Clearing Out

Estate sales about more than getting rid of junk, says organizer

We spend a lifetime collecting stuff. So what do we do with it all when we get near the end of our lives? Many people are choosing an obvious answer - sell it.

Kim Watt-Senner owns Everything Organized, a Kamloops-based company that helps people get a handle on clutter. A growing part of her business, however, is about helping seniors manage their possessions as they confront the fact they won't live forever.

Some seniors are becoming extremely proactive, she said, choosing to spare their families the job of cleaning out their houses after they die. Others are moving from big homes to smaller accommodations and need to get rid of everything from furniture to kitchen appliances.

Whatever the motivation, "estate sales" are booming, she said.

Estate sales are different than garage sales in one significant way. Typically, garage sales offer items people no longer want, stuff that is often one step from goodwill or the dump. It has typically been stored in garages, attics or other dusty storage, and those who are off-loading just hope to make a few bucks.

Estate sales offer higher quality items - the stuff that is still being used in people's homes.

"There's value in those belongings. It's good stuff, it's not junk," she said. "There are great items at affordable prices. And unique items you can't typically buy in a retail setting."

Proper planning is crucial to pulling off a good estate sale, Watt-Senner said. Her company specializes in helping people sort through belongings, organize items, advertise the sales and be on site when the sales happen. Typically, the entire process takes only a few weeks.

It's not necessary, however, to hire a company for an estate sale. Many people are perfectly able to manage their own.

Watt-Senner offered some tips.

First off, advertise well. Use local media such as newspapers and classified ads to put the message out. Spending $50 to $75 on advertising is a mall price when hundreds show up at your doorstep looking for bargains.

Organize items inside the house according to function. In other words, keep kitchen stuff in the kitchen. People who show up at estate sales usually want to cruise through quickly. Keeping things well organized makes it easier for buyers to spot what they are looking for.

Items with high value - such as art, jewelry and antiques - are best left out of the estate sale, she said. They should be sold through shops or dealers specializing in such goods.

While estate sales are a step above garage sales, people are still hunting for bargains. High-end items may not attract full value.

Lastly, be careful about security, Watt-Senner warned. Unlike a garage sale, estate sales largely take place inside a person's home. She recommends setting limits about the number of people you let inside at any given time.

Too many people inside makes it difficult to watch everything. While Kamloops does not have "big-city" crime that other centres have, there are still those who will take advantage of an opportunity. It's too easy for a clever thief to walk out of a house with small items if too many people are milling about, she said.

For more information about estate sale planning, contact Watt-Senner at 250-578-7090, or visit the company's website at

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