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Estate-sale companies, counselors help when cleaning out a loved one’s home

December 11, 2013

As family members mourn the loss of a loved one, there also is the task of cleaning out the late person’s belongings and possibly putting his or her home on the market.

All this is done with a heavy heart, and it’s likely that the family members might need help moving forward. One way to determine the value of the remaining items — from dishes to clothes, to furniture, to mementos — is to hire a company that handles estate sales. 

Jim Trasko, who with his wife, Shawn, co-owns Elite Estate Sales in Macomb Township, recommends finding a company with which you feel comfortable.

“People should interview two to three companies,” Trasko said. “Hire someone reliable. All the companies generally work on a percentage basis. The more there is to sell, the lower the commission.”

When looking through a loved one’s possessions, Trasko advised, “Don’t throw anything away.”

“A lot of people think they’re going to try and clean up, and they end up discarding things that are very, very sellable,” Trasko said. “Some of the most valuable items are the things that they throw away. Let the estate-sales company make the decision of what is sellable and what isn’t. That’s what you’re paying the estate-sales company to do.”

Trasko’s employees wash, clean and organize the items before they are ready to be sold.

“Don’t be ashamed of what’s there,” Trasko said. “Any estate company has seen it all. Every sale has something unique to them. Estate-sale companies organize in the house and conduct a public sale right in the house.”

Before an estate-sale company comes in, it’s recommended that loved ones remove anything they want.

“Go through the house top to bottom and keep what they want to keep for themselves,” Trasko said.

Potential collectors and buyers can scan the Internet to locate upcoming estate sales, including the website One of the most valuable items Trasko and his crew once found was an oil painting worth $10,500.

“It took a lot of hours of research to make sure we had the right item and the right value,” Trasko said. “It’s very interesting, researching all the items. When you come across an item that is very valuable, that’s the fun part. Small things sell better than big things.”

It’s also important to take care of yourself when going through personal items while still in mourning. Clinical therapist and grief recovery specialist Rebecca Palen said there is no timeline when it comes to cleaning out a person’s belongings.

“You’ll know when it’s time,” she said. “Wait until you’re ready and when you’ve worked through some of the loss or the emotional part. Don’t feel any pressure from other people. It’s not a race. You need to come up with a plan that works for you. I’ve been able to see people do it when they are ready.”

Palen, who owns H3-Hope, Healing & Health LLC, located in St. Clair Shores, suggests for loved ones not to organize the personal items by themselves.

“Don’t go alone,” she advised. “Go with someone. Just feel your feelings.”

When going through the articles, Palen suggests to make three piles of A, B and C.

Put items “you absolutely have to keep” in pile A. Pile B should be for possessions to dispose of, donate or to give to other people in memory of the departed.

“Pile C is what you’re not sure about,” Palen said. “Keep going through the C pile once a month or every six weeks.”

Grief counseling, in the long run, can be beneficial, according to Palen.

“I recommend people getting some help dealing with the emotions,” Palen said. “People do get better. There is life after heartache.”

Another job might be selling the home of the loved one. R&D Homes Investment Inc. is one local company that purchases homes. While the Bloomfield Township business primarily buys homes in foreclosures or from couples divorcing, co-managers Reiko McKendry and David McKendry also are open to the idea of buying homes from family members of those who have passed.

“We would certainly be interested in looking into it,” Reiko McKendry said. “We look at your situation. If ... the price works out, we can see if we can buy it from you.

“Most people list the property,” Reiko McKendry said. “You want to see what happens. Some properties sit for a month or over a year.

“I love it when we can help people with a situation they are in,” she said.

Elite Estate Sales is located in Macomb Township. For further information, call (586) 677-1770.

H3-Hope, Healing & Health LLC, is located in St. Clair Shores. For further information, call (586) 335-2006 or visit

R&D Homes Investment, Inc. is located in Bloomfield Township. For further information, call (248) 712-1222.

About the author

Staff Writer Maria Allard covers the school districts of Center Line, Fitzgerald, Van Dyke, Warren Consolidated and Warren Woods, and Macomb Community College for the Warren Weekly newspaper. She also covers northeast Detroit, the City of Harper Woods and the Harper Woods District Schools for the Advertiser Times newspaper, and the City of Grosse Pointe Woods and the Grosse Pointe Public Schools System for the Grosse Pointe Times newspaper. Allard has worked for C&G Newspapers since 1995, and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University.


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