“A seismic shift of stuff is underway in homes all over America. Members of the generation that once embraced sex, drugs and rock-and-roll are trying to offload their place settings for 12, family photo albums and leather sectionals. Their offspring don’t want them.” The Washington Post, 3/27/15
Whether you’re a baby boomer becoming an empty nester (finally!) or a parent of a baby boomer downsizing into a senior community, the dilemma is the same: you’ve spent your life collecting meaningful treasures…and now your children don’t want them. In my work as a Senior Move Manager, I’m often in the position of comforting clients whose children no longer have any sentimental attachment to family heirlooms or a desire to take furniture hand-me-downs.
Here’s a few tips for making peace with your own downsizing and de-cluttering process:
Give your kids permission to throw out their own trophies, yearbooks and t-shits they’ve saved in your basement for decades. Gen Xers and Millennials live life digitally; perhaps taking a picture of the memorabilia is better suited to their lifestyle. Treasure the memory, laugh at the good times it brought you, and say goodbye.
If you’re the parent of a baby boomer, recognize that your adult child already has a home of her own, and may not have space for your favorite items. And your grandchildren, Gen Xers and Millennials, are living in smaller homes, simplifying or still transient as they settle into careers. Although you may desperately want to save them money with your hand-me-downs, understand that this generation simply operates differently (whether you agree with it or not). There are often hurt feelings in this process. Remember that it isn’t that your kids don’t love you – they just don’t love your furniture.
Auction houses and thrift shops are flooded with furniture pieces – often selling for bargain prices. Consignments stores have either closed due to a declining market or they’re so selective on which items they’ll consign that many clients are turned away. So if your kids don’t want your items, and there isn’t a local option for selling, find a reputable organization like the NW Furniture Bank. Knowing that your furniture is going to a good cause can help ease the pain of giving it away. Take a look at www.NWFurnitureBank.org.
Peacefully accept that your children or grandchildren may not be as nostalgic as your generation. It’s difficult, but important for your family relationships. Senior Move Managers can assist you in recording your family history in ways that conserve space and make it easier to share with others – such as digitizing the stacks of photo albums or taking pictures of family heirlooms and then writing the relevant family history behind it.
Remind yourself that there is great freedom in letting go, even when the process is difficult. Be easy on yourself and find a way to say goodbye to the item while treasuring the memory that it gives you. Be grateful for the journey it took with you. And let it go.