Lisa Ricard Claro – Author

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Downsizing Dilemma: When The Kids Don’t Want Your Stuff

Posted on Feb 22, 2017 by Lisa Ricard Claro   23 Comments | Posted in The Naked Truth

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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23 Responses to "Downsizing Dilemma: When The Kids Don’t Want Your Stuff"

  1. Comment by Stephanie
    February 22, 2017 at 8:24 am  

    Bread basket. Put it in the will. 🙂

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      February 28, 2017 at 6:36 am  

      I keep telling you, beloved, I’m going to buy two more and then you’ll spend the rest of your life wondering if you inherited the right one. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

  2. Comment by Carla
    February 22, 2017 at 8:27 am  

    I was so grateful my parents didn’t offer. I mean they did – – but truly truly sentimental stuff I really desperately wanted

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      February 28, 2017 at 6:45 am  

      When my siblings and I went through our parents’ house, the things I kept were sentimental—my dad’s address book (because it was all handwritten), books I knew they loved, jewelry I remembered my mom wearing (not expensive stuff, but stuff that was her, you know? I did inherit her grand piano, and now I’m in a quandry because we’re downsizing and I can’t really take it with me. :-/ A friend recommended donating it to a church, and if my siblings are okay with it, that may be what we do. I think my mother would like that.

  3. Comment by Pat
    February 22, 2017 at 8:46 am  

    I’m trying really hard to get rid of the myriad of items in my basement. Sadly, for everything that goes, three other things magically appear in its place. Being married to a person who plans to “someday” restore an old truck, and is a pack rat to boot, has not been helpful to my plan.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      February 28, 2017 at 6:46 am  

      Haha… My in-laws had a saying: “We’ll find a place for it somewhere.” lol

  4. Comment by Robert Robinson
    February 22, 2017 at 9:20 am  

    Before I downsized to what I could fit in my pickup–before the divorce–we had 3 sets of china, new china. And we were eating pork-n-beans.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      February 28, 2017 at 6:49 am  

      NEW china? Hmm… shoes I could understand 🙂 but three sets of china does seem rather excessive. Did the fine dinnerware improve the taste of the pork & beans?

  5. Comment by Cathy C. Hall
    February 22, 2017 at 10:55 am  

    Yep, dealing with this now but don’t have as much of my parents’ treasures to divvy up. When they moved to the beach twenty years ago, they spread the wealth, giving their four children china, crystal, silver, furniture, hand-sewn, hand crocheted linens. Much of which I’ve used over the years.

    Including all that silver. But I only polish it at Christmas. Meh, I can live with a little tarnish. 🙂

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      February 28, 2017 at 6:50 am  

      Smart parents. We’re trying to unload stuff now, but as noted, the kids aren’t exactly grasping. lol The silver…oy. Well, as long as you don’t mind…

  6. Comment by Rena McDaniel
    February 22, 2017 at 12:02 pm  

    I think that a lot of it is because our parents, at least mine were born at the end of the great depression when people had done without for so many years that had the mentality later that more was good. My mom hoards so many things that nobody would want. She lives with us and when we recently moved I took her to my cousin’s house for a week and unloaded about 20 bags of stuff to Goodwill before the move. She has Alz so she never missed it and it decluttered our house. I don’t think it’s fair to leave all of this for the kids to have to deal with. Get rid of it now!

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      February 28, 2017 at 6:52 am  

      Agreed! The hubster and I have joked in the past about items we weren’t quite sure what to do with. “Put it in the attic,” he’d say. “After we’re gone the kids can figure out what to do with it.” In our case, it really was a joke. This process of unloading has been a bit of an eye opener, but it’s freeing at the same time. I’m surprised by how much stuff we’ve accumulated that we don’t really care about!

  7. Comment by Liane Carter
    February 22, 2017 at 1:49 pm  

    Oh do I relate to this. My 29 year old tells us he’s “into minimalism.”

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      February 28, 2017 at 6:53 am  

      I’ve got one of those too! Our son has always been that way, even when he was a kid. “More stuff, more trouble. Less stuff, less trouble” seemed to be his mantra.

  8. Comment by Claudia
    February 22, 2017 at 6:24 pm  

    Great post! You are so right that stuff is just stuff. I am hyper sensitive to thst right now. I’ve always been sentimental but realize you can’t pass on feelings and memories in s piece. My son will take the Toms jar thst say in my grandpas DX station but he will never life the lid and smell the sweet Double Bubble or salty peanuts from the past that I do!!!

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      February 28, 2017 at 6:56 am  

      It all comes down to individual attachments, doesn’t it, Claudia? Something of mine that one daughter has a sentimental attachment to, my other daughter doesn’t, and vice versa. There were things of my mother’s that were special to my sister that didn’t mean the same to me. In our hearts and minds…that’s where the real treasure is.

  9. Comment by ButtonsMom2003
    February 22, 2017 at 8:36 pm  

    We faced the downsizing when we moved 4 years ago. I took pictures of the stuff that was hard to let go of. The 40 year-old, early-American, expensive Ethan Allen bedroom set that my parents gave us for a wedding gift went to nieces and a nephew. Things I never thought I could part with, by necessity, became less meaningful and had to go. We have no kids to shove stuff off on so we had to just get rid of a lot of stuff.

    I did keep the wedding china though and I think it’s been used maybe 5 times in 43 years. lol

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      February 28, 2017 at 6:58 am  

      We had friends many moons ago who moved from Colorado to Nevada, and then four years later back to Colorado. Any packed box that had remained unopened during their four years in Vegas was pitched. Unopened. Their reasoning was that if they hadn’t missed it in four years, they never would. Tossed. Unopened. I don’t know if I could do that! Could you?

      • Comment by ButtonsMom2003
        February 28, 2017 at 9:10 pm  

        No, I don’t think I could. I have boxes that we haven’t really unpacked yet, after almost 4 years (peeked in the boxes but not unpacked). I wish I had the guts to just throw them out but I know I won’t be able to do that.

  10. Comment by Linda O'Connell
    February 23, 2017 at 9:43 am  

    Stuff is just that. My mom never wanted or needed stuff, so there was not much to pass on, but she did pass on her legacy of love. I saved all of my kids’ important art work, stories and awards from their school days and presented a box to each when they graduated. They weren’t even interested.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      February 28, 2017 at 7:02 am  

      Haha…my kids don’t care about that stuff either, and I have boxes full! It’s been tough, but we’re tossing things. It seems silly to hold on to those things knowing that when I’m gone my children will toss them in the trash. May as well save them the trouble. I do have the thought to choose just one thing made by each of my children and frame it. That’s only three things. 🙂

  11. Comment by Sioux
    February 26, 2017 at 12:43 am  

    I had to smile because my mother tried to con me into taking her silver. I too remembered polishing the darned stuff on Saturday mornings, and said “no way.”

    My school had a huge auction. One of the items people bid on was a dining room set–table, chairs and china cabinet. Someone no longer wanted it and donated it to the school. If the kids and grandkids don’t want something, perhaps a charitable cause could benefit from it?

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      February 28, 2017 at 7:05 am  

      Great idea, Sioux, and one I’m considering for my mother’s grand piano. If my siblings can’t take it, and none of my nieces or nephews have a place for it, then I’ll donate it to a church or school. My mother was an amazing pianist, and she played organ in church for years. I think she’d like the idea of her beloved piano seeing daily use. I played piano as a kid and can still hammer out a few things, but I never achieved my mother’s level of talent. It is a dust collector now and deserves new life breathed into it.

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