Major life changes, such as a move to a smaller home or the death of a family member, may lead to downsizing as you consider strategies for managing or disposing of accumulated possessions. You may be relocating, downsizing, or clearing the estate of a family member who has passed away.

These situations can be stressful because of sentimental connections to the objects themselves or feelings of insecurity from not knowing the true dollar value of the items. The involvement of multiple family members can also complicate decision making. Here’s John Bottero from Thomaston Place Auction Galleries with some downsizing tips.

Downsizing tips

Here are a few steps to help you determine the best strategy for downsizing possessions:

1. Agree on a Plan: Get all involved parties together, in person or on the phone, to discuss the task at hand. This allows all involved to express their emotions and concerns. The goal is to get everyone’s acceptance of the process.

2. Select a Leader: A leader is critical to amicably orchestrate discussions and move the process ahead. In the case of an estate, this would generally be the executor, or the person who holds power of attorney.

downsizing is often the reason for appraising household assets3. Identify the Right Appraiser: Engage the services of an appraiser with a high level of professionalism and current market knowledge for the types of items you have. Keep in mind that an established expert will be able to quickly recognize the value of your items while an under qualified appraiser may not have a good pulse on current market conditions. Seek recommendations from friends who have gone through the process before you, and listen to their experiences. You may also refer to professional appraisal groups, such as the American Society of Appraisers (ASA), International Society of Appraisers (ISA) to find suitable candidates.

4. Conduct the Right Appraisal for Your Needs: A formal written appraisal is generally required for settling estates, charitable donations, and insurance purposes. A more informal appraisal (where the appraiser provides verbal valuations while a family member takes notes) may suffice if you are downsizing or gifting your items to other family members.

5. Streamline the Process: Keep in mind that smaller items like jewelry and art may make up some of the more valuable objects in a household. Coin and stamp collections can also carry significant value, followed by fine antique items, rugs, lighting, rare toys, historical items, etc. Consider a “Top-Down” approach, meaning spend significant time placing significant assets first, and work down the list.

6. Make Careful Decisions: The appraisal will also be an invaluable tool for equitably dividing assets of an estate or determining insurance value for items retained. However, it is up to all involved to factor sentimental ties into the decision to keep, give away, or sell each item. Keep in mind that sentiment can potentially cloud judgment. We have seen family members deadlocked on a $50 item, while making a hasty decision on a $10,000 item, resulting in a loss of potential income to the entire family. If you find yourself unsure of what to do with an item, hang onto it until you feel comfortable with your final decision.

A carefully considered plan for determining the future of each of your treasured possessions can help solidify family bonds and help honor the memory of its prior owners.


Author Information:

John D. Bottero is Vice President of Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, coastal Maine’s premier auction & appraisal company, and a leading resource for fine art, jewelry, antiques, and real estate