Apr 8, 2015

Don't be insulted, mom and dad: The kids may not want your "stuff"

Our firm's attorneys are always encouraging clients to get organized and clear the clutter from their homes. Clutter is perilous for seniors. As we age, a fall is more likely to be life-threatening or cause permanent disability. (See my prior blog post about actress Ann Davis.) Why put more things in your way?

Getting organized and getting rid of excess belongings are also a great kindness to your family. Eventually someone is going to have to go through your paperwork and your belongings. If it's not easy for you to deal with your own stuff now, why would someone else find it any easier in the future?

A recent article in the Washington Post reminded me of another reason not to over-save. It's a reason I've heard increasingly from my clients' families over the years, and even seen playing out in my own family: If you think your kids want your stuff, think again: They probably don't! 

I know, it hurts, but think about it: Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation were raised with stuff you can feel, touch, put in a closet. They had scrapbooks, shoeboxes of photos, books, heavy furniture. They needed mugs and dishes because they made coffee and prepared dinner at home. They didn't stop at Starbucks or McDonald's in the morning or pick up dinner on the way home. 

On the other hand, the Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, have grown up in the digital age. They have lots of stuff, too - but it's virtual stuff, stored on computers and phones, not in shoeboxes or closets. The younger generation also tends to live in smaller spaces than their parents and grandparents. Even if they wanted to inherit certain items, where in the world would they put it? The Washington Post article quotes Stephanie Kenyan, a Maryland appraiser, who sums it up nicely: “Hardly a day goes by that we don’t get calls from people who want to sell a big dining room set or bedroom suite because nobody in the family wants it. Millennials don’t want brown furniture, rocking chairs or silver-plated tea sets. Millennials don’t polish silver.”

I confess, it's a struggle to live up to my own advice. As you might imagine, my paperwork is superbly well organized. As to everything else, well, the results are mixed. During a recent remodel, my wife and I gave away boxes and boxes of things - it has been a liberating experience. But we're holding on to a lot, too, while trying to be very selective. It's a challenge!

You can read the Washington Post article here.

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