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.

 

 

Is it Treasure? Is it Trash?

“We’ve already started throwing stuff away.”

Six words guaranteed to make a senior move manager wince because chances are pretty good that some treasures went into that trash. The world of antiques and vintage goods is quirky. Even experts have a hard time keeping up with what’s hot and what’s not.

Items commonly perceived as having high resale value, perhaps because they had the highest original purchase price, aren’t always the items that command the highest resale prices. Humble Pyrex, for example, can be more valuable than fine china. A bureau from the right era can be worth more than an entire dining room set. One vintage cookbook can be worth more than a dozen current best sellers.

While senior move managers are not appraisers, we have a general knowledge of the stuff of everyday life, and know what has good sale potential. We’ll work with clients to take their no longer needed items and find the best venues to achieve the best return. And we also know when it’s time to call in an appraiser for items of high value.

It’s not uncommon for elders to become clients after they’ve started trying to downsize on their own and been overwhelmed by the process. As glad as we are to step in then, we can provide the best support and value if we’re there before those first trash bags get filled.  Many clients find that the income generated by selling unwanted items covers all or part of the cost of our services.

Beyond assisting clients with selling items of value, senior move managers can also arrange for items that don’t have resale value but are still serviceable to be donated to appropriate charities. And every home has items that can’t be donated or sold, items that do need to be disposed of.  Senior move managers can insure that those items are disposed of responsibly.

Selling at consignment shops

A well run consignment shop is a thing of beauty. For buyers, it provides the thrill of the hunt and the exhilaration of getting a deal. For sellers, the thrill is making money on things you no longer needed. Do a little research before you consign your goods and you can make those consignment checks bigger.

Like any other retailer, each consignment shop has its own style. Make a list of shops in your area by talking to friends and searching on the internet. A retailer’s website should list consignment policies and give you some idea how they market goods above and beyond their bricks and mortar location. Although a well-designed website does not always guarantee a well-run store, it does show that the owner is a professional who pays attention to detail and appearances.

A store visit is next. While you’re browsing and reminding yourself you’re there to sell, not buy, think about these questions:

  • What’s your first reaction? Is the store appealing from first glimpse?
  • Is the merchandise well displayed?
  • Will the items you’re selling fit in well with the other merchandise?
  • Is the staff friendly and helpful if you ask questions about merchandise? Are they knowledgeable? Or are they overly attentive to the point of annoying or disengaged and unwelcoming?
  • Does the pricing seem fair to both buyer and seller?
  • Are there other customers browsing?
  • If it’s a store that does markdowns after 30 and 60 days, have many items have been there long enough to reach discount dates?

Once you’ve narrowed the list of contenders, it’s time to talk to store management and get explanations of all their policies:

  • How many items can be consigned at one appointment?
  • Do they provide pick-up service and is there a fee?
  • How long is the consignment period?
  • Are there automatic markdowns?
  • Can you reclaim unsold merchandise at the end of the consignment period? Don’t assume this is the case. Some stores require items to be donated and some stipulate that unsold good become property of the store.
  • What is the consignment commission?
  • Are there any other fees?
  • How often are consignment sale checks mailed out?
  • Who sets the prices and how are they set?
  • Do they market merchandise online by posting images on their own website or listing items on Craigslist?
  • Who are their primary customers and what are the best selling categories of items?

If you like what you’ve seen and heard, make a consignment appointment. You may decide to divide your stuff between two or three consignment shops so you can capitalize on each shop’s specialty. Keep a list of what you’ve left at each shop, and make sure the list provided by the store includes matches yours.

At the appointment, be open-minded. But don’t be afraid to decide not to leave things if the price the owner suggests is too low for your liking. Be realistic, your goal is to turn things you aren’t using into cash, but if you’re really disappointed with the pricing for an item or two and the owner isn’t flexible, take them home and think about it. And don’t be surprised if you come away from an appointment with things the shop owner declines. A good shop owner knows her clientele and will only accept those things he or she knows she can sell.

Mark the date your consignment period ends on your calendar. Visit the store shortly before to see how much remains and make an appointment to either pack up unsold merchandise yourself or to have larger pieces picked up by professionals, unless you prefer to donate them. Non-profits will often offer pick up service with enough advance notice.