It’s a skill I’d be dead without and I call it “chunking.” These last two months have been busy since my Mom died. Lots to do with planning her services, hosting an estate sale and the sale of her home for fifty-four years. I’ve avoided overwhelm (most of the time) by applying chunking on a DAILY basis!

So what is chunking? It’s taking any task or project and breaking it down into smaller chunks. Think estate sale and your head can start spinning with all that lies before you. One big chunk becomes a variety of smaller steps taken each day, making it much less overwhelming.

Estate Sale: 

  • Sort items into like groups. Get all clothes in one area, all candles in another, stuffed animals together, all shampoos and hair products on one shelf.

  • Decide on the goal of the estate sale. Is it to make money, get items into the hands of those who can use them, have fun, meet neighbors?
  • Gather your team. We wanted more people than just us four kids, but when other volunteers didn’t happen, we made the choice to do it ourselves. Having lots of hands during that busy opening moment and those surges of people helped.
  • Select a date. We choose to use all the hands of support from close family members attending Mom’s services to help us sort and organize for the sale. It was an aggressive goal of just two weeks after Mom died, but we made it work and we put the house on the market the day prior to get lots of cross-exposure. Some days were a little bit weird where we didn’t know if they were there for the estate sale or the house…but it all worked out.

  • Start a list of “to do” steps. I use One Note or Evernote as I love those little check boxes, but you can also use a notepad or the note feature on your phone.
  • Have one person go through all the sensitive documents to ensure you keep important papers, but get rid of the fluff. As executor, I took on that role.
  • Call my friend Melissa who did her own estate sale for tips and hints. Many of the tips that follow came from Melissa! Thank you for sharing everything you learned in our 15-minute conversation!
  • Get cash to make change. We used Lowe’s aprons where we each could have cash, a pen and notepad handy at all times.
  • Donate items to key charities that your loved one would appreciate. We gave books and tapes to Mom’s church library.

  • Make pricing easy and adjustable. Our sale was Saturday and Sunday from 9 AM to 1 PM. We put items of same price together where possible…all items in one closet were 2 for $1 on Saturday and 4 for $1 on Sunday. Know people will come early.
  • Mark items you’re keeping for staging of the house when it’s on the market as “SOLD” and list a name on them so others don’t repeatedly ask you for a price.
  • Put all expensive items in one room and keep someone in there at all times. Expect some thieves, and be mindful, but kind.
  • Plan for the flow with one way in and same way out to avoid theft. Block off areas you don’t want people in with signs or furniture.
  • Have lots of bags and boxes for people to use to haul stuff away. We gave away all the travel bags, the gift bags and used grocery bags too! It was a nice perk for folks!
  • Get signs for the yard and any larger streets nearby. Remember to take them down when the sale is over.

  • Expect it to get emotional when strangers are going through your childhood home and your recently deceased mother’s items. Have a plan to go outside, take a break or grab a family member if you need some support.
  • If your goal is to get items into the hands of those who can use them, be generous, throw in an extra items if you see them eyeing it or you want to get rid of it.
  • Plan promotion. We used the local paper, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and Estate
  • What makes your estate sale unique? My Mom loved costume jewelry and so we choose to use that in our promotion.

  • We choose to arrive early and do a huddle with prayer before we opened the doors each day. We set an intention for getting these items into the hands of other who could use them while honoring Mom’s wishes to sell her home.
  • Plan for that trip to Goodwill or other charity and to the dump when the sale concludes. Ride that wave of momentum and keep things moving OUT.
  • Celebrate your success! Just having the balls do this and carry it off deserves its own celebration, let alone you probably made some money. Use it to go out to a nice dinner and share funny stories about the past two days!

This gives you an idea how chunking works and some tips you can use should you wish to host an estate sale. Any task or project can be broken down into smaller steps and if you just do 1-2 a day, you soon have your project complete while keeping your sanity.  Think about making a meal, creating a birthday event, or anywhere in your life where the pieces just feel too big!

Where are you going to try “chunking” in your own life? Please comment below. 


  1. feistyfroggy says:

    Very interesting article! Congratulations on successfully pulling it off!

    I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your mother, but it appears that you have found ways to honor her such as using the costume jewelry as a promotion.

    I’m doing a good bit of chunking myself since I also recently lost my mother and my husband. We were in the process of clearing my mother’s house (which was a little different since there was a will) when I lost my husband, so now I’m in the process of dealing with his things as well.


  2. Yes, I’m very familiar with Marie Kondo, decluttering and minimalism = all a big part of my past six years.


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