“Not for sale,” read the lime-green sticky notes slapped on furniture throughout the estate sale. The Post-Its blare my ambivalence.
Not selling the furniture defeats my purpose, to clear out my parents’ former home to get it ready to sell. But the task is defeating me.
“How much for the little nightstand?” the dealers ask as they stream through my childhood home.
“I don’t know … yet,” I lamely say, and point to the note as some kind of proof.
Their looks rightly say, Then why are you holding an estate sale, lady, if you don’t know how much you’re selling things for?
Or if I should sell or could sell, I want to say, because letting go feels like hawking my fingers.
I don’t know how much the nightstand that came from France is worth, or the gold-leaf chairs in the entry way, or the antique clock that was my grandfather’s or the cedar chest that was grandma’s.
Even if I did know, teasing sentimental value from market value is like separating beauty from a butterfly.
The experts would tell you — and have told me — take your time. Have someone from an auction house or consignment shop, a dealer or appraiser look at the items to determine their value before you sell.
That’s great, but I did not have that kind of time. I live 3,000 miles away and took off work to fly in to get the job done in a week.
I did, however, have one ace up my sleeve. A contact at PBS’s Antiques Roadshow offered to run photos of some of the antiques by one of the show’s expert appraisers to help me determine value.
Meanwhile, my two-day sale was going on, and, unsure of value, I was turning away interested cash buyers or making a game-time decisions to sell stuff priced using my best guess.
Readers: This is no way to go through life.
At every turn, I was torn between my twin goals of clearing the house so the painters could start and being a good, respectful steward of my parents’ belongings. I did more waffling than a pancake house.
The morning after the estate sale ended, the Antiques Roadshow appraiser calls. Gary Sullivan specializes in high-end antiques. He’d looked at my pictures and was about to tell me how much the items I’d already sold (though he didn’t know that) — or should have sold but clung to — were worth. My stomach is in knots.
Before we get to the particulars of my items, which I will share with you next week, Sullivan offered this general advice. Most made me feel a lot better, and may spare you some of my anxiety:
Next week join me as Antique Roadshow’s Gary Sullivan looks at half a dozen of my parents antiques and tells me if I sold them short, or not.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through marnijameson.com.