Home Experts section of The Sunday Times

Published on Sunday 20th April 2018

Q: We are downsizing. After 56 years of married life, we have accumulated a zillion bits and pieces. We need help cataloguing and finding the right place to sell our art, ceramics and furniture. Help!

Louise Stevenson, London

A: After 56 years of married life, it is natural that you should have accumulated ‘a zillion bits and pieces’. The good news is that disposing of some of them so you can downsize needn’t be painful.

As a first step, we would recommend finding a Professional Organiser (PO) who can assist you identifying, setting aside and listing the items you wish to dispose of. They will help you sort through your possessions and arrange them in categories so that the next step – deciding how to get rid of them – is clear and not overwhelming. You can search for a local specialist by postcode on the website of the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers’ website (

The next step for selling art, ceramics and other treasures will be to be find auction houses that will take specific items. A good place to start is where you – or the PO – can enter details of items and get an indication of their value, as well as details of auction houses near you.

Most auction houses are happy to arrange for a representative to visit you and value your items. This is usually free but, once you commit to sell, we strongly advise reading all the small print so you understand the various charges. These include the vendor commission rate (a percentage of hammer price) and loss and damage warranty costs. There may also be a charge for photographing a valuable item to be featured in the auction catalogue.

When it comes to selling clothes, bric-a-brac and trinkets, sites such as eBay or Gumtree can generate useful cash, but the process often takes time and effort. Several companies will list good-quality items on eBay for you, which takes the slog out of on-line selling. Auction Fairies, for example, works on a 50% commission basis: that may sound a bit steep, but the company covers all eBay and PayPal fees, packing and shipping costs. It operates in London and around the M25 (

Liz Aitken & Julia Durand, Professional Organisers, Carefully Sorted

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