As a certified professional organizer, Vickie Dellaquila knows how common it is for people to have unrealistic expectations about the value of their household goods.
"Silver is a good example. I have a client who got a lot of silver at her wedding in the 1940s," Ms. Dellaquila said, adding that the woman thought the utensils were worth $500. But the used flatware was made of silver plate instead of sterling silver, making it worth a lot less -- about $20.
Ms. Dellaquila's clients often think vintage furs will fetch a high price and are disappointed.
"Sometimes they are valuable, but a lot of times they are not. It just depends on their condition. You are better off consigning an old fur to a high-end vintage clothing store instead of trying to sell it on eBay. Somebody has to touch it," before buying it, Ms. Dellaquila said, adding that "somebody has to want to buy it."
If you turn over your possessions to an eBay broker, remember that he will often take as much as 40 percent of the sale proceeds as a fee.
"It's a lot of work to sell on eBay. You have to know what you're talking about and how to list the item. You're shipping out of the country. People who do it full time know how to do it. You have to take good photographs," Ms. Dellaquila said.
People who say they want to hire an appraiser often balk when they learn the fee could be as high as $500, depending on what is being appraised.
"Usually, that stops them. Maybe the collection of Precious Moments doesn't need to be appraised," she said.
If you are cleaning out a house full of mementos after a relative's death or downsizing and moving to a smaller living space, here are some dos and don'ts from Ms. Dellaquilla.
• "Talk to somebody -- a professional antique dealer, an estate sale person, an eBay broker, an organizer, not Mr. Smith who knows somebody."
• Consider what you can handle. "What are you looking for? Is it going to bother you to have an estate sale and have people walking through your home?"
• Before you hire an eBay trader or antiques dealer to sell your possessions, find out about their credentials and how long they have been selling on eBay.
• Ask family members and grandchildren if they want certain items and give them a deadline to pick up the object.
"They need to pick up the stuff or pay to ship it to California. That might mean they don't want their prom gowns from 1972," she said.
• Not everything will sell, so consider donating some household goods to charities. Objects worth donating include your Tupperware, end tables that are still usable, flatware and dishes. Get a receipt for your taxes.
• Lower your expectations about the value of your goods. Keep your eye on the goal, which is to downsize, sell the house and close that chapter of your life.
• Don't make too many piles. Instead, stack up a few piles, one for what you are keeping, another for what you are giving away and a third for what you are selling.
Consider donating to local charities.