Telling people who are downsizing into smaller homes that their adult children don’t want their stuff is one of the hardest parts of my job. Many people have a dream of passing along their china and antiques to their children and grandchildren. The reality is that the next generation wants to create a home that expresses their own personality, not that of their parents or grandparents.
So, don’t expect them to hold on to all your old furniture, knick-knacks, artwork, and photos. If you make them feel guilty they will take all of it, but not happily. And sending it all to storage isn’t a solution. I ask my clients: “Do you really want to leave your family with a liberating project that will overwhelm them for months and months after you’re gone?”
I adored my stepfather, but after he died he left my mother and I months and months of painstaking work to get through all of his belongings, paperwork, clothing and yes, junk. I ended up mad at him for leaving us the task of clearing out his things. I regained my love for him, but it took a couple of years!
What to do when your kids don’t want your stuff.
Here are a few solutions I give my clients:
- Let go of the sad stuff. Consider only keeping the items that bring back positive and happy memories.
- Be selective. Instead of insisting they take quantity, focus on giving them quality. Give your children and grandchildren a beautiful gift that has special meaning to you. Include a story about it so they understand why it’s important.While working with a client who was moving into a senior living community, I suggested taking photos of her beloved collection of 45 hats. We labeled each photo with a memory she had while wearing each hat. I had the photos printed and framed so we could create a photo wall of 50+ years of looking good! This opened up an incredible amount of space and gave her peace as she let go of her collection. She could display those positive memories and share them with her family in a new way.
- Save only the best of the best; then show it off! Collections get large over time. Try selecting 3-4 of your most precious items and liberating the rest.
I worked recently with a gentleman who was moving from the home he’d lived in for 42 years into an assisted living community. He had a boatload of memorabilia boxed up in closets, the garage and storage cabinets. What struck me was how long these items had been out of view and how happy he was to uncover them. I talked to him about displaying some of his most precious travel souvenirs, while letting go of the rest. We created vignettes of Japanese dishes, extraordinary vases and sake cups and carafes on his dresser, coffee table and buffet. He had fun selecting what would have a prominent place in his new home.
How I Can Help You
Many people don’t know what to do with all of the things they have when they need to downsize. Your children may not be very helpful or patient when it comes to right-sizing for a move into a smaller home. That’s where I come in. I spend time talking to you about your memories around difficult-to-liberate items, discuss which belongings bring back the happiest thoughts and find creative ways to incorporate them into your new home. See more about the steps I take when helping you or your family with a move.