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Got stuff? Make sense of heirlooms and clutter

Sort yourself, or if you can't face the task, hire a qualified down-sizer

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Distribute: Sort through grandma’s treasures yourself, or hire a qualified down-sizer, organizer or senior-move manager to help. Professional Organizers in Canada ( members adhere to a code of conduct and ethics. Keep in mind that there recently has been a softening in the market for collectibles - “the stuff you put in curio cabinets, like Moorcroft pottery and Royal Doulton figurines,” says Grant Gardner, president of Gardner Galleries, an estate and fine art auction firm in London, Ont.

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Determine references: Make sure any firm you hire is insured and bondable, advises Margarita Ibbott, a professional organizer. Pick and choose only the services you need, and expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $150 per hour, she adds.

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Head off disputes: 'The pearls are mine.' If you anticipate a family squabble over fine art or other valuables, hire a reputable firm to appraise individual items so that they can be divided equitably, Waddington’s Stephen Ranger says.

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Dispose with care: Do your homework before putting potentially high-value items out for a yard sale or on eBay, Craigslist or Kijiji. An established auction firm will charge about $150 an hour to give an opinion on the potential resale value, says Mr. Gardner: “You might think you have the confidence to price and sell your own things, but there are lots of people making a good living by buying stuff online from people who don’t know the real value of what they have.”

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Donate: Once you’ve put aside family memorabilia, save unwanted items from landfill by donating to resellers such as Goodwill, Value Village and Habitat For Humanity. Ask charitable organizations whether they provide tax receipts for donations.

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