Consumable. Remember, consumable. So went my self-talk this afternoon as I shopped for a gift for a friend. At our age, we don’t need anything else sitting around. The best gifts are those you can eat, drink, spray, lather, dab, splash, burn, write on or otherwise use up.
A little over a year ago I blogged about clutter and sentiment and my earnest efforts to part with possessions. When my sons and their wives visited this summer I wondered if they were taking stock of my progress and grumbling, “I thought she got rid of a lot of this stuff.” Kindly, nobody brought it up—to me, anyway.
Truth is, no one wants our stuff. Especially the good stuff. As a generation, we Baby Boomers are the last to embrace inheriting our families’ heirlooms such as china, silver, crystal and antique furniture. And now we’re stuck with it. Our kids, and certainly their kids, prefer the clean, functional lines of IKEA and entertain with paper plates, even on holidays. Many are minimalists who don’t have room for grandma’s dishes and wouldn’t use them if they did.
Some headlines from this year:
- Aging parents with lots of stuff, and children who don’t want it – New York Times
- Sorry, nobody wants parents’ stuff – Forbes
- Who will end up with your parents’ stuff? If it’s you, you need a plan. – NBCNews.com
Like our mother’s aluminum grease drainer on my brother’s kitchen counter, inexpensive mementoes hold appeal. A few months ago my daughter-in-law came from her father’s home beaming about the treasures she carried in her arms. Most precious were the battered pan and measuring cup she and her granny used to make homemade biscuits. To her, they represent priceless memories.
We recently found ourselves on the opposite side of the downsizing dilemma when my boyfriend’s aunt, who had no children, moved into assisted living. I traveled up north with him and his sister to clean out what she left in her house prior to its sale. That their aunt supervised the process—what a good sport—made the daunting task somewhat easier. Queen of recycle/reuse, I focused on filling boxes for charity as my co-workers tossed items into a huge dumpster in the backyard. No one has ever feared this pushover, as far as I know. But more than once I caught them cowering when I walked out back. “Was that the pile of clothes from the bedroom floor you just threw in there?” I asked. “They had inches of dust, and she took what she wanted anyway,” one replied. By the third day I had joined in the ruthless tossing, mumbling “thanks for your service” to the doomed goods.
In our 70s with homes of our own and lifetimes of keepsakes, the three of us had no business taking anything. Yet even we succumbed to sentiment … like this metal grinder, exactly like the ones our parents used to make ham, cheese and olive dips when they entertained in the 1950s, and this oversized pan that “might come in handy someday.”
Oh, and this treasure, which generations of family used to grind pecans for Christmas cookies.
And one of us (not me or I would take a picture) couldn’t resist a vintage coat.
But we learned a lesson. It’s true about the good stuff. In the end, that’s all that was left. Offers to offspring of “We’ll ship it. You want it?” elicited grateful declines. Finally, we found someone who wanted it—the new homeowner. We happily closed the door leaving the china and crystal there with our memories, right where they belonged.
Experts advise planning well in advance for disposing of keepsakes. Some tips:
- Talk to your kids
- Consult an auctioneer and/or antiques dealer
- Advertise on Craigslist and/or eBay
- Donate to second-hand stores that support charities