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At Home: Ground Zero Part One: The Estate Sale

Marni Jameson covers the finer points of holding an estate sale.
By Marni Jameson, For The Oklahoman Published: March 4, 2013

I'm writing this from ground zero: My childhood home in Orange, Calif. To get through my job here, I need smelling salts and a bulldozer.

Eight months ago, my elderly parents moved out of the single-story ranch they tended for years into a home that tends to them.

I've taken a week off work to clear the place out and start fixing it up to sell.

I can tell right now, one week is not time enough to undo nearly half a century of living in one house. It's not time enough to sort through the mountains of memorabilia that have accrued, the dishes and documents, linens and letters, crystal and cookware, photos and furniture, tools and trinkets.

I try not to fall into sinkholes of sentiment. I sort stuff into piles: toss, donate, sell, Craigslist, keep, unsure. The unsure pile grows faster than any other.

Still, I steamroll along because the painters are coming Thursday, and everything in the house has to be gone or in the garage by then.

As the sale pile grows, I know I have to hold a garage sale — or estate sale as the bigger ones are called. I have to host the sale midweek. I worry that no one will come.

I post an ad for an estate sale — “50 Years of Treasures” — on Craigslist, and the PennySaver online. My brother and sister-in-law arrive to help sort.

Monday I empty closets and cupboards, and set up display tables with like items: purses, tchotchkes, china, vases, books, CDs, floral arrangements and figurines. We turn the 1,700-square-foot house into a boutique. I really have no clue what much of this stuff is worth.

I discover that my British mother has enough crocheted doilies, dresser scarves, hankies and linen tablecloths to cover the surface of the moon.

The next morning, I'm up again at 5 a.m., putting price stickers on items — $1, $5, $50, Make an Offer. I put “Not for Sale” Post-its on furniture I can't bear to sell, though know I should.

The two-day sale starts Tuesday at 8 a.m. By 7 a.m. a line starts forming at the front door. Buyers are making a numbered list of who was first, second, and so on. They know game rules I don't.

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