T.J. KIRKPATRICK/The New York Times
Times have changed. The old idea of keeping precious keepsakes so you can hand them down to your children appears to be a thing of the past. Why, you ask yourself? It’s a new generation. Children today are moving around more frequently and some prefer smaller-home city living. It’s also much easier to buy cheap lightweight furniture online and have it delivered. Think about all the times you moved that heavy curio. Your kids don’t want to be doing that!
So what do you do now? “Have a plan, look five years down the road, or 10 years down the road. Ask yourself, what don’t you really need. Where do you see yourself?” advises Karen Wiley of Smooth Transitions of Kansas City. She worked in hospice care for 16 years and saw firsthand the need for people to begin this process early.
The biggest advice: Don’t wait until you get into an emergency situation to start the process of clearing out your home. While it may be difficult for you — and uncomfortable for your kids to bring up — it’s something everyone should talk about.
Wiley has some recommendations for parents and children. Make sure the discussion happens in a relaxed environment and not when emotions are running high, or during a family disagreement.
If you don’t want certain items, explain to your mom and dad that while they bring back a lot of good memories, you don’t live in the kind of world where you’re going to need their things.
Let your parents know the material items will be in your heart forever. You don’t need the china to remember all the great dinners.
Reassure your parents that you not taking the items has no bearing on the love you have for them.
It’s never too early to start getting rid of stuff. You can even do several cycles of clearing out your home, so it’s not so much all at once.
If there are a few items you really want to keep in the family, explain that to your children and the reasoning behind it. Understand they can’t keep everything.
Just because your child doesn’t want something for sentimental value, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you.
Once you and your family make the decision to begin clearing out your home, there are some things to consider.
How much to charge?
“Price off demand, not your heart,” Wiley says. While you may have paid a lot of money back in the day for something, it might not be worth the same now. Also, just because something is special to you, doesn’t mean it’s worth more to others.
Where to sell it?
Estate sales are an option. There are also companies that specialize in downsizing for seniors and will handle the entire process, however you like. Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are options, too. It’s really something to decide on a case-by-case basis. Wiley recommends that if you are in a vulnerable state, don’t let buyers into your home unless other family members are there with you.
If you do decide to have some sort of estate or yard sale, consider whether you should be present. While some might want to see who buys their cherished items, the emotional impact may be too much for others.
In the end, whether you’re a parent or a child, it’s important to realize that different people need different things.