Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lessons From An Estate Sale

As many of you already know, I have been assisting some family members in a series of estate sales that consisted of stuff owned by my great uncle and his sister. This last weekend was estate sale number 3. It moved a lot of stuff, but not as much as we hoped. There is now as much stuff after the third sale than most people start out with in their first estate sale! Yes, it was stressful. Yes, it was a LOT of hard work. There is some wisdom that was gained though and now I am passing it along to you!

1. More than likely, your stuff isn't worth as much as you think.
Did any of catch that episode of Hoarders recently with Sir Patrick who collected art, antiques and dolls? He thought he would net at least $50k at an auction of his stuff. Turns out he received about $7k instead. I think there is a tendency to overvalue our possessions. It definitely stings when we know how much hard earned money we fork over for stuff and yet it is often worthless or close to worthless in a short amount of time.
If you are holding on to many possessions in hopes of them being valuable one day, is the cost of storing them in-line with the potential profit? For example, say you are holding on to a box of magazines and the only place you have to store them is in a garage. Variables such as weather and insects will probably destroy any potential profit over the years.
The remedy: Ask yourself with purchasing something if you are okay with the value rapidly declining. Only buy things when you can live with that outcome.

2. If you own a lot of things or are disorganized, it will inevitably cause stress for someone when you die.
The death of a loved one is hard! Factor in legal issues like guardianship, wills and probate, it quickly becomes overload! Some people take the easy way and just let their loved ones deal with the entire burden AFTER their death. I personally believe that is a cop out. What better of a gesture to your survivors than to have an organized plan of action? I happen to think that my great uncle would have done things differently if he would have known that we were STILL working on his estate close to two years after the fact.
The remedy: Don't put off envisioning your legacy. None of us know when we will die. We are in control of how we live though. Have the hard conversations even if they are uncomfortable. Make an action plan and start moving on it.

3. Don't let possessions tear up your family.
For so many people, the passing of a loved one can cause huge family rifts. Relatives can become preoccupied with their need of physical items in order to hold on to memories associated with them. It can be a part of the grieving process, yet there is damage caused to relationships with the living. Is being "in the right" worth it?
The remedy: I think those of us that take up a life of simplicity have quite an advantage in this area over others. Leading a life that doesn't revolve around the attachment of possessions is quite liberating. There have been times when I caught myself miffed about how another relative laid claim to a table or something similar without asking anyone else. I reminded myself that my relationship with the deceased took precedence over anything else. When you rise above, the rest doesn't really matter.

I hope you are inspired to take some action by envisioning your legacy. It is definitely on my project list now. I will blog about the steps I take to make the lives of the people I love a little easier should anything ever happen to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment