My Estate Sales Can Be Fun, But Also Strange


I run estate sales for people near my antique store and conducted one just last weekend. The client was my typical client or, should I say, what is quickly becoming my typical client — Baby Boomers who live up north but whose parents moved to Florida.

Sometimes the parents are merely downsizing, but sometimes they’ve died and these kids are now executors. It’s a tough time in a kid’s life, and I say “kid” because these “executors” are the same age as kids I played with on the playground. It really does seem like yesterday for both of us, and I feel bad for these now-orphans. Because they loved their parents, they don’t want to clean out the house — it’s very sad. That’s where I come in. I’m sad, but at least I didn’t know their parents personally.

I got into the business by mistake. A lawyer friend of mine needed to liquidate the contents of a house so it could be sold. I know how to price things for sale, and I like to clean (yes, I know, I’m an aberration), so I said I’d do it. The sale was a success and word got out. I’ve been running estate sales ever since.

Sometimes the “kids” work alongside me, sometimes they check in once in a while, sometimes they give me a key and tell me to send them a check.

You want to get to know about someone? Root around in their house for a week. By the time everything they owned is set up on tables, you know them pretty well. You know if the woman cooked (tons of dishes), if the man did woodworking (tons of tools), if they traveled (tons of souvenirs). You get to know their family through photographs.

Here’s what I’ve learned…

People are good. They struggle. They do their best. They try to be healthy and neat and organized as long as they physically can. Most families have at least one relative in the military. And everybody loves their grandchildren. But I’ve come across some weird and creepy stuff, too. (Don’t judge: Think about what’s in your own home first.) Some of the more bizarre contents have included:

• A box of Rover’s ashes. (“I’ve been looking for those! Did you find the other six pets?”)

• A candy-apple red cattle prod (“I guess they were using that for protection.”)

• The skeleton of a dead rat (“Um, well, the house has been vacant for a while.”)

• A box of glass eyes (“Oh, yeah. I forgot to tell you my sister was missing an eye.”)

Sometimes the house itself is weird. I cleaned out one where the all the interior walls had been painted black. The lighting was green. (“Mom was getting severe migraines. She liked it dark. I’m beginning to feel a bit depressed staying here, though.”) I blurted out, “You gotta get out of here!” The client moved to a penthouse on the beach and called to say how remarkably happy she now felt.

So, now I’m a liquidator and a therapist. In fact, I just came up with a new motto for my business: “Settling your estate and your head.” Who wouldn’t want that?