The Downsizing Dilemma, Part 1

Many parents whose kids have flown the nest are thinking of downsizing or have downsized (and have the storage unit to prove it). Moving to smaller quarters means making a million decisions, not the least of which is what to save for the children and what to save the children from.
     In Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff, which he wrote for nextavenue, Richard Eisenberg quotes Mary Kay Buysse, executive director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers, “This is an Ikea and Target generation. They live minimally, much more so than the boomers. They don’t have the emotional connection to things that earlier generations did. And they’re more mobile. So they don’t want a lot of heavy stuff dragging down a move across the country for a new opportunity.”
     If you offer your treasured possessions to your children and they don’t want them, it’s hard not to take it as a rejection of you, your values, and your lifestyle. But, honestly, while your grown offspring are fighting for every inch of living space, why should they get dewy-eyed over Grandma Edie’s iced tea spoons? If you daughter hasn’t unpacked her wedding dishes after six years, what makes you think she’ll want yours? If your son eats on paper plates and uses plastic forks, why would he get excited about Wedgewood service for 12, even if it has been in your family for generations. Let’s get real about the silver that needs polishing, the hand-painted china that can’t go in the dishwasher, and the gold-rimmed cups that blow up in the microwave. Apparently, even the Salvation Army is steering away from such impractical relics of “gracious living.”
     In addition to wanting to preserve your family’s heritage by giving your “heirlooms” to your children, you may feel you’re providing them with items of great value. Alas, that’s generally not the case due to changing tastes. According to Roger Schrenk and Chris Fultz, who own Nova Liquidation and also wrote for nextavenue, “Sadly, the value of handmade antiques has been dropping since Nancy Reagan was in the White House. . .in many cases you can now easily spend more on 10 dining chairs from Restoration Hardware than for 10 made in the 1920’s.”
     It’s also matter of supply and demand. Schrenk and Fultz say that “brown furniture,” which was mass produced quickly after WWII is worth very little today. Ditto silver plate, which probably includes most of the chafing dishes, trays, flatware, and candlesticks you’ve inherited or bought. They’re most likely made of copper or brass with a micro-thin layer of silver on the top. Even full sets of sterling silver aren’t what they used to be. According to Schrenk and Fultz, “Since the crash of 2008, most sterling silver flatware sets have become uncollectible.” As for rugs, they contend, “Unless you’ve got truly antique, vegetable-dyed rugs with an unbelievably dense knot count, you will be lucky to get 10 percent of the purchase price.”
     So, what’s a downsizing parent to do? Some experts say to dispose of everything, letting the children pick what they love and can use now. Others recommend putting together a small box of objects from their childhood that will have sentimental value. But all say your grown offspring will thank you profusely for saving them from having to dispose of your possessions themselves. Of course, if you are also storing their possessions, that’s another story—or at least another blog post—for another day.

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