05 May 2016

Downsizing - where should I sell my things

When you are liquidating everything, an estate sale is a great option, You can find estate sales and auctions, and list your own, on the Estate Sales site. They have an app for your iPhone and Google Play too.

What else should you consider for moving things on to new homes?

  • Garage / Yard sales. Great for items under $100. CASH only. Picture it as a way to move things you wouldn't take the time to list on Craiglist or similar. 
  • Craigslist.  I've certainly moved a lot of things on via Craigslist. Really good for large items that are lower cost and still in good condition and available for local buyers. You'll want to create an account, create an accurate (read honest) description and then put up images. I try to include measurements because I've found people really appreciate that. Items prices right move quickly. Only sell to people that will pick up the items. CASH only. For smaller items, meet the buyer in a public place, bring your cellular phone and another person too. I try to avoid having people come into the house. Have a high value item? Meet the buyer at your local police station. 
  • eBay. Worldwide exposure for your items. You'll need to set up an account. Create a descriptive and accurate ad for your item. Take lots of good quality images to showcase your item. I like PayPal and you and the buyer are both protected by using that system. eBay takes a percentage and it could be as much as 13%. Always require a signature when shipping items. 
  • Resale shop. This is an alternative to donating your items. Figure you'll pay about 25% of the sale price to the shop. If I am looking at this as an option, I often end up donating the items and taking a tax deduction. 
  • Consignment Shops. You'll be splitting the sale price with the shop. If they are generous, it will likely be 40% for you and 60% for them, more likely the split will be 30/70. Make sure you know the rules ahead of time. How long do they keep the item? Will they continue to discount the price until the item sells? If you don't pick up the piece after a specified amount of time does the store get to keep the item? 
  • Family Jewels. Try not to be surprised when the glittery stuff fails to sell for what you think it is worth. Don't waste your time shipping gold off to an "as seen on TV" store, you won't necessarily get the best price for it that way. Follow gold pricing for a few days to see what it is selling for.  
  • Auctions. These are best for high-end (really high end, not just high-end in your mind) items. Figure on 10-15% of your sale price going to the auction house. 
  • Collectors. This is more for reselling rare books and collectible coins, For the most part, your Franklin Mint and similar collectibles, art prints (yes, even the signed and numbers ones) are  not likely to be valuable for resale. Do some research to find out where collectors of your type of items go and then go there too.  
  • Pawn Shops. Avoid on the selling side, but you may find some deals if you are buying,,, but this isn't about adding items! Pawn shops pay about 10-cents on the dollar so you're not likely to be rolling in cash using this method. 

04 May 2016

Downsizing - How to sort through things

There are some tips to help you get started on the sort and I've found them to be pretty helpful in my projects.

Do I Love It? Do I Need It? Will I Use It? If you don't have one "yes" in this group of questions, the item should go. Work really hard to not keep things because "it will come in handy someday" trust me, someday never comes.

One thing at a time. Instead of looking at the entire house, take one small segment at a time. Yes, even one drawer is an accomplishment. One drawer, one closet, one dresser, one room. You get the idea.

Choose what you are keeping. I know! Revolutionary idea! If you consciously decide what stays it makes it easier. When I recently sorted my closet, I took everything out and then put back the things I love. So much simpler!

I'll do it tomorrow. You know better than that! Do it now! Sort frequently and your life will be better for it. Resist the temptation on consumerism.

Talk through it. Sometimes it's hard to let things go and talking about what the challenges are makes it simpler. You feel guilty about letting something go. Don't let this keep you from moving things on. Just because something worked great in your parent's house doesn't mean you need to keep it forever. Someday never comes so let those things go so you are living in the now. Sentimental value can be wonderful but not if it control everything in your life. Keep the memories, not all the material goods.

Life is worth living in the present. You'll be able to have a much better time living in the present if you keep sorting, selling and clearing out things on a regular basis. Less really is more.

03 May 2016

Downsizing - facing your mortality

I had no idea when I started sorting through things how much impact that would have on me. It was the weirdest combination of things including staring right at mortality, mine and other peoples. What things I've loved in life and things I regret, the regrets are mostly things I didn't do rather than things I did... although there are a few choices I might make differently.

What makes it so hard? For me it is the basics of love, loss, family and friends, growing up, Then factor in the memories attached to every item -- some of them clearly no longer useful, but the image of their role in childhood is deeply ingrained in them. I'm not sure if I was fearful that moving them on would remove the memory too. Foolish I know, but nonetheless it was lurking in the sorting process. Sorting was cathartic, like becoming a grownup in a painful and sometimes traumatic way.

I noticed as we were sorting things there was a shift from things to emotional attachments to the things. The emotional piece was really strong since both our parents were gone and that was unexpected. The fragility of life was painfully obvious as the sorting began. We knew the things weren't the people, but sometimes it is hard to see that as you are working through the goods.

Biggest tip? Remind yourself that letting something go does not diminish how you felt about the person it belonged to. This might be hard initially, but it will get simpler as you keep practicing.

Thanks for stopping past, more to come in future posts.

02 May 2016

Small House Living - Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash

What are we going to do with all this stuff? I can't tell you how many times we have said that in the past 10-years. My big tip right now is get rid of as much as possible now so your family and friends don't have to do it once you are dead.

When you are standing and looking at all the goods, it often seems like you are looking into a museum of your family's history. Sure, some of the stuff is complete junk, but all of it is likely laden with memories, and those have the potential to be really powerful.

We live in an age of consumerism, and I'm hoping that you won't have to deal with too much craptastic items when you are faced with the sort. P.S. if you think we aren't in the age of consumerism, do a quick Internet search on Declutter or Self-Storage and see what you find.

Don't kid yourself that everything you see is just stuff. It will take on a life of its own, so be prepared for that and you'll do a better job of handling the experience. Yes, memories have lots of impact on the experience, but you will make it through.

One of the hardest things for me was keeping the focus on clearing out and liquidating at our parent's home. Frankly I am still working on it although the goods are not located in that house anymore. I'm working on my own house too and seeing the liquidation as potential cash makes it a little simpler. I'm not trashing memories, I'm giving us more money to live on.

Not wanting to overwhelm you so will continue this in the next post. Thanks for stopping past!

29 April 2016

Downsizing - what to do with photographs

What should you do with all those photographs? The easiest thing to do is keep only the very best ones. Any photos that are out of focus, too dark, too light, or are not making you happy should go. (This applies to printed photos as well as your digital images.)

If you're wondering what are the best images, keep in mind that they may not be the posed portrait images. You may have favorites that show people living their lives. For us, it often involves dogs, horses, funny faces, sticking our head through themed cut outs. You'll know the ones that make you feel good.

Share your images with people! Family and friends appreciate getting images, and I've been known to send old photos off with notes that instruct people to keep them.

Make you life, and those of people you love, easier. Label all your images on the back with names, dates, locations and other important information if you know it. There are specially made pencils for writing on the back of photographs, or use a soft lead (#2) pencil. Family Tree Magazine has some additional tips at their site too.

When you are writing people's names on the back of images, be sure to use their actual names. Grandpa may make sense to you, but down the road that won't be helpful to other people. List them by first and last name and if you want to make genealogy folks happy, list women by First Name (Maiden Last Name) Married Last Name.

Boxes of Photos - I love this for family members, and children in particular. Toss your best labeled images into an archival box and mark the outside with the person's name and the date range of the images. Simpler than keeping up on photo albums and easily transported when your child moves to their own place.

Movies - okay, not really a photo, but you will want to take your old film and get it updated to a more modern alternative. Right now that is DVDs, and it will provably change, but having backups is a good plan.

What are your favorite tips for preserving your photos?

25 April 2016

Downsizing - Trash or Treasure

We sorted through our first house (pictured above), subsequent houses and my parents house and there was so much in those to try and decide what was trash or treasure. (You'll want to hire an appraiser to help you on some items, it really is worth it.)

OT, or Obvious Trash. Spoiled food in the fridge, medicines that are beyond date, burned out bulbs, badly chipped or cracked plates and glasses, those are all trash. That being said, don't get overzealous about throwing things away, you'll want to sort and then consult with family (or friends) on what to do with things.

Are you planning a sale or auction? Have some professionals come to your place and look at the estate before you start tossing things out or having them hauled away. Having professionals come help you will let you know if things you think are "worthless" are really valuable to someone else.

Some things I found to be worth more than anticipated included

  • Some of my husband's old cereal boxes 
  • Rag rugs - and some of those were really ratty looking
  • Old textiles and linens (oh how I wish I had the set up to use some of those I kept)
  • Empty (you read that correctly) perfume bottles
  • Vintage clothing (ask your pros what decades are most popular) 
  • Postcards, even the ones that have writing on them 
From the clean out of the Ohio house, we learned how important it is to look through books, papers, "empty" envelopes, old purses, pockets of clothing, inside the walls of bathrooms, behind the wall of the bathtub, in the walls of the garage, buried in the yard. So many options!

Before you throw out Christmas cards, maps, manuals and sales receipts, check to see if they are of interest to your local historical society. I've sent plenty of things on to local and national historical societies and it feels good to do that too. 

23 April 2016

Minnesota Horse Expo 2016: Has the show lost its focus?

Another year and another Minnesota Horse Expo. This time, like last time, it was bigger than ever. More people were wandering around more booths than ever eyeing items in spectacular abundance.  

  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing 
  • Drink plenty of water 
  • Get to the event early 
  • If you freak out when you step in manure, look where you are walking
  • Baby strollers 
    • These are NOT battering rams so please stop running into other visitors
    • If you are not horse / dog savvy, you'll want to pay attention to where your stroller is in relation to dog's heads and horse's legs
  • Plan which seminars / demos you want to attend so you see what you want
  • Attend on a weekday rather than a weekend day for smaller crowds (Gloomy / rainy days are also lighter attended) 
  • Visit speakers / clinicians at their booth. These folks are generally approachable and like to meet with people. Stop past and ask questions. 
  • Bring cash for admission and food. Vendors will likely take credit cards, but some food stands do not. 

This year it didn't feel like there were any great new standout items. No next best thing that defined a category and got everyone talking.  

This year, the Expo seemed much less focused on horses and horse-related products. There were some new trucks and trailers, some new colors and styles in tack and togs, and every building felt like the last one with the style of vendors. 

As we walked the show, it felt like we were at the Minnesota State Fair in the Grandstand building with all the hucksters. We noticed a lot of repeat businesses, not the same company but a lot that do or offer the same things. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I don't need any more moisturizers or warming packs. 

This is a great venue to see unusual breeds that you may not encounter elsewhere. They offer a brief parade of breeds in the Lee and Rose Warner Coliseum (always the Hippodrome to me) and that is a good chance to see the breeds and hear a little about them. If you don't care to walk the entire event, there are horse drawn wagons to take you from one end to the other end. 

Depending on what you want to learn, there are some good chances to see speakers and clinicians. Some of these are definitely better than others. I cringed when the gaited horse clinician was talking about how a demo horse was trotting and it was actually pacing, but perhaps most people don't know the difference or don't care. We watched a little musical dressage too, and it was being performed well, but it may be a little too dull for people that aren't dedicated to that part of the horse world or don't know much about horses. 

There are lots of options for food at the expo. We went with the sausage booth outside the horse barn and got 3 Italian Sausages on steamed Italian bread for $27. They came with onions and sauerkraut for the price and were really tasty. The sausages came from Brother's Meat and Seafood in Maple Grove in case you want to replicate something at home. 

Best tip here is get to the show early. I prefer to dedicate my walking while being at the event rather than walking from a parking lot that feels like it is in a different county. We were there early enough to park and then have some great fun people watching as sales reps, horsemen and other vendors wandered past. 

19 April 2016

Laid off at 59.5, now what?

It's always challenging to have a change in job situations, and it gets worse and worse as you get older. If you are over 40, the feds recognize that you are at risk for age discrimination. Now imagine how that looks when you are nudging 60. Based on some of the human resources folks I have talked to, you may be in the discrimination bracket at 35 -- that's fairly discouraging.

An interesting twist is when you get laid off and you're too young to collect retirement benefits and too old to be considered viable by many employers. Welcome to limbo, it is an unpleasant place.

Things to consider as you are encountering life changes from some of the folks I consider experts.

  • FINANCES - how are you doing money-wise? Are you able to collect unemployment? How long are you able to go without a check before you run out of money? Do you really need to make as much money as you were making? As my favorite financial expert shared, "You can retire anytime, it's just a matter of how well."
  • RESET / REVAMP - Have you been toiling away at a job you don't like? (Yes, there are actually people out there that love what they do!) This might be a great opportunity to figure out what you really want to do when you grown up. This is the time to figure out what you really want to do and what will make you happy.
  • START YOUR OWN BUSINESS - if you have skills that work well for hanging out your own shingle or doing some consulting, that might be a great place to get started. Take advantage of the help from experts at SCORE, a national nonprofit affiliated with the Small Business Administration 

If you decide that finding another job is best for your situation and you are 62 or older, be ready to make about 36% less than you were making before. More in my age range? Those 50-61 see an average pay cut of 20%. (It's all sunshine and lollipops out there!) If you think you'll hold out for a wage that matches what you were making, you're probably making a mistake. Find ways to fill in the gaps with benefits, perks or other ways to add money to the offer. 

Want some more great news -- where is sarcastic font when I need it? You may need to take a job for the health benefits and it won't matter what the salary amount is. A little reality shock in our world, when my husband was laid off our health insurance costs are now more than our monthly rent. Health coverage for the two of us is $1,500 per month with a $6,000 deductible for each person - that means we pay the monthly premiums and all of  the medical expenses up to a total of $12,000 for the two of us. Any Rx is out of pocket too. I'm just happy the insurance companies aren't suffering.... (Oops, almost jumped on the soapbox, but that is for a different day.)

Have you taken time to rethink how long you will be working? I believe that our situation from 2008 onward (recession my arse) indicates that we will work until the day we die in the traces while someone beats us in the street in hopes that we will get up and keep pulling that cart. 

Do you have the fear that you won't find a job and won't make it 62 for collecting social security? Join the club, all the people in this boat are afraid of that. Lots of things factor in on when to start collecting. Are you in decent shape? You may be able to wait. Currently waiting until 67 to collect gives you the best pay out, or even better wait until you are 70 if you can afford it. Can't wait until 67 or 70? You can start collecting at 62. You'll be able to find out your Social Security estimate with their online estimator tool You may want to find a financial adviser to help you too. Make sure they are a fiduciary so you aren't paying more than your fair share to get assistance. 

Good luck! 

17 April 2016

Who owns whom MARS Petcare and Blue Pearl Veterinary and Banfield Pet Hospital

BluePearl joins Mars Petcare, owner of Banfield Pet Hospitals

Mars Petcare likes the DVM business, and why wouldn't they? Adding Blue Pearl to their current DVM business, Banfield Pet Hospital* making Mars the largest pet nutrition and veterinary care provider in the world. 
BluePearl CEO Darryl Shaw said,“We will continue to operate as a separate, distinct business unit maintaining our absolute commitment to serving the primary care veterinary communities where we operate hospitals because we know these relationships provide the necessary foundation for the best possible care for our patients,” he says. “We will also continue our commitment to offer high-quality referral specialty and emergency care and, consistent with our historical model, we will not offer primary care services.” 

Mars is no stranger to the pet industry with more than 70 years in the marketplace and 38 pet-related brands. It is the largest, fastest growing segment of the Mars business. Mars has more than 37,000 employees in 60 countries. Mars Petcare purchased the IAMS, Eukanuba and Natura brands from Procter and Gamble in 2014 for $2.9 Billion. 

Banfield Pet Hospital was acquired in 2007 and now has over 900 hospitals in the United States and Puerto Rico with over 3,200 veterinarians. 

BluePearl started in 1996 when Darryl Shaw and his brother Dr Neil Shaw started a private practice in Tampa, Florida. Their company merged with Veterinary Specialty and Emergency of Kansas City to create BluePearl Veterinary Partners in 2008. They now have 53 locations and over over 3,000 employees, a little over 600 of those are veterinarians. 

14 April 2016

Neighbor barking dog letter

Welcome to passive-aggressive Maple Grove, Minnesota! Thankfully this is not my neighbor, but I feel badly for anyone living in this neighborhood.

I saw this note (which is redacted and has two underlines in red that I added, one for a weird word and one suggesting people call 911) on Easter Sunday while at friends for dinner. "Sincerely Your Neighbor" did not share their address, used a generic "Dear Neighbor" and mailed it from the main Minneapolis post office to keep themselves anonymous.

The gutless sender references a dog barking ordinance which has much more particulars than dog barks and you should speed dial the local police via 911, but don't let those details get in the way of bitching about your neighbor's dog.

Are these neighbors sure that is where the dog barking is coming from? They certainly had not contacted the people in the house before sending their neighborly letter out to folks. Did only the folks in the neighborhood with dogs get the letter or was it blanketed to everyone? Makes me wonder if "Sincerely Your Neighbor" is just full of crap hot air.

What should you try if you have a barking dog, crazy party, never ending leaf blowers? How about starting with politely asking them to keep it down?  If that doesn't work you could send out a letter, but you might actually want to sign it and own your work. (I know, that really goes against the "Minnesota Nice" passive-aggressive method, but hey, give it a go. If it is really bad you could contact the local police, but this is NOT a 911 issue. I know Maple Grove is a fairly safe community, but random barking dog is NOT an emergency.

Bottom line? Put you big girl (or big boy) panties on and try communicating with your neighbors first. In case "Sincerely Your Neighbor" reads this, I did check with your local police and they do NOT recommend calling 911 for a barking dog.

17 March 2016

The Periodic Table of SEO Success

This summarizes what I use when working with clients. Search Engine Land has done a wonderful job of putting together an easy infographic for sharing.

Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

22 February 2016

Parker's Lake Cemetery Plymouth, Hennepin County, Minnesota

Some headstones from Parker's Lake Cemetery Plymouth, Hennepin County, Minnesota. These are not my family, but if they are someone that fits yours, feel free to use the images.