An unprecedented number of folks over 50 still have a living parent or step-parent. For many families that means that there are two generations downsizing at the same time. This can be an intimidating prospect, especially if you are the family repository.
In our age group, we all have some imprint of the Great Depression sensibility about conservation, be it direct experience or teachings from our parents or grandparents. These cautionary tales told us we needed to save and store valuable tools and treasures since we never knew when we will need them. We have diligently stockpiled our prized possessions and precious heirlooms for our heirs. As well as string, buckets of bolts and washers and past issues of useful magazines.
Here’s some shocking news. Our heirs don’t want to inherit most of our stuff; good, bad or indifferent. Don’t take it personally. It’s the way society is changing. For them, the Great Depression is ancient history. They relate to the Great Recession, which began in 2007. Our kids and grandkids move their home bases by choice for new opportunities more than we did. They don’t want to be weighed down by heavy furniture, no matter how good the quality or deep the sentimental value is to us. It’s just not practical. It has become furniture non grata.
As emotionally challenging as this may be, it can be liberating and enlightening as we transition to a more pared down lifestyle. We can look at our possessions through the filter of what do I still enjoy? instead of what do we need to save for our kids or some mythic someday? How much stuff do we really need? Less is more. What are we saving for someone else? What if that someone is us? Use the Waterford. Listen to Dad’s jazz collection. Get Mom’s special art glass out of storage and put it somewhere we can see it!
Here are some tips to increase your treasure pleasure:
♦ Even if it was important to your deceased relative, you are not obligated to keep it. Be honest with yourself. Do you really like art glass or jazz? Make a keep or let go decision based on your life right now.
♦ Enjoy looking through your photo collection. Cut way down on pictures of your parents’ generation. Our kids are not as connected to them. Savor the precious moments you captured. Pick one photo of each event that features the important people in their best light. Set them aside. Let go of the rest. Get rid of any photo that makes you remember something unpleasant. Also destroy any image of you that you don’t like. Have the remaining photos converted to an electronic format. A great holiday gift for family members is an electronic photo frame with the images uploaded onto it or a print book.
♦ Use your fine china, good silver and crystal for your enjoyment regularly. If you find you aren’t taking pleasure in using it and your kids don’t want it, donate or sell it now. Resist the temptation to pack it up and store it. Same is true for your good jewelry and clothing.
♦ Review the boxes of papers you have saved. A manageable way to do it is to go through one box or pile at a time. As you sort, here is some helpful criteria. Shred all old financial records you don’t need. Take a trip down memory lane with your school years. Smile a little. Cry a little. Then let them go. If you must, save a few choice super special moments for a scrapbook. Maybe do the scrapbook project with a grandchild. Recycle the rest.
♦ Go through your garage and decide what you really want to repair. Donate or sell what is lowest on your fix it fun list. For sure get rid of everything you are hanging on to for someday this will be useful if it’s fixed. Save your receipts for a tax write-off.
♦ Ask your kids and heirs if there is anything that they want when you go. Believe their answers. Give it to them now and enjoy them enjoying it. Or save it for them for when the time is right.
Keep what you need and want. Sell, donate, or recycle anything that you are saving as a “should” or Great Depression habit. Deal with your own stuff. Free your kids and heirs from that particular burden. Open the gate to treasure pleasure with them now and watch what happens. Sometimes the shared stories are the best part.
Letting go takes courage. Downsizing gives us freedom. Free space in the closet, garage, and storage unit translates as free space in life. It makes room for new and delightful possibilities. Giving ourselves permission to use and enjoy those treasures from previous generations creates a sense of continuity and connection that is like no other. Wear Grandma’s ring, use Mom’s jewelry box and put flowers in Great Aunt Hilda’s prize vase. Everyone will feel better. What are we waiting for?
Cristina Smith is the downsizing and donating author of the award-winning Yoga for the Brain series of profound philosophy and fun puzzle books.
©Cristina Smith 2018. All rights reserved.