Arts & Antiques by Dr. Lori: Downsizing tips

Would you send this piece to the dumpster or recognize it as a valuable antique? Photo courtesy of Dr. Lori

Overwhelming is the best word to describe the feelings, fears and finality of downsizing. While I help people through this difficult process on a regular basis during my in-home appraisal appointments and video chat appraisals with clients all over the country, most people are both excited to move on to a new phase in life and terrified about how to actually get there.

Treasure the TrashI think that the age-old statement that one man's trash is another man's treasure is stupid. Why? Ask yourself, why isn't my trash also my treasure? People who sort through dumpsters or take stuff from your curbside trash pile think that your unwanted stuff is treasure. Why don't you? Some of the most valuable 'trash' is in the homes of the guys who removed the rented dumpster from your deceased grandma's front yard after you cleaned out her house.

Do you ever wonder why all these people - seems like everybody you know - are involved in the buying and selling of antiques? They are all calling themselves pickers… They are trading, taking and trying to turn your unwanted stuff into cold hard cash. And they are doing it! You need to realize that they have valuable stuff that once was yours.

In Your Best InterestIs this a profile of your downsizing situation? Your son-in-law wants to throw everything in the dumpster, so he doesn't have to move it to your new residence. Your daughter wants you to keep everything that isn't nailed down for sentimental reasons. Your granddaughter is searching for cool stuff for her first apartment and thinks your 'vintage' pieces are cooler than Kim Kardashian.

There are other folks like nosy neighbors, friends of friends, your housekeeper, your landscaper, the local handyman - all of whom will give you 'a few bucks' for your antique grandfather clock or Rococo revival armoire - just to 'help you out.' Downsizing is stressful and this is a trying time when others may try to take advantage of you.

Sometimes that 'helpful' third party is a scout for an antiques reseller. Their interest in your objects may be a clue that your trash is worth money. Of course, when I make statements like this to help folks, I get hate mail from people who don't want me to make you aware of what's really happening out there.

Time is PreciousGive yourself much more than one long weekend to decide what to downsize. Ask your loved ones to help. As an appraiser only, I often see how objects spark memories and bring out those untold stories that family members may have never heard.

I was there when a 40-year-old son first learned that his 85-year-old mother had once dated the boxing legend Joe Louis in the 1940s. From a desk drawer, this woman uncovered a photograph of herself and Louis at a USO dance, a photo that her son had never seen. He was so shocked by the information flowing from his mother during the appraisal session that he spent most of the afternoon asking additional questions about his mother's life when she was a young woman. Values of the objects in her home were of interest, but that adult son told me that he will treasure that afternoon spent with his mother for years to come because he learned so much about her that day.

Downsizing is a big step. I hope my tips help you get ready for it.

Celebrity Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author and award-winning TV personality Dr. Lori is the star appraiser on Discovery channel's hit TV show, 'Auction Kings.' Visit, or call (888) 431-1010.

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