Wednesday, April 16, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Parents’ possessions put past in perspective

By
From page C4 | January 11, 2013 | Leave Comment

Like my mother, the Roman God Janus — for whom January is named — had eyes in the back of his head. In fact, he had an entire face on the back of his head, so he could look backward and forward at once. This feature earned him the distinction of “god of doors.” He ruled comings and goings.

I could use some Janus juice about now. This January I am starting a job I’ve been dreading: Going through my parents’ home.

Last May, Mom and Dad, both 90, moved into assisted living. We’ve decided to sell the home where they lived for more than 40 years. But first, I must sort their worldly possessions into callous categories: toss, donate, sell, keep and can’t bear to look at it.

Janus, where are you? Come to think of it, I could also use the powers of Minerva, goddess of wisdom; Vesta, goddess of the home; and, for sure, Bacchus, god of wine.

Last November I got a sense of what was coming. While in California, I visited the four-bedroom, ranch-style home I grew up in. It was the first time I’d been inside since my parents moved out. They took with them a little furniture, some art and their clothes. What remained looked a balloon bouquet minus the air.

I walked the scene, assessing, and discovered a person can drown in sentiment. There was the mar on the bathroom Formica, where my teenage self had left a cone of incense burning. Mom had smoothed it all over with a flower sticker.

As I stood in the home’s various doorways, familiar smells hung in the air — my mother’s ubiquitous L’air de temps perfume, something like Pendleton wool — all against the dated floral wallpaper and damask drapes.

I walked, because if I stood, moving again was near impossible.

Shake it off. It’s just a house. It’s only stuff. Easy to say. But if I’ve learned anything during my own upheavals it’s that nothing busts a bout of self-pity like getting good and busy.

Because Janus didn’t answer my call, I called Miller Gaffney, one of the hosts of “Market Warriors,” (which airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on PBS).

“I don’t know where to start,” I say.

“You’re not alone,” she assures. “A lot of downsizing is going on right now. Lots of people are sorting and selling.”

Then she offered me, and anyone else about to clean out an elder’s attic, basement, garage or home, these pointers:

Don’t rush.“The process takes longer than anyone thinks it will,” Gaffney said. You have to organize, sort, appraise and market. “Rushing through, you could miss a treasure you didn’t realize you had, sell it for 20 bucks, and find out later it sold for a million.”

Do your homework. Ask your parents what they believe is valuable. Ask for the history and sales records of potentially worthy items. When going through a home or attic, separate items that might have value, from items you know don’t (that broken television).

Don’t believe all they said. Heirlooms have a way of gathering unwarranted value as their legend grows. A friend told me about a Tiffany lamp her grandmother cherished, and said was worth a mint. An appraiser delivered the bad news: The lamp was a fake.

Don’t do it alone. Once you’ve separated out what might have value (furniture, jewelry, artwork, porcelain, other collectables) ask a certified appraiser to do a walk-through inspection with you and identify items worth a closer look. Then get those items appraised. (Beware of fraudulent estate sales companies, warns Gaffney. Check credentials.) Get a sense of what some items are selling for on eBay.

Know the value. That helps assure you’ll get a fair return if you sell the item at an estate sale, auction or to an antique dealer. It also helps make the fighting fair if siblings are dividing up possessions. “Often, when family members know how little something is worth they let go of it more easily,” Gaffney said.

Not worth it. Just as that piece of junk you thought was worthless could be a hidden treasure, more often items family members believe items have value, don’t. For instance, almost no market exists for figurines, which often disappoints those who’ve collected Lladro and Hummel. Signed and numbered prints also don’t usually fetch what owners paid, unless the artist became well-known, she said.

What to keep. The toughest call, however, is not what to toss, donate, sell, or have appraised but what to keep. When keeping an item for your home, consider condition, quality, lines and how difficult it would be to ship. Beyond that, what to keep is a highly personal decision, said Gaffney. “Some people don’t want any reminders, and just want to liquidate. Some just want the cookie jar. But others have a strong emotional connection to many furnishings. You have to find your sweet spot. When it gets too emotional, step away. Take some time.”

As I go through the process, and am tempted to keep too much, I’ll remember the Janus, god of doors, whose domain not insignificantly included the gates to heaven. And there he reminds us: You can’t take it with you.

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.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

.

News

Motorcycle fatality in Greenwood

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1

 
Greenwood School being restored

By Rebecca Murphy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Cal Fire increasing staffing, hiring

By Cal Fire | From Page: B1

EID restricts watering days

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A1, 10 Comments

 
Lover’s Leap fall injures man

By Tahoe Tribune | From Page: A1

EDH Fire Dept. annexing Latrobe

By Noel Stack | From Page: A1, 7 Comments

 
Tea Party meeting April 17

By Tea Party Patriots Of El Dorado Hills | From Page: A3, 42 Comments

 
Town Hall Meeting on Underage Drinking May 1

By El Dorado Hills Community Vision Coalition | From Page: A6

Floating body not a body

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A7

 
Old mill a goner

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A11, 9 Comments | Gallery

.

Letters

A great big thanks

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
Murder? Suicide?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 6 Comments

‘Drive Clean’

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 3 Comments

 
Middle class getting poorer?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 42 Comments

Real estate lies

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 6 Comments

 
.

Sports

Outside with Charlie: Switch gear

By Charlie Ferris | From Page: A8

 
Ponderosa volleyball is a family affair

By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A8 | Gallery

Aussie team makes visit

By Special to the Democrat | From Page: A8

 
Griz have challenging day

By Mike Bush | From Page: A8 | Gallery

Roundup: April 15, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
.

Prospecting

Men to walk a mile in her shoes

By Center For Violence-Free Relationships | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Runners stampede for Sugarloaf scholarships

By El Dorado County Office of Education | From Page: B2 | Gallery

At a glance: Take aim on fun

By Mimi Escabar | From Page: B2

 
Team works to fight disease

By Placerville Kiwanis | From Page: B3

 
COOL School is accepting applications

By Rescue Union | From Page: B4

Band of Miwoks fund mission

By Shingle Springs Band Of Miwok Indians | From Page: B12

 
.

Essentials

Crime Log: March 25-27

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

 
Weather stats 4-15-14

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

.

Obituaries

Numa Edward “Ed” Roberts

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
Ronald Russell Rohrer

By Contributor | From Page: A2, 2 Comments

.

Real Estate

.

Comics

Sudoku

By Contributor | From Page: A10

 
Flying McCoys

By Contributor | From Page: A10

Speed Bump

By Contributor | From Page: A10

 
Working It Out

By Contributor | From Page: A10

Shoe

By Contributor | From Page: A10

 
Rubes

By Contributor | From Page: A10

New York Times Crossword

By Contributor | From Page: A10

 
Tundra

By Contributor | From Page: A10

Horoscope, Thursday, April 17, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A10

 
Horoscope, Wednesday, April 16, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A10

TV Listings

By Contributor | From Page: A10