Clearing an Estate - A Success Story for Two Sisters
Updated: Sep 19
Have you ever tried to clear-out a space and found yourself moving the same thing from one place to another? That's what two sisters found themselves doing. They were getting nowhere while trying to clear-out their deceased mother's home. They were completely stuck and didn't know where to start. What was the best way to get to their goal to sell the house? Find out in this post. Like the two sisters, you'll see there's an easier way that will save you a ton of time.
In this blog post:
Process and action plan
Donna searched online and found our company, In and Out Organizing. We arranged a consultation and toured their mother's home. Together we identified goals and developed an action plan. The next week we began our hands-on session. We would de-cluttter and organize in preparation for an estate sale. Donna and her sister Anne were executors of their mother's estate. This included the family home and contents. They were planning to sell their mother's home of 50+ years. They would distribute the proceeds among the beneficiaries as directed in the will. Both Donna and Anne worked full time and lived a long way from their mother's home. To complicate things further Donna was in the middle of separating from her husband of 25 years.
The 3 bedroom bungalow style family home had little space to move. There was clutter on every surface. Every room jammed with things including the basement. Much of the clutter and stuffed bedrooms were clothing. Once the father had died 8 years previous the mother had started shopping. There was a staggering amount of clothing. Most of it still with price tags. The same style in all the colours of the rainbow. It was impossible to see what was under it all. The clothing had to go!
The father was a talented woodworking hobbyist and mother a crafter and collector. Their large basement held boxes of pattern books, quilting, knitting and beading material. There were woodworking supplies, beautiful furniture, vintage lamps and toys, folk art. The basement also held a huge collection of holiday decor, tools, and Tupperware. Upstairs the collections continued: Milk glass; Blue Mountain Pottery and Cranberry glass. There were heaps of Copper-ware, Cornflower glassware and mid-century kitchenware. There were pristine collectible ornaments in their original boxes. These would all go in to the estate sale.
The excessive piles of clothes and food stockpiling made de-cluttering awkward.
Making decisions was difficult in a crowded space.
Managing the emotions associated with sorting through years of possessions and memories had its own special challenges.
Finding and facilitating an Estate Appraiser to allow for the probate of the will.
Valuing the items for estate sale.
Organizing and logistics of in-home estate sale.
Process and action plans:
Our overarching goals were to empty much of the contents of the house and to ready it for sale. We would sell much of the valuable collectibles and furniture at the estate sale. (The proceeds would cover the cost of our services.) Some of the furniture we left for staging and removed after the house sold.
We worked in pairs. Brad worked with the more extroverted Donna and I with quiet, reserved Anne.
Collecting the clothing, we donated them straight to The Canadian Diabetes Association. Now we could see what we were dealing with.
We worked our way one room at a time. We wanted our clients to see progress by getting at least one room cleared and organized. We wanted a big win to keep us all motivated. The first place we started was the basement a place with things of less sentimental value. It's easier to make decisions about possessions that have few emotional triggers.
We checked for cash and valuables in pockets and purses. We also checked files, medicine bottles, the freezer, and the toilet tank.
While sorting, we decided what to donate and what to sell. Some special items were set aside for friends and family. For instance, the next-door neighbour and friend received the father's extensive tool collection.
We displayed items for sale much like a department store and priced everything.
We advertised. Placed ads in the local newspaper and the Toronto Star. Used internet auction sites, posters and lawn signs. Neighbours received invitations.
The house sold for 20% above asking. We gave some of the contents of the house to friends, family, designated charities. At the estate sale, neighbours and friends bought items of special significance. to them. These related to memories of the mother and father. The mother's local church took the few remaining items. Donna and Anne felt we had done much more than they could have imagined and that "We had honoured their mom and dad."
Why In and Out Organizing was right for the job:
This job required a light empathetic approach. Clearing out a parent's home after death is a sensitive operation. Sharing stories about families as we sifted through the memory laden possessions made the process easier. We were fortunate that we got along so well with Donna and Anne. After a few days Donna commented that she "felt as if we were family." A large clear-out team wouldn't have worked well in this situation. There wasn't enough space and they would have unnerved Donna and Anne.
Working in pairs shoulder to shoulder was just the right approach. Our experience with auction sales and event planning proved instrumental. Brad's keen eye for detail and home staging experience was invaluable.
Our clients were over the moon to have the house cleared, the possession respectfully dispersed and the house sold.
On our final day, Anne, the quiet reserved one, sat us down to thank us and tell us how much our support had meant to her. You could have knocked me over with a feather.
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