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Living a Nightmare

The Organizer shines a light into the storage sheds full of boxes that haunt us.


Dear Juli,

I am living a nightmare. I have boxes full of merchandise from a closed store, as well as boxes (which I’ve categorized) full of family pictures, school programs, etc. (I’m talking about 20-30 bins full of very special items).

Lots of things need to be appraised, but I don’t have a large enough place to display things. This is way beyond a yard sale or an estate sale. (And I don’t want people on my property). The situation involves a vast amount of items. No way do I have a zillion lifetimes to put this on eBay or Craigslist. No way do I want some outside group [to take it one] because I have no place to put all of this stuff out for them to even see. It’s obvious that I need to go through everything. I even have a storage rental with loads of boxes full of things. I know that I need to inventory and catalog things, but that will take forever.

Juli Shulem
Click to enlarge photo

Juli Shulem

I have a life to live, so what can I do? (I can’t put everything on hold and I don’t like living like this). Many items need to be sold, but how???

Dear ‘Living a Nightmare,’

It sounds like overwhelm has hit big-time. And from what you described you sound like you have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done, and as you noted, there really is no easy fix. Your situation would probably benefit from a consultation with a professional organizer or specialist but I will attempt to coach you from this platform.

Often there are tasks that require a lot of work, or steps that one is unable or unwilling to do. I suggest looking into the possibility of hiring help. Not everything needs to be done alone – delegate! It is quite possible that you can enlist the help of someone you trust who can deal with some of the issues you noted.

It sounds like you have four main challenges:

1. Left-over inventory that is in saleable condition

2. Getting an appraisal of more valuable items

3. Categorization of storage shed contents

4. Personal photos and memorabilia to deal with

In order to deal with the inventory, that which doesn’t require appraisals, have someone photograph each item (I am assuming that you probably have multiples of some items, so one photo will account for several things). Think of alternative ways to sell off the items that would provide the most relief from the “cluttering” you have described. Perhaps these items could be sold in a shop locally, even on consignment, so the store doesn’t get stuck with something that doesn’t sell. Or maybe you can post it on Facebook or another social media site and see if someone has an idea of where you can sell such items.

The appraisals can be done in small groups. It sounds like you feel the need to do it all at once and in doing so, you require a large space to display it all. How about if you schedule someone to appraise just a few items at a time? There are appraisal services online where you can send photographs, descriptions, and sizes of items so they can give you an estimate without having to even personally see the item. Schedule small amounts of time to appraise a few of the pieces and then sell those. Since posting many items at once can be daunting and complicated, just do a couple at a time and as one sells, add another.

Break the projects into small, doable steps. Try to tackle one box a week for example. While this may sound slow, the project will at least begin to get done if you work on it consistently. Doing nothing, which is where you are stuck now, will most certainly keep you from your goal of eliminating stuff.

Items in the storage shed can be handled much like the inventory. Photograph and then catalog as time allows in your schedule. Once you have the images, which can be done by someone else, you can then take your time to document the data about them.

Organizing the photo and memorabilia items seem like a less pressing issue because you mentioned they were already categorized. Since you didn’t note your goal or next step with these, I will assume that is your smallest concern. Once the other issues are handled you can address it when you are ready.

Without seeing what you are dealing with, it is difficult to provide more advice. See if creating a practical schedule in order to deal with the situation eases the process. Remember to break it into small steps and move forward by doing a little bit each day. Good luck to you!

If you have a question you wish answered, email me at jshulem@gmail.com with “Question for column” in the subject line and I will answer it as soon as possible.

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