Dated: 08/14/2019

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We all have so much stuff nowadays, don’t we? 

You probably already know that a home devoid of memorabilia and clutter sells faster and for more money. But letting go of one’s dearly beloved possessions is difficult...not just for the elderly, but for all of us.There are no simple solutions to selling an over- stuffed home. 

Whether its lava lamps & albums, Beanie Babies, Hummels, massive China Cabinets & Curios to hold kitsch that has devalued to less than zero, stuff is overwhelming to deal with both physically and emotionally. One Golden Rule holds true: We now live in a transportable; disposable world. Younger generations do not care about Noritake China or Dalton Collections or heavy, old furniture. So, unless your parents have a priceless art collection or gold, diamonds and other precious gems, your situation reflects that of most of us—it is the memories, not the belongings, that hold value.

So, yes, it does absolutely affect the profitably of any real estate sale. Procrastination, when it comes to a parent’s clutter- filled home carves into the sale price that most seniors desperately need to live decently in their golden years. 

Here are some tips that can help! 

1. Timing is everything!
Choose a time when you know everyone can be relaxed and focused, clear your mind of preconceptions and have a conversation with your parent or parents about their possessions.

2.Assess the degree of attachment your parent/parents have to their possessions.
It is rare that any homeowner easily let’s go of their possessions--that’s why Marie Kondo has such a successful TV show! But if that is your case, enlist family and friends in a decluttering process that may include a yard or estate sale and donations to charities that will pick up, like the Viet Nam Vets, Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity. Keep those donation slips for tax purposes and remember that heavy furniture is difficult and, potentially expensive, to get rid of. Factor in that charities that will take heavy furniture often have long waiting periods.

Every situation is individual. One household may merely need photos and other such personal items packed and labeled for storage, either in a garage or rental space until a permanent move.  Another household may be so chock full of collections and clutter that an appraiser may have to evaluate the contents’ worth and conduct an estate sale. 

In still other situations, a service that brings dumpsters and man power to clear out the contents may be needed. Your Realtor should be able to guide you to resources according to your parent’s situation.

3.Find a Realtor who has been through helping aging clients selling a home that needs to be cleared. You are looking for a Real Estate Professional who is,

a) sensitive and respectful to your parent’s attachment to their life’s possessions;

b) Can communicate clearly and concisely with all members of the family involved in the moving out process; and

c) because time is money, is interested in realistically assessing the balancing act of de-cluttering and the sale price. 

Make sure your parents feel valued for the memories they created for you and yours and, maybe, just maybe, they may be able to let go of material possessions more easily. 

Mary Ann Riel is a Realtor with A.W. Van Winkle and Company. Call or text me at 973-746-8686 with your questions or visit my website at

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