“Someday this will all be yours,” says the white-haired woman, showing her granddaughter a carefully curated collection of teacups, crystal, and china. The granddaughter’s eyes grow wide, dreaming of someday setting her table using these time-honored items at holiday time each year.
Unfortunately, that is a scene set a number of decades ago. Fast forward to now, and to their dismay, baby boomers are finding millennials would rather “pass” on taking their parents’ “stuff.” As the older generation look to downsize, it seems having stored all their precious items may have been largely for naught. Let’s face it: over time, our memories are transferred to the objects as we begin to think that losing those objects means losing the memories as well. A recent article in Forbes on the topic nailed it, saying, “The architecture of our homes becomes part of the architecture of our minds.”
Value is, in many cases, in the eye of the beholder, however. While it may feel painful that your children are not interested in your life’s accumulations, it’s best not to take it too personally. As the late comedian George Carlin once described, “That's all your house is — a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.”
The ornate baroque silverware brides lusted after 50 years ago needs regular polishing. Fine porcelain china must be hand-washed. And the damask table linens require ironing as well as careful laundering. No one has the time for any of this anymore. Today’s families want dishes that can go into the dishwasher and microwave, and stainless-steel flatware that won't tarnish.
So what do you keep, what do you give away, and what might grace the dumpster? Will your son treasure your sports memorabilia? Should you hang on to a collection of old country music your immigrant grandparents gave you? And what about the Queen Anne dining room set upon which family dinners took place for so many years?
The task of offloading stuff is such a challenge these days that a new profession has cropped up. “Senior move managers” are trained specialists that help retirees sort their way through their mountains of possessions, adept at communicating how everything has a purpose and a cycle, but not all of us value the same things.
So how do we prepare for the reality of offloading? AARP recommends the following:
Don’t wait to start. It’s best to begin the process before you are forced to by illness, downsizing, or life changes. Pare down on a monthly basis by tackling one room and one box at a time. Make four piles — keep, donate, offer to family members and trash. Begin inside your house, working your way to sheds, garages, and attics, where most items haven’t been touched for years.
Don’t assume your kids don’t want any of it but don’t be hurt if they don’t. Have a heart-to-heart about items' emotional — and monetary — value before taking the next step. You can save space by making DVDs out of photo albums and taking pictures of collections of items you cherished.
Donate, but be thoughtful about who to donate to. It’s easy to just dump bags and boxes at Goodwill or the Salvation Army, but for unusual items like war memorabilia or vintage camera equipment, consider a museum or school. Even everyday glassware can be donated to a children's camp or a soup kitchen.Source: Forbes, AARP, TBWS
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