Mattresses to Movies: Sustainably selling an estate

When moving out of a home or working with the estate of a loved one, the temptation is often to sell a few items and throw the rest away, straight to the landfill.  Those thinking sustainably may even choose to recycle the household’s items.  But the ultimate way to stay “green” in vacating a home takes sustainability a step further – reusing all of the home’s contents, wall-to-wall.

Everything But the House (EBTH) is a venture-backed online business that manages estate sales across the country.  Homeowners can work with EBTH to sell off all the belongings of a household in estate auctions in the midst of a move or property sale.  All items start at $1 and can be bidded on for a seven day period during an EBTH sale, after which point a property is essentially left empty with only an inventory and settlement left behind for the homeowner.

Wellesley resident Amy Brakeman learned about EBTH on National Public Radio (NPR) and realized that the company provided her with an easy way to clean her house during her move from a family home of 20 years to a condo in Cambridge this summer.   “I was attracted to using EBTH as a way to get items that I don’t need anymore into the hands of people who are stocking up in their homes [and] I was happy to have a process, timeline and partner to help me keep this process moving,” she said.

EBTH handles the sale of virtually any item in an estate, ranging from artwork and furniture to vehicles and garage tools.  Brakeman’s sale included board games, pottery, jewelry, hockey sticks and a cell phone.

While EBTH was not founded with the intention of promoting sustainability, the nature of their services does just that by allowing old items to be repurposed and reused rather than thrown away.  Any items deemed unsuitable for sale in the seven day bidding period are sustainably disposed of or donated for reuse, the logistics of which are handled by EBTH. The company also extracts salvageable architectural and building materials for reuse.

“Our model is truly recycling at its finest. When an item is no longer needed by an individual or a family, the best scenario from an environmental impact point of view, is to offer it for use by someone else, and realize some value at the same time,” said EBTH’s Erica Flagg. The site also gives old, formerly unusable items the chance to be “upcycled,” or crafted into a different item. “This literally saves furniture and other household items from landfills and makes them beautiful and usable again,” she said.

Brakeman, although not one who identifies herself as a perennial sustainability advocate, was glad about the sustainable alternative EBTH gave to throwing her old belongings away. “[It’s] better than purging our house and getting a dumpster; from a sustainability angle, it makes me feel happy,” she said.

According to Flagg, estate sales with her company yield roughly three to five times the revenue produced from a typical estate sale.  Flagg attributes this distinction to the company’s wide bidder reach: “[High proceeds are] because our bidders in all 50 states and more than 60 countries around the world are constantly browsing the more than 125 sales per month hosted on our site. With about 750,000 unique visitors per month, we get the attention needed for a seller to realize a fair market value for their sale.”  Sales typically yield an average $27,500 in revenue, of which EBTH takes 35% and the remaining proceeds go to the customer.

Although only in their third month in the Boston area, EBTH has already run 20 successful sales in eastern Massachusetts, six of which have been in Wellesley.  Residents interested in working with the company can arrange a free consultation at 888-862-8750, or

(Matthew Hornung and Olivia Gieger)


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