My good friend Susan and her husband, Joe, sold their home rapidly, far quicker than they ever expected, leaving them quite baffled as to how to sift through 15 years of accumulation, inheritance and beloved mementos. Next to death and divorce, leaving one’s home is known to be one of the most traumatic moments in one’s life. And part of our job description as designers is to ease this process.Whether trading up to a larger space or editing down to a smaller environment, one has to take the time to formulate a functioning floor plan—in scale—of your future environmental space. There are many planning programs on the net; however, if you are more old-fashioned, use graph paper with every square equaling a foot. Though fairly experienced at this process, I quite admired my friends’ approach.
So I began working with my friends, whose first floor plan was their ideal plan: how they would “dream” to live. First they measured out their “ideal” furniture sizes. Susan would say, “I really love round tables and 60 inches allows me to seat my family of eight.” Joe’s said, “As a confirmed couch potato, I can’t live without stretching out on a 90-inch sofa, which perfectly fits my 6-foot frame!”
Since they were scaling down from having a house and an apartment to just the city apartment, they had a great deal of furniture at their disposal. They had to take a hard look at the furnishings from both of their residences and start to make choices as to what they A) loved and could not part with, B) needed to keep as a placeholder, C) felt was valuable and needed a professional evaluation and D) could easily part with.
The choices in the “A” category would get plugged into the floor plan after taking appropriate measurements (a clip-on measuring tape becomes your best friend). And when the objects they loved and could not part with didn’t fit, they were relegated to a storage unit or lent to a kind niece or nephew who would safely harbor them and happily enjoy the use of them for an extended period of time. (As for me, I have always found that those furnishings I lend out eventually lose my everlasting affection.)
Then there are those items that you may deem worthy of professional inspection. For the most valuable items, photographs sent to appropriate departments at Sotheby’s, Christie’s or Doyle’s are worth the small effort it takes to email them with a short description. Though eBay and the other sales/auction sites online are acceptable, you may receive only the amount that the limited market is viewing at that moment, and remember, you are also responsible for the packaging and shipping. It can get dicey. Seldom will specialists make a trip out to the East End unless you have quite a few items—otherwise you pay a fee for the service call—some of significant provenance.
The good news for those of us seeking the value of our favorite desk or Deco statuette, or our grandmother’s silver collection, or Great Aunt Tillie’s stained glass lamp, is that there will be a unique event coming up on Saturday afternoon, June 14, at St. Ann’s in Bridgehampton. Specialists from Christie’s and Sotheby’s, as well as local experts, will explain to us what we have on our hands and give the expected value of these objects. Several of these experts have appeared on “Antiques Roadshow,” and though none of this will be televised, for a small contribution to charity, you can realize the appreciation of your primitive painting (as my good friend Susan did when she found out that her $200 investment in a painting was currently in much demand and had increased in value to $5,000!) or chuck it into category “D”—items to be parted with.
I advise my clients to divest of the remainder of their “D” possessions in one of several ways. First, there are wonderful charities, from the Fresh Air Fund to ARF (the Animal Rescue Fund) to the Bargain Box or many of the church thrift shops that willingly take your gently used items. Just remember they are not dumps for your trash! And you can enjoy a favorable tax deduction for these tems as well.
Second, for those stout of heart, the ubiquitous yard sale follows an East End tradition. Yes, it may astonish you what people will buy, but it may also enlighten you as to some distinct style of manners and a wellspring of chutzpah. Prepare yourself for a mountain of work laying your cast-off treasures out, pricing them, haggling and cleaning up what doesn’t sell.
A third, kinder-on-your-health method, is hiring a tag sale/estate sale operator who, for a percentage of the take for your treasures, will manage, advertise, display and clean up your yard sale leftovers, presenting you with a check upon completion. Many can be found online, with catchy names like, “2muchstuff4me.” These companies are mostly interested if you have a large amount to part with or the quality is superb.
Once the thrift shops, yard sales, auction houses, dealers, pickers, friends and relatives have combed through your woebegone stash, you will be primed for hiring a company that will deposit a small Dumpster in your driveway and, for a healthy fee, haul away all your detritus.
The exercise of moving, though supremely traumatic, may result in a unique mental, physical and perhaps even spiritual cleansing—whereupon you are not only freed of the material “stuff” of life, but may also be cured of any tendency toward hoarding—though some of us call it “collecting.”
For my money (and sanity), I am going to the Antique Treasures appraisal day, Saturday, June 14, in Bridgehampton, to discover the value of my “collections” and perhaps, thin them out in a timely manner. Instead of waiting for the avalanche of decisions required on “moving day,” I will start the winnowing and editing process now. Having observed the avalanche firsthand with my friends, I recommend evaluating and purging as life moves on.