy at organizations including washingtonpost.comEdmunds.comCars.com and Fast Horse, and worked as a consultant for several years. She also was a media professor at the University of Minnesota and DePaul University and  has a Ph.D. in Mass Communication. She can be reached at [email protected].@shayla_stern

Family treasures or the tale of Hans and Inga, and Frederick and Greta, and Frederick and Inga, and Hans and Greta…

A long time ago, in a place far, far away…lived my Great Aunt and Uncle, who had a lovely home with beautiful things.  As they had no children, their beautiful things were looked upon as family treasures.  I remember sitting quietly on the plastic that covered the sofa (and just about every other surface in the house) and the crunching sound it made when you moved. Everything in their house looked so elegant to me, the country mice that we were.

When they passed, everything was willed to their nephew…the only boy in the family, who inherited everything from every family member, and even though there were 3 nieces (my mother being one of them), they inherited nothing.  Therefore, my sister and I have absolutely nothing from a family member.

I left that far away land and moved to the Bay Area, leaving everyone and everything behind. Starting from scratch, like millions of others who transplant themselves to the other side of the kingdom.  While I kept in contact with my sister, the rest of the family drifted away.  And like the millions of others, I established my own home with my own choice of “stuff” to fill it with.  And like millions of others, I am not interested in other people’s stuff.

A couple of months ago, THE nephew, who is now in his nineties, called me to reestablish contact.  I was happy to reconnect and have sent him some California care packages – olive oils and wines. He, in turn, sent me a surprise package…2 porcelain figurines that belonged to my Great Aunt.

My inheritance...Hans and Inga

My inheritance…Hans and Inga

Unfortunately, they arrived damaged.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that just writing “fragile” on the box was not enough to protect porcelain.  Additionally, they had obviously been broken before as a rather bad glue job had been attempted, especially on the boy figure and his geese (I know you can’t see the damage in this photo).  I named them Hans and Inga.  That was surely a mistake and the beginning of my fall down the rabbit hole.

Now, what to do with them. Clutter and dustcatchers. I don’t recall seeing them in my Great Aunt’s house so there’s no real connection to them. I don’t collect anything remotely like them, and in fact, I just went through my own house and decluttered 17 boxes of books and staging materials (vases and decorative items) that I just don’t want to be cleaning and carting around anymore.  Not to mention that as a professional organizer, I spend my days encouraging clients to remove clutter they don’t have any connections to, and now here I am with Hans and Inga…

Inga was easy to clean up and glue back together.  Hans, however, could not be repaired and was even missing some of the pieces.  So I tossed him out.  I put Inga, now by herself after at least 65+ years of being paired with Hans, on my bedroom dresser…and the nightmares started.  Poor Inga, all by herself…maybe I could still find Hans in the garbage can…nope, he’s gone.  What should I tell Inga about Hans’ departure?  I decided to tell her Hans was gay and moved to San Francisco.  It was for the best and she understood, but still…

This lead me to the internet.  You can literally search for anything, so I searched for “porcelain boy with goose” and wouldn’t you know it, up popped two matching figurines – boy and girl with geese – same figures, though oddly, painted in different colors. Both figures for only $8. each.  Turns out they were made in the 50’s, in Japan, at several different studios.  This seems to explain some of the small variations and color differences.

I couldn’t help myself.  I bought them.  I mean really, what are the odds of finding this pair?  Now I owed 3 figurines, none of which I really wanted.

Fredrick and Greta

Fredrick and Greta

Fredrick and Greta arrived in good shape from the East Coast.  I cleaned them up and realized that while Hans and Inga were both blondes wearing pale greens and blues, Fredrick and Greta are brunettes wearing browns and burgundies. I introduced Inga to her new beau, Fredrick. So far, they are getting along well…both more interested in their geese than each other, but they’ll need time.

Fredrick and Inga...will this last?

Fredrick and Inga…will this last?

This leaves Greta…what to do with Greta…three’s a crowd and she is missing the handle on her basket…time for Greta to make her own way in world…

Greta, on her own...

Greta, on her own…

 

 


Does this dust make my butt look fat…

Dust is a fact of life, and trying to keep up with dust is a major activity at my house.

First, I have 2 cats in small space.  Second, I keep windows and the patio door open almost all the time when I am home. Third, I live on the street in a major city.  There is no way to keep a house dust free.

As we know, dust is made up of such stuff as: plant pollen, human and animal hairs, textile fibers, paper fibers, minerals from outdoor soil, human skin cells, burnt meteorite particles, and many other materials which may be found in the local environment.  And it floats around us constantly, until it manages to land on a hard surface, like the coffee table or the kitchen counter or your dinner plates.

I superficially dust with a Swiffer at least once a week.  I do a more thorough, take everything off the table and wipe it down monthly.  I tear the house apart and spend 2 days cleaning it quarterly.  I really thoroughly clean, turn furniture upside down and vacuum it twice a year.  I move out, take everything off the walls  and clean absolutely everything every couple of years.  At least I use to…

This last week end, I did a 3 day cleaning session and I had that feeling of “weight” being lifted off the house…indeed, the house lost weight after it was cleaned.

Been a long time since this room was dusted...

Been a long time since this room was dusted…

If you have aging family members or friends, you may have noticed that they are cleaning and dusting less and less. We go into many senior homes to assist with their moves and find that the dust is so thick and so caked on to objects that it’s almost dangerous to be in the house.  Indeed, I have once been sent to the hospital for a breathing treatment, and ended up with an inhaler as part of my work kit, because a house we were working on had not been dusted in decades.

As our vision worsens, our bodies rebel against movement and our brains start to let go of details, we become more oblivious to what is around us.  Piles of paper and mail accumulate everywhere, things don’t get put back in their proper places, less and less attention is paid to our living conditions.

Interestingly, many of our senior homes that have not been cleaned in quite sometime, also have air filters and purifiers running…they don’t seem to make the correlation between cleaning away the dust and why they are having trouble breathing.

If your goal is to dust and clean less then the antidote is…less stuff!  And hiring a good housekeeper…


Pantry peace…getting rid of the pantry pests

Last year I fought off an army of pantry pests…Silver Fish, in my kitchen…transferring food out of packages and into ziplocks or air tights at least gives you peace of mind that the critters aren’t having a party while you sleep…

From Kitchn by: Ayn-Monique Klahre, photo by: Maxwell Ryan

an organized pantry...

an organized pantry…

Did you know that the phrase “Pantry Pests” is actually a real term for bugs that like to feed on packaged goods? The technical term includes all sorts of things like Indian meal moths, sawtooth grain beetles, cigarette beetles, and drugstore beetles. The pros know all sorts of things about these pests, but as a homeowner (or renter!), all you really need to know is this: They’re going to eat your food.

A little contamination probably won’t hurt you, but regular infestations can contribute to food waste and cost you money over time. And the same factors that attract pantry pests can also attract mice. While they’re (slightly) cuter, mice pose a serious risk of contaminating your food (because they, to put it delicately, do their business everywhere) and contributing to respiratory issues (because of chemicals in their excrement).

Grossed out yet? Great! Then you’ll love this easy, 13-minute cleaning routine to keep your pantry pest-free.

Take everything out of your pantry (3 minutes).

It’s a pain in the butt, but it’s absolutely necessary to be sure you don’t have a pest problem. While you’re doing it, listen for the sounds of scurrying mice — they’re quick!

Wipe down shelves (1 minute).

Any spilled food — pasta, flour, nuts, spices, beans — becomes a target for pests. Wipe your shelves down once to pick up any visible debris, and a second time with a disinfectant to remove any bacteria that may have gotten in there. “Keep an eye out for spills and feces,” says Dr. Michael Bentley, staff entomologist for the National Pest Management Association. While mice tend to hide when humans come around, those are the clear signs they’ve been active.

Wipe the walls, corners, and the floors (1 minute).

While insects congregate inside your packaged goods at feeding time, they spread out when it’s time to procreate. Indian meal moth larvae, the most common type of pantry pest, congregate in corners, so keep an eye out for clusters of what look like little balls of lint. Wipe them out and swipe with a disinfecting spray. And know that if they’ve reached this stage, that means they’ve already gotten into your food.

Inspect all packaging for signs of infestation (3 minutes).

The older an item is, the more opportunity it’s had for contamination — either on the shelf at the store, or inside your cabinet. Look for evidence that the packaging’s been damaged, like pinholes (a sign of weevils), or larger holes that have been chewed through (mice). Open containers — inside you may find webbing from the larvae, says Chelle Hartzer, an entomologist for Orkin. Take anything that looks corrupted and toss it immediately (or if you’re okay with it, throw something like flour into the freezer to kill the eggs, then use it anyway), seal up the trash bag, and take it outside. “The biggest culprits are birdseed or pet food — things you buy in bulk, that are less regulated, that sit around for a long time,” says Scot Hodges, director of professional development for technical services at Arrow Exterminators. (And sorry to tell you: Organic dog treats are the biggest offenders!)

 Decant food into bug-proof containers (2 minutes).

Anything that’s not in a glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid runs the risk of contamination, especially items like flour or cereal that come in bags or cardboard packaging. “Some rodents can even get through plastic containers, but that’s more rare,” says Bentley. If you have the space, store things in the refrigerator or freezer instead of on a shelf. Bonus: These containers won’t just keep bugs out, they’ll also make your pantry look extra organized!

Put everything back on your shelves (3 minutes).

As much as you can, avoid filling the shelves completely. “Clutter is a huge contributor to pests,” says Mike Malone, a senior vice president at Arrow Exterminators. That’s because it makes it harder to identify a problem, and also because it provides a nice, safe, dark place for critters to hang out. Don’t put food items on the floor, and try not to push things right up against the walls, Bentley recommends.

And going forward …

The best way to avoid pests is to keep things contained and to monitor what you’ve got in your pantry. Be sure you’re rotating foods — always finish the oldest stuff first and don’t open a new boxes of crackers if there’s a half-eaten one in there. Avoid buying “a 10-year supply of something,” says Hodges, because the longer its in your pantry, the bigger the window of opportunity for pests to get in there. And wipe up any little spills as you see them.

If you have a recurring pest problem, call a professional (search for certified ones in your area through pestworld.org), who can help you identify the culprit and lead you through the elimination process.


The Give Back Box…

Now here’s a great idea… Amazon is participating in this program.  The Give Back Box…love it!
Give Back Box

Give Your Amazon Box New Life

Amazon and Give Back Box® are working together to make donating easier for you. Using Give Back Box® you can donate items you no longer need to charity with ease and bring new life to your empty Amazon box.

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Open Your Box: Unpack your merchandise from your Amazon shipping box.
  2. Pack Your Box: Fill the box with usable clothing, accessories and household goods you no longer need and print your free shipping label from GiveBackBox.com.
  3. Send Your Box: Let UPS or the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliver your box of donations for you.

Donations go directly to your nearest participating charitable organization using a free shipping label and empty Amazon (or other) box. Your donation helps support employment placement, job training and other community-based services to create strong families and communities.

Go directly to GiveBackBox.com.

*MBSS d/b/a Give Back Box does not plan, manage, advise, consult, or prepare materials for or with respect to any charitable solicitation. Give Back Box does not act in the capacity of a professional fundraiser and does not solicit donations for any organization.


The demon aesthetic perfection…

Do you see what I see?  When I walk into any space, I see what it could be...

Do you see what I see? When I walk into any space, I see what it could be…

Aesthetics:  “Concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty. Giving or designed to give pleasure through beauty; of pleasing appearance.”

Perfection: “The action or process of improving something until it is faultless or as faultless as possible.”

For those of us driven by aesthetic perfection, nothing in our space is ever done or finished. Nor is there any such thing as “perfect”.  Nothing is ever “good enough” to be left alone.  Everything can still be tweaked, changed, rearranged, moved a fraction of an inch this way or that way…driven by that mad desire to see your living/work space as aesthetically perfect goes beyond organizing it.

“Hi, I’m Gayle and I am an aesthetic perfectionist.”  I am not alone, there are famous aesthetic perfectionists: Barbra Streisand and Ellen DeGeneres come immediately to mind.

I can tell you when this became the driving force of my life and planted the seed of my becoming a professional organizer.  In the 80’s, I lived and worked in San Francisco.  I was a consulting bookkeeper then, and one of my clients was renown interior designer, Billy Gaylord. Billy was quite a character, to say the least, and he was the designer of choice of every SF socialite family, and many in LA and NY.  What I learned from Billy was that I liked working with interior designers, so I started specializing in their world…and it was not for the faint of heart, because the financial shenanigans in that world could fill volumes.  Working with Billy lead to working with several other male designers…and I’ll stop dropping names at this point.

Eventually, I ended up working with a really good female designer, who was not only a wizard with furniture, fabrics and art, but who had a most extraordinary eye for color and details.  She taught be how to see the world aesthetically.

I lived in a small one bedroom basement apartment and one day decided that I had to do something about the way the place looked.  So I went on a tear to redecorate…on a “Cost Plus/Pier One” budget.  I managed to pull the place together in such a way that I thought it might be acceptable to invite her over for lunch.  The poor woman must have been in shock, but she gamely accepted my invitation.

That lunch lead to her spending a bit of time rearranging my place, and choosing a new color scheme for my walls, and to my ripping out the centuries old carpet and painting the floor underneath.  The end result was a revelation of how good a few gallons of paint and the right window coverings could make a space look.  Not to mention what you can do with a bookcase and some wicker baskets.

At any rate, it sunk in.  In my own little way, I got it, or at least enough of it to lead me to where I am today, organizing and staging.  There is always something else you can do, always something else you can find or buy, always another way to rearrange a space…and it never ends and it’s ever expanding in its need to be satisfied.

There are books to buy and blogs to follow and artists to be studied and shops to see and places to go to…and money to be spent.  And when it’s done, you move, and start it all over again, because as any perfectionist can tell you, you can’t take your old stuff into a new space and expect it work just right.

Not to mention the changing taste and times…keeping things “fresh” by being able to blend your old stuff with some new stuff…that’s the real art of it.

I am still severely limited in talent and budget.  There’s only so much I can do…but I don’t let that stop me from getting up at 3am to move that vase from the left to the right, because it just might look so much better there.

This is the way I saw it...

This is the way I saw it…


Sorry, nobody wants your parents’ stuff…

I’ve talked about this before…it’s getting harder and harder to get rid of “stuff”…

IMG_0038

This is a repost from NextAvenue.  Written by Richard Eisenberg.

After my father died at 94 in September, leaving my sister and me to empty his one-bedroom, independent living New Jersey apartment, we learned the hard truth that others in their 50s and 60s need to know: Nobody wants the prized possessions of your parents — not even you or your kids.

Admittedly, that’s an exaggeration. But it’s not far off, due to changing tastes and homes. I’ll explain why, and what you can do as a result, shortly.

The Stuff of Nightmares

So please forgive the morbidity, but if you’re lucky enough to still have one or more parents or stepparents alive, it would be wise to start figuring out what you’ll do with their furniture, china, crystal, flatware, jewelry, artwork and tchotchkes when the mournful time comes. (I wish I had. My sister and I, forced to act quickly to avoid owing an extra months’ rent on dad’s apartment, hired a hauler to cart away nearly everything we didn’t want or wouldn’t be donating, some of which he said he’d give to charity.)

Many boomers and Gen X’ers charged with disposing the family heirlooms, it seems, are unprepared for the reality and unwilling to face it.

They’re not picking out formal china patterns anymore. I have three sons. They don’t want anything of mine. I totally get it.

— Susan Devaney, The Mavins Group

“It’s the biggest challenge our members have and it’s getting worse,” says Mary Kay Buysse, executive director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM).

“At least a half dozen times a year, families come to me and say: ‘What do we do with all this stuff?’” says financial adviser Holly Kylen of Kylen Financials in Lititz, Pa. The answer: lots of luck.

Heirloom Today, Foregone Tomorrow

Dining room tables and chairs, end tables and armoires (“brown” pieces) have become furniture non grata. Antiques are antiquated. “Old mahogany stuff from my great aunt’s house is basically worthless,” says Chris Fultz, co-owner of Nova Liquidation, in Luray, Va.

On PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, prices for certain types of period furniture have dropped so much that some episode reruns note current, lower estimated appraisals.

And if you’re thinking your grown children will gladly accept your parents’ items, if only for sentimental reasons, you’re likely in for an unpleasant surprise.

“Young couples starting out don’t want the same things people used to have,” says Susan Devaney, president of NASMM and owner of The Mavins Group, a senior move manager in Westfield, N.J. “They’re not picking out formal china patterns anymore. I have three sons. They don’t want anything of mine. I totally get it.”

The Ikea Generation

Buysse agrees. “This is an Ikea and Target generation. They live minimally, much more so than the boomers. They don’t have the emotional connection to things that earlier generations did,” she notes. “And they’re more mobile. So they don’t want a lot of heavy stuff dragging down a move across country for a new opportunity.”

And you can pretty much forget about interesting your grown kids in the books that lined their grandparents’ shelves for decades. If you’re lucky, you might find buyers for some books by throwing a garage sale or you could offer to donate them to your public library — if the books are in good condition.

Most antiques dealers (if you can even find one!) and auction houses have little appetite for your parents’ stuff, either. That’s because their customers generally aren’t interested. Carol Eppel, an antique dealer and director of the Minnesota Antiques Dealers Association in Stillwater, Minn., says her customers are far more intrigued by Fisher Price toy people and Arby’s glasses with cartoon figures than sideboards and credenzas.

Even charities like Salvation Army and Goodwill frequently reject donations of home furnishings, I can sadly say from personal experience.

Midcentury, Yes; Depression-Era, No

A few kinds of home furnishings and possessions can still attract interest from buyers and collectors, though. For instance, Midcentury Modern furniture — think Eames chairs and Knoll tables — is pretty trendy. And “very high-end pieces of furniture, good jewelry, good artwork and good Oriental rugs — I can generally help find a buyer for those,” says Eppel.

“The problem most of us have,” Eppel adds, “is our parents bought things that were mass-produced. They don’t hold value and are so out of style. I don’t think you’ll ever find a good place to liquidate them.”

Getting Liquid With a Liquidator

Unless, that is, you find a business like Nova Liquidation, which calls itself “the fastest way to cash in and clean out your estate” in the metropolitan areas of Washington, D.C. and Charlottesville and Richmond, Va. Rather than holding an estate sale, Nova performs a “buyout” — someone from the firm shows up, makes an assessment, writes a check and takes everything away (including the trash), generally within two days.

If a client has a spectacular piece of art, Fultz says, his company brokers it through an auction house. Otherwise, Nova takes to its retail shop anything the company thinks it can sell and discounts the price continuously (perhaps down to 75 percent off), as needed. Nova also donates some items.

Another possibility: Hiring a senior move manager (even if the job isn’t exactly a “move”). In a Next Avenue article about these pros, Leah Ingram said most NASMM members charge an hourly rate ($40 to $100 an hour isn’t unusual) and a typical move costs between $2,500 and $3,000. Other senior move managers specializing in selling items at estate sales get paid through sales commissions of 35 percent or so.

“Most of the people in our business do a free consultation so we can see what services are needed,” says Devaney.


When your car is stolen…

What’s it like when your car is stolen? I found out 3 weeks ago.  Right out of our gated garage, at 2am.  At 8am, I watched a tape from our security camera, which showed a young man breaking into our garage, and in a matter of minutes, roll out the gate in my car.

My car was found 4 days later, not too far from home.  However, everything inside it was gone, including my new RX sunglasses.  Well, not everything was gone…he left his hamburger and coke debris ,which I assume he bought with the quarters I kept for parking meters, as well as a general mess.  He even left some things that were not mine.

What they left behind...

What he left behind…

But everything I carry in the trunk of my car for work was gone.  I am not sure why they wanted all my moving supplies…packing tapes, garbage bags, stuff that is only used by us for  our very specific work.  And really, can’t possibly be worth much to anyone on the streets…so it’s a mystery.

As a professional organizer, I spend my life assisting people to declutter their lives.  Encouraging them to be detached from their stuff and let things go.  Sometimes even shaking my head and wondering why on earth people are so attached to stuff.

However, having things disappear from you, without your consent or input…that’s another story.  It feels bad.  You feel violated.  I often get calls from frustrated family members who are threatening to throw everything out while their partner is off to the movies or sent to visit friends.  Fortunately, I am usually able to talk them out of this plan.

Over the years, I’ve worked with many families who were putting their homes back together after some kind of disaster…a lot of clients lost their homes in the horrible Oakland Hills fire of 1991.  One minute you have house and stuff and next minute you don’t.  I always admire those people and their ability to start over again.

Insurance covered some of my loss.  I now have a new car with an alarm system.  I’ve rebuilt my work supplies.  Life goes on.  I hope to take this lesson and apply it to my work.  Offering more compassion, more understanding.