People matter, stuff doesn’t, and other things learned doing estate sales for over a decade.

  1. No one expects death. It happens in a flash. Walking into a home where a loved one has died is never simple. Grief never ends. Some handle it better than others and some have no idea how to handle a new pain they’ve never considered. Life and death are weird, ugly and beautiful. There is purpose in every bit of it and I learn something during every conversation I have with the grieving.
  2. At the end of your life, material things give you temporary comfort and little else. Human beings need very little to survive, to have joy, to live in peace. 
  3. Value is manipulated, it’s all made up. In the estate sale world, we have the gold standard for precious metals, and we have the standard which people are willing to pay for something. My job is to determine a fair price and create a sense of urgency around purchasing. You need this item right now. You’re getting a great deal that may never come around again and oh, this is just like the one your great-grandmother had. 
  4. Humans attach a sense of comfort to memories, good and sometimes not so good. Many times a purchase is made at a sale and similar conversation ensues, “This reminds me so much of my grandparents house. . .my granddad was an alcoholic, we just didn’t talk about it. I’ll take it.” We cling to the past, good and bad. 
  5. People over-value their old stuff. Without fail, at the initial meeting with remaining family members, there are items they don’t want to relinquish. Not because of sentimental value, but because someone somewhere told them it was worth thousands of dollars. In this day and age, value is relatively easy to determine. If you are sitting on a gold mine, I’ll let you know. 
  6. Death is a weird thing. No one understands it. We miss our loved ones and attach them to material items. They are not in that old couch, or the photos you will never look at. They are in your memories, your heart, your hopes and future life choices. The best advice is to live well in their memory and leave a legacy of all you learned from them. 
  7. Families often divide in the midst of grief and over stuff. It happens every time. I walk into a home and a sibling/aunt/step-mom is mad because the brother took the artwork or jewelry or whatever. Let it go. Life is short. I cannot say this enough times. More importantly, write a will so that your children don’t hate each other and you after you die. (And if you want something, don’t just ‘take it’. Ask for it. Communicate. Explain. Conflict can instead become a bond.) 
  8. We don’t respect our elders enough. Your remaining parent is an adult. If they decide to run away to Belize with a housekeeper, so be it. Encourage healthy choices, sure, but if they want to live in a fancy assisted living for their remaining days, or live on a cruise ship, let them. At the end of your life, you can spend your money any way you like and it’s ok. 
  9. Spend time with your family. This one is not easy. My parents lived with us for 7 years and moved into an apartment at my brother’s house. It is nice to have space and privacy, but I miss the convenience of morning conversations with them. They hold a wealth and depth of wisdom. I treasure it and so should you. Call your mom, call your dad, start today. 
  10. Many times estate sales cover funeral expenses, home repair, hospital bills, etc. I’ve met incredible people and I’ve worked with those who have an ache so painful they have difficulty being upright. I’ve walked into houses bright with joy in the midst of pain and some dark with regret. When you walk into someone’s home, remember the family and the life well lived. 

I love my job, because I love people. People matter, stuff doesn’t.

Allison Armstrong has been in the estate sale business for over a decade and trying to figure out what in the heck we are doing on this planet for 44 years.  She loves her fellow humans, and if you need to laugh over coffee, give her a call. 

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