DIY Purging Tips From the Experts
From Marie Kondo to Swedish death cleaning, getting rid of clutter is in. Find out what two online estate sale experts think you should purge, and keep.
For those of you, like me, with less and less time for the lazy weekend pleasures of thrift stores and garage sales, let me introduce you to what will soon be your new deal-obsession, Everything But the House.
Imagine surfing well-curated cast-offs in an online estate sale without ever leaving the comfort of your own keyboard. From Hollywood, California to Hollywood, Florida, EBTH is an incredible online marketplace selling everything from modernist paintings to Mercedes-Benz convertibles and vintage Hermes scarves.
Founded by Jacquie Denny and Brian Graves, EBTH is “a full-service estate service to help people who are in major transition” says Graves. Graves and Denny work with families to sell entire estates or portions of estates across the country and they say they can deliver far better results than other locally-based sellers or than yard and garage sales. And the process of going into strangers’ houses to help them purge a lifetime of their own or a parents’ possessions can often yield hidden treasures. A recent example of hidden treasure was the Judaic Torah crown unearthed in a family home which sold for $45,000. “That’s what we live for,” says Denny.
So whether you are on the hunt for vintage bargains, or thinking of doing a major purge and getting rid of excess clutter, Denny and Graves can help. Because in the process of helping families tackle often sprawling, even overwhelming estates, they’ve learned a thing or two about the value of purging, reselling and generally paring back. Whether you’re into Swedish death cleaning or a Marie Kondo acolyte, many of us are wising up to the value of living more with less.
Everything But the House
Founders of the online estate sale site Everything But the House, Jacquie Denny and Brian Graves tour the country in search of great estates to sell, but also help families purge and determine the best value for their belongings.
With their unique business and insight into the lives of their customers, Denny and Graves have plenty of advice for the best way to tackle an abundance of clutter and make a little green in the process. “We work with so many families and we see the burden that collecting can create” observes Graves. Many families don’t realize until a parents’ death, for instance, just how much stuff has been hiding out in their homes. Family visits tend to be restricted to the main floor of a house, so Denny notes that a lot of the profusion of junk can happen in attics and basements and upstairs closets where accumulation can be hidden away. “It’s so easy to put something in a closet or a cabinet and not address it” says Denny.
Anxious to do your own DIY purge for yourself or a family member? Here is a quick checklist from experts Denny and Graves to help you.
- Allot enough time for the job so you feel a sense of accomplishment. Start small with a cabinet or a drawer and build to the bigger rooms and projects in the home. An average closet takes about 4 hours from start to finish” says Denny.
- Follow these general rules of thumb to determine value. Is it over 25 years old? Think about holding onto it. Is it rare? Interesting? Unique? It may be worth holding onto.
- Keep a box at the door at all times, not only when you are in the middle of a purge. If it doesn’t have a purpose or isn’t used after 4 weeks, put it in the box. “Is it relevant now,” should be your question, not “maybe I’ll use it,” notes Denny. When the box is full, give it to charity.
- Keep a clothing journal. Many of us just rotate out 10 outfits from our huge walk-in closets. Get rid of what you don’t regularly use.
- Garage Sale Rule of Thumb
- Graves and Denny don’t recommend a garage sale except for maybe selling your kids toys from two years ago. But for your parents or a family estate, it’s not worth it. And just because you see something valued at a high price point on eBay doesn’t mean you are going to find that audience at a neighborhood yard sale, says Graves. “The reality of finding that consumer and collector that’s going to show up on a Saturday isn’t there.”
- Take your allergy medicine if you need it.
- Wear gloves if you need them, but especially in a basement or attic.
- Assemble some 15x15 size boxes and mark with the name of each family member to sort paper and photographs when you come across them. “Then sit down with a glass of wine later to sort the paperwork and photographs,” says Denny.
- If you’re just trying to streamline your own life, Denny suggests this rule of thumb to start. Keep collections in check: “more than five things on a shelf is probably crossing over into clutter,” says Denny.
- Don’t even get a storage space. You are delaying the inevitable,” Denny warns. “I have yet to crack open a storage space who brought enough value to offset all the storage that was paid.”
Here is Denny and Graves' breakdown of what to purge from your own or a family member’s space and what to hold onto for resale.
- Non-designer “designer” clothes, i.e. Anne Klein, Ann Taylor, Chico’s. “Once somebody has an outlet store in their name, it’s probably not a really high-end design anymore,” says Denny.
- Metal pie tin, margarine containers, used pantyhose, socks. These items tend to accumulate in bulk and are easy things to purge in an initial sweep.
- Beanie babies
- Boxed Barbies
- Things that were manufactured to be collectibles, like collector plates.
Keep It or Sell It
- Look at eBay, Live Auctioneers, EBTH to see what is currently popular and sell when the value and demand is there.
- Vintage vinyl
- Vintage toys, even from the ‘70s.
- Vintage Legos
- Vintage vehicles even from the ‘80s and ‘90s. "A 1987 Buick Grand National can be a $100,000 car if it’s the right model” says Graves.
- Black lacquer with brass accents from the ‘80s is coming back.
- Vintage cameras in working condition
- Vintage couture, handbags and shoes
- Real designer pieces, i.e. from Hermes or Louis Vuitton
- Industrial pieces with a cool patina
- First-edition Dr. Seuss books
- Everyday objects transformed into a new decorative objects like hub caps turned into lamp bases, or vintage fans turned into light fixtures. It’s “the intersection of vintage and design, says Denny, and it’s a big trend across the country.