Downsizing Dilemma: When The Kids Don’t Want Your Stuff
Now that our little chickadees have flown the nest, the hubster and I are downsizing. We’ve donated tons to Goodwill, and one of the spare bedrooms is piled high with yard sale items. We have another stack that might end up on e-Bay if research proves it’s worth the effort. And boy, that’s an eye opener, let me tell you. Things haven’t appreciated the way we expected.
Something else we didn’t expect is that our kids wouldn’t want our stuff.
Three full sets of china, two Noritake and one Mikasa, as well as silver-plated flatware, goblets, wine glasses, a coffee service—silver was apparently a thing in our parents’ day—plus myriad odds and ends, and you’d think there would be something to spark our kids’ interest.
My oldest daughter finally agreed to take her grandmother’s china service for twelve. It moved from our attic to her attic, where it will probably collect dust until one of her yet-to-be born children says they don’t want it. That’s okay. It’s her problem now. 🙂
And the silver. Who wants to polish that stuff? When my mom died, my sister was surprised that I kept so little of Mom’s silver. I kept one goblet, because the design is cool, and maybe one or two other things. Why didn’t I take more? Because my recollection of that silver is all the hours I spent polishing it when I was a kid. Every. Saturday. Morning. Gak.
I’m 56, and no one can delegate silver polishing to me ever again. (Sorry, Mama.)
Silver, china, and even fine crystal—most people just don’t entertain like that anymore. My mother-in-law had all the grownup accoutrements necessary for the wife of a United States Air Force colonel. She entertained like a boss back in the 1950s and ‘60s, soirees that included starred generals and base commanders, et al. She was a brilliant hostess, and all of her silver and china saw a great deal of use. It passed down to my husband and has languished in boxes for decades.
Even had I the need for china, I wouldn’t unpack those boxes. I have my own full set of Noritake in the china cabinet in the dining room. And do you know how many times I’ve used it in the last 37 years of marriage? Maybe fifteen. Fifteen times. In almost forty years.
If I never used it, really, how can I expect my kids to? I could break it out for daily use, give it a purpose, but I prefer my colorful and sturdy Fiestaware.
The harsh reality is that times have changed, and many items are simply not passed down the way they used to be. The bulky teak cabinet that belonged to my in-laws, built in the 1950s to harbor stereo equipment, is beautiful but impractical. We have old CDs and DVDs stored in there now, but with so much going digital, those items will be useless soon enough, and then what will that cabinet be used for?
To understand this whole situation better, I took to the Internet and discovered several articles that explain the phenomena of heirlooms no longer being accepted by heirs:
The china and silver, etc. I’ve already explained, but what about other stuff? Furniture, linens, trinkets, and the like are all receiving negative head shakes. And here’s the reason: Most of it isn’t worth a farthing.
Our parents, for the most part, purchased everything mass produced. Oh, sure, there is the occasional piece that is unique, but a lot of stuff came from Sears & Roebuck. Maybe that side table lasted through the decades, but there are 100,000 other identical side tables out there in the possession of people just like us who are trying to unload them too. Even some of the real heirloom pieces are getting the boot. Great-grandma’s solid mahogany dining room set with a table that seats 20 and includes a twelve foot buffet and a wall-hogging china cabinet might hold fond memories of Thanksgivings past, but it’s out of date now and too large by far to fit into most modern dining rooms. Besides, people have different tastes, so unless you’ve always coveted that mahogany set, chances are you don’t want it taking up precious real estate in your house.
Parents make assumptions about things their kids might want to keep. But here’s what I’ve learned from this process: Don’t wait to find out. Ask your kids now, before they are in the position of sifting through all your stuff after you’re gone. If they want something, either give it to them now or make sure the family understands that it belongs to them after you’re gone. And there is something to be said for handing over beloved items before you’re unable to do it with your own two hands.
A number of years before my mother’s death, she and I had a conversation around Christmastime, and I told her about a nativity set we had just purchased. She became quiet, and after a few moments said, “But I always thought you would want my nativity set.” She was right about that. I did want her nativity set. One of my most treasured childhood memories is of laying out that nativity set. It was my job every Christmas, and unlike the weekly silver polishing, I loved it. I was excited to unwrap the figurines every year because as each painted face was revealed it was like greeting an old friend. So why did I run out and buy a different nativity set? As I told my mother, “Well, yes, I love your nativity set. But you’re still using it, and that means that my children are growing up without one.” By the time she passed away I had more nativity sets than I knew what to do with, having inherited several from my in-laws. My mother’s set went to my sister, at my insistence. I know she treasures it.
The moral of the story is that it’s okay to open your grip and watch things float away. Stuff is just stuff, after all. The important things, the things that matter most, you carry with you always, in your heart.
So, that mahogany dining room set that no one wants? The china and silver your kids will never use? The weird wood carving your grandpa picked up in Norway that looks like some kind of bizarre fertility god? Sell it or give it away to someone who can and will enjoy it. Those people are out there, and the items once treasured by you or your loved ones deserve the chance to be loved again.
Unload. Let go. Be free.
Have you experienced this? Do your parents have heirlooms you don’t want? Do you have things your kids have no interest in inheriting?
Thanks for being here. See you next week for more of the Naked Truth!
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