The phone rings and it’s a potential client (we’ll call her Mary) who has questions about a possible estate sale. Mary tells me that her uncle (we’ll call him Otto) has recently passed away, and much to Mary’s surprise she has been named Executor of Otto’s Will. We talk about the house and the contents and how an estate sale works, and slowly the details emerge. Apparently Uncle Otto was rather eccentric, never married, and lived all his life in the house he inherited from his parents. After the funeral, Mary met with Otto’s attorney who explained to her that as executor she is responsible for emptying out Otto’s house. Mary had never been in the house because Otto was on the outs with his family (Mary isn’t sure why, she just knows that whenever Otto’s name came up the rest of the family changed the subject). But after meeting with the attorney she drove over to the house and discovered that the house is a total mess. It hasn’t been cleaned in years, there are rooms that you can barely get the door open, and she hasn’t even ventured into the basement or the attic yet. It’s obvious that Mary is completely overwhelmed and has no idea where to start.
I tell Mary that I don’t charge anything to come to the house and view the contents, and that after walking thru the house I will give her my opinion about the best way to proceed and then she can decide what she wants to do. And yet Mary hesitates about setting up the appointment and says, well I really need to go thru things first. There is something in her voice that makes me wonder what she is so worried about – is it that the house is such a mess, or are there some really personal items that she wants to get rid of first?
I ask Mary to please not throw anything out before I get there, (First Rule of Estate Sales – NEVER throw anything out before a professional looks at it). I also tell her that the condition of the house won’t shock me, or the contents. Still Mary hesitates. And it becomes very clear that Mary is really embarrassed about something.
So, for every Mary out there, here are some of the things I (and every other estate sale professional) have run across in this business.
I. House is a wreck. See my previous post “Estate Cleanouts – The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly for a description of some of the things I’ve dealt with. The only thing I haven’t found in a house yet – and certainly hope never to find – is a dead body. Now that might shock me.
II. Items of an adult nature. Every kind of pornography and sex toy that you can think of. Straight, gay, bi-sexual, bondage, S&M, etc. I’ll get rid of it discreetly, (actually I’ll sell it privately if I can), and I won’t tell the neighbors either, so you don’t need to worry about this.
III. Rooms where obviously very disturbed individuals wrote obscene messages on the walls. We’ll close off the area so that customers won’t have access during the sale, so you don’t have to worry about what the neighbors might think. Or we can make arrangements to have the room painted by a professional who isn’t going to talk.
If you are in Mary’s situation, please, do yourself a favor and call a professional. There is no need to be embarassed about the condition of the house or the contents, and there is certainly no need to put yourself thru the stress of dealing with this by yourself.
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