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My First Estate Sale – HELP ME!!!


Hi guys!

I gotta pop in for a super quick post today because stuff is crazy right now!

My family (hubs, me, and the 4-year-old twins) drove up to Utah on Wednesday. We usually split the 12-hour drive into 2 days but pushed through and did the whole thing in one day.

The purpose of our trip was to finish clearing out my Dad’s house. I came here in November when my Dad officially moved, but he’d used a POD and a lot of stuff got left behind. My brother came back with my Dad again a couple months ago and, from all reports, the house was nearly ready to go. There were still a few boxes of paperwork and miscellaneous odds and ends. The big things were that there are still 2 vehicles here. Those were my marching orders.

SOOOOoooooo imagine my surprise when I get here and it seems like the house is still fully furnished. I mean…kitchen still has everything in it, there’s a full bedroom set,  lots of household and holiday decorations, multiple televisions, accent tables, garage is still fully stuffed, and on and on and on.

Guess how many days we’d planned to be here! Two. Yep. The plan was to get here Wednesday night (as we did), get a dumpster, and throw the remaining stuff out, then head back to Tucson early on Saturday (another 1-day trip).

But the overwhelming amount of items coupled with the fact that there are still so many items of VALUE meant that I couldn’t just throw stuff in the dumpster (which I’d called and had placed at the residence before getting to town). The only solution I could see was to have an estate sale.

Here’s the deal. I’ve never done an estate sale before. And I’ve now been warned by 2 separate people that these things can be brutal – people fighting each other for items, shoulder-to-shoulder people bustling throughout the house, etc. Just chaos. And remember….we’ve only got 2 adults to manage the situation (plus 2 toddlers to still watch and take care of!!!) Gulp!

To try to help things a bit, I decided to split the sale into 2 days. We’re prepping things today by separating items (we’ll take some things with us to Tucson so there’s a “not for sale” pile), shredding old documents with identifying information, and generally trying to organize things and sort through to see what’s here. I’ll also be taking care of some business things today (meeting with property management company, etc.). Then the first “preview sale” will be tonight from 5-8:30pm. The remaining items will be sold on Friday from 7am-gone. I posted to a local Facebook garage sale site, stating that all items are first come, first served and there are NO HOLDS!

I’m hoping that (1) the fact that the estate sale is being held on weekdays and (2) the fact that we’re splitting it into two days will help in reducing the craziness since we’ll likely have fewer people than we would on a Saturday. By Friday afternoon, everything will turn to FREE (with associated posting on the local Facebook site) and we’ll start trashing any remaining items in the dumpster.

Other tips or ideas? Are we absolutely insane for attempting to do this ourselves while we still have kids here? I’m really nervous about things getting wild! If they do, the plan is for me to stand at the front door (with kids playing in front yard), and hubs to be inside doing the negotiating about item prices. I’ll be paid on the way out (standing at the door ensures no one just walks away with items without paying).

I’ve literally NEVER done this before and this shiz is getting down TONIGHT so I could really use any helpful ideas or tips that you might have! Help meeeee!!!!

Thank you!


  • Reply iowa |

    If you were renting it out, had you thought about renting it out as a fully furnished house? THen you wouldn’t have needed to do a lot of the work?

    • Reply Ashley |

      We’d thought about it, but the place isn’t fully furnished because my dad actually moved last November. So it’s like 3/4 furnished (but one of the bedrooms is empty, the office is empty, etc.) Ultimately, we thought it better just to empty the whole place out.

  • Reply Cheryl |

    I went to an estate sale and there was no shoving, pushing or anything like that. They had a company come in who over priced everything. They were selling used SOS pads and used cleaners. You may have expensive items and crazy people, so if possible I would really try to get at least one more adult to help with the girls. Exp items might just walk away if your so busy. Cheryl

  • Reply Cheryl |

    One more thing, I would be mad at my brother for leaving all that for me. Cheryl

    • Reply Ashley |

      To be fair, he went back in April and I think he may have forgotten how much was still there???

  • Reply Lisa |

    I haven’t been to a “crazy” estate sale yet, but they could happen. I would plan the meals and activites for the twins in advance. Have papers out and ready to place on SOLD items (paid for of course). I think “check out” could happen right outside the entrance while keeping the others locked, if you can find one more person. This allows for easier flow and two people available to answer questions in the house.
    Oh! And don’t forget to have change available. Some people come prepared with 100s, so large bills too.

  • Reply Maureen |

    I would strongly suggest some sort of childcare, even if for just the first morning of the sale. People will line up on the door, knocking it, for first dibs. Is there a neighbor kid you can hire?

  • Reply Constance |

    I have had a lot of experience with estate sales. #1, YOU NEED HELP. There is no way you can keep an eye on your buyers and your kids. Maybe there are neighbors who knew your dad that would be willing to help? Ideally you would have an adult in each room and a “pay station” at the front door, but barring that, you need a couple of people floating around and putting “the eye” on everyone. Yes, the most innocuous looking old lady will steal from you. Keep small, hi-value items preferably in a case, but at or near the pay station where you can keep an eye on them. Price everything ahead of time. Yes, even the used foil and saran wrap. Get large baggies and put all the small “junk” into these bags and sell them for $1/ea. You want the grab bag effect. Do not let people open these bags and pick through them. If they want one item they still buy the whole bag.
    Price your large ticket items ahead of time. Your early birds will be re-sellers. They know the value of every item you have and have no conscience about taking advantage of you. Furniture is not a big seller BTW. Unless it has antique value, take any reasonable offer. Kitchen tables and chairs usually are pretty good sellers tho’.
    Next, put everything 1/2 off your last 3 hours only, and don’t advertise it ahead of time. It’s very common to do this although estate sales here go Fri, Sat and Sun with 1/2 off Sun afternoon. Your sale is pretty short.
    Last, put an ad on Craigs List that you are looking for a bulk buyer. These are flea market and thrift store owners who will come in and buy AND TAKE everything that’s left at such and such a time. But they do have to take everything, leaving you with a virtually vacant house.
    Once it’s empty, if you’re going to rent it out, hire a property manager. They take about 10% of the rent as their fee, but they handle everything and mail you a check once a month. Actually, direct deposit your funds. They can get the house cleaned, painted, whatever it needs. If you’re going to sell it, find the most aggressive agent in the area (supermarkets, bus benches and billboards are a good way to tell who really wants your business), and let them handle getting the house saleable – again, cleaning, painting, staging – so that you get top dollar with minimal headache.
    Kick your brother for leaving you with this end of things. 😉

  • Reply Den |

    I agree – hire someone to take the kids to the park for a few hours.

    Have one person roaming to answer questions, negotiate prices. That person should have a notepad to write down items/prices agreed upon aka “bed plus mattress $100” and then shoppers bring that note to the second person stationed at the door to accept money.

    Keep an eye on your cash (fanny packs are dorky, but work well) and don’t get distracted.

    Negotiator should encourage group buys such as “buy all the tools for a discount” to really move things. If you can’t agree on a price, take the shopper’s name and number and call them back if the item doesn’t sell. Try to stay calm and not let them rush you or rattle you.

    If you have a lot of stuff that doesn’t sell, you may be able to sell the entire left overs to wholesale auction places.

    Good luck!

  • Reply amy |

    As creepy as this sounds….dont think me a stalker please! If you let me know the address I would love to come to the sale, I’m local and need furniture for my new home!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Hey Amy! I don’t think you’re a creepy stalker! Unfortunately, though, I saw your comment in the midst of the sale and didn’t have a chance to email you!! Sorry!

  • Reply CanadianKate |

    I’m amazed at what you’ve pulled off in such a short time and love your logic about doing a weekday sale – you’ll get more resellers than looky-loos.

    Stuff isn’t worth near what you think it was. My Dad’s estate sale brought in $10K. And that was almost everything (and a lot of antiques.) I still get sick when I think of what we got for things.

    Get help. As much as possible.

    Good luck!

  • Reply Sarah |

    Will you ask your brother what he thought a cleaned out house looks like? Would love to hear his response. Also, we did an estate sale three years ago and barely sold anything. We had Goodwill come and take the rest away. It was really disappointing and a lot of work. I hope you do better.

    • Reply Ashley |

      LOL at your first question!
      We did NOT do much better (unfortunately). I just posted an update today with more info.

  • Reply Louise |

    Your end goal here is to have the stuff out of the house asap, whilst also making a bit of money off it. Don’t worry too much if some people walk off with the stuff without paying. It’s gone, and you didn’t have to trash it. That’s still a win. Other people will be honest and pay you. Your experience will be better if you are ready to accept some losses and celebrate the money you do get. The most important thing is getting the house cleared and the whole thing over with (and making sure your kids are safe throughout the experience!).

  • Reply Jean |

    I feel for you. My brother said that he came & ‘cleaned out’ my dad’s garage, and when my husband & I saw it afterwards, we didn’t see a difference! I’m sure it was shocking & overwhelming to see what was left (or more like what hadn’t been done).

    My co-worker spent 4 months going through her parents’ house getting ready for an estate sale. They held it over 3 days (Thurs-Sat) and made $6K – but they had a lot of tools, etc. There was still alot left over and I think they contacted someone that would take the whole lot.

    My dad passed away in December & my mom is wanting to move so we will be going through this in the near future. We are encouraging her to move first, figure out what will fit in her new house, and then we can go through what’s left over & sell it.

    Everyone has given you good advice. Hope it all goes well. I know this will be a huge burden lifted once it’s done.

So, what do you think ?