3 estate dispersal case studies

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Dispersing an estate is hard. Executors and families have to navigate through an enormous amount of decisions that involve communication and coordination between family members and legal representatives all while living with the emotions of loss. It can be overwhelming.

About a third of our clients are dispersing estates, including those working through living estates for family members who are no longer able to remain at home or make decisions. One thing we know for sure: at the end of the day the executors need to be able to look back at the dispersal process and feel that they did their best work to carry out the intent and directions of the person they are representing. And we do our best to help them with that.

One of the most important things we do when working with families handling estates is to provide support and coaching. We provide the hands on packing and logistical knowledge, and can act as their representative if they live out of the area. But acting as a sounding board, presenting options, communicating with all involved parties and providing solutions is one of the most important tasks we are able to take on.

There are a lot of tasks involved in dispersing an estate. We live our lives every day. We may have our legal affairs in order, but our houses—maybe not so much.This is because we are human. We have the stuff we live with every day. And we have the stuff that hides in nooks and crannies, the product of deferred decision making. We had no reason to make decisions about it, so we didn’t. In other words, estates aren’t just about the assets and heirlooms, they’re also about the stuff of everyday living that has to be managed with to prepare a house for it’s new owner.

We provide a range of services for estate clients, commonly assisting with:

Initial clearing out things like food, recyclables, disposables and unneeded medications for disposal and donation.

Assisting in locating and organizing personal and financial documents, providing secure shredding for high volumes of materials.

Facilitating and coordinating identification, packing and transporting items being taken by family both locally, nationally and internationally. 

Sorting remaining items to be sold or donated.

Arranging for the sale of items through consignment and auction.

Packing and delivering items to be donated, or arrange for pickup or items.

Coordinate with real estate agent to stage and prepare home for sale.

Provide inventories to family and legal representatives.

It’s not easy to imagine how someone who doesn’t know your family can be a part of dispersing an estate. About a third of our clients are doing just that. To help explain how we work to thoughtfully and respectfully work with estate clients, here are sketches of three recent jobs.

Case Study 1: The Family is Local estate

Client had lived in their three bedroom colonial home for sixty years, all siblings were local.

Worked in tandem with family for initial clear out of food and disposables.

(Family sorted and removed things being kept.)

Staged home for sale in consultation with real estate agent.

Sorted items not needed for staging to be consigned and donated.

Arranged for pickup or delivered those items to consignment shops, auction galleries and non-profits.

Returned after home was under sale agreement to remove remaining furniture and décor.

Case Study 2: The Long Distance Family Estate

Client had lived in their two bedroom ranch house for 30+ years, no family members were local.

Worked with family on sorting, marking and packing items to be shipped to them during the short period they were on site together.

Provided options and estimates for getting their heirlooms shipped, including an overseas container.

Packed and shipped smaller items via traditional services like USPS, UPS and FedEx.

Arranged secure transport and sale of firearms.

Cleared out all food and disposables.

Emptied house of all goods to be sold and donated prior to listing per realtor’s request.

Provided secure shredding of confidential documents.

Provided clients with donation and consignment inventories.

Case Study 3: The Finish it Up Estate

Client had lived in house for split level for 60+ years and moved out of state to be with family members. Family, all out of state, had removed all personal items and heirlooms.

Coordinated with real estate agent and family to determine that property should be emptied for sale, staging was not needed.

Sorted and removed or arranged for pickup of all items to be consigned and donated.

Consulted with family and shipped two boxes of overlooked personal items and items they regretted leaving behind after they left.

Disposed of refuse in large onsite dumpster, including removing all window treatments and area rugs, basement and garage refuse.

Coordinated services of removal company to empty two sheds on the property.

Arranged for the proper disposal of hazardous household waste.

Arranged for disposal of outdated and poor condition appliances.

Cleaned emptied house prior to listing by real estate agent.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

We’ve had the honor of working with families on estates as small as studio apartments and as large as triple deckers with full attics and basement. No matter what size the household, the most important part of working with a family on an estate is the discovery process. What looks like a ratty old suitcase might be full of letters written by a husband to a wife during WWII. A wedding ring might be hidden in a nondescript box under a dresser. A painting in the pile of “disposable” art might be actually be an original work by a well known modern artist and might sell for $32,000 at auction. A file cabinet full of confidential medical reports might need to be shredded. All of those examples are extremely real, and we have plenty more just like them. (Okay, maybe only a couple of the $32,000 ones.)

We consider it a privilege to assist with an estate—to be there with people through moments that bring tears and others that bring laughter. We appreciate the opportunity and are committed to do our best to make sure that when the family or executor looks back, they can feel that they did their best to honor and respect their relatives memory.

3 downsizing case studies

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One of the best things about being a move manager is that no clients are the same. No two days are the same. There is no standard client, standard family or standard move. Such an abundance of variability sounds terrifying to some. But not to us. It’s part of what makes this such a great job.

We tailor our move management services to meet each client’s needs. We are part of our their “transition team,” working with them, their family, the realtor, the mover and the new community. Stress and worry about a transition have their roots in the things you don’t know. We work with our clients and the rest of their team to clear up those unknowns and make sure there’s a plan so that everything that happens is a step ahead, not backwards or sideways.

We do that with a blend of experience, a Rolodex full of other tested and trusted service partners, some sweat, and above all a good sense of humor. We have one other thing: we know that the move will end well, because we have eight years of good endings to look back on.

It’s hard to imagine how someone you don’t know can come in and help you make such a big life transition. That’s why the majority of our new clients come to us on the recommendation of others we have worked with–people who have worked with us can explain what we do and how we do it. But if you’re new to the idea of working with a move manager, here are descriptions of three moves that might share some similarity with your own planned transition.

Case Study 1: The Full Move

Client couple had been in their home 45 years and were moving from a 3 bedroom cape home to a one bedroom apartment in a community.

Constructed a move plan and timeline with the clients. 

Worked with clients and their realtor to stage home by packing items being taken with them and by sorting, packing and removing no longer needed items to be sold or donated.

After agreement for sale of home, worked with client to identify items being taken to the new apartment, being taken by family members, being left for the new owner—and by process of elimination the things that are no longer needed.

Packed items being moved.

Sorted and delivered items to be sold at consignment and/or auction.

Sorted and delivered items to be donated.

Arranged for the safe disposal of hazardous materials.

Arranged for disposal of refuse.

Coordinated with movers on move day to prioritize order of items being brought up to the apartment and to insure that furniture was positioned according to space plan (which was done with impeccable accuracy by the client)

Unpacked essential items as they were brought to apartment: kitchenware, linens, clothing, lamps, bathroom goods and anything else that could be placed quickly to eliminate the majority of boxes.

Stowed less urgent items like books and art for unpacking the next day.

Nested in: hung shower curtain, placed extension cords behind furniture, made bed and other things to make the first night comfortable.

Returned next day to complete unpacking, make adjustments to furniture placement and hang art.

Case Study 2: The Medium Move

Client had been in four bedroom multilevel house for 51 years and was moving to a two bedroom apartment condo.

Constructed a move plan and timeline with client.

Decorator drafted a floor plan with client.

Real estate agent handled staging.

Sorted and delivered or arranged for pickup of items to be sold at consignment and/or auction.

Sorted and delivered items to be donated.

Arranged for disposal of refuse.

Packed all small items, movers packed art and lamps to be moved.

Coordinated with movers on move day to prioritize order of items being brought up to the condo and to insure that furniture was positioned according to space plan.

Unpacked essentials.

Stowed non-essentials strategically.

Nested in.

Returned next day to finish unpacking and make adjustments.

Returned after sale of home to remove all items belonging to the client left for staging.

Case Study 3: The Essentials Only Move

Client had been in her two bedroom condo for 30 years and was moving to a one bedroom apartment in a community.

Constructed a move plan and timeline with client.

Drafted a floor plan for new apartment.

Real estate agent handled staging.

Client handled dispersal of no longer needed items.

Packed items being moved.

Coordinated with movers on move day to prioritize order of items being brought up to the apartment and to insure that furniture was positioned according to space plan.

Unpacked essentials.

Stowed non-essentials strategically.

Nested in: hung shower curtain, placed extension cords behind furniture, made bed and other things to make the first night comfortable.

Client and family finished unpacking.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

While none of these moves exactly describes your upcoming transition, you probably spotted some tasks in all of these moves that would help make your move faster and less stressful. As we said before, no two moves or clients are the same. But that’s not exactly true. There’s one thing that’s the same about all the moves we’ve ever worked on. Because our clients had a great move team that we were happy to be a part of, they all had moves that ended well.

Sprint or Marathon: your move pace is up to you

time-731110_1280When you’re getting ready to make a transition, you might wonder how long before your move should you start working with a move manager? That depends: are you a sprinter or a marathoner?

You’ve already done the hard work leading up to your move. Think about it as having done the training runners do leading up to an event. You did the thinking and considering and reviewing to that brought you to the place to where you are ready to make a transition. And you’ve decided where you are going to go, an equally tough thing to do. So now the training phase is over and you are at the starting line, ready for the actual event to get underway.

The Marathoner’s Move

If you’re a marathoner, you will start working a move manager three to six months ahead of the date you are planning to list your house for sale because you prefer a measured, consistent pace over a longer period of time to sort, plan your new space and stage your house for sale. With our marathon-type move clients, we schedule of work sessions once or twice a week, always moving forward. And yes, there is homework assigned for between sessions.

Marathon runners will tell you they have to dig a little deeper, find a little more oompf in the final miles of the race. Similar to that, even if you’ve done most of the prep work, the final stretch before your move takes some extra effort. The measured pace gets kicked up a notch when we start packing what’s going with you and clearing out things that are not going but were needed for home staging. But for the most part, you did the training, you put in the time sorting and planning and you’ll get through the move and the unpacking that follows in your new place just fine.

Speaking of unpacking, marathon-type clients often prefer to unpack in stages. The essentials get unpacked the first day. The furniture gets arranged, beds get made, the coffee pot is ready for operation, the clothing is taken out of the wardrobes so those big boxes get out of there and whatever else can be unpacked and placed easily is done. Non-essentials like books and art are stowed and unpacked over the next week so you can settle in at a measured pace at your new home too.

The Sprinter’s Move

If you’re a sprinter, you may start working with a move manager closer to when you plan to list your house for sale or even after you’ve sold your house and you’re ready to move. You are ready to go and eager to get things done fast. We might work with you daily, or every other day right through the move and unpacking to help you hit all your goals.

Sprinters know there isn’t a lot of extra time to make changes. Logistics that count on outside organizations, like non-profits and movers, might take a little extra work to get in place so they are ready to take the baton from you in the moving relay race. Sometimes Plan A, getting donations picked up, for example, turns into Plan B, delivering donations, instead. But fixing challenges like that why you work with a move manager in the first place! If there’s one thing we move managers have, it’s a deep bag of tricks for getting things done.

When it comes to unpacking day, sprinters like to get it done fast. To get there, we bring a SWAT team of unpackers to get boxes emptied and out, to get as much as possible put away and to stow things that will be put away later where they won’t be in the way.

♦ ♦ ♦

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There’s no right or wrong pace for your move. It’s your move and you should do it at the pace that suits you best. As move managers, we use our skills to make sure you can work at your most comfortable speed and have a great transition. We’re your team, there to make sure that you cross that finish line when you expect to in a way that works for you. And we are definitely going to cheer you along every step of the way.

 

 

Grab bars for one and all!

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Sometime after we humans decided that shower grab bars were a good thing, we also decided that they were only needed by older people. This would make perfect sense if only people over the age of 65 had the ability to slip on a wet soapy bathtub. But as anyone who has ever shaved their legs in the shower or who has jumped into the tub  without making sure the suction cup tub mat was stuck to the porcelain can tell you, it is entirely possible to have a Wile E. Coyote arm waving moment of slippage at any age. So why we don’t we put grab bars in all our bathtubs and shower stalls?

The grab bar debate is reminiscent of the seat belt debate. Remember when we didn’t wear seat belts because we didn’t want to wrinkle our clothing? According to The Hotly Contested History of Seat Belts, until the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was established in 1966, not only did most cars not have seat belts, they also didn’t have shatterproof windshields, headrests to prevent whiplash and energy absorbing steering wheels. Now 85% of us wear seatbelts and we can have cars with airbags, backup cameras and lane drift warning devices. Somewhere along the way we decided that not getting launched through the windshield was a better idea than worrying about whether our gabardine got rumpled. So why don’t we feel that way about shower grab bars?

It’s not like bathroom injuries are rare. The CDC gathered info from hospitals on patients that were treated for non-fatal bathroom injuries and crunched the data to find out how often, where and how people were accidentally injuring themselves.

Here’s what they found in their 2011 report:

“In 2008, an estimated 234,094 nonfatal bathroom injuries among persons aged ≥15 years were treated in U.S. EDs, for an injury rate of 96.4 per 100,000 population. The rate for women was 121.2 per 100,000 and was 72% higher than the rate for men (70.4 per 100,000). Although approximately the same number of cases occurred in each 10-year age group, injury rates increased with age. Falls were the most common primary cause of injury (81.1%), and the most frequent diagnosis was contusions or abrasions (29.3%). The head or neck was the most common primary part of the body injured (31.2%). Most patients (84.9%) were treated and released from the ED; 13.7% were treated in the ED and subsequently hospitalized.”

And their recommendation?

“Persons in all age categories sustained bathroom injuries, especially when bathing or showering or when getting out of the tub or shower. Raising awareness about potentially hazardous activities and making a number of simple environmental changes, such as installing grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to toilets, could benefit all household residents by decreasing the risk for injury.”

Installing a grab bar isn’t all that complicated, it’s a “simple environmental change.” But convincing yourself to add one even though you aren’t an older person can take a little bit of inner dialogue. But seriously; which is more embarrassing—having a grab bar in your shower or explaining the big contusion on your face to everyone because you didn’t have one?

If you decide to add a grab bar, make the full commitment and install one screwed into wall. There are bars that work with heavy duty suction cups, but we all know suction cups are finicky and unreliable. Go ahead and do the job right. For you DIYers, The Family Handyman has info to get you started.

Oh, and while you’re installing that grab bar, go ahead and install a handrail on both sides of your cellar stairs…but that’s a topic for another time.

(You can read the whole CDC report here, charts and all.)

 

 

 

Rethinking room use in new spaces

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Over the past century plus, the traditional American home floor plan with its dedicated rooms for specific purposes has reigned supreme. But in the past decade or so, it’s faced stiff competition in the home design popularity contest from open concept floor plans. Both have their virtues.

Traditional layouts started with the classic foursquare floor plan, four rooms laid out in a square on one floor, possibly with another room or two on a second floor. In older homes, there were doors on some of the rooms, giving homeowners the opportunity to use heat more efficiently by not heating non-essential rooms. In time, the footprint for traditional homes expanded, but the concept remained the same. Separate rooms for separate functions.

A downside to traditional layouts is that some rooms wind up underutilized. The dining room in particular might not see much use (or it might be co-opted for another purpose like spare craft room or laundry folding room).

On the other side of the space delineation equation, open floor plans have wide open spaces usually called great rooms—part kitchen, part dining room, part family room. Great rooms are gathering spots. They’re rooms that are always in use; rooms that become the center of the home.

Moving to a more compact living space can be daunting if you’ve lived all your life with a traditional floor plan. You’re used to watching TV in the family room and eating in the kitchen or dining room and using your computer in the study. It might feel like you are losing a lot of space by giving up your individual rooms.

But stop for a minute think about it: how many of the rooms in your house do you actively live in and use?  Half the rooms? All of the rooms? The extra space is nice to have when you need it, but how often do you actually need it?

If the answer is you have a few rooms you use a lot and a lot of rooms you rarely use, it might not be as hard as you think to adapt to a smaller space in your new apartment. You might be able to reconfigure and do as much in a smaller footprint. Try rethinking your floor plan. Instead of thinking of your new space from the perspective of  your traditional home, try thinking of your new space as an open concept great room. You’ve always had a dedicated space for entertaining, TV watching and using your computer—but couldn’t all those things also happen in the main living area?

It might be that making that kind of shift also means thinking of your furniture differently as well. Many people feel the need to bring a large couch with them because they’ve always had one. But in a new great room space where the dining table and chairs are there to provide additional seating when needed, a love seat or a pair of nice comfortable armchairs are more functional and versatile choices.

Sometimes it takes new furniture to make the new space work. You may not need end tables if you can find decorative two drawer file cabinets to store all your documents (if you have that many documents!). A big TV stand might be replaced by something with more function if you mount your TV on the wall. A little creative thinking can go a long way towards making your smaller new nest even more functional than your current space.

It’s easy to expand into larger spaces, but challenging to shift into smaller spaces. Rethinking your rooms might make you realize that you don’t actually need as much space as you imagine you do. You may realize that for your new apartment, less really can be more.

For more open floor plan inspiration, check out these floor plan ideas for smaller spaces from MyDomaine and this Design*Sponge article,

 

 

What do you do with Old Pusses?

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During a sorting session with a client, we were reviewing their art and marking what was going with them and what was going away. She had a few of large oil paintings of fore bearers, dating back to the early 1800s. Our client looked at them with a smile and a tiny sigh, and said, “I guess we’ll keep the Old Pusses.”

And I’m glad they did. They were lovely paintings and they had space for them in their future home. But not everyone has the room. And not everyone has the desire to display paintings and photographs of previous generations. All of which raises the question: what do you do with Old Pusses?

The first thing you do is eliminate guilt from the decision making. Whom and what you display in your house is up to you. You are under zero obligation to hang a large wedding photograph of your great grandparents. The room you have in your heart for love of family history is infinite. The wall space you have for hanging art in your home is not. You should to surround yourself art that makes you happy. And it might not be that wedding photo.

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The second thing you do is document the people is in the portrait. Take a photo of it, add notes for future generations. You may not want the photo or painting, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to preserve that part of your family story.

The third thing you do is check with other family members to see if anyone else wants old portraits or photos. I received a box of old family photos from my last remaining auntie years after my mother had passed away, and there were photos in there I had never seen. I am so happy to have those.

If you decide to let those portraits go, the last thing you do is decide how you want to dispose of them. Paintings and photographs that may have been done by a noted artist may have resale value. More common photographs and paintings have decorative value and might be desirable to artists and designers. Those may have resale or donation value. Common photographs that are not of great age or great interest or are only one of multiple copies can often be disposed of.

People are often uncomfortable at the idea of a painting of their grandmother hanging someone else’s house or a restaurant.  But how often do you look at a portrait of someone you don’t know and find yourself charmed by their smile or be intrigued by their clothing? Giving up art of your predecessors so they can be appreciated by others is not a bad thing. What you do with your Old Pusses is up to you; do what you can feel good about at the end of the day.

Wondering how people decorate with vintage portraits or looking for inspiration on new way to showcase your family photos? Here’s some places to start:

Vintage Unscripted has a blog post of ideas for decorating with relatives, real or imagined.

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Design Sponge gathered together 14 rooms where vintage portraits shine.

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And Chairish captured interior designer Michelle Gage’s hints for decorating with vintage portraits.

23 ways going to college and moving to a community are alike

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On the surface, going away to college and making a move to an independent or assisted living community appear to be polar opposites. You go to college late in your teens. You move to a community as an older adult. What could they possibly have in common?

More than you would imagine. Right from the start, there are a lot of commonalities. We made a list of 23 things you might think about and/or do that are the same for both big life transitions. Our list starts right at the beginning of the journey…

1 You spend a lot of time making the the decision to leave the place you have been living for a long time to go somewhere different. And while you feel positive about moving ahead, you are probably also apprehensive.

2 You sift through a lot of options and make a list of places you actually want to look at.

3 You think about where you want to be geographically. Do you want to stay close to where you are or go somewhere two hours away or a plane flight away?

4 You think about whether you want a campus that’s large or one that’s smaller.

5 You schedule many appointments for campus tours.

6 You bring along someone whose opinion you respect to help you notice things beyond what you will see on the tour because…

7 The campus rep will show you all the best things about their institution.

8 After you’ve visited a number of campuses, you evaluate offerings and options to see which ones might meet your needs. This is like comparing apples and oranges and tomatoes and pickles.

9 You take a careful look at your finances.

10 You take a careful look at the institution’s finances.

11 You fill out lots of forms and put together an application packet.

12 You take a test to see if you a candidate for admission. Different kinds of tests, but tests nonetheless.

13 You are accepted and you greet that news with both excitement and trepidation.

14 You tell your friends about your plan; some are excited for you, some will say things that make you doubt your decision.

15 You worry about moving to a living space smaller than where you live now, but you probably aren’t thinking about all the common areas you will gain.

16 You begin thinking about what to bring with you, and you realize you have a lot of stuff you don’t need anymore.

17 You visit the community again. Campus residents will all reassure you that joining their team is great decision.

18 You spend some nights awake staring at the ceiling. You worry that everyone there knows each other and you don’t know them. What if you can’t find a group of people you like? What if the food is horrible? What if you get there and you don’t like it? What if you have chosen badly and the whole thing is going to go off the rails?

19 You prepare for move day. (If you are moving to a community and are working with a move manager, you will be very well prepared. If you are moving to college, oh heck, roll with it.)

20 You meet lots of new people; you remember some of their names but they all remember yours. Once the newness wears off, you will filter through the many people you’ve met to find the few that will become true friends.

21 You start to find new routines. You build new habits.

22 You figure out if this campus is truly the right fit for you. If it’s not, you make a change. If it is, you settle in, stop worrying and enjoy being where you are.

And this last one, which is perhaps the most important:

23 No one tells you this, but in making this transition, you did a brave thing. Anytime you take a leap from what you know to what you don’t, you are showing a quiet kind of courage. This is true even if you were worried or afraid at times (and everyone is). Mark Twain said this: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.”

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Are you surprised how much going to college and moving to a community overlap emotionally, intellectually and practically? Although it might feel overwhelming, once you start moving forward, the pieces fall into place. Look for someone who has already made the leap. They were once standing where you are now, and they can tell you for sure– “Don’t worry, you’re going to be just fine.”

 

When move managers meet

next nasmmIf you’re thinking about downsizing and rightfully feeling overwhelmed, you will find it beyond belief that people from across the country would gleefully plunk down airfare, hotel and conference fees to talk and think about nothing but downsizing for four straight days. But you’re not a move manager, and you’ve never been to the annual National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) conference. The NASMM conference is such a magical event that not only do members flock to it, they willingly get up for sessions at 7:30 am and talk late into the night. But that’s what happens when a big group of people who are passionate about what they do get together.

The 400 +/- conference attendees range from Diamond Society members (10+ years in business) to newbies who have barely picked out a name for their company. Because it’s an entrepreneurial industry driven by small independent businesses, there are almost as many business models as there are attendees. Some companies have 30 plus employees, others are solopreneurs. NextStage Associates is somewhere in the middle; we have a team of eight and we are in our eighth year of moving clients forward.

We come home from the conference with ideas, enthusiasm, a rededication to best practices and the happy feeling of having been with “our pack.” Being a move manager has it’s challenging moments, but there’s no way to spend four days with people who love what they do as much as we do and not come back ready for another year of getting stuff done.

Being a part of NASMM is something move managers take seriously. There are requirements for learning, business practices, and most important, a code of ethics that we all subscribe to. It’s a professional trade organization that thrives because members share their knowledge and skill of members in volunteer roles. (I was lucky enough to be asked to be on the committee choosing programs for this year’s conference.)

Being so engaged with so many of our peers invariably leads to introspection: things we do well, things we can do better, things we might consider adding as services.  Although only two of us attended the conference this year, we rally the entire team together to talk, reflect, review and sometimes reinvent when we get back.

The spring selling season is approaching. We know because the phone is ringing. A lot. We’re looking forward to meeting new clients and teaming up with them to get them from where they are to where they want to be. We have a few new tricks up our sleeves to make those moves easier and less stressful. There’s so much more to a transition than boxes and packing paper. The details that make you feel overwhelmed–we love telling our clients not to worry, we’ve got it for them.

And we’re already looking forward to next year’s conference, because we know we’ll come back smarter, energized and as excited as we have for the past five years!

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What’s stuff worth?

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That’s a good question. And one that almost everyone making a downsizing transition asks. Like most things in life, there isn’t a black and white answer. But, really, what is your stuff worth, and how do you find out?

Lots of things have worth or value. That value is almost entirely unrelated to the purchase price. Value is something determined in real time. The value of stuff can change dramatically from year to year, decade to decade. The thing itself hasn’t changed, but it’s value has. How inconvenient! But ahhhh, how true.

There are three kinds of value: financial, sentimental or psychological. And while you have limited control over financial value, you have lots of power to determine the sentimental or psychological value of things. Let’s look at why:

Financial Value

The financial value of an item is what someone is willing to pay for it. Here’s the formula:

Formula for determining financial value of items

It’s a little like alchemy. Things that there are fewer of, that are in good condition and that are in demand are worth more financially than things there are abundant quantities of that aren’t as desired.

Things that are scarce are things that might have been sent to the thrift store or the landfill (oh the horror!) years ago because they weren’t viewed as “valuable.” (Translation: they didn’t cost very much.) Some examples: supermarket china in good condition is often more valuable than fine china, vintage cookbooks and children’s books that are out of print are often more prized than new books, old blue jeans are usually more valuable on a resale market than new ones. Since there are fewer of those items around and there is demand for them, the price is higher if you are selling them.

Things that were costly when you bought them, like dining room tables, hutches and upholstered furniture, are often donations because the market is currently saturated with them. The well-worn basement workbench with a good vintage patina is probably worth more at resale than the dining room table. (Of course, the workbench wouldn’t go back to the cellar, it would more likely become a piece of furniture in a rustic cottage home.) Furniture tastes have changed. 1980s style furniture, for example, is not in high demand. Exceptions are signed design pieces and trend design pieces. It’s hard to stay up on what’s popular—many clients are surprised to find out that Lucite and acrylic pieces from the 1970s and 1960s Italian gesso Florentine pieces are both is having a renaissance and are in demand.

Sentimental Value

There are no pricing guides for sentimental value, you can’t slap a ruler on it to measure its size and you can’t calculate the ROI for keeping it or letting it go. All you can know is it means a great deal to you. How much does it mean, here’s our formula:

Formula for determining sentimental value of items2

To break it down, the sentimental value lies in the memories an object holds, the history of where it came from and how happy it makes you when you see it. If when you sit at your writing desk, you can see your mom sitting there and she could see her mom sitting there, that piece is dripping in lovely sentimental value. The same is often true for kitchenware and china, clocks, photos and scrapbooks, and art.

Things that mark milestones like diplomas and anniversary plates might have virtually no sentimental value. The event was important, the ephemera associated with it is not. But a kindergarten report card? Hard to replace, highly sentimental.

The next generation may not have high sentimental value for things that you adore. But just like you did when you were younger, they have formed their own sentimental attachments to things that were part of their life.

Psychological Value

Things with high psychological value are not wrapped in memories, nor are they unusually valuable. They are things that make your life better. They may not be as bright and shiny as when you first got them, but they have form and function to get you through the day. Here’s how to analyze that:

Formula for determining psychl value of items-2

 

These are things that are useful, in that they are used regularly. They are familiar—you know how they work and how best to use them. And they provide a level of comfort in their predictability. Things that fit into the category of high psychological value are your favorite coffee cup, your chair and side table, your favorite pots and pans and perhaps your small electronics like your clock or a radio.

When you’re making a move, there are those that might encourage you to replace those things with things that are newer, because they are probably showing their age. But if these are things that make every day better for you, you can almost always find a way to make them a part of your new nest.

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So what are things worth? At the end of the day, you bought things to use them. If they have some resale value now, that is a bonus. You bought them, you used them, you are getting something back. And those things will probably not be the things you are expecting them to be. But the things that have the most worth to you are those with sentimental and psychological value. Those are the things that are too valuable to put a price on.

 

 

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8 things we love for smaller living spaces

small apartment living

Moving to a new space often means reconfiguring and rethinking how you arrange things or how you store things. Over the past 8 years, we found a few things that have come in darned handy to help our clients moving to smaller spaces make the most of that space.

FLAT PLUG EXTENSION CORDS

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Flat plug extension cord, Amazon.

One of the first jobs on move day is to get an extension cord in any outlet that will be behind a large piece of furniture. We love cords with flat plugs because they allow furniture to be closer to the wall.

NEW SURGE PROTECTORS!

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Surge protector, Lowes.

Okay, we like this for any living space, not just smaller ones. Surge protectors have a lifespan. If you’ve been using yours for more than 5 years, it’s probably time to replace it. Although we can’t endorse any particular brand, the Wirecutter blog can–here’s there list. ‘

SLIDE OUT KITCHEN TRASH BINS

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Slide out trash bin, The Container Store.

Nothing impedes the flow in a compact kitchen than having to dance around a wastebasket every time you cook. A under sink slide-out trash bin solves that problem.

SLIDE OUT PANTRY SHELVES

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Slide out drawer organizer, Wayfair.com

Many apartment kitchens have a deep pantry closet. The generous space is a beautiful thing, but having to go through contortions to get something out the the back is not. Slide out pantry shelves make it easier to get that elusive can of soup hiding behind the other cans, boxes and bottles.

LAZY SUSAN

double lazy susan
Lazy susan organizer, The Container Store.

A lazy susan can be worth it’s weight in cinnamon for organizing your spices, vitamins, teas and anything that comes in bottles and boxes whether tucked in a cabinet or on the counter.

VERTICAL PLATE ORGANIZER

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Vertical plate organizer, Bed, Bath & Beyond.

More compact kitchens may have less cabinet space. Storing your plates vertically uses cabinet space efficiently and makes them easier to grab as a bonus. If you’re one of the people who rotate the dishes you use so the wear on them is even across the set, you’ll really love an organizer like this.

BATHROOM STORAGE

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Wall mounted bathroom cabinet, CostPlus World Market.

The one place most of our clients really feel the space crunch is in the bathroom. Changing the habit of buying in bulk is step one. In an apartment, you have less storage, and that storage space might be better used for for your off season clothes rather than your 36 rolls of toilet tissue, 12 rolls of paper towels and 6 boxes of tissues. But even with paper products pared down, additional storage is usually needed.

Apartments often have storage under the sink and a medicine cabinet, but not much else.  A wall mounted storage cabinet or shelves is enormously helpful. Pinterest is stuffed to the gills with ideas for creative bathroom storage. One particularly clever idea: a shelf over the door for all those rolls of spare toilet tissue.

Wall mounted is usually a better choice than a floor standing storage unit. If you add a toilet seat with handles or a commode, there is a good chance the floor standing unit won’t fit behind it.

DOUBLE HANG CLOSET ROD

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Double hang closet rod, Home Depot.

Many apartments have nice walk-in closets. But with one clothes hanging shelf at a height for longer hanging garments, you give away a lot of space underneath your shorter hanging garments. Adding a second wall mounted shelf with a clothes hanging pole is the best choice, but short of that, and double hang rod that attaches to the top shelf is a quick, inexpensive fix.

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Please note that we don’t have any special affection or allegiance to the products shown. Versions of these products are available multiple places by multiple makers. We love the concepts and have used many versions of them when working with clients. And if you have something to add to the list, we’d love to know about it!