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DOWNSIZE & DECLUTTER
From Rare Art to Family Heirlooms: Tips From a Master as You Consider Selling Your 'Stuff'

When Anthony Bourdain passed away, he left behind an estate of objects, objects surely with stories. Or not. 

Some stories were no more than, “It belonged to him,” and if you admired his work or his person, maybe that would have been enough to compel you to purchase a piece from his estate auction. Other objects carried the weight of the star and a glimmer of who Anthony Bourdain was in the moment and place when the object became a part of his life. Pieces of his legacy.

Auction Catalog Lark Mason Associates Property of Anthony Bourdain     Bob Kramer Custom Knife for Anthony Bourdain with story about the knife

The auction catalog created for the personal collection of Anthony Bourdain.
 
 
 
So many stories behind those items.

Famous or not, the same is true for the objects of your life. Much of what you own you simply own. It decorates your home or maybe serves some functional requirement—why, hello, Chair. But some objects are more than objects, to you. You know where that print hung above your parents’ sofa. That 3000-piece train collection that was a joy for all and chief resident of your uncle's 500 square foot basement. And don’t forget that seemingly random ceramic jar set. You bought those in a small town outside Lake Garda, Italy, during your honeymoon. 

Other objects come into your life through others, such as the passing of a relative. These are especially challenging objects. You may not know anything about them other than who gave them to you. Maybe you chose a few items to take from your grandmother’s estate or an item was bequeathed to you and you think you can’t go against your grandmother’s wishes and have to hold onto it. 

Objects have histories, people have histories, and it all gets really complicated.

At Artifcts, we simplify and try to alleviate some of the burden stuff can create by making it easy to capture the history, life experiences, and memories behind objects. This holds true whether or not you keep the item.

To understand more about factors to consider when you want to sell an item, we sat down with Lark Mason of Antiques Roadshow fame and who you can often find these days at his New Braunfels, Texas-based auction house Lark Mason Associates. His message was clear: “I wish people understood their own motivations [regarding objects] more. Are they deriving an emotional charge from owning it? Do they want to make money somehow?”

The motivation for selling is vital to Lark Mason Associates because a seller’s motivations can influence whether the sale is a success in the eye of the beholder - What’s the minimum acceptable price? What is the sale timeline? (If you’re in a rush, you may have to forgo some of the value premium in favor of closing the deal.)

So, if you have you decided to sell an item, take Mason’s advice and pause and reflect on your goals and motivations:

        • Are you downsizing and must part with some objects?
        • Do the objects simply no longer fit your lifestyle or current decor, so you want to sell them and use the proceeds to replace them?
        • Do you have legal or financial problems that require you to divest assets?
        • Are these inherited and/or you are charged with dispersing the estate? If there’s a will, what does it say to do with proceeds of any sales (e.g. divide among children, philanthropies, other)?
        • Are you sure you’re ready to let go? Acknowledge your emotional attachments to the items. Artifct to remember and to maybe share those Artifcts with others who have ties to the items. 

As Mason gently noted, once you let go of an item, its identity is changed for good. Someone will bring the object home to a new environment, display it in a new way, not how your grandmother did. Not with the companion pieces or surrounding bookcase. (Although we see attempts to do so! Check out this Artifct.) Not with her favorite music playing in the background. This means then that “Even those ties to what ‘once was’ get weakened over time—now you have random grouping of objects that have been inherited through lethargy, financial, and emotional connections—and shift,” said Mason. 

We know the content of Bourdain’s personal collection moved on to new homes, and to Mason’s point, they likely took on new identities. Maybe the chef’s knife is no longer actively used and sits encased. Or his desk has become a foray table featuring photos of a family Bourdain never met. So it goes for him and for all of us. 

But what legacy do you want to leave behind? And how will you make the most of the objects you accumulate as you live your life? Documenting and readying them for sale is one option, and Artifcts is here to help guide and support you if you do.

Happy Artifcting!

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If you have items you would like to consign or auction through Lark Mason Associates or are in the market for a new piece, visit https://www.larkmasonassociates.com. 

© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Pint-Sized Perspective on Decluttering and Moving

This piece for ARTIcles was inspired by a neighbor who spoke with Artifcts co-founder Ellen Goodwin about the woes of all that "kid stuff" to get through in preparation for a move this summer. Thank you for being our muse! And if you missed our adult-sized version of decluttering to move, give it a read ->  

From the time Violet was a baby and stretching well into toddlerhood, she moved a lot, bopping around Maryland, Virginia, and Texas. Her age made it easier on us, the parents, in that she didn't fully realize what was happening. She was also in a phase of life during which she naturally was outgrowing everything from books and toys to baby furniture and clothing at a fast pace, so purging during each move was simplified a bit. 

Then she turned six.  

"I'm ooo-l-d," she whined. Insert palm in face on every parent who hears this sweet nonsense. Mitigating her pain somewhat was the fact that her 6th birthday was in fact extra special - it fell on Easter. So, we called it "B-Easter," and managed an impromptu egg hunt blended with tea party, followed by chalk, bubbles, kites, and bikes. Not bad! 

photo of chalk on pavement "Happy B-Easter"

What we were less prepared for was the storm brewing behind this sweet looking little Texan's face after sharing a few days later that they would be moving. You'd think we stole her puppy! "But you did make a New Year's Resolution to buy a house this year," teased my husband. (True story! What kind of "resolution" is that?!) 

Violet began plotting. How could she pack EVERYTHING? How could she make her new home JUST like her current home? She packed boxes herself. She filled bags and tried knotting them closed before I could even look and confirm it was really just full of her Beanie Boos. It was cute and annoying simultaneously. We had to get going! 

colorful collection of Beanie BoosClick the image to view the Beanie Boo collection Artifct.

While the word "fair" is banned in our household Try it! It's amazing how many other, more informative words your kid will use when fair is off the table it was deemed "fair game" to use her passions and personality to help manage the situation. Decluttering was going to happen as packing proceeded. Not everything was getting on the moving truck, whether you were 6 or 36. And we did not want to end enemies.  

Tried & Tested Pint-Sized Strategies

Here are the strategies we used with our 6-year-old, and more recently with a set of adult children who were equally disinclined to part ways with a lot of stuff all at once.  

  1. Don't make it an "all at once" task. Friendly disclaimer: We know, sometimes a move is unexpected and abrupt. This then does not apply. In general, you have some notice, maybe even months, to prepare for a move. Consider starting with your child's least used and noticeable items in deep drawers, backs of closets, bins and boxes that have collected dust, and 'stuff' that truly doesn't fit (or work!) anymore. Something small each weekend. Let them play and experience it one last time if they want as they sort into piles to rehome, donate, recycle, resell, or maybe even trash. Smallest box is for the move.  
     
  2. And time it. Ask them to focus on the task for no more than 15 minutes. For 6-year-old Violet that was less than one episode of Sofia the First and totally manageable.  
     
  3. Know thy child. Appeal to sweet spots. Violet loves, loves, loves to be a helper. Extending that to helping others who have unmet needs for new books, clothes, and toys was a major source of success and pride. She even made cards to go with her donations. And the donations were not generic. We brought some into a women's shelter, for example, where we knew who would directly benefit locally. Seeing is believing, even when you're six. 
     
  4. Take photos and videos (and Artifct it!) of special items that don't make the cut. Have you noticed how kids of all ages, even at 56, love to browse photos and videos on their phone, in social media, etc.? We even have a video of 2-year-old Violet dancing and the moment she stops you can hear her say, "I want to see!" Sometimes you just like to see something to trigger that happy nostalgia or moments of pride from that hard one roller skating derby or large collections of anything that can't possibly come or maybe will but cannot be displayed in its entirety.  
     
  5. Embrace porch or garage sales. There's simple logic in favor of selling a large amount of 'stuff' even for low prices and gaining the power to buy that new whiz-bang toy or container of slime or funny hat all by yourself! Kids don't generally have money of their own and this is a good opportunity to reward their help in the decluttering process. Violet sold books she'd outgrown and a several movies too. 
     

Special Case: Moving to a New Country

Another friendly disclaimer: In a country as large as the US, another state can sure feel like another country ... No matter the excitement and motivation to make the leap and move to a foreign country, I empathize with what you will go through in terms of energy, cost, and general discombobulation. Every move we made was hard but heading into a foreign culture amplifies the desire for the comfort familiar objects, foods, music, and more can offer.  

International moving and shipping fees, or conversely long-term self-storage fees, may mean your decluttering and downsizing tasks are more extreme. This is definitely a time Artifcts can help. Want to show off your transformer collection ... special dolls ... cool bike ... but can't take them with you? Artifct to remember and show your new friends what your life was like in your home country! 

We bet you can adapt these ideas to your own kids. Or, if you are a professional organizer, we hope these tactics can help you as you work with clients in similar situations.

Happy Artifcting! 

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Father, World Traveler, and Now Downsizer: The True Story of One Man's Triumph Over 'Stuff'

World traveler and five kids. Need I say more to justify how so much stuff can accumulate over time?

At one point in my life, I was moving every few years - living in four different countries overseas in a span of what seemed like no time at all. I've lived the last 19 years in the same house without the natural “cleansing” of a move (although I’ll admit I once had a trash canwith trashthat got packed and moved). And now, as the fourth child goes to college and we have only one left at home, it's time to downsize. It's time to change the narrative of our daily lives.

The children's reactions so far have included stress, from the change, and frustration with the perceived erasing of memories as we ask them to realize they’re moving on and we want to as well. As a person who looks to logic to control emotion and justify circumstances, I try to rationalize that the memories are just that, memories that cannot be taken away. However, those memories are triggered by objects that connect me to a specific time or moment in my past. Objects that often have stories behind them. 

Picture of a cardboard box full of sticks, rocks, and railroad ties

 
 
 
 
Some people tell fish tales. This Artifct is about survival.
 
 
Click the image to view the Artifct.

I’ve realized during this downsizing process just how many of my memories exist in boxes that no one has laid eyes on for a decade or more. If I had collected an actual object to trigger each memory I wish I could recall, I would have run out of space long ago. I've also accepted that nobody, including me, will reminisce those forgotten times or places if those memory triggers are not available.

Along came Artifcts. As I downsize not only what's around the house, in my office, and otherwise a part of our daily lives, but also everything that remained in boxes for decades, I’ve started documenting them in Artifcts.

1980 yearbook from Stonewall "Sabres" Middle School in Manassas, Virginia

Well, hello yearbooks! Click to view the Artifct.

 

It’s much easier for me to share and show those objects, and more frequently recall and tell the stories, using the ‘story box’ (aka the Artifcts app) I now carry around in my phone. There’s little chance of me being near my real boxes of stuff when I want to humble-brag about an object or tell a story about a commonality I discover with someone I've just met. But I’m almost guaranteed to have my phone on hand and the Artifcts app with it.

With Artifcts, I’m also more apt to capture and preserve the objects and stories in the moment as I acquire something (or even sometimes skip the acquisition and just document the memory). Just as importantly, I realized I'm regularly using Artifcts to capture memories as I go through boxes with my mother and other family members, and I have them tell the stories. When a loved one is gone, or I’m gone, it gives me great solace to know my memories can carry on and be used to tell the next generation about what Dad or Grandpop had and did in life. All these little objects form a mosaic, painting a wonderful picture of why we are who we are.

Again, it's rarely the actual object that’s important. It’s the memories triggered by the objects. Artifcts has enabled me to let the objects go as I downsize, or consciously document the importance of an object I keep so my kids will understand what it is when I’m not around to tell the story. Until then, I want to easily access to my objects, or memory triggers, so I can tell the story in person. My kids will probably want a “number of stories told” counter added to Artifcts so they can limit the number of times I reminisce. But reminiscing is a parental right, right?

- Matt Ramsey

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Who Wants This Rocking Chair?
You have likely heard the expression "fast fashion." Today I'm fixated on "fast furniture." Relatively cheaply made so we can all afford it and maybe have fun trying new and trending styles, it wears out all too quickly and then off to the landfill it goes. Shockingly, the EPA estimates that 9 million U.S. tons of furniture and furnishings hit the landfills every single year.
Of course it is not all fast furniture to blame. Sometimes no one wants it anymore, it has irreparable damage, and/or it fails to meet today's safety standards and cannot be donated or resold through secondhand stores. Our options then are to cart it around and use or store it out of guilt because of the memories and the distaste for so much waste in the world. Or, yes, we send it off hopefully to be recycled but more than likely to accumulate in landfills.
I have an item I fear is on this pathway. It is a children's sized wooden rocking chair gifted to my siblings and me by our grandmother. My mother let me bring to my home so my daughter could use it. Now littles in the neighborhood enjoy it. But, what next, when they too outgrow it? Do I keep it forever? Really?! I don't think guilt hoarding is a legacy my grandmother is aiming for.
 
Ellen and Violet, generation apart, same wooden rocking chairClick the image to view the Artifct.
I've watched throughout the pandemic as truckloads of "junk" head out of our neighborhood. I suspect it's because we were all spending dramatically more time at home and maybe felt restless or like the walls were closing in, so "Let's make more space!" because that, that we can control.
And now I wonder: What are you holding onto? What do you have luxuriating in pricey, climate-controlled storage, aka your home or paid self-storage, and consuming more money than it might be worth (from a sentimental and/or market value)? And, what's your plan for it all?
List of categories of items people tend to hang onto
Share with us on social media or, even better, Artifct it and share via Hello@Artifcts.com and maybe we'll feature it and your story!
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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Bonus Epilogue: Lessons From Artifcting With My Mother

Whether your parents were cleaning out their basement, or you were reclaiming bins of childhood memories of your own volition, maybe you have also stumbled upon heirlooms that made you go, "Hmmm?" Enjoy this short epilogue to this week's ARTIcles story Five Lessons From Artifcting With My Mother. We hope it makes you smile.

I'm not much of a collector, certainly not a hoarder. And yet guess what I found in my mish-mash dresser drawer - teeth. An uncontained, random assortment of Violet's baby teeth.

random baby tooth in a drawer

Before you rush to judgment, hear me (and surely other parents!) out.

Far too often I would lay down to sleep only to bolt up with the, "Agh! I'm the tooth fairy!" realization. I’d rush out to contrive something clever to swap for the tooth she'd lost, usually a dollar coin or a paper dollar folded origami style into a heart. Then I'd toss the tooth in said drawer to avoid her finding it in the trash or elsewhere and promptly forget about it after drifting to sleep.

Now, those Victorians knew a thing or two about saving hair and teeth. But we are not in Victorian times. I even understand the idea of going off on a trip or to even war and bringing a lock of hair with for luck or remembrance. But I am genuinely curious as to why so many people choose to keep these human relics in modern times, a trend I assume exists because companies exist to help us transform them into jewelry, framed wonders, and more.

Even my mother saved locks of hair I had cut off as a child.
Envelope marked in pencil with description of hair locks inside
Upon discovery, I Artifcted it (here - or click the image above), and promptly tossed it, or, if you prefer, "decluttered" and let it go. No judgement whatsoever on my mom, but for me it was a hard, "No."

I would beseech anyone who keeps hair or teeth as heirlooms to Artifct them. Why did you keep them? What memories do they evoke? Will you be heartbroken and haunt the living if they one day choose to let go of them because they see them as trash not heirlooms? My mom gave me free rein to do as I pleased with my locks of hair, but not everyone may feel the same.

If you have questions along the way, contact us here at Hello@Artifcts.com and we’ll be happy to help you jump into the Arti Life.
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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Five Lessons From Artifcting With My Mother

I recently spent a few days back home in rural Wisconsin Artifcting with my mother. And guess what, we're still on speaking terms! I’m not a minimalist, but I do like to keep control of how much stuff is in my small home. Otherwise, I feel like it just zaps my mental energy. My mom is more sentimental and tends to hold onto things “just in case” so our styles can … clash. (Or at least seem to. Read a-ll the way to the end.)

Living in a 100+ year old farmhouse for the last 40+ years means that my parents have had a lot of time to accumulate and collect a delightful array of 'stuff.' As I'd hold up another object, open another drawer, or pull out still more boxes, the common refrain from my mother was, "I just set that aside to deal with another time." Sound familiar?

As a business owner and an adult child (and now parent myself), you can imagine I took a lot of mental notes along the way as we Artifcted together. I asked my mom for her notes, too, and am sharing our combined insights here to help you as you organize, declutter, downsize, or simply take a pause to reminisce and Artifct along the way. 

Two quick points before we dive in. For context, my mom did not have items pulled out ready to Artifct, because my visit was a surprise. I had a list I wanted to ask about – and we did work through it! – but we started working in my parents’ old bedroom, which they now use for storage. We had plenty of boxes, bags, closets, cedar chests and more to work with. Also, we Artifcted on mobile, iPad, and laptop to find the format that my mom liked best. Verdict: iPad.  

handwritten list of objects on notepad

Lesson #1. Know your goal.

My parents are not moving anytime soon. And the two of them occupy very little square footage in their home. There is no immediate need to get rid of anything. So, what then was our goal? Honestly, I wanted to start to become a bit more aware of which objects in my parents’ home had hidden meaning to them. My dad was more interested in a bit of clean out. My mom just wanted to spend time together, Artifcting. She said, “It’s fun to enjoy the process and remember along the way. You have to think, 'Hmm, why did I keep this thing?'” What this meant then was that as long as we created a few Artifcts together and had some recycling, trash, and donations to show for our time, we would please everyone. 

What and how much you want to Artifct is a key question, too, for us when the Artifcts team works in person with people through our concierge services. That way, everyone is pleased to have met mutually agreed goals. 

Lesson #2. Is anything off limits? 

I think by virtue of having moved so many times as an adult and living in a small house with an open floor plan with very little storage, there’s really nothing off limits in my home. My mom was more anxious about me digging into cedar chests, boxes, and paperwork without her first going through it. She wasn’t even sure what she had or what I would trip over, and she wanted to make the discovery first. Totally fine! We found a system so she could see or speak to an item first and then I’d help organize items for Artifcting, giving to another family member (usually one of my siblings), disposing, donating, or otherwise rehoming. 

Lesson #3. Take breaks to photograph. 

We wanted to get through large amounts of ‘stuff,’ but we also wanted to put things where they belonged to keep our working space clear. So, we’d take breaks to photograph items we wanted to Artifct later. These photo breaks were nice stress relievers, too, because sorting through so much can be a bit tiring and emotionally straining as you are washed by wave after wave of nostalgia. We’d also grab coffee and a snack during this break. 

Lesson #4. If you’re together, get the full story. 

Time is the devil. We all know this, but we like to ignore it. My brother was out of town, but I had my parents, my sister, and extended family (just an email or text message away) to help fill in the blanks about the history or backstory of photos and items we came across. We used these family resources then and there, sometimes even recording video or audio of the funnier or sappier stories on the fly (Check out tips for audio & video in our FAQs!), to capture what we could.

Sometimes we were unsuccessful in that the long history – “Who gave this to you, and when?” – was lost already but the current history – “I’ve just always loved this pin.” or “My sister gave it to me for a gift at some point.” – was a compelling reason in and of itself to Artifct an item. 

Vintage flower pin with gold trim  vintage red floral apron with wooden handled wire pastry blender

Click either image to view the related Artifct!

Lesson #5. Glad I asked! 

Some 'stuff' really is just stuff. No great story or history attached. At least you won’t have to wonder and stress about it one day if your friend or family member is no longer here and you are helping to disperse the estate. That chest of drawers you think is interesting? Those old matching sweatshirts? They look cool and served a purpose, but they have no remarkable stories. Totally fine. Keep and use or move along to someone else who will. No guilt! (Side note: My mom wasn't interested in the sweatshirts anymore, but I was and even had my own story to layer on top of them!)

Chicago paper company two-drawer cabinet     Vintage matching sweatshirts for Jimmy and Ding Dong

When I returned to Austin and took a look around my home, I had an ah-ha moment that would surely make my mother feel vindicated because as it turns out our styles do not clash as much as it may seem. When she insisted on keeping multiple bags of old blankets because, "They're wool and could someday make good quilt lining," I took a breath and moved on but was frustrated.

I was thinking that surely at 70+ years old my mom has a good idea whether quilting will actually be a part of her future, even if she lives to 100. And, yet, I admit, I have bins in my attic with undergrad and grad school papers and books. Why? I always think, "What if I decide to teach?" you know, become a "professor of practice." Thing is, even if I did, would I really go back to these papers? And if that were remotely useful, why not just scan them and file neatly with a backup in the cloud. Okay, okay, Mom, keep your ratty old wool blankets. 

Now, everyone, if you get nothing else from this tale, remember, these Artifcts are for you. So, enjoy. Find the pace and process that works for you!

Happy Artifcting (with Mom)! 

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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