Estate Sales - The Stories Behind the Belongings
While Estate Sales can occur for myriad reasons (such as during a divorce or anytime someone wants to significantly downsize their belongings), they mostly occur when someone has either passed away or can no longer live on their own safely and must now reside in a nursing home or other facility.
The family, relatives, friends or neighbors are left with the task of liquidating the “things” that made this person’s life and abode a home. It can be incredibly sad, terribly nerve wracking, or in the case of my friend Carol Gefre, extremely historical and life affirming.
Meet Carol: The Supreme Estate Sale Coordinator
Carol got into the Estate Sale Business a good number of years ago when customers would come into her antique shop and ask her to give price evaluations for items that they were given after a relative passed away.
A bit later, Carol began going into the deceased person’s home and personally helping the family inventory valuables and simple everyday things.
She was asked not only for advice on how to dispose of these items, but to help set up a sale in which these items could be sold most fairly for the entire family. She also became a huge support system as the family moved through the process of grief. Carol became very good at what she did and her reputation grew to the point that she needed to consider Estate Sales a full time job.
Carol and her husband closed up shop of their little antique business, which happened to be located on her family farm, and made the jump into the Estate World. The Antique shop could wait for another day!!
How Estate Sales (Should) Work:
In the beginning, when Carol would go into a home left suddenly by its occupant, she would tread carefully so as not to disturb anything for the family. They needed to go through items first and see what THEY wanted to keep.
“When we first get a call from a family, we make an appointment to go view the house and items for sale. Our families have pretty much decided what will they will leave with the family members and what will be sold. We sign a contract after family things have been taken out and then we get the house keys at the same time. WE decide on all pricing. Sometimes people think anything old is worth a lot of money. If we know better, we will discuss the price of that item so we are both happy. We try to guide the client and explain the economy, the flooding of the market due to eBay, etc. They usually always leave pricing of items totally to us.”
It can take Carol several weeks to go through all of the items left in a home.
She and her husband try to stick with a two-week time frame but…sometimes the homes are in the conditions similar to those on “Hoarders” and the process takes longer. Other times, things are already neatly arranged and organized and will simply take a few hours to get items listed in a computer program and priced.
The first week is designated for set up and organization of the sale. All of the “junk and trash” have been hauled away and you can see the piles of things ready to be sold.
The second week, the sale is scheduled. Thursday, Friday and Saturday sale dates are advertised through the local paper, Craigslist and online. Usually, buyers can arrive around 8 a.m. to receive their numbers and to make it faster/safer for when the doors open at 9 a.m. At this time, the doors are open to everyone and buyer’s are welcome to browse the remaining contents of the home.
By the end of the weekend, Carol is exhausted but satisfied with a job well done and a family is happy.
On occasion, there are moments in the middle of these sales that catch Carol completely off guard. I want to share this story because it stays with my Theme of “History in the Heart of Home.” It expresses that behind all of the Estates sales, Storage Auctions, and flea markets full of someone else’s “Junk” - there are meaningful stories to be uncovered!!!!
“We come across many interesting things while setting up Estate Sales for clients. Old letters and cards, photos of loved ones, all left behind and forgotten. I would like to share a letter we found yesterday while setting up our sale. It is a "Dear John" letter from WWII in the early 1940's. I have typed it word for word, typing the exact format as the writer did:"
"At mail call today love, your last letter came. And I stood there smiling, til they called my name.
As I read it over the skies turned gray and tears filled my eyes love, at mail call today
I've slept in a foxhole with mud, shot and shell,
I tell you my darling it is worse than all hell.
And now that it's over, what more can I say, my poor heart was broken at mail call today.
I can't understand dear, what happened to you.
The day that I sailed dear, you said you'd be true.
I thought you would wait dear, while I was away.
But my castles tumbled at mail call today.
I hope you'll be happy with somebody new
But remember my darling, my heart beats for you
Good Luck, may God bless you,
wherever you stay
the world for me ended, at mail call today.”
Until Next Time