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The Struggle With Stuff

The struggle is real for so many of us! It’s no accident that the self-storage business has exploded in popularity and availability. There is big money to be made in renting space to people who can’t bear to part with their belongings.

My grandmother kept her house of 50 years immaculately clean, yet it was bursting at the seams with “stuff”. When she passed away unexpectedly earlier this year, our family was faced with an overwhelming task. It was hard both physically and emotionally to carefully empty every cupboard, closet, and curio cabinet…but we did make some fun discoveries!



I know from my past experience helping clients declutter that the best approach is a methodical one. We began by donating all of my grandmother’s good clothing, choosing what broken items needed to be thrown away, then choosing a central open space to begin the rest of the sorting process.



There were too many emotional “maybes” regarding what to keep for ourselves, so it was easier to create two piles of things we knew we could let go of: one pile for charitable donations, and one of things we would try to sell. How many dishes, tchotchkes and coffee pots could one household need or use? Apparently having an entire cold room dedicated to Tupperware storage was a necessity.



Each family member made many trips to charity resale shops to donate a variety of goods and placed calls to companies like Furniture Bank for other items. They are an excellent charity that will pick up certain types of medium-sized furniture, arrange to transport it to needy families, and offer a tax donation receipt in exchange. Great idea!

The next steps were arguably the toughest, as we finally faced the piles of sentimental belongings and valuables. Difficult decisions had to be made about what could realistically be kept, and what should actually be added to the “sell” pile, which just kept growing!



Once we had everything we wanted to sell physically sorted into categories and laid out to photograph, we were tasked with choosing an online auction company. We researched over 20 different options and narrowed it down to two: MaxSold, and TransitionSquad. They offered similar options in services and fees, but the biggest difference is that MaxSold does not allow sellers to put any reserve minimums on the lots: all bidding starts at $1, and sadly, some items will actually sell at that price if there is no competition. TransitionSquad lets you set any minimum bid you wish, and if the reserve is not met, the item does not sell.

My parents preferred this safety net, given that we had some items of real value that we didn’t want to be snapped up for a few dollars. Both companies have options for either “managed” or “DIY” auctions, where you can either spend hundreds of dollars having them sort and photograph your items, or save that fee to do the prep yourself, and only pay commission on what sells.



We thought that since we’d already sorted and displayed all the items, it didn’t make sense to spend hundreds of dollars to have TransitionSquad take the pictures and handle the other aspects of the auction. Boy, were we wrong!

It was a few days of work to take the photographs, write the online descriptions, and set up the auction. We received excellent support from the company all the way along on how to create the lots and use their website. Our auction ran for just over a week, and we managed to sell about half of our items, but then you must invest more time and effort in arranging pickups with the buyers. Unfortunately, there was a tight timeline with a holiday weekend and the house itself being sold, so we couldn’t take advantage of the option for TransitionSquad to run an in-person estate sale as a final step. We opted to sell some of the remaining items ourselves on Facebook Marketplace, and some to the new owners of the house.

There is no doubt this experience had a steep learning curve. First of all, it was a great reminder to stay on top of our own clutter and accumulation of “stuff”, and second of all we now realize why companies charge their fees to manage the auctions for you!

If we had to do it over again, we would sell the valuable items privately first, and then hire the company to fully manage an auction with no reserve bids. Time is money too, and we would have saved ourselves an enormous amount of effort and stress. Hope you can learn from our experience!