Dear Mary: You have a great column! I learn something new from it every day. My problem is finding a source to determine the value of furniture, books, jewelry and collectibles. My 95-year-old mother is quickly reaching a point where she will need to enter a care facility. Her house is packed full of both nonsense and what I suspect are some very valuable items. I am overwhelmed with the tasks of both clearing out her home and determining what to do with all her belongings. — Gia
Dear Gia: There are times when doing it yourself is the most costly way to go, both emotionally and financially. I suggest you research estate auctions and liquidation services and then enlist the services of a reputable professional to honestly determine which items have significant value so you'll have a place to start. You can either put those things on consignment or have the estate professional handle them.
Next, I would hire a professional organizer to sort, discard, liquidate and distribute the remainder. I would go to the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (napo.net) to find a professional organizer in your community. It just may be the best money you will ever spend.
Once things are nicely organized, you may want to hold the mother of all garage sales. Your organizer can help with that, too. Let me caution that once the word gets out, you are going to be inundated with offers. Just make sure you are working with people whose first priority is your mother's best interest. I wish I could tell you this will be easy. It won't be. But it will be much easier if you get professional help. And thanks so much for your kind words about this column. You have encouraged me!
Dear Mary: Yesterday, I received a solicitation for credit from Capital One for my 16-year-old son. It said this is a chance for parents to help their children 16 years or older to build good credit. He doesn't even have a job, so how can he build credit? If he has the money to buy what he wants, he doesn't need credit. And if he doesn't have the money to pay the bill, he wouldn't be building credit; he would be building debt. I am sending a letter instructing them to remove my son from their mailing list as long as he is a minor in my household. — Claudeth
Dear Claudeth: Thanks for sending me a copy of the offer. Wow, I thought I'd seen everything, but I was wrong. For Capital One to spin this into a matter of responsible parenting is, in my opinion, an example of desperate marketing. In addition to getting your son's name off their list, you need to call 800-353-0809 to opt out of all such solicitations for all members of your household. Capital One is not the only company that sees our children as the future debtors of America. Just remember that your best defense is to educate your son to be a financially responsible young man.
Dear Mary: When I shop for sunglasses, I bypass the fancy displays at the front of the store and head for the fishing department. Sunglasses for fishermen are typically polarized and as much as $10 less than those up front. — Ronald
Dear Ronald: What a great tip! I checked this out, and you are absolutely right. I can't figure out why there's a price difference, so if anyone out there does, tell the rest of us!
My dear readers: Thank you for all the wonderful letters and email messages. Your kind words and questions encourage me so much, so keep 'em coming!
Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."