How to select a reputable business to clear a home or Estate of unwanted items

Clear Space has been helping people clear homes and Estates for over 10 years and in this time, I have watched closely the many new businesses that have started up and not long after, ceased operating or claim to be reputable.

In 2023, there’s been another wave of new entrants to the estate clearance industry.  Whilst it’s easy for them to justify their experience, trustworthiness and credentials simply via words or pictures on a website or Facebook page, there are some critical components they should have in place, that you should verify, before allowing them on to your property, even to do a quote.

Especially given a lot of these businesses have evolved from just attending garage sales and picking over the items, providing gardening services or that do general yard clean ups & rubbish removal.

Following are a series of questions you should ask.

  • How long have they been operating? 
    Simple ask them.  It’s also easy to check -, use this ABN look up link to see when the business was registered and therefore, how long they have been operating.  If you can’t find an ABN listing for the business, that can be a red flag.
  • Are they police checked?  Can they produce it and importantly, is it clear?
  • Do they have necessary insurances in place such as Public Liability and Professional Indemnity?  PI/PL insurance is designed to manage risk, and gives you the client, peace of mind that should something happen whilst you’ve handed across your property and its contents, there is coverage in place for any financial loss, personal injury, property damage or loss of contents.
  • How many homes have they actually cleared in the last 3 months?  This is an indication of their experience, ability to meet the agreed finish date and react necessarily to any unexpected variations.
  • Can they provide genuine testimonials? Not just those they have self-posted or got their relatives to write, but people you can speak to personally.
  • Are they registered for GST?  If not, their total annual revenue is less than $75,000 which indicates a small business that doesn’t clear many homes annually.
  • What reports will you receive at the end of the project? It’s very important, especially if you are an Executor, that the entire contents of a home are documented and their ultimate destination traceable before being removed.
  • Can they truly recognise all valuable items?  In every home, there is always a number of items that are unique and/or valuable. Being able to recognise these only comes from having years of experience, patience and the necessary contacts to have the items correctly valued and ultimately, sold for the maximum price. 
  • What will happen to the proceeds from the sale of items? 100% of the value of all items when sold must be returned to the client, by being paid in to their nominated bank account. It really is the only justifiable outcome.
  • Beware of cheap quotes and quotes given without someone visiting the home in person. As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”. A cheap quote usually indicates not being thorough to uncover all sellable items, many donatable items not getting to those who need them, no attempt to recycle & reuse, too much going to landfill and items found unexpectedly not being reported or returned to the family. And most likely and importantly, the proceeds from the sale of items being kept by the business.

    Before you give someone a home’s address, let them in the home, even explain the circumstances you face, do some homework first. A little time spent up front can save a lot of grief and result in much better outcomes for all involved.

Clear Space at National Seniors – Adelaide East Branch

On October 16, I was invited by Gary Byron (pictured right) Vice President of National Seniors Australia, Adelaide East Branch to speak at their monthly members’ meeting.

The topic was about Downsizing and Estate Clearances.

It was an interactive, hour long talk in which I gave the 40+ attendees many effective and ready-to-use tips, information, inspiration and anecdotes related to downsizing or needing to clear a home or Estate of unwanted items.

Some of the key points I focussed on were:

  • It’s OK to have amassed a lifetime of belongings, you’ve earned that.  But ask yourself, “how much stuff is enough that I’ll be comfortable or happy”?  As you get older, having people around makes you more happier than having stuff.
  • People will generally fall in to two sides when it comes to their items – you’re a “keeper” or a “chucker”.  So, your personality will often dictate your willingness, ability and time needed to let go.
  • Start making decisions and declutter your home way before any planned move date – and even if you’re not planning to move – otherwise, you may lose control of making these decisions and/or need to make them under duress because of some unexpected, and often traumatic, life event.
  • Your items don’t have feelings and you’re in control of them.  Your love for, or relationship with a person is not going to change if you decide to let go of a particular item associated with them.

  • You’re not a museum for your adult children’s stuff anymore – give them a deadline to come get it.  The same with items you’ve been kindly storing in your home for others.
  • Accept that your children are less likely to want your stuff.  Your 12-person, gold leaf Wedgewood dinner set, collection of crystal decanters & glasses and box of your Great Aunt’s doilies, for example.
  • Don’t have a garage sale to sell items – or let a random person pick through your stuff.  You’ll have all sorts of opportunistic people with alternate motives at your home.  Often buying items for way less than their market value.  I use auction houses on behalf of my clients.
  • Don’t assume charities will want all or any of your items.  They are far more selective these days.
  • How far back dated are the tax records you’re storing at home?  Why?  The oldest I’ve heard from any audience member is 1958!
    Let me know using Facebook, if you’re game, how old your records are.

If you’re interested in having me speak at your next meeting or event,
get in touch by calling 0404 361 386.

Collections – Need Time, Care & Expert Advice

One of the things I most enjoy when helping clear a home for a family is the unique, interesting and often valuable items I come across.  And being trusted with them.

Currently, I’m helping a family whose father had a fantastic collection of genuine and correctly acquired aboriginal art and artefacts from the Ampilatwatja region, 3 Bore community, Utopia community and the Hermannsburg school of water colours.  In total, there would be over 100 items including small and large art, rock paintings and canvasses measuring 4 square metres.

In addition, the collection included fine art from Australian artists Pro Hart “Clean Up Day” & “Grass Hoppers” and Frank Harding “Outback“.

A secure and considered approach has been necessary to treat this collection how it deserves.  I’ve called upon experts within my network to assist this process given the sensitivity of the items and the significant, total expected value.

Coin, stamp, jewellery, watch, porcelain and wine collections also need to be treated in the same way.

So it’s important to hand over the clearing an estate to a business that can be trusted and is bona fide.

Clearing Homes in Regional South Australia

In 2023, Clear Space has cleared homes in Mt Gambier, Maitland, Murray Bridge and Tailem Bend, because there is no provider of home clearance services in any regional South Australian location.

The process is still the same in that we initially sort everything in to the following priorities – sell, donate, recycle then dispose.

Because there are no auction houses in regional towns, items are loaded on to a truck and brought back to Adelaide for selling and returning the proceeds to the client.

For donating items, there are still the mainstream op-shops, but they often can be limited in the volume and types of items they’ll accept. But I have found there is a real community and giving focus in these towns and exist many other options.

In Murray Bridge, I have engaged twice with volunteers Beck and Trev from the Brinkley Reuse Centre, where “everything old is new again”.

At this re-purposing and re-homing oasis, items otherwise destined for landfill are diverted and given a new lease on life, creating benefits for the environment and the community.

This load included wardrobes, bookshelves, electrical items, garden equipment and a lot of general bric-a-brac.

Great work and thank you Beck and Trev.

Donating items – It’s Not What It Used To Be

In this second post about the process to sort and distribute unwanted items from a home, the focus is on donations.

At Clear Space, “give it away, rather than throw it away” is our philosophy.  This undoubtedly is what our clients request as well.

Donating items can make a significant difference to the lives of others.  However, the process is not what it used to be.

Not so long ago, the main stream charities were a one-stop destination for all your unwanted items – they were far more willing to accept all sorts of items, often without checking their condition, as well as large volumes.  But not anymore.

Covid, I believe, was one of the catalysts to this change.  In not being able to travel or go out, a lot of people had, arguably, more money, and as a result they upgraded, bought new and replaced a lot of their household items. Small and large electrical appliances, clothes, shoes, handbags, linen, tools, camping gear, games, toys, sporting equipment………

But this meant needing to offload the unwanted items and the charities became overloaded with too much and unsuitable items and accordingly, changed their rules.

What’s happening as a result isn’t good.  Often, I would drive past a charity store after closing time, especially at night, and there would be piles of items literally dumped on their door step.  And it’s raining!

Donating items, to the better-known charities, from a deceased estate is far more involved and complex than when you have just a few items from your own home.  Several factors can make it complicated.

The sheer volume is the first factor.  Just this week, I filled a hire truck full of all sorts of items from a modest, 3 bedroom home.  That ended up at many different locations.  Unless you do the same, you’ll need to load the car up several times and make many trips to your local charity.  But beware, that one store will become wary and likely say you can’t continue to bring your items in.

Some charities offer free home collections but need to be booked up to 4 weeks in advance.  And remember, they still have the right to reject your items on arrival and, because it’s run by volunteers, there’s always a chance the pick up may be rescheduled at short notice. 

Others offer a free, delivery service through Australia Post.  You pack the items, download a delivery label and drop off to Australia Post.  But it’s tracked so staying anonymous isn’t possible.

The other challenge is finding the right charity who will accept your donations.

It’s not just a matter of getting a box and scooping everything in to it.  It involves sorting and organising the items to ensure they are suitable. This process is time-consuming, especially when dealing with large quantities.   And remember, you’ll likely have an attachment to the items which makes the job emotionally overwhelming.

Sorting through items, checking for damage and suitability requires dedication and effort.  Without this, your donations are likely to be rejected only for you to be left with them.

If you plan well, sort appropriately, do your research, be ethical and are prepared to put in the time, it will be a fulfilling outcome for all involved.

If you don’t, the risk is you’ll go to a lot of effort for no one’s benefit – you or the charity. 

Facebook and GumTree are options to give away your items, but these also have limitations.  You’ll be forever responding to people who ask, “is it available” for any sort of ad that says “free”, but never follow through.  Others are opportunistic and get your location for unethical or criminal purposes.

Alternatively, you could leave it all up to Clear Space. Having been clearing homes for over 10 years, we have the systems, processes and knowledge and a large network of options to donate items, irrespective of the type or volume. Be it to the well-known charities or others that have little public awareness or might be overseas.

Look out for my next post, where I’ll provide advice on how to deal with those awkward, unusual and dangerous items such as furniture, medicines, paint, oils & chemicals, tools & hardware, undonatable clothes & linen, medical products & aids, food, medicines and cleaning products.

What To Ask When Selecting a Business To Clear a Home

In this first of a series, I explore the process to sort and distribute items in the home, what to be aware of plus some useful tips.

When the situation arises that you need to clear a home of its contents because a family member has moved elsewhere or passed away, there are many businesses offering these services.  But, the approach they take when sorting and distributing the items varies quite dramatically.

At Clear Space, 100% of the value of all items when sold are returned to the client. It really is the only justifiable outcome.

Some businesses, irrespective of their size or the time they have been operating are opportunistic and to win a job, will quote a low amount.  But in return, they will keep all the contents and therefore, the proceeds from whatever is sold.

Clients will often have little knowledge about the value of the contents and may be easily talked in to handing them over.  “There’s not much value here” is what they’ll be told.

What might look old, have some damage, seem incomplete or be buried somewhere, often will have significant value.  

Take for example the items pictured below. The sideboard is worth hundreds of dollars, despite the general condition and damage. 

This tiny sewing machine oil can sold for $200 and the small box of costume jewellery $165.

And this piece of artwork, that measured only 20cm x 9cm, sold for $700. The examples are endless.

But it’s not just the obvious, in sight, items that need to be considered.

Having been clearing homes since 2012, I regularly find significant amounts of cash, coin & stamp collections, jewellery, investment information, ingots, precious artwork and other valuable items.  That’s because older people prefer to use cash, have deliberately hidden items and sadly, because of dementia, have forgotten about these items.  And family never know.

If the contents of the home were surrendered, these found items, and their value, will be lost forever!

And should you have a role as Executor, you have a duty to ensure that all the financial assets are located, protected and then distributed to the beneficiaries.

Some of the best outcomes is also the sentimental or significant items I find that get returned – war medals, family history, Wills, authored books, financial paperwork, personal letters, family history and property titles are just some examples.

In every instance, these have been returned to the client, much to their relief and delight. 

So when selecting a business to clear a home, ask “who keeps the value of the items sold”?

Look out for the second article in the series “Donating Items Is Not What It Used To Be”

Tips to stop impulsive shopping

It doesn’t matter how good we are at decluttering, or how much we do it, it’s not going to make any difference if we keep acquiring more stuff to take its place.

Shopping impulsively (and compulsively) affects a lot of people. It’s not surprising – culturally we are expected to acquire, and we are encouraged to. We are told by marketing campaigns that life will be better if we just Buy The Thing, and it’s deeply ingrained from a very young age.

Shopping for more than what we actually need causes clutter and can have a negative financial impact, not to mention emotional issues such as guilt and . So here are some tips to reduce the amount of acquiring you do:

  1. Only ever work from a list. Whether it be the weekly grocery list, a Christmas present list, a list of clothes you need or appliances that need replacing. Everything you purchase should already be on a list.
  2. Understand the difference between needs and wants and treat them accordingly. For needs, you are buying things that are necessary for staying safe and healthy. These can just be bought as they pop up. For wants, they should be carefully curated and analysed to make sure they fit the criteria to come into your house.
  3. Ask yourself more questions when shopping. Instead of just “Do I want it?” and “Can I afford it?” also ask yourself “Where will this live?”, “Do I already have something that does the job okay?”, “Is this going to give me value in the long term?”, “Do I have the time and energy to maintain this?”, “Am I going to get value long-term from this?”, “Is the most compelling attribute of this the discount?”. By asking these, you’re being much more intentional about the purchase.
  4. Impose a waiting period on items. If you are tempted to buy something that isn’t already on your ‘to buy’ list, make a decision to wait. If it’s online, put it in the shopping cart then go back to it a week later and see if you still want it. If it’s in a store, leave it there and go back in a week if you still really want it.
  5. Take pleasure in what you already have. Instead of going shopping, go through a box of memorabilia and relive some memories. Make a game of wearing everything in your wardrobe at least once in a month, rearrange your decorative trinkets, or hang some pictures that have been waiting to be hung. Re-purpose something unused (like a vintage ashtray that lives in the back of the cupboard to hold your earrings on your bedside table) or find ways to display items that have been in the back of a cupboard. Use your “special” things for everyday occasions. Using and appreciating your items helps to reduce the need for “new” or “more”.

These are a few ways to reduce how much you buy and bring into your house. Which one do you think you’ll try first?

Questions to ask before you acquire

One of the reasons we get cluttered is because we acquire a fair bit of stuff rather unintentionally. We let bargains and marketing and the need for “newer” or “better” get the upper hand over us.

Instead of asking yourself “Can I afford it?” and “Do I wanted it?” when shopping – ask these questions.

And answer honestly!

  1. Am I just buying this to feel better about my life? You could have the urge to purchase because you feel bad. You might feel anxious, stressed, tired. You might need a dopamine hit or some cheering up and you’ve gone looking for it at the shopping centre. Think hard – is there another way you can feel good without buying? Perhaps going fora walk in nature, watching funny bloopers on YouTube, cuddling a puppy or having a massage might do the trick instead.
  2. Where is this going to live? Do I have space for it? Buying stuff when your home is already full or overflowing is just buying problems. If you can’t think of a helpful home for the item, it would definitely be worth re-thinking the acquisition.
  3. Do I have this on my “to buy” or “need” list? If you’ve previously identified a need for this item (like last week when your kettle shorted out and refused to work) then it can be justified as a need. But if you see a fancy kettle and you think “Ooh, this is nice and it’s 60% off!” and your kettle at home hasn’t bothered you at all until now, then you are simply responding to marketing and don’t actually need it.
  4. Is the price the most enticing thing about this object? This is where you decide whether you actually want the item itself, or you want the thrill of the discount. If you had to pay full price, would you? That’s the test of true need.
  5. How does this item “die”? What happens when you’re finished with it? Does it go into landfill? Wash into the sea? Sometimes by thinking about the whole life cycle of the item, we can be encouraged to leave it on the shelf so that we aren’t contributing to landfill or other environmental issues.
  6. Is this item going to make my life better, and for the long term? Very frequently we buy based on the excitement of something new. A new top, the latest magazine, the new kitchen gadget, the exercise thingy. We buy because we think it will make our lives better. And sometimes in the short term it does, but long term it ends up in the back of a cupboard and ignored. We want to buy things that KEEP paying the rent on the space they take up, not just the deposit!
  7. Do I really need it? Or do I just want it? Perhaps you’re self-soothing and don’t really need the item at all. Usually we buy things we don’t actually need, they’re just for temporary highs. If you can spot this happening, you can avoid it.
  8. Do I already have a similar thing? Often we buy something we already have at home that does most of the job already. We might buy a food processor because the blender doesn’t grate (but we have a grater in the drawer) or we might buy an avocado slicer when we have perfectly adequate knives and spoons that can do the job. Think first – how have you survived so far without it and can you keep on surviving without it?

Your excuses to yourself aren’t helpful

You know what I hear a fair bit of? Excuses.

It’s understandable, and I empathise (after all, most of our behaviour does have a reasonable justification!), but the reality is that excuses are incredibly unhelpful.  They are normal, and expected, and we do it instinctively, but they are still unhelpful in helping us achieve all our goals.

Therefore, it’s vital that we catch them when they show up, and that we challenge them.

If you don’t like your life as it is now, you can’t expect it to change if your behaviour doesn’t. You can’t say “I don’t want to always be in a rush” and then keep adding to your schedule because you “have to do the thing”. You can’t say “I need to declutter” and then be unwilling to stop shopping “but I collect pink glass” or let go because you “plan to make something with it one day”.

Even if it’s unpleasant, the only way things change is if things change.

That means putting up with unpleasant decisions, making difficult choices, making sacrifices and putting in the hard emotional work. This means catching yourself in an excuse (“But I need to keep it for if I ever have grandkids”) and challenging that.

When people invite me into their homes, I don’t, I can’t, just wave a magic wand and solve their issues for them. THEY have to do the hard yards. I’m only there to show them the path, walk it alongside them and to put my hands on their back and gently push should they begin to slide back down the mountain.

You can expect miracles, but only if you work at them and be honest with yourself.

No more excuses, okay? You’ve got this x

A few reasons why you have too many clothes

For those of us that have more clothes than space (and I count myself in that right now because when I unpacked my summer clothes out of rotation last month, I got a shock at how full my wardrobe suddenly was!), then it’s helpful to understand WHY, so that after a declutter, it doesn’t fill back up again.

So here we go – here are some reasons you have more clothes than space:

  1. You don’t have a style guide or curated colour palette. This means you buy things that don’t suit you or “feel like” you (they’re probably on special though, so enticed you anyway), OR they aren’t consistent with other styles in your wardrobe so you find them hard to match up and then don’t wear them. You need more clothes when things don’t match.
  2. You refuse to pay full price. When you shop with a discount in mind, that discount becomes the main reason for buying something. It is so enticing that regardless of the item and its suitability, you buy it anyway. By paying full price for something, however, you are more intentional and deliberate. You don’t compromise at all. You don’t think “well it’s a bit tight under the arms but I’m sure it will be okay” or “This will do for now”. You think “This has to match with several of my other clothes, shoes and accessories, fit perfectly and last me a long time”. And so you only buy it when it promises just that. Paying full price means ultimately buying less items overall.
  3. You don’t shop with a list. When you go shopping without a list, it’s easy to impulse-purchase. It’s easy to buy things you want, instead of things you need. Keep a list at all times (in your head, your phone, in a notebook, wherever!) so that when you’re shopping, you can refer to it when the impulse strikes. Update it regularly (when you are standing in front of your wardrobe thinking “I really need a black singlet for under these tops” or when something gets a hole in it that you can’t repair). Then make a rule for yourself – Only buy things that are on the list.
  4. You can’t let go. Hanging on to clothes we don’t wear anymore is a common behaviour. There are a lot of reasons we stop wearing clothes – we don’t fit into them anymore, they go out of fashion (as I’m getting older I am ignoring fashion more and more though!), they get “tatty” or worn and not suitable for public display. However a lot of the time, we keep them anyway. If you can’t let go, and you keep buying more, it’s only going to get more and more cramped in there.
  5. You follow fast fashion. In the fast fashion industry there are over 50 seasons in a year. That’s a new collection every week. If you strive to keep up with these seasons, you will invariably end up with an over-full wardrobe. The antidote is to be comfortable wearing clothes for many years, and creating a style for yourself that does not depend on trends. Also being selective on what trends you follow can help, too – that will reduce the influx a little.
  6. You haven’t set any boundaries. You buy what you want, when you want it. Your space expands (or compresses!) to fit the clothes, instead of the other way around. Your shoes are in five different locations, your clothes span more than one wardrobe, or have spilled over into tubs in the garage or spare rooms. Set some boundaries on how much space your clothes can take up, then stick to it.

So these are a few areas for you to address if you want to ultimately have a “just right” volume of clothing in your life – give them a go and see how well it works!