Getting rid of stuff

After a lifetime of relentless accretion, getting rid of stuff is a challenge. It is commonly an abrupt reversal of tack, the downhome stretch on the port side. I say downhome because no longer is the objective the limitless open sea. Time to reef the sheets. Very often the perturbation is called downsizing; and, considering the square footage of the modern apartment, the accommodation is less than florid and far from figurative.

George Horan Art – Newfoundland, Canada

Downhome, formerly The Downhomer, is a magazine published monthly by a company in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

The magazine was started in 1988 with the name Downhomer Newspaper. It focuses on lifestyle in Newfoundland and Labrador, with columns like Notes From Home, Family & Friends, Discovery, Healthy Living, Food & Leisure and features submissions by its reader in the forms of stories, poems, photos or letters. It is the largest paid circulation magazine in Atlantic Canada and is #31 among all paid circulation magazines in Canada. More than 50,000 copies of the magazine are published each month and are distributed worldwide. The magazine started as a tabloid publication in the Greater Toronto Area.

To complement the magazine, there are also two Downhome stores, one located in St. John’s and the other in Twillingate. The company also sells items worldwide via its website and runs fundraisers for organizations and schools selling subscriptions and goods.

By one assessement I am fortunate to have grown up in caves. It began at boarding school where the most illustrative things housed were either outgrown, smelly or disintegrating. Nor did my  possessions improve at all in undergraduate when living in the college dorms. And at law school there were two rapierlike hints. In 1st year, my mother punctuated her abbreviated glance at Domus Legis by calling it a rat trap. In 3rd year upon graduation, the auctioneer inspecting my household belongings told me I had to pay him $50 for disposal.

It required application to recover from this historic paucity. But with a little time and a lot of money (borrowed naturally) I managed to stock my rural, urban and professional digs with a lot of stuff. I had always flattered myself to think that if I had paid handsomely for it, I would eventually recoup my losses with dignity. This was an assertion I had not tested. Until then I was in the business of acquisition not disposition. Eventually however it was obvious that age and impending retirement had overtaken my strategic financial planning. It was time to redress the balance of my fortunes and move in the other direction.

The first thing to go was the Steinway grand piano. Since this monologue is about how to get rid of things – not the price at which to do so – I shall confine my humble narrative to the methods of disposition only. In the past decade I have seen several instances where upright pianos were offered free to whomever would collect and remove them. Apparently a piano is as attractive to young families as a collection of sterling silver flatware (basically, if it doesn’t go in the dishwasher, forget it). I was initially unfamiliar with the matter of disposition (though naturally I could speak at length about the withering scoffs advanced by me decades earlier to the Steinway dealer upon acquisition). But the clock had moved. The closest I had come to sales intelligence was the on-line Kijiji site. While it doesn’t have the advantage of security and management, Kijiji proved twice to be reliable, first for sale of the Steinway and subsequently for sale of a Henri Masson painting. The expected prerequisites of cash and proof of identity prevail.

Though I never had occasion to try it, consignment is an option. Here I would think the detail to be investigated is the general sense of vitality and endurance of the consignee.  Consignment sales can take a long time to unfold so you haven’t the predictability of an outcome afforded by auction.

While not an introduction to auctions, I wish to report the success achieved through my solicitor Evelyn Wheeler and her legal assistance Angela Giles when they arranged the auction sale of a deceased client’s real property. I was the executor of the estate. Originally I had anticipated the property would fetch greater return if it were professionally appraised (which it was), then listed for sale accordingly (which it was not).  Instead Wheeler and Giles promoted an afternoon auction at the farm.  The auction was so successful (the price was far and above the appraised value) that the entire commotion at the farm that afternoon was over in minutes.

Thriving upon this latest experience, we subsequently hired an auctioneer to sell the contents of our house. When we left that morning before the sale began, I told the auctioneer I want to see nothing remaining upon our return.  He agreed.  And he was good for his word.

As for the house and office building, we listed both with professional estate agents and responded aggressively to the offers.  No dithering.

For fine art I can speak glowingly of Heffel.  I dealt with the people from Montréal. They did however first require me to pay them (in addition to the subsequent seller’s commission) the cost of refreshing the painting which had suffered some sunlight damage. In all other respects the commerical relationship was sophisticated and appeasing.  Just for your interest in case you’re unfamiliar, buyers in these circumstances normally pay a commission as well.

Months later, like a veritable carpet bagger, I arrived one evening at the Château Laurier Hotel in Ottawa carrying a leather suitcase of my considerable collection of jewellery. I had arranged to meet Mr. Dupuis of Dupuis Fine Jewellery Auctioneers. When we met at the suite, he weighed everything and examined it with a magnifier. I got from him a receipt then departed.  Months later my mother, partner and I watched the live auction over the internet at the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto from the comfort of our patio over lunch and drinks.  Once again the entire lot sold in what seemed to be seconds. And once again it was an exceedingly comfortable transaction overall. There was some time between the initial interview and the final sale; but during that period Dupuis created a handsome magazine of the lots to be sold at auction (which as you might expect was broadcast nationally and internationally).

One addition to this matter of disposition. And that is the reminder that there are always shredders to be hired.  They bring the entire truck to your premises then commence shredding whatever you’ve managed to store needlessly. And when it comes to removal of what furnishings remain to your new (smaller) digs, there are furniture movers who specialize in old people and downsizing. We used Darling Solutions (and were fully satisfied with them) but I have heard there are others.

Kijiji Ottawa

Heffel Fine Art Auction House

Waddinton’s Auctioneers