Tag Archives: Business

Vindication At Last!

I’ve been called a fool more than once.  I’m okay with that for the most part.  My beliefs have often been called naive and unsophisticated (yes, I DO believe in ghosts, so deal with it).  At last, though, I’ve been vindicated in at least one of those wild and childish beliefs!  Science itself has proven me to be correct when I’ve asserted that Trust begets Trustworthiness!  You read right: through complex and thorough scientific procedures and testing, it has been proven that the level of oxytocin found in our blood “creates bonds of trust not just in our intimate relationships but also in our business dealings, in politics and in society at large.”  Furthermore, to trigger this bond of trust, “all you have to do is give someone a sign of trust.  When one person extends himself to another in a trusting way –by, say, giving money–the person being trusted experiences a surge in oxytocin that makes her less likely to hold back and less likely to cheat.”  You can read more about this miraculous discovery in the Wall Street Journal, if you want, but trust me!  I’ve always known that this was true, and this is one belief I’m ecstatic to have validated.  And you don’t even have to give me money to get me to trust you (but it wouldn’t hurt)!

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Filed under Uncategorized

18 Tips on Shopping at Estate Sales

This is a companion piece to my earlier entry about how NOT to shop at estate sales.  If you haven’t read it, you can find it here.  Shopping at estates sales is not only economically sensible, but it is also ecologically responsible and possibly financially rewarding.  You get great stuff at low, low prices!  And you can either use them yourself, give them as gifts or sell them at a profit.  Whatever your reason, here are some ideas about how to go to an estate sale:

  1. If you’ve never been to an estate sale, then expect a learning experience.  Estate sales are for everyone, not just the rich, or the poor, or whomever you had once thought they were for.  They are for you.  You are not being intrusive by entering someone else’s home.  You have been invited in.  If it is in the home of someone who has died, don’t feel like you are being disrespectful by going through their stuff.  They won’t care.  They would rather you buy their treasures than to have them go in the trash.  Their family would also like you to buy things.  They have already removed the items they want to keep.  What’s left are things they would rather you buy.  You are helping the family by buying as much of the things in the home as you want and can use.  And the staff at the sale also want you to buy a lot.  You are helping them, too.
  2. Estate sales are not just for shopping for antiques and other expensive stuff.  Most estate sale also have lots of ordinary items for sale, like clothes, pots & pans, ironing boards, vases, cleanser and garden tools.  In fact, usually you will find any possible type of item that you would normally find in your own home.  So why pay retail for laundry detergent when you can get it for a margin of the cost.  Need a coffee table?  What about bathroom rug?  You’ll likely find them at an estate sale.
  3. If finding something specific is important to you, plan to get to the estate sales early.   Some items will go fast at a sale.  If there are photos of the household goods available, look them over carefully and plan what you would like to buy before you go to the sale.  Remember, though, that not everything will be photographed.  What you really want to buy may still be in the house, but may not be in the pictures.   If possible, contact the company to be sure the item is still available.  Some companies sell items before the sale, if they can,  because that is often the best way to get the best price for their client’s property.  Knowing the company’s policy will help you decide what is the best way to get what you want.
  4. Come prepared to pay cash.  Some companies do take checks and/or credit cards, but you shouldn’t count on it.  Bring plenty of cash with you; you can always take the money back home with you if you don’t find something you want.  Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, my company can and does take credit card payment, but it’s not what I prefer.  There is always a fee to be paid for the service and it also means that I have to put my own dollars into the client’s fund because the credit card charge goes directly into the company’s account.
  5. Be respectful of the neighbors.  Don’t stand in their yards, block their driveways, or otherwise be rude.  I know that you think it won’t hurt to park in front of their drive because you are just going to run in for a second and there is NO other place to park.  Don’t do it.  It always takes longer than you think it will.
  6. Make sure you follow the rules that the estate sale sets up.  Every estate sale company has their own way of handling a sale.  Maybe they put up a sign-in sheet, or give out numbers, or run their sale on a first-come-first-in basis.  Whichever they choose, you need to follow it.  Don’t put up your own sign in sheet even though they’ve specified they don’t do that.
  7. When you finally get inside, don’t just randomly grab anything and everything that you think you MIGHT want to buy.  When a customer does that, it prevents others from having a chance to purchase some items.  I’ve had customers bring up a ton of stuff for me to hold that I thought they planned on buying, only to have them come back after shopping an hour and then have them go through their pile and discard half of it.  Not only do I lose potential sales from them, but nobody else was able to buy the stuff either.  And if they’ve had me hold stuff while they shop until the crowd dies down, then the potential that someone else will come along to buy their discards is less too.
  8. Be considerate of your fellow shoppers.  Don’t bogart the good stuff unless you actually plan to buy it; don’t grab stuff from someone else’s hands (yes, I’ve seen this happen); don’t push in front of another customer to reach something before they can; don’t dig through someone else’s pile of goodies; smile a lot and complain rarely.  This should be a fun experience for everyone.
  9. Try to shop in an orderly manner.  See above, but also: walk, don’t run; don’t create a mess if you can help it (and you know you usually can); while waiting in line (either to get in or to pay) talk with your neighbors or stand quietly, but please don’t grumble.  The staff are trying their best to move the line along quickly.
  10. DON’T STEAL.  That says it all.  You know what’s right.
  11. Never leave unattended any items you plan to purchase.  While above I admonished people to not dig in someone else’s pile, you shouldn’t tempt them by leaving a delectable selection sitting unguarded.
  12. Feel free to bargain with the estate sale professional, but don’t get angry if their idea of a proper price differs from yours.  And be reasonable.  Don’t offer a dollar for something marked $20.
  13. NEVER be rude to the estate sale professional.  It’s never profitable for you.
  14. Get on the estate sale company’s  email list.  Even though you might find out about their sale through another source, being on their email list is usually a better idea.  Sometimes companies will offer a pre-sale open only to their followers.
  15. Take your time at the sale.  Those who hurry often miss things.  It takes a while for you to see beyond the clutter of stuff so that you can see the individual items.  A sale can feel overwhelming at first.  Take a breath and wander for a bit.  Try to ignore the people rushing past you and just be in the moment.  Sounding a bit zen?  It is.  Your treasure will often find you when you least expect it.
  16. Look in less obvious places.  Everyone will search on the tables and counters, but it takes little effort to look under the tables, in the corners, in odd gaps.  Is there a garage?  What about under the house?  Any place that isn’t strictly forbidden is fair game, in my opinion.  But on that note:
  17. Don’t enter where you’ve been forbidden to go.  I know it’s tempting to open that door that says KEEP OUT.  Who knows what treasures may be hidden inside!  Unfortunately, those treasure need to be kept from you for a reason, whatever that reason may be.  Probably it has the family’s items that they plan to keep, or maybe it contains the estate sale crew’s personal belongings, like their purse or coat.  Be respectful and leave it alone.  The same goes for drawers and cabinets marked as areas to leave alone.
  18. Enjoy yourself.  Life should never be so serious that you can’t enjoy the experience of shopping, or even just being among other people or interesting stuff.  Look around you and see how someone else lived their life.  Admire their belongings and appreciate their interests.  Or just be glad that you didn’t have to live with that avocado green refrigerator or that brown shag rug.    Think about how much money you are saving by not buying retail.  Or think about how you are helping the environment by not letting the stuff be added to the landfill and how your carbon footprint has been reduced by reusing and not just buying new stuff that had be manufactured, thus using up even more of Earth’s precious resources.  Whatever.  Estate sales can be lots of fun if you approach them the right way.

As always, I’m sure I missed some tips.  Please feel free to add your own.

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Filed under December 2011

Why Do Hoarders Hoard?

The term “hoarder” is one you hear a lot these days. At one time the term was used to refer only to those with a profound and psychological inability to limit their attainment of possessions and/or the inability to dispose of them once they have been attained. Nowadays, the lapel of hoarder is pinned on anyone who has a lot more possessions than is usual. As an estate sale professional, I have first hand experience with the hoarding behavior of the American people, at least those on the west coast. A few days ago, I read an excellent blog called So Many Things, So Little Prosperity, (written by William L. Scurrah, a retired college English instructor who writes about “a deeper view of important ideas and issues”) that presented some of his ideas about why there are so many hoarders in today’s society. In my comments on his post, I added my findings to his, and this is basically what I wrote.

Most hoarder households I have worked on (and there have been many) have fallen into one or more of these categories:

  • Adults with a home full of their own purchases who have inherited the household belongings of their parents or other relatives. This may be directly related to the category of people who hang on to things because of the memories associated with them, but it may have other reasons: people are often so busy that, at the time, it just seemed easier to put all that stuff into the garage or storage unit until one has more time to deal with it. It can also be a form of perceived savings for the future.
  • People (mostly the elderly or those who have limited mobility for whatever reason) who have been lured in by the ease and the promises that they have found on late night shopping channels.
  • People who have made a lifestyle choice or have been forced by the economy to downsize, which leaves them with all the huge household trappings crammed into a much smaller space.
  • People with an ingrained thriftiness that butts up against the cheap products being produced today, which can lead to an abundance of broken purchases that that the person still hopes can be fixed or somehow still be of use.
  • People who hang on to stuff because of the memories associated to them. Maybe it’s due to the fast pace at which today’s society changes, but many people–the elderly chief among them probably because they have so many years to hold on to–cling to things that still are “the way they were”.
  • Many are collecting as a safeguard against a bad economy: buy at a cheap price now (often by shopping at garage sales or discount stores) so that they will have it later when it will be much more expensive to purchase.
  • Rarely have I encountered a hoarder of expensive symbols of a conspicuous consumption (though I did just do a downsizing sale in an expensive community that contained exactly that). Perhaps I have found less examples of this kind of hoarder because family members are often happy to obtain all of these types of hoarded possessions, and it therefore doesn’t make it into the sale.
  • People with a compulsive or pathological hoarding disorder, which (according to Wikipedia) ” is the acquisition of possessions (and failure to use or discard them) in excess of socially normative amounts, even if the items are worthless, hazardous, or unsanitary. Compulsive hoarding may impair mobility and interfere with basic activities, including cooking, cleaning, hygiene, sanitation, bathroom and sleeping.”

Whatever the reasons, our society is indeed becoming a hoarder nation. It’s good for my business (who else wants to deal with the masses of possessions), but I’m unsure what it says about our lifestyles in the long run.

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Filed under October 2011