Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Four Lessons Learned from my Mother's Home-made Estate Sale

Mom is downsizing. In many respects, it feels freeing, eliminating items that have been weighing her down for decades. But it's also emotional. She's moved out of the condominium she lived in with Dad for the last two decades of his life. In fact, they've lived there for most of my married life. It’s the only home my children associate with Grandma.

Now, she’s going to be in a two-bedroom apartment in a retirement village. It’s still a good size, and she will maintain a lot of independence. But it won’t hold everything.

It was time to let go of a lot of things.

I researched lots of different options for her including auctions and estate sale companies. Several items she took to specialty consignment shops. A few things sold on Craigslist. We bought her washer and dryer. But in the end, she decided to run her own two-weekend estate sale. I was there two of the four days and came away with a few observations.

People aren't nearly as dangerous as I imagine them to be. She had advertised the sale in several places, places that warn you to be careful in how you deal with potential buyers. And I’ve had my own run-ins with crazies as I’ve sold my own stuff. Maybe it's because I write suspense. Maybe it's because I read too much news. Maybe it's because I'm a mama bear worried about her cubs. Yes, we need to be careful. But I also tend to see danger in situations where it just isn't. The people who shopped Mom's sale, both in the garage and all over her house, were polite and friendly.

A helpful and knowledgeable friend is a must. One of Mom's church friends runs an antique mall/consignment store type of business. Without her management and expertise, who knows how little of Mom's stuff would have sold? Mom is attached to her stuff (understandably so), but that made it difficult for her to let it go, especially when someone wanted her to come down in price. The reality was, though, that it had to go. This friend helped her price things appropriately and stepped in many times to negotiate the final sale when Mom wouldn’t let me.

Reality can be difficult to face. I'm not sure how Mom handled it all. She doesn't share much emotion with me. But for the first couple of hours of each day I was there, I walked around the condo with a lump in my throat, hiding the tears welling in my eyes. Change can be hard, but we still have to deal with it. I hugged my children extra tight that night and thanked the Lord for both the good times and the bad.

We still have too much stuff. Seeing Mom's accumulated goods spread out on several (several!) folding tables, the counter top, the extra bed that was also for sale, the clothes still hanging in the closets, affected my husband and me…and that doesn't even count what she's crammed into her new two-bedroom apartment. I walked out of that sale determined to declutter more. When my time comes, I want it to be as easy as possible for my children. In the meantime, fewer possessions equal fewer burdens.

And through it all, God is with us, holding our hands, guiding us, comforting us.

Life goes on. How do you handle it? What lessons have you learned from the forward march of time?

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  1. Timely! I spent my morning in my girls' closet. My 2 youngest girls have enough clothes for at least half a dozen kids. I think it's a good thing they'll be going to a school with uniforms next year, because I won't be tempted to buy them so many things if they can't wear them.

    I need to ruthlessly downsize in my own closet, and in our school room. 10 bookcases is a little much, even for a family of our size.

  2. It is so hard to deal with getting rid of a house full of STUFF. We had to do it after our mom passed away. No fun at all. We need to get rid of some ourselves .

    Charlotte Moore

    1. Yes, quite difficult, on so many different levels.

  3. This post is a good reminder to me that I need to knuckle down on my own goals for reducing possessions. I also need to get back to helping my mom go through her sewing room. It is hard to get rid of things sometimes. Some of it is painful at times, but oh, after what we went through with my grandparents, I desire to not be so attached to things!


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