21 Jan Downsizing, Getting Your Kids to Take Your Stuﬀ
Kids not wanting their parents’ stuﬀ is a hot topic. Just try Googling “kids wanting your stuﬀ,” and you’ll be overwhelmed by the articles on the subject, not to mention the responses that those articles get on social media.
If the articles don’t suﬃciently cover the subject for you, there are plenty of books available, too. Marni Jameson’s book Downsizing the Family Home: What to Save, What to Let Go is fast becoming the go-to book for downsizing. Part memoire and part how-to, it was published in 2015 by AARP and is the recipient of numerous awards.
And don’t worry, it’s not just an American thing. Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing has sold more than 7 million copies worldwide. Meanwhile, Margareta Magnusson has published a book to teach us The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. Who’s titling these books, anyway? You’ll find these books, and many more, in a growing subsection about “stuﬀ” in the home and organizing section of your local book store or library.
With all this publicity about how little your kids will want, you might think that everyone has given up on the idea. But that’s not the case. And if you’re honest with yourself, you want some of your things to go to your kids, too—or grandkids, second cousin, or third cousin twice removed on your stepmother’s side.
How do I know? I’m a professional downsizer. Every day, I work with people to move and downsize. I’m part of a growing industry, usually called “senior move managers.” And I’m a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM).
Based on my experience, there are some strategies that may allow you to give some of your stuﬀ to family:
1. Not everything
When downsizing, parents will often want their children to take everything they can’t take. Or parents will say, “Take anything you want!” Faced with so many options, many children will opt for nothing. It’s just easier. It takes time and often creates complications to “pick” items. Instead, you should…
2. Make it specific and explain why
Most kids won’t accept “everything” and “anything.” So, instead try something like this: “I want you to take my father’s medals from World War I. I have them all in this box and have written down the stories of how he received each one.” Or you can say, “I want you to take my typewriter. It was the last gift given to me by your grandmother. And it’s the only thing I have left from my college years.” These are specific and meaningful, so most family will accept these kinds of requests.
3. Size matters
Asking family to take your antique watch is diﬀerent from asking them to take the grandfather clock. Asking them to take the jewelry box that your father made is diﬀerent from asking them to take the five-piece dining room set that came with your great- grandparents from Ireland.
4. Your collectibles
Collectors look at their collection and think about when each piece came into their possession. Whether it was a gift or a lucky find, each piece tells a story. But that story is a personal story. “Your” collection is just that: yours. Don’t expect that importance to resonate with other family members.
5. No strings attached
Good news, your granddaughter wants your dining room table! She’s planning to paint it hot pink, remove the Queen Anne legs, and replace them with short metals ones so she can use it as a coﬀee table. Or your favorite cousin wants your Lionel train set. He knows a metal sculptor who can turn it into a cool light fixture. Do you still want your family to get your stuﬀ if they’re going to alter it? You have to be willing to give your things away without strings attached. And that means your things might be used diﬀerently from how you expected.
6. Accept their answer
When they say “no,” accept it. They are more likely to say “yes” to some things if they know that they have control over what they’re getting
7. No idle threats
Demonstrate your acceptance of their answer by following through. If you say “if you don’t take the widgets, they’ll be donated,” and your family still can’t take them, the widgets need to go to donation—period.
8. Slippery slope
Your sister-in-law wants one teacup from your mother’s teacup set. Are you willing to break up the set? Or are you going to say, “If you’re going to take your grandparents’ china, you really should take their linens, too”? No, this is the slippery slope. Let your sister-in-law take the one cup, and let the china go without the linens. Unless the collection is valuable and would be affected by dividing it up, let your family take only the things they want.
9. Expect surprises
When your family is free to select, knowing there are no strings attached and their answers will be accepted, you may be surprised by what they select. Expect to be surprised; it’ll make the process so much easier on everyone!
I wish I could guarantee that these strategies will work for everyone and with all their stuﬀ. But I can’t. Your stuﬀ and your family are unique. But when you use these nine strategies, you should have a better outcome. Always remember that maintaining good relationships is far more important than maintaining “stuﬀ.” Good luck with your downsizing!
Megan Bond is a certified senior move manager and president of Complete Transitions. She is a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM).