What Am I Going to Do with “All My Stuff”?

When rightsizing or downsizing a home in preparation for a move to a new location or an assisted living facility, the question of what to do with a lifetime of acquisitions is always a difficult one to answer.

Once you have organized and sorted everything into: 1)Taking With Me or 2)Gifting to Others, the balance of household goods then needs to be further separated into: a) Donate, b) Sell, or c) Dispose of.

It is this second phase that is most challenging. People often ask me where they can sell their treasures to get the amount of money that the item is worth. The answer to: “How much is it worth?” is simple – it is worth what someone is willing to pay when you want to sell.
There are a number of resources online that can help you find out the value of items you want to sell. First, you will want to get an appraisal for those items that fall into the “antique” category. Use a certified appraiser who is accredited and meets professional and ethical standards. He or she will give you an objective judgment because they are not buying or selling. You can expect to pay either a flat fee or an hourly rate depending on their expertise and location. Don’t use an appraiser whose fee is based on a percentage of the item’s value. And remember, it is illegal for a Certified Appraiser to offer to buy an item for which you have requested an appraisal. The American Society of Appraisers; Appraisers Association of America; or the International Society of Appraisers are good sources of information.

There are professional appraisers and other experts online who can give you an estimate of value. You upload photos of your items and provide descriptions. Within a week, you receive a valuation. Value My Stuff charges $10 for one appraisal, $25 for three, or $75 for ten. Worth Point charges $30 for one item or $75 for three. You can also subscribe for unlimited valuations at $20 per month.

Kovels Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide is updated each year and reports recent prices paid for 35,000 items in more than 700 categories at auctions, shops, shows, flea markets, and online.

Searching on eBay or on Craig’s List may also give you an idea of the prices others are selling and buying similar items to yours. There is no charge to search either of these sites.

When advising clients on the items they want to sell, I ask them to send me photos that show the decorative details up close, along with a comprehensive description that includes whatever information they have: the manufacturer, model or serial number; how long it has been in their possession; and any stories about the item that might support its provenance.

If you decide that selling will take too long or that the items aren’t worth what you had hoped, you can consider making a tax-deductible donation.