If you are not already painfully aware of how much the world has changed, get ready for another sobering experience when you face the prospect of disposing of your parents’ prized possessions.
Nobody wants them— not you and not your kids.
Maybe that’s not quite absolute, but it’s close; most of us are not well prepared to deal with these possessions that carry emotional memories, making it that much harder.
Newlyweds are not picking out formal china patterns these days. Homes, tastes and styles have changed: heavy “brown” mahogany furniture is out; the Ikea look, mobility and minimization are in.
Younger people also don’t have the “duty“ gene, an attribute of earlier generations who often took possessions from parents and grandparents that were expected to be passed down, even if they really didn’t want them.
Worse, not even antique dealers or estate sale professionals are excited about your parents’ stuff. Even some of the larger charities, like Goodwill or Salvation Army, reject donations of home furnishings when they run out of space for inventory.
Making the move
So what can you do— besides feel guilty? The reality is that most of us will have to face this someday, likely sooner than later. In fact, you might find yourself downsizing your things at the same time you need to step in to handle your parents’ possessions.
Some practical advice
and tips to consider:
If one or both of your parents are alive, find out more about the treasured things they have. What are the stories and connections behind these items? Ask why an item means something to them. It might be helpful to know this when you sell something or convince someone in the family to keep it.
Talk to extended family members, especially the young adults, about what they might have an interest in. True, it can be awkward and the rejection can be painful, but there are often a few surprises. Rather than assuming your great niece would want the tea set, you might find out she would really love the woodworking tools.
Linda Blackburn, senior real estate advisor from Sulphur Springs Realty, states “based on my experience working with seniors I am finding that our kids and grandkids no longer want our ‘stuff.’ That can be very disappointing for many seniors downsizing or moving to assisted living. I always suggest wherever you move to make room for the things you love, see what your kids might like to have and then be prepared to relinquish the rest to an estate/tag sale or donate.”
Are you dealing with collections of things? Considering keeping one piece to remember the collection and the parent. That often allows you to move on and sell or donate the rest.
Also, understand what you are dealing with. Do you have high-end items? Like trendy Mid-Century Modern furniture, fine jewelry, artwork or rugs? If so, buyers can usually be found for those iems. Or, on the flip side, is most of what you’re dealing with mass produced and out of style? That makes it much harder to find buyers.
If you have some things you think might be valuable, get them appraised. If the items turn out to be worth something, generally a local auction house or possibly an online business that has much broader market reach may have an interest. In both cases, understand the terms and circumstances of the sale.
Consider a local consignment shop to sell a few selected heirlooms, if you are not in a hurry. Or if you want it over quickly and relatively painlessly, consider a liquidation firm that will do an assessment, make an offer on the entire lot of items, sell off the most valuable items and donate the rest.
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