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  • December 17, 2020 10:22 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Janet Schiesl, Basic Organization

    December 16, 2020

    Can you make decluttering your home into a party? Why yes, of course.

    So many of my clients will say to me, “I could do this myself, but I don’t. I’ll do it when you are here though.” For most people, decluttering and organizing are social activities. They like having someone around to talk through their thoughts as they go.

    Why is this?

    I think it has a lot to do with the emotional attachment that people have with their items. They need to replace that attachment with the items with an attachment (all though temporary) to a human being. I think it makes the “declutterer” strong enough at the moment to move forward.

    If you have tried to get organized, but have failed, maybe it’s because you didn’t have the support you needed while doing the work. This is one way a professional organizer supports clients through their projects.

    For most people, decluttering and organizing are social activities. 

    Make it a little bit fun.

    Making light of things, joking around, playing music and just generally chatting can make the process seem so much easier. I worked with a client who turned the music up loud and sang to her favorite tunes while working. (She had a great voice by the way.) Once she got started, she worked like gang-busters while the music was playing. It was great!

    This can get out of hand.

    A professional organizer will make sure that you stay focused on the task at hand, by discussing the goals for the day and making sure that the work moves along so you meet those goals.

    For more information, contact:

    Janet Schiesl, Basic Organization

  • December 07, 2020 4:56 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Anna Novak Home Transition Pros

    December 1, 2020

    2 Tips for Downsizing over the Holidays

    Are you an empty nester, senior, or retiree who is  thinking about downsizing?  Preparing for the holidays presents a perfect opportunity to identify the items you love the most, share your abundance with others, and clear a path to a fresh start in January. Here are 12 Downsizing tips that can help you get started on your downsizing over the holidays:

    1) Reduce Holiday Decorations

    Decorate indoors and outdoors with your favorite decorations, using the items you love the most with time and energy you have.  Donate the remainders early in the season, when your unneeded decorations will be happily used by others.

    2) Re-Gift

    Many schools, churches and charities sponsor Holiday Markets that make use of gently-used housewares, costume jewelry, coats and other donated items.  Take full advantage of these opportunities to put your unneeded items into the hands of people who can use them right away.

    3) Spruce Up

    Addressing loose door or cabinet knobs, burned-out lightbulbs, and other minor maintenance repairs will help get your home in shape for the holidays and beyond.  Downsizing tip: Be sure to use the supplies you have on hand before you make a trip to the hardware store.

    4) Use Your Gift Wrap

    Set a goal to use all of the wrapping paper, ribbon and tags you have accumulated over the years.  If you have supplies you haven’t used in many seasons, you probably just don’t like them enough to use them on a gift.

    5) Freshen Up Your Food

    Remove all outdated or unwanted foods from the pantry, freezer and refrigerator in preparation for holiday gatherings.  Resist the urge to “stock up” on pantry items during seasonal sales.

    6) Let the Liquor Go

    They say liquor never goes bad, but if you have spirits you haven’t served or enjoyed for several years, it may be time to move it out.  Can’t bring yourself to toss perfectly good liquor?  Look for cocktail recipes that use the spirits in question.  Here’s a handy website that offers a “Top 100 Classic Cocktail Recipes” with helpful search features.

    7) Trim Down Tableware

    Set your nicest holiday table or buffet, and identify the service pieces you chose not to use this year or no longer need.  There will probably be more than you think!   Really make the effort to set aside the ones that don’t make the cut.

    8) Lighten Up On Linens and Towels

    Get rid of frayed towels, unappealing blankets, and any quantities of linens beyond what you would need for a house full of guests.

    9) Scale Down the Gadgets

    Some of the year’s most elaborate meals are prepared around the holidays.  Take note of duplicate or unneeded items in the kitchen, and set them aside for donation.

    10) Pitch the Plastic

    How do these mountains of plastic food containers accumulate?  Use them to send holiday treats or care packages, and then keep only what you would typically use for 3 days of leftovers.

    11) Pass Things Down

    Offer relevant belongings to visiting family members or friends (but don’t take it personally if you don’t get any takers! Allow that to be your permission to donate those items instead).

    12) Enjoy What Really Matters

    The best part of downsizing:  the freedom to enjoy activities and spend time with loved ones with fewer responsibilities and less stuff weighing you down.

    For more information, contact:

    Anna Novak, Home Transition Pros

  • December 07, 2020 4:39 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Jill Katz, One to Zen Organizing

    December 1, 2020

    Decisions and Adulthood

    When I was a kid I couldn’t wait to become an adult. I would have dessert for breakfast and stay up until midnight and watch all the TV shows I wanted. I had it all planned out. Oh, and of course I figured I would know all the answers to all the important questions because adults know everything. Of course!

    OK, so being an adult was not exactly how I thought it would be. But the most startling revelation was the sheer number of decisions I needed to make every day. What should I cook for dinner? Should I say “Yes” to this thing or that thing? Which type of cell phone should I purchase? Can we afford X? The decisions were endless. Why did they never mention this in school?

    As an organizer, I see the results of decision fatigue--Clutter. Yes, let’s repeat that: Clutter is the result of unmade decisions.

    Clutter is the result of unmade decisions.

    Tips for Making Decisions

    Here are my first four tips to help you stave off decision fatigue so you can get control of your physical and mental clutter:

    1. Decision making is maintenance

    We make daily decisions to keep up with our clutter. Michelle Vig, a fellow Professional Organizer, and owner of Neat Little Nest, identifies three types of clutter in her book,"The Holistic Guide to Decluttering: Organize and Transform Your Space, Time and Mind. Space clutter is physical clutter such as clothes on the floor. Time clutter is the result of stuffing too many appointments in a day. Mind clutter is an overabundance of thoughts rushing through our brain, many of them negative. These 3 types of clutter will build up if we do not make daily decisions about what we store in our space, time, and mind. Allowing all items into your home, saying “Yes” to every invitation, and holding on to every thought will lead to an onslaught of clutter. It’s up to you to make decisions that reduce this clutter before you become buried in it.

    2. Making a decision is the equivalent of working a muscle

    You don’t start your exercise routine by picking up 20 lb weights. You start with a warm-up, some light weights and then ease your way into the heavier ones. Use the same technique for making decisions. Start with a decision that is easy for you and work your way up to the more difficult ones. For me, an easy decision is choosing what to wear for the day or settling on a menu for dinner. A more difficult decision might be what color to paint my bedroom. Your notions of “easy” or “difficult” might differ from mine.

    3. Routines

    Setting routines is the ultimate strategy for preventing decision fatigue. For example, if I wake up every morning at the same time, carry out the same workout routine, and eat the same breakfast every day then I save myself from making 3 decisions every day. Think about what positive routines you can build into your day or week and practice them until they become a habit.

    4. Mantras

    Mantras are a great way to throw out mind clutter (negative or unhelpful thoughts) so you can apply your renewed energy toward making good decisions. I love mantras so much that I wrote a wholeblog post about them! The next time you feel anxious about attacking any sort of clutter, think of a good mantra (“I can do this,” “I am strong,” “I am safe”), sit down for a few minutes, close your eyes and say the mantra over and over while practicing slow, deep breathing. When you open your eyes, you will be ready to face your clutter with a feeling of clarity and calm. It really works!

    To Be Continued...

    Stay tuned for my next blog post featuring  5 more tips for making decisions and preventing clutter.

    For more information contact:

    Jill Katz One to Zen Organizing

  • November 10, 2020 2:15 PM | Anonymous

    Jeanne Fox Alston Your Space Made To Order

    November 10, 2020

    Thinking about moving in the next year or so? If so, don't wait to declutter the two areas that most homeowners ignore until the end, namely basements and garages. 

    The pictures shown here are typical of what I often see. This basement storage room was in the house of someone whose job required him to move a number of times and my first impression was, "Whoa! Where to start??" In fact, just about everything in that room had been there since he moved in 10 years ago and a closer look revealed that many boxes had been moved - unopened - more than once! 

    Look, I know that  basements and garages hold everything that we don't want to deal with. And it's tedious to even THINK about going through all that stuff, let alone actually getting started. But professional organizers, like me, can help keep you on point and get the job done. We'll even get rid of anything you don't want anymore! In this case, once my client and I dove it, it was clear that the vast majority of what was stored could be donated, recycled, shredded or trashed. So the room was cleared relatively quickly. The irony was that we tackled the basement only because he was preparing to move again and this time he was paying for it, instead of an employer.

    Preparing to move often takes months. My advice? Don't make the process more difficult  by doing the hardest job last. 

    For more information contact: 

    Jeanne Fox Alston Your Space Made To Order


  • November 10, 2020 2:05 PM | Anonymous

    Janet Schiesl, Basic Organization

    November 10, 2020

    A paperless life is a myth. But you can achieve a “less paper” life by making a few simple changes. Follow these suggestions to leave those paper piles behind and closer to a paperless life.

    Do one To-Do each month, for the next 6 months.

    1. Sign up for online bill paying. You can go through your bank or through each service (like utility companies) to pay each month. If you finances are secure, consider setting up automatic payments.
    2. Sign up to receive your bills and statements by email.  This task will take some time, since you will have to go to each organizations website to sign up. You will receive email notices that your bills are due and your statements are available, so it’s easy to stay current.
    3. Set up folders on your computer for your statements. This will eliminate having to store paper in a file cabinet.
    4. Back up regularly or automatically – Now that you are keeping electronic copies you need to make sure that you are backing up your computer or using a cloud service to save your documents.
    5. Scan old documents. Now that you have gone electronic with your current paperwork, move to scanning your important, older documents and move more closely to a paperless life
    6. Slow incoming paper. Register to stop receiving junk mail and catalogs and get into the habit of recycling any junk that slips through the cracks by not even bringing it into your home.

    A paperless life is a myth. But you can achieve a “less paper” life by making a few simple changes. 

    Check out these additional posts on reducing paper:

    Conquer Your Paper Piles

    5 Steps to Super Simple Paper Management

    Organizing Paperwork in the Kitchen

    How to Live With Less Paper by JotForm

    More information: 

    Janet Schiesl, Basic Organization

  • November 10, 2020 1:55 PM | Anonymous

    Jeanne Fox Alston, Your Space Made to Order LLC

    November 10, 2020

    What energizes me as an organizer is being of service to my clients AND the recipients of the items they donate. One of my clients is a knitter. and she’s been setting aside yarn to donate while organizing all of her knitting supplies and books. When I asked fellow organizers for suggestions on where to donate the yarn, one pointed me to a local chapter of “Chase the Chill."

    The Facebook page for one chapter reads: “Our mission is to celebrate the art and beauty of hand knitting and crocheting, building community…and sharing with others. Chase the Chill is an annual event that distributes handmade scarves in public places so that those in need—regardless of income and without any qualifiers—can help themselves."

    The yarn we donated went to the Mount Vernon, VA, chapter. They usually do their “scarf storming” in December. They hang the scarves from trees and on bus stops in areas where low income and homeless people may congregate.

    They have a Facebook page, as does the Chase the Chill DC chapter, should you want to donate yarn or knit or crochet scarves. There are also Facebook pages for other chapters scattered around the country, from Easton, PA to Redwood City, CA to Winnipeg, Canada.

    For more information contact: Jeanne Fox Alston 



  • September 25, 2020 11:16 AM | Anonymous

    Janet Schiesl, Basic Organization

    September 25, 2020

    Students have been back to school for a while. How are you managing?

    One of the keys to successful study habits is the ability to concentrate with all of the distractions around you.  Here are some time management principles that apply to schoolwork.

    Have a purpose when studying.

    Know the objective of each class and each chapter in the textbook.  This allows your student to use active listening and focused read actively.  If  they know the purpose of the class to start with, it is easier to recognize the information and get it into their notes.

    Study in chunks.

    Whether a student’s attention span is two hours or forty-five minutes, don’t push them further than their limit. Take a brief five or ten-minute break and resume refreshed.

    Take advantage of prime time.

    What ever period of the day that is your student is at peak mentally is their best study hour.  Concentration is easier and energy is higher during this time.  Schedule their more difficult tasks to coincide with their peak performance time.

    Plan students study time.

    By structuring students study time, it will be easier for then to concentrate on the task at hand. Without a plan, distractions come easy.

    Develop the power of concentration.

    Success depends on a lot of hard work and self-discipline makes it easier. Even the smartest student, with no discipline will fail.

    Get your students organized.

    Keeping your study space organized is important to helping students concentrate, think clearly and finish tasks quickly.

    One of the keys to successful study habits is the ability to concentrate with all of the distractions around you. 


    For more information contact:Basic Organization

    Janet Schiesl, Basic Organization

    Tel.: 571-265-1303  Email:

  • September 21, 2020 9:54 AM | Anonymous

    Christopher Lancette, Orion's Attic

    September 21, 2020

    If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the steamrollers almost certainly go through storage units. There is no more costly or easier mistake for a homeowner or estate executor to make than falling for the trap of renting a storage unit.

    storage unit clean-out companies

    Storage units are like credit card debt.

    We see it all the time in our work with Orion’s Attic: People with the very best of intentions choose to put heaps of stuff in storage units instead of dealing with the problem beforehand. Our advice to you? Don’t let yourself become a storage unit sucker. If you’re already stuck in a unit, or two or three, contact us today to help get you out of the ever-increasing monthly fees for storage unit rent. You can also read more about all of our services.

    We have seen people rack up many thousands of dollars in storage fees before they even know what hit them. Putting stuff in storage units is like going into credit card debt: It’s incredibly easy to get in and monstrously difficult to get out. The comparison between storage units and credit cards is apt in many ways. Both offer wonderful deals to get you to try one for the first time. Many storage unit companies even offer a first month for “free.”

    There is no such thing as “free.”

    Storage unit companies know that you may start a rental agreement intending to get out before the first month is over but that almost all people get hooked and end up paying for storage for many months and, sadly, often years. By the time you’re done, assuming you get out before you decide to default and let the storage unit company auction off your belongings, you have spent thousands more dollars in storage than the value of the stuff you’re saving.

    Let’s share some examples of the storage unit nightmares we’ve seen and show you the math. Hopefully this will inspire you to use Orion’s Attic for your storage unit buyout and/or storage unit clean-out needs:

    storage unit clean-out companies

    Half-empty storage units are worse than packed units: You’re paying for twice what you need.

    • We helped a Northern Virginia client who called us a few years ago hoping to make a mint on the sale of his mother’s antique furniture he had kept in storage. By the time he called us, he had spent $250 a month for four years — a total of $12,000.  The second-hand, antique shop value of all of it? About $3,000 after the expenses of us taking it to an antiques store for him. The man had been blinded by the emotional attachment he had with his mom. As we have to tell people all the time, sentimental value does not equal real-world financial value.


    • We got a call from a Washington D.C. client who had a pair of storage units costing him about $500 a month. They were packed floor-to-ceiling with furniture, art, home decor and collectibles long out of style and that aren’t coming back any time soon. He had already paid $22,000 in storage. He told us that he was ready to let the stuff go and stop paying storage fees. When we showed up to take it all away and sell it for him, he changed his mind. We asked him why he couldn’t go through with it, how he could live with that kind of expense.  He told us that he got anxious each month as the due date approached, then chose to pay the bill and not think about it again for several more weeks. We suspect he’s still there now and that he has now made more than $40,000 in payments … money he has zero chance to recover.


    • One of the most painful cases we experienced came with a dear, sweet woman in Maryland who over time became a friend of ours. We first met her years ago when she was grieving for her husband, a man who happened to have a storage unit full of a certain kind of collectibles for which demand and value had fallen to the floor over the past 20 years. They were hot once but not now. We made her a generous offer to buy it all or take it on consignment just to get her out of paying $300 a month. The dear, sweet woman told us that she thought the items had more value so she just couldn’t let them go for that. Naturally, our friend called us years later and we emptied the unit, the collection now worth even less than it was years ago. She ended up getting back a fraction of what she had paid in storage.

    The best way to avoid becoming a storage unit sucker is to confront the problem head-on when it occurs. Deal with the financial, psychological and emotional issues and items BEFORE you even think about moving them into storage.

    If you’re thinking you’re going to play the junk stock market and put furniture in storage because “the value will come back” and that you’ll make a profit in the end, the odds of that working out for you are slim to none. The value of most items is not going to go back up in our lifetimes. The only furniture people go nuts for today is Mid-Century Modern furniture. Signed limited edition prints by most artists draw maybe $5 to 10 at auction — and sit forever in retail stores. No one cares about them anymore. (We’ve got stacks of such prints in our eBay store right now and can’t sell them for even $2 each.)

    The key to avoiding storage units? Make tough decisions not driven by emotion.

    People are just as often driven to storage units by bad, emotion-based decisions. Estate executors put their parents’ stuff in storage after they die because they think their parents would be horrified if they knew they didn’t keep it. We can’t imagine any parent wanting their kids to ring up thousands of dollars in charges holding onto Singer sewing machines with cast iron bases, Hummel figurines, china cabinets and upholstered couches.

    Many storage unit companies, by the way, charge you a lower monthly rate for the first several months and then begin jacking up the fees by as much as 33 percent by the fourth or fifth month.

    If you’re currently considering renting a storage unit, don’t do it. Whether your sell or donate the items, you’re still going to come out better financially than paying for storage indefinitely.

    If you’re already in a storage unit facility, get out of it today. Orion’s Attic can help. If you have the kinds of hot items that would be profitable for us to re-sell directly, we can buy-out the unit and haul it all away. If it’s filled with a combination of things including not-as-hot items, trash and charitable donations that don’t make financial sense for us to buy, we can provide a storage unit clean-out service that sells your antiques, collectibles, jewelry and more through direct cash offers, auction houses and other means, transports your charitable donations and clears the trash.

    • We recently helped a husband-and-wife that was paying $400 a month in storage fees for a large unit stuffed from floor to ceiling with many objects of great sentimental value and but a few of actual financial value. The couple hired us to provide a combination of services. We pulled down and opened every box so that they could review the contents and decide what they wanted to take home. We made an offer to buy a collection of sterling silver flatware, some rare books, and a other items. We delivered two truckloads of furniture and household items to charity (we love A Wider Circle in Silver Spring, Habitat for Humanity Restore and others) and provided them with tax receipts, and we hauled a truckload of broken items and other trash to a Montgomery County transfer station. The initial labor charge for two days of hard work with a crew of four and our truck was not cheap — but — after we purchased some items — the final bill fell to about $500. They closed out the unit and saved the $400 rent payment for the next month, not to mention who knows how many more after that.

    Even if you end up paying to clean out a storage unit, the rent savings pays for the work quickly.

    The only thing worse than becoming a storage unit sucker in the first place is remaining one when you’ve already paid way more in storage fees than you will ever get back from liquidating the unit’s contents. STOP throwing your money away in storage unit fees. Contact Orion’s Attic today to find out more about our storage unit buyout and storage unit cleanout services.

    storage unit clean-out companies

    For more information: 

    Christopher Lancette, Orion's Attic

  • September 21, 2020 9:43 AM | Anonymous

    Debbie Smith, Keep Your Stuff Simple

    I had something kind of cool happen to me book wise; a journalist, Jennifer Howard in DC, who was writing a book about clutter and organizing contacted me last spring to interview me for her book. Heather Cocozza had referred her to me and had also spoken with her. I happily met with her and didn't really know what to expect. (As a woman I'm always happy to chat with another woman and help them with their questions)

    As an only child she was left to clean up after her mother who had been put in a facility for memory care with dementia and it took her 2 years to clean up her hoarding situation in the home. Her emotional journey through this endeavor led her to researching and writing a book.

    About 2 weeks ago she sent me an email that she'd had the book published and wanted to send me a copy. She did, along with a very nice note. It's called, 'Clutter, An Untidy History'.

    I was surprised to find myself listed in the back under her acknowledgements and then a whole chapter about the business of organizing, mentioning NAPO, NAPO-WDC, me and Heather Cocozza, quoting us and giving Heather a great shout out for her business. I came into the kitchen to have my Mom read the chapter since it mentions my mom 'in her 90's' having been a Navy wife and teaching me all about being organized in our many moves. There on the front page of today's (Sept 15th, 2020) Washington Post Style section was a huge write up about her book. Surreal.

    The WP write up did say she came across as a bit bitter and resentful in her book, but I would say the person that said that has never had to clean up after a parent ~ it took this woman 2 years to get her mom's house sorted out, all the while raising 2 kids and working. Her mom had, obviously, emotional and brain based issues for a while or she would have never been a hoarder, which also tainted their relationship over their lifetime.

    I've not finished the book yet, but Jennifer really did a great job on getting to the history of why there's so much clutter, where it all started in the consumerism/commercialism and need for more, more, more and how we got to realizing we needed less. Much less! Good for us and for the environment. Check out the book, it's not a huge read and NAPO-WDC/organizers got a good shout out!

    The author also quoted material from Susan Kousek's September 2019 NAPO-WDC chapter presentation and mentioned the NAPO Washington, DC Chapter by name and references one of our wildly successful chapter meetings.

    Congratulations to the NAPO-WDC Board to have the operations of a NAPO chapter meeting highlighted in a published book.  Jennifer mentions my invitation to the meeting, the number of attendees (80 people), the catered dinner, networking, Susan Kousek's time management presentation, and talking with various professional organizers at the end of the meeting.  You never know who will be in the audience during one of our amazing chapter meetings!

    Great job NAPO-WDC!!

    Debbie Smith, Keep Your Stuff Simple for more information.

  • September 21, 2020 9:35 AM | Anonymous

    From Home Transition Pros

    Guest Blogger: Sarah Reeder, Artifactual History® Appraisal

    September 21, 2020

    Obtaining art and antique appraisals can be a critical early step when you’re ready to move. We’ve noticed that lovers of art, antiques and collections can find it very difficult to downsize.   In addition to the challenges of deciding what stays and what goes, there are additional concerns about gifting, selling, preserving or donating excess items.  How does one know the true value of art, fine furniture and collections?

    Sarah Reeder provides art and antique appraisals as the owner of Artifactual History® Appraisal in Northern Virginia.  In this exclusive article, Sarah generously shares everything we need to know about art appraisals.

    What Is an Appraisal?

    An appraisal is an opinion of value prepared by an appraiser. Appraisers are qualified professionals with expert knowledge about the types of items they appraise and they prepare written appraisal reports to assist their clients for a wide range of purposes.

    An appraisal is a legal document and appraisers like me who work in compliance with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) are governed by an extensive series of regulations to protect their clients and maintain the public trust in appraising.

    Art and Antique Values Estate Sales

    When Do You Need An Appraisal?

    Art and antique appraisals are written for a wide variety of intended uses. Two major purposes of appraisal reports are for insurance coverage and equitable distribution.

    Appraisals for Insurance Purposes

    Appraisal reports are needed to protect valuable items with insurance coverage. Depending on your specific insurance policy, you may not be covered in the event of damage or loss if you don’t have an insurance appraisal report already on file. I recommend reviewing your insurance policy and confirming its details with your agent, and then having the valuables that currently are vulnerable and unprotected appraised by a professional USPAP-compliant appraiser.

    The vocabulary used in insurance policies can be quite complicated to understand so I’ve written an entire article explaining them here. If you are planning on moving, this is a great time to have an insurance appraisal report prepared so you will be well-protected with established appraised values before cherished items possibly may be damaged or lost during the move.

    Appraisals for Equitable Distribution Purposes

    Appraisals are also often written for equitable distribution purposes to divide inherited belongings among siblings and children. An equitable distribution appraisal report allows family members to receive specific belongings from an estate in an orderly, objective way that quantifies each object with an appraised value so that everyone can receive an equal value, or family members who don’t want items can be compensated with the corresponding amount in liquid assets from the estate. Tensions among survivors are often very high in estate situations and bringing in an appraiser who is independent, objective, and impartial can help reduce and prevent additional conflicts among heirs and help ease the stress of a challenging time.

    Legal Considerations

    While equitable distribution appraisals can be useful in many estate situations, certain estates are legally required to have an appraisal report prepared for probate or federal income tax purposes.  It’s always a good idea to consult with the attorney handling the estate to confirm what is needed for that particular estate.  Estate appraisal reports for probate and federal purposes can also often be used for equitable distribution among the family members

    Valuable Art Collection Appraisal and Valuation

    Values and Levels

    It’s also important to understand that in addition to the many types of appraisals, there are many different types of values that can be used in art and antique appraisals. These values are sourced from various levels of the market and correspond to different intended uses.

    Insurance appraisal reports are typically written using retail replacement value (the highest level of value) and estate and equitable distribution appraisal reports are typically written using fair market value (a lower level, often sourced from auction sales). There are many different levels of value, and I discuss them in more detail in this article.

    Appraisals are also needed to document non-cash charitable contributions when the fair market value will exceed $5,000.

    Having an appraisal report prepared to assess the market when considering a planned future sale can be very helpful in guiding your planning.

    Another crucial reason to have an appraisal prepared is to document your collection to reduce stress later for your children or heirs so they will be able to clearly identify everything and know which pieces are valuable.

    Why Should You Get An Appraisal?

    You should consider getting art and antique appraisals because it is a tool to protect yourself.  USPAP-compliant appraisers are required to be objective and independent, which will ensure that you can’t be taken advantage of.  Appraisals protect your treasured valuables in the event of damage or loss, help you create the most effective estate plan, make informed decisions about future sales of certain items in your collection, and bring you peace of mind that you have prevented infighting and stress among your heirs in the future.  

    There are a number of excellent times to consider getting an appraisal:

    • One is when you are planning to move and wish to protect your items from potential damage in transit.
    • Another is if it has been several years since your last insurance appraisal update, or if your items have never been appraised for insurance at all.  
    • A great time to get an appraisal is when you are beginning your estate planning process because an appraiser’s findings can help your estate attorney structure your paperwork most effectively for your specific situation.  An estate planning appraisal can also help you designate certain items for later equitable distribution and give you the peace of mind that your children won’t throw out anything valuable by accident.  
    • An appraisal can be invaluable in emotionally charged times, such as equitable distribution during a divorce or if there are fighting heirs in an estate settlement.
    • If you are considering a future sale of certain items in your collection, an appraisal is a useful planning tool to assess the current market for similar items and help guide your identification of the best venues. 

    How Should You Get an Appraisal?

    If you want to get an appraisal, I strongly recommend hiring an appraiser who works in compliance with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) like I do.  This will protect you as a consumer because USPAP-compliant appraisers must obey the rigorous ethical and professional standards specified within USPAP.  One of the most critical details is that USPAP-compliant appraisers are prohibited from charging based on a percentage of appraised value (which used to be a common practice).  There are also strict rules in place to avoid other situations where an appraiser could have a potential conflict of interest.

    Antiques and Collectibles in the home need appraisals.

    Appraiser Credentials

    I encourage consumers to look for appraisers who are a member of one of the major professional organizations for appraisers as this also distinguishes them given the continuing education and ethical codes required for membership.  I belong to both the Appraisers Association of America and the International Society of Appraisers.

    The three major professional organizations for appraisers in the United States are:

    Appraisers Association of America:

    International Society of Appraisers:

    American Society of Appraisers:

    All three organizations have member databases that allow you to search for appraisers based on your local geographic region and the specialization you are looking for (such as an appraiser of art, or an appraiser of antiquities).


    Levels and Specialties

    Another useful thing to pay attention to is what level of membership within the organization has the appraiser you are considering hiring achieved? Each higher level of membership indicates the appraiser has met an additional set of rigorous requirements. For example, I am a Certified Member of the International Society of Appraisers (the highest level of membership possible) and I have also achieved the Private Client Services Designation for working with high-net-worth individuals. I am currently an Accredited Member of the Appraisers Association of America and am working towards achieving Certified Membership in the future.

    Next, you want to make sure the specialty of the appraiser you are considering matches the type of objects you have. For example, if you have art to appraise, you will want to be hiring an appraiser of art rather than a jewelry appraiser. The professional organization databases have filters for specializations in certain object types to make this easy for you.


    Personality Matters

    Finally, I always encourage consumers to select an appraiser with whom they have good chemistry.  Is your appraiser responsive to your questions?  Do they provide a written contract for you to review and sign and give an estimate in advance of total project size?  

    Appraising is a very intimate activity where appraisers are evaluating some of your most cherished heirlooms.  I take the responsibilities of my professional role very seriously in my appraising work and endeavor to always be thoughtful and sensitive to the feelings of vulnerability these projects can elicit in clients.  I strongly recommend that everyone considering hiring an appraiser choose someone they feel very comfortable working with.

    Common Mistakes You Can Avoid When Downsizing Art and Valuables

    • Not identifying what you have before you get rid of it. Appraisers are an amazing resource to assist with this!
    • Not considering the appropriate market for each specific item. Certain things sell for much more money in particular venues.
    • Not clearly evaluating where the most valuable assets are and how to maximize profit based on those factors. I’ve witnessed situations where people feel overwhelmed and bogged down about trying to achieve the best prices possible for household items that have relatively modest values and delay taking action that would maximize profits with the real estate, which often is worth exponentially more.
    • Not leaving enough time for a sale for higher-value items. Some types of items can bring much higher prices if there is enough time to market them effectively, while sales that are rushed with a tight deadline typically have steep discounting impacting the final sold prices.

    It pays to involve experts.

    We know professionals in your area who can help you identify and evaluate items of value when you are downsizing. .  We’ll also help you get the most possible money for your stuff, and clear out your home completely. We do it all with the help of vetted, trustworthy and local professionals.  

    We'll take it from here. Get in touch today for a free consultation.

    Contact Home Transition Pros for more information.

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