Want to liven up your Thanksgiving get-together and clean out the closets at the same time? Why not have a family auction?

Boyd and Jean Christensen have held three of them. "Whenever we've moved we've found we've got pictures, vases, pots, plants or furniture that just don't fit in the new place," Boyd Christensen explains."Instead of trying to decide which of the four children to give things to, we just have a family auction."

The Christensen children bring their spouses and kids and borrow a truck, too, when they come to the auction. Christensen says, "One of the qualifiers is that anything they buy they have to take with them. They can't store it in our house."

Leftovers go straight to Deseret Industries, Christensen says. "So everybody benefits."

On auction day, when family members walk in the door, they see dozens of items on display. Each Christensen child gets a stack of play money ($500 or $1,000, the amount doesn't matter, just so everybody has the same funds). "We give the grandchildren some money, too," adds Jean Christensen. "The kids like handling the play money as much as anything else.

"The auction gives them a chance to use their decisionmaking powers."

After everyone has had a chance to look over the items and been reminded that this auction is strictly for fun, the bidding begins.

Boyd is the auctioneer. Jean displays and describes each item. Emily, the oldest granddaughter in the family, keeps the rec-ords and collects the money.

"The grandchildren really get caught up in the bidding," Christensen says. Everyone laughs a lot and takes home some treasures and pleasant memories. Children aren't hurt because Mom and Dad offered a certain vase to one sister and not the other. Mom and Dad aren't hurt by offering something to a child who obviously doesn't want it.

"Sometimes they exchange things after the auction is over," Jean Christensen says. "I'm happy to report we've had no hard feelings."

The adult children bid big on furniture, Christensen says. The grandsons like Grandpa's trophies, and the granddaughters go wild over anything that Grandma crocheted or quilted.

Jean Christensen says, "They all have something they feel sentimental about. Something that was in their bedroom, or something that hung on the wall that they looked at a lot when they were growing up.

"The auction's a memory trip, like looking through a family album."

One of the most hotly contested items in recent years was the cookie jar. "Our oldest guy got that," Christensen says, which seemed only fair to everyone, because that was the boy who grew up with his hand in the jar.

"When we went to visit him in Wichita - there was the cookie jar, in his kitchen."

If there is a drawback to the family auction, Christensen says, this is it. "It's kind of spooky to see things pop up, things that you bought when you were first married and lived with all these years, in someone else's home."

He says they haven't put many family heirlooms or antiques up for bid because he and Jean still like living with the gifts they got from their parents. But when the time comes to divide those up, Christensen says, the auction would be a perfect method. "It's fair."