Teresa and Dallas Howard
Teresa and Dallas Howard

Teresa Howard, 59, and her husband, Dallas, 63, are anxious to sell their 4,200 sq.f. house in Lawrenceville to move closer to their daughter Julie Moon and her family.

They are looking for a 1,200 sq. ft. house!

Health issues and a mold crises have pushed the Howards into a move they had planned to make in three or four years.

“I’m a breast cancer survivor and Julie though we should be closer,’ said Teresa. “Then earlier this year we discovered dangerous mold from a leak in the basement storage area and had to throw out everything down there.’

Ad in the downstairs tenant moving, and missing the granddaughter ”too much’’ and the timeline moved up.

A Teary Goodbye To Stuff

The Howards bought a new, larger house 19 years ago to move her parents in with them. He father had Alzheimer’s before he died four years later and her moved lived in the in-law suite 10-years more.

All of her mother’s furniture and keepsakes and boxes of Christmas decorations and collectables were gone in one fell swoop – the mold had ruined it all.  “I lost the dining room table I’d grown up with,’’ she said. Christmas was my mother’s holiday so I would hang something of hers on my tree.’’

Teresa and Dallas Howard
Teresa and Dallas Howard

All of her mother’s stuff had filled a media room that became a storage room because she found it too hard to go through after her mother’s death.

Think Of The Children

Teresa Howard said she doesn’t want her children to go through the emotionally wrenching process that she has gone through with her mother’s possessions.

She said she’d been a collector of everything from snow globes to books. She kept one globe and a couple of boxes of sentimental items. As a professional birthing coach she had 12 boxes of birth-related books that went to a local birthing center, and another six boxes to a Habitat Restore.

Between furniture and clothing, I’ve donated $7,000, she calculated. And while “it breaks your heart a little every time,’’ she said ‘’it’s very freeing. I watch every ‘tiny-house, ‘ show, and I’m looking forward to a fresh start with some new Christmas ornaments.’’

Getting Help Letting Go

Julie Moon, owner, Neat & Pretty
Julie Moon, owner, Neat & Pretty

Julie Moon, owner of Neat & Pretty, has been decluttering and organizing homes, closets, basements and office for seven years. Actually, she said she’s been organizing stuff since she was two, when she arranged her toys by color, size or texture. She has seen the downsizing process with baby boomer up close and personal, as her mother is Teresa Howard. But she also has helped lots of older couples in Athens downsize.

“Most have had someone in their family pass away so they have inherited a lot of things they didn’t buy,’’ she said. “Everything from pianos, towels and pictures their grandmother had.’’ Or they may have lots of their children’s stuff – trophies, sports equipment, clothes, bedroom furniture, musical instruments. People feel an obligation to keep things like that because it was valuable to someone else.’’ She has discovered, “people need permission to let go of things.’’

Moon describes herself as a coach, someone who encourages her clients to think through the declutter process with intention.

“I don’t judge or criticize,’’ she said. “I try to bring them to reality and remind them of their goals,’’ whether that’s moving closer to grandchildren or enjoying the freedom of a smaller space and less overhead.

She has some tips for thinking through the process:

  • Hate to get rid of a beloved grandmother’s China, but don’t really need it? Keep just a special dish and use it at holidays as a way to honor her.
  • Just because an item was expensive doesn’t mean you should keep it if it’s of absolutely no use to you. Think about an item’s usefulness to another person. Moon’s mother donate a very nice bedroom suite to Project Safe.
  • If you have a spare room your using as a storage space, measure it, calculate the square foot value of your house and multiply. Do you really want to spend that much on storage?
  • Pull everything out and start with intention whether it’s a clothes closet or a kitchen cabinet. “I get them to tell me about their patterns. If it’s dishes, do you cook a lot, entertain often, store lots of left overs?”
  • Clothes can be most difficult to purge. “Women will have a closetful of skinny and fat clothes . . . there’s emotion attached. If it doesn’t fit, you feel bad about yourself every day.’’
  • Create a temporary holding place if you’re not sure about some things. Box them up and see how life is without them.
  • Make a memento box that’s a manageable size and weight and clear. “Items should have a significance you can relate to someone else.’’ And don’t keep stuff you don’t like just because it was a gift – it was the giving that was important.

There’s a lot of freedom in letting go, Moon said. “The practice of intention brings clarity and opportunity.’’

Basement Before
Basement Before
Basement After
Basement After

What’s Valuable And What’s Not

There’s a glut coming on the market as Baby boomers downsize, said Sandra Pence, of Pence Heritage.

Speaking to an audience at the Athens-Clarke library recently, Pence noted that “kids today don’t want traditional furniture, silver and china, They like IKEA, stoneware and stainless steel.’’

So prices for much of what some boomers own are deflated. While some people will hold moving sales or use Craig’s List or eBay, estate sales organized by a trained and experienced appraiser can be an option also.

Here’s why:

  • Family members can inadvertently throw something of value away. Pence said she’s rescued such valuable items as fishing equipment and Indian baskets.
  • Pence goes through every box and drawer, going through the estate of a former TWA pilot, she found letters signed from 30 heads of countries giving TWA landing rights. They had value.
  • An appraiser should be expected to research items. Pence said it took two months to go through Confederate memorabilia one man inherited.
  • Kitchen items and tools sell well because people “buy practical.’’
  • Fine linens, good comforters and sheets also get snatched up.

The IRS has strict guidelines for any donations over $5,000. Appraisers must be based on fair market, replacement or liquidation value, have comparables with well-reasoned arguments and the appraiser must be a member of one of three professional societies.

She added that libraries and museums keep very little of what is donated to them, selling most items.

Pence, an antique dealer for more than 20 years, is a graduate of UGA’s certificate program for personal property appraisers.Boom Athens Logo - Favicon (Recolor) - 75px

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Betsy Bean
Betsy Bean completed graduate school at UGA in 1972. She was a school librarian for a year and then became a rock and roll DJ for the next 10. Subsequently, she worked as a reporter for the Atlanta Journal/Constitution, followed by public relations and marketing and newsletter publishing and was, more recently, the downtown development director for the City of Anniston, Ala.

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