More Lessons for Fellow Entrepreneurs

In the last blog post, I began talking about becoming an entrepreneur, and I promised to share the most important lessons I have learned in building a successful business.

  1. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.  You can and will find a way.  People who say things like that are often a bit envious of the entrepreneurial spirit, or perhaps live with regrets of their own.  It’s also possible they just don’t understand.
  2. If you don’t try, you will always wonder about what “could have been.”  Avoid living with regret and guilt by trying your best.  Regret will catch up with you when you are elderly, as I often hear from my clients.  Nothing bad can ever come from trying your best.  The human spirit needs to put forth effort to have some sense of satisfaction.
  3. When you come to crossroads in your life as an entrepreneur, always go with your gut instinct.  It’s interesting that we often let our heads get in the way of what our gut already knows.  My gut has never lied to me.  Tune into it, listen attentively, and keep moving.  Do not get stuck in the decision-making process.  If the first decision didn’t work, try another approach.
  4. Stay the course.  So you’ve stumbled and what you had planned isn’t working.  Take polls from business leaders you trust.  Ask questions and figure out what is needed to move on to the next level.  Perhaps you need a different company image, or you are not marketing to the right audience.  Ask, ask, and ask again until the answers come.
  5. Figure out what it is specifically that makes you different and better than your competitors.  Capitalize on those differences, and you now have a new marketing campaign — a fresh approach to hammer away at those you want to reach, whether by email, flyers, marketing packets, etc.
  6. The best advertising in the world is a happy customer.  No amount of high dollar advertising is nearly as good as the people you please with your work.  The step that most entrepreneurs forget is to ASK your clients to tell others about you.  You must become a shameless self-promoter, but do so graciously and always with a smile.  Find a way to get in with large groups of people at one time.  Think smart!
  7. Identify what it is you are selling.  Sounds crazy, but most people haven’t figured out they are not selling gizmos or a service.  I am an estate professional who specializes in personal property.  Do I just sell people’s stuff?  No, I sell a solution — multiple solutions.  Really think about this one.
  8. Follow through with passion and tenacity.  My business adviser told me many years ago that the real reason entrepreneurs fail isn’t for lack of great ideas.  There are many bright, ambitious, and creative entrepreneurs-to-be out there.  They simply fail for one of two reasons: financial reasons, or they never go for it with everything they’ve got.  Their follow-through is weak and the business never has a fair chance at taking off.
  9. Be the best at what you do.  Don’t allow yourself, your ideas, or your company to get swallowed up by others who do the same thing.  You must do it better, as the cream always rises to the top.
  10. Always look forward and never look back.  Ever notice how some people live in the past and seem to get stuck there?  It’s ok to visit the past and learn from what went wrong, but then, turn it into a positive so it works to your benefit.
  11. For every problem you encounter, there is a solution.
  12. Always be kind, courteous, and compassionate. Kindness gets noticed because so few people actually practice it.

May this guidance bring as much happiness and success to your life as it has for mine.

©2013 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising.  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation.

Entrepreneurs: If I Can Do It, You Can Too

If I only knew then, what I know now …

Twenty three years ago, I had this crazy idea while sitting at my corporate desk, that if I was going to work this hard for them, I might as well work that hard for myself.  I also thought, “Julie, how can you even think of this?  You must be off your rocker to consider leaving the reliability of a paycheck and benefits.”  Like a lightning bolt from the sky, an intense thought grabbed hold of this young woman at the exuberant age of 27 and it never let go.  People say this is the first sign you are an entrepreneur.

From that day to now, I feel compelled to share with every person who is reading this: if I had the chance to do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing.  It was the right decision, made me wise beyond my years, and honestly comes with zero regret.  However, it was not an easy road.  In fact, there was no road at all in my chosen field.  I found myself at an instant crossroad before I took my first step.  Do I move forward into the abyss not knowing what I am doing and make a road for others to follow one day? Or should I turn around and stay in a job I didn’t care for but had a steady paycheck.  As it turned out, I discovered I am an excellent bulldozer and I paved the way to what I was meant to do.  The really great news: if I can do it, you can too.

One of the first lessons you learn as an entrepreneur is that while a multitude of resources are available to you, ultimately you are on your own.  What an isolating feeling.  You learn quickly what you are made of.  It takes great strength and stamina to fulfill your dream, not to mention the patience and support of those closest to you.  More than that, it takes tenacity of spirit, a positive mindset when you feel like crumbling and crying (and yes, that will happen), and the ability to get back up when you were just knocked down.

As a mother, when my daughter was learning to walk and she stumbled and fell, I would encourage her to get right back up immediately, brush herself off, and go on to her next adventure.  So too, is the unpredictable life of an entrepreneur.  Get right back up, and no matter what, keep moving forward.  Throughout the years, there nave been many times I felt like the hamster that runs on that wheel with lots of vigor, but never really gets anywhere.  Looking back I actually was going somewhere, but the holding patterns and plateaus are very frustrating.  Yet they are part of our growth.

People venture out as entrepreneurs for many different reason.  Some receive a strong calling, perhaps an invention in their mind or a service which will bring relief to the consumer.  Others feel they are better off building their own business; still others thrive on the satisfaction they receive on the road to success.  For me, it was all of the above.

What I wouldn’t have given back then to have the experience and valuable knowledge I possess today!  Next week, I’ll share the most important lessons I have learned in building a successful business.  Please don’t miss this knowledge for yourself or someone you know.

©2013 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising.  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation.

Skeletons in the Closet

We all have them.  Some of them are small and insignificant, and others are whoppers.  But whatever one is in your closet, remember one very important thing:  One day, we too will perish, and we don’t want our loved ones pained further by any skeletons they may find in our closets.  What’s the solution?  Deal with them, get rid of them if they are physical items, talk openly about them so no one is shocked or hurt.  Just get that monkey off your back and let it go.

It’s always amazing what we find in estates.  Some families try to clean them out, but soon lose steam and call us in to handle it.  Some families don’t even want to tackle the job to begin with and hire us from the start.  We find evidence of alternate lifestyles, illegitimate children from decades ago, infidelity, disorders, reasons for a suicide, pornography addiction, etc.

These are incredibly personal issues that belong to the individuals.  They have to be handled with grace and compassion, but often the shock they bring leaves families in a downward spiral.  For whatever reason, through their own choices or fate, these skeletons were left behind, and I have seen some of these skeletons bring about much pain for survivors.

Each of us has a life to live however we choose.  But take a good look at your home and your life and do a clean sweep to make sure there is nothing left behind that could be potentially harmful or hurtful.

When we find sensitive “skeletons,” depending on what they are, some just need to find their way to the garbage, and demand discretion.  Some need never be talked about and taken to the grave.  This issue is among the many gray areas we deal with in handling estates.  One thing is clear: all of these that we mentioned here require kindness, compassion, and potentially, discretion.  Remember, we can’t judge until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes; it’s how we handle them that makes or breaks the situation, or us.

© 2012 Julie Hall

From One Extreme to Another

What I love about my work is that no two days, or families, are alike.  I recently worked with a child of an elderly parent who is “ready to get the ball moving and clear out the house now.”  Not time to go through it much — just get it empty and ready to be sold.  Why?  Because he has a financial interest in the property and he openly admitted it.

On the flip side, I know of other children of the elderly who are painstakingly going through the estate to uncover (and even cherish) every piece of paper mom ever touched.  I have seen people hug toasters claiming a special “memory” and even packing up her old coupons to keep, though they expired in 1971.

Somewhere there has to be a happy medium.

I have seen children claim they’re not taking much from mom and dad’s estate because their own houses are so full there is no more room and “my husband will kill me if I take any more stuff.”  Then, when I go back into the estate to do my work, it has been so picked over, there is nothing left but donation items.

I have my own theories about why people have difficulty letting go, particularly the Depression era and older boomer children.  But what they don’t realize is these items will one day become a monkey on the backs of their children.  It’s time to give this serious thought.

The younger kids don’t want the majority of it; what their parents have done is pass the buck to another generation who doesn’t have the same appreciation for these items as their parents do.  As a result, these items will find their way to the dump, Goodwill, yard sales, etc.  And the child will be resentful that they have to take the time to deal with the stuff, because their parents never did.  That is not the kind of legacy I choose to leave.

Best as I can figure out, they believe that by leaving more stuff, they are leaving a valuable inheritance in their eyes.  No one can discount the value of sentiment, including me.  But why are they taking a table saw when they’ve never used one?  It will only take up a huge amount of space and become problematic in the future, sitting there with an inch or two of dust on it.  By the time someone goes to sell it, it will be considered antiquated and obsolete.  It’s only purpose at that point, will be as an anchor.

Keeping that in mind, I also find military medals thrown in the trash where they keep company with the family photos that have been tossed.  If it doesn’t make sense to you, then you’re in excellent company.  You just never know what you’re going to get.  It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

© 2012 Julie Hall

Clean Out an Estate and Care for the Environment

Q:  While I’m cleaning out an estate, how can I also “go green” for the environment?

A:  Thank you for this excellent question.

Donating, recycling, and selling are less expensive than a dumpster and may provide cash for your unwanted items.  They may also provide a tax deduction or help out a worthy cause.  Use your imagination when deciding where things could go, other than black trash bags!  Can someone use your items in some form or fashion?  This is the ultimate in recycling.

Remember the following when cleaning out estates:

  • Have the neighbors in for free household chemicals, garden/yard tools, etc.
  • Create a donation network by discussing what you have to give.
  • Keep watch for charity drives in your community.
  • Web search for places to sell or donate items.
  •,, and all offer varying amounts of compensation for electronics.
  • tells you where to find nearby recycling centers for electronics.
  • Paper, cardboard, and scrap metal are commodities that are traded.  Find a buyer in your local phone book.
  • Scrap metal and other household metals, photo frames, etc. are wanted by artists, or can be sold for scrap.
  • Charities are in a funding crisis; paper, books, games and toys help daycares, senior centers and after-school programs.  Give them a call; they are happy to give you a wish list.
  • Alzheimer’s facilities are always looking for clean linens, towels, etc.
  • Many religious organizations/groups set up homes for refugees, domestic abuse victims, pregnant women, disabled adults, etc.  They need many everyday items that you need to dispose.
  • Inventory the home before buying materials.  Garbage bags, boxes, and cleaning supplies are normally already in the house.
  • Worn sheets and towels, leashes and pet bowls are very much needed by local pet shelters.
  • Remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

Do your part to help!

© 2012 Julie Hall

Make Extra Income Doing This …

People have been collecting, sorting, and selling “scrap metal” for eons.  But I have recently read articles that claim that full-time scrappers make anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000 annually.  That’s pretty impressive money.

Take it from one who knows — there is a good deal of scrap metal in our own homes, on the street being trashed, and thrown in dumpsters from coast to coast.  To me and people like me, that’s like throwing away money!  Think twice before you push your trash bin to the curb.  Do you have any copper, brass, steel, aluminum, bronze, etc?  Forget the condition; it matters not if you find a pipe here or an old teapot there.  Here are some tips for you:


Go to and get familiar with what the different metals are selling for.

  • Sort various metals into different piles.  Steel should go into one pile and copper should go into another.  You will get more if you segregate the lands of scrap.
  • Deal only with reputable scrap metal brokers or scrap yards.
  • Keep all garbage out of your scrap metal piles … metal only.
  • Always carry a magnet.  You can use a magnet to quickly tell if the material is ferrous or non-ferrous, and then separate your metals accordingly.

© 2011, The Estate Lady

“Mom has a friend…Maybe we’ll use her.”

Margaret called me from a Chicago suburb with a frantic tone in her voice.  “We have all this stuff, and we don’t have a clue how to get rid of it!  It looks like it might be junk, but there are some antiques in here too.  What do we do?  My mom has a friend who is sort of in the business.  She’s dabbled in buying and selling for years.  Maybe I should just hire her.”

Her words hit a nerve!  It’s sort of like saying, “My brother got an A in dissecting, so why not let him do your brain surgery?”

I strongly urged her to hire a professional, and warned her about letting an untrained friend handle something as important as this.  But she decided to go to her friend anyway, a decision that cost her dearly.

A month later, Margaret called me again, in tears. “I’ve made a horrible mistake, and I don’t know how to undo it.  My mom’s friend didn’t know the true value of many of the items in the house and sold them for pennies.  One local dealer contacted me to tell me the estate person charged $75 for a fine antique English Windsor chair that was worth about $800.  An antique needlepoint sampler dated 1854 sold for $10, but should have sold for several hundred.  I am eaten up with misery wondering how many other things got sold for next to nothing.”

Please get the right kind of help!  Unscrupulous professionals come out of the woodwork at a time of crisis.  Amateurs, even though they are friends or golf buddies or play bridge with you, are still amateurs!  It may be costly to hire the right professional, but an amateur is much more “costly” in the end.

© 2010 Julie Hall

Announcing my new book!

“A Boomer’s Guide to Cleaning Out Your Parents’ Estate in 30 Days or Less” is finally ready!  It is currently available as an e-book which you can download and print out (  Within the next two weeks, it will be available in print also.  I’ll include an update here on my blog when it has been released in print.

More than a “How-To” guide, A Boomer’s Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Out Your Parents’ House in 30 Days or Less is a “What To Do, When, and Why” take-along manual packed with meticulously compiled checklists, resources, and information. You are given logical, easy-to-follow steps so that you can literally clean out your parents’ house in less than 30 days. Best of all, you are given advice from a nationally acclaimed expert who has “seen it all” on how to do this for your own peace of mind and keep everyone’s best interests at heart.

Separate sections of this book cover practical checklists and resources to use when your parents are living and still in their home, when one or both parents are in failing health, and when parents have died and the estate remains.  This book includes many worksheets, checklists, and forms you will need to effectively handle cleaning out your parents’ home.  I want you to tuck this guide in your pocketbook or briefcase and use it throughout the process: my wisdom and experience at your fingertips.

Those of you who have read my first book, or read this blog for very long, know that I want to educate you.  That’s my goal!  There is a lack of information out there that handles cleaning out an estate, or dividing the estate contents equitably and without fighting.  I want to create helpful and very practical guides that cut through to the essentials, and give you all the tools to educate yourself and then do the task effectively.

© 2010 Julie Hall

The Death Bed Thief

Exploitation can raise its ugly head in the midst of unsuspecting situations.  Such was the case with the Garvey family (not real name).  Mom and Dad Garvey were about the nicest people you’d ever wish to meet.  Their three adult children lived nearby; they loved to have all the grandchildren over for Sunday dinners.  All of the children were successful, and the family often took vacations together.  As Mom Garvey shared with me, she could not recall one moment of discord between her kids. 

Dad Garvey was diagnosed with cancer at age 73, and the disease progressed rapidly.  He had lived a good life, and faced his illness with grace and courage.  Even as his strength waned, he loved having his family visit.  But soon death was imminent and hospice was called in to assist him and his family.  That’s when strange things began to happen.

One of his daughters became uncharacteristically possessive.  She wanted to be at Dad’s bedside around the clock.  Normally a sweet and accomodating person, she would snap at her mother over the smallest thing.  She accused her siblings of not caring enough for their dad, even as she tried to prevent them from being with him during his final days.

Eventually Dad Garvey passed away, with his wife and children at his bedside.  But as the funeral director’s hearse pulled up to take the body to the funeral home, the same daughter disappeared into the basement, while the others comforted one another in their grief. 

It was a few days later that they discovered what the daughter had been doing.  Apparently, while she was keeping vigil by her father’s bedside, she was also surveying his belongings.  When he died, she quickly grabbed the things she had stashed in the final couple weeks of his life.  Mysteriously, even though Dad Garvey had prepared a will, it was never found.

This is a scary story, no doubt.  But imagine, for just a moment, how different this story would have gone if the parents had given serious consideration to dividing their estate prior to infirmity or death.  At the very least, they should have distributed a master list of what they wanted each child or heir to have, making sure that each child received a copy.  The will should have been given to the executor or another trusted professional, so it would have been available upon death. 

If every child knows the plan in advance, it will be much harder for one child to take the lion’s share.  Unfortunately, this scenario occurs every single day, because no one planned ahead!

© 2010 Julie Hall

Is there an expert in the house?

You can only imagine what I see each day as I venture into the homes of people getting ready to disolve the estate of a loved one who has passed away.  It is an amazing view into the world of human nature — who wants what, the fights over money and things, the greedy relatives coming out of the woodwork, families not understanding the value of things, etc.

You name it and I’ve seen it!  Not much seems to surprise me in the realm of estate settlement.

Having spent 18 years in perfecting the process of estate dissolution for my clients and those wanting to learn my area of expertise, I have uncovered a vast need in the country today that virtually no one is tending to.  And soon enough, it will be near epidemic level!  No one thinks about it until it actually happens and you find yourself in the midst of a crisis.

As our beloved parents leave the earth, they also leave behind one of the largest accumulations of stuff, more than any other generation in history.  The Depression Era is known for never throwing anything away, and not always very good at letting it go either.   Their parents, our grandparents, actually owned very little by comparison.  Therefore, their accumulation was not dealt with, but absorbed by our parents’ generation.  This leaves the boomer children with not only mom and dad’s stuff, but now they have to deal with multi-generational items at the same time.

As overwhelming as it is to handle the death of a parent, it becomes absolutely grueling when the kids have to dive into the estate face-first: divide the estate, handle feuds that arise, and clean out the house in a short period of time.

Then it occurred to me that the reason so many flounder in this area, is because there has never been anyone to show them how to go through the process in a logical and timely fashion.  No worries — help has arrived!

My book, The Boomer Burden — Dealing With Your Parents’ Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff, is a must-have book on how to go through the process from beginning to end, offering trustworthy guidance every step of the way.  More on that later…

© 2009 Julie Hall