Check any magazine counter and you’ll find shelves full of articles about downsizing. An entire generation of baby boomers are discovering the freedom of owning less and doing more. We’re selling our four-bedroom family homes and 500-square foot houses or condos, trading in our expensive cars (and hefty payments) for RVs to travel the countryside, and leaving the security of our 9-5 jobs to pursue our bliss, hoping that we’ll still be able pay for groceries next week. But we realize that life is short, so if we’re ever going to live out our dreams, is has to be now.
For most of us, part of this process is figuring what to do with all our crap. The stuff we’ve accumulated, purchased, collected, or presented with by friends and family on holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. At one time, this stuff was important. We wore it, displayed it, drove it, lived in it, and protected it with insurance policies and alarm systems. It defined us. Now the children are grown, the family dog has passed on, the credit cards are paid off, and our stuff is all that’s standing between us and freedom.
Yet, we’re not prepared to throw it all away or give it to a second-hand store. Much of our stuff is personal. Some of it was expensive. How do we divest of our worldly goods as we transition to our tiny new houses without taking along 45 years of things? And our new RV has one closet and three drawers. Who do we give all this crap to? Who will want it and take care of it like we did?
Yep, let’s give all the tired or dated junk to Goodwill and the cool stuff to the kids. I mean, they’d be crazy not to want all this. It’s way better than giving them money. This is the perfect plan. They get a big pile of seriously cool shit they don’t have to buy, and we get the comfort of knowing that our prized possessions are in good and grateful hands.
Whoa. Slow down, Nellie. Before you back up the Matson shipping container onto their front yard, anticipating welcoming smiles from your delighted offspring, you might want to call ahead and ask your child and his/her spouse if they do, in fact, covet your collection of 127 albums from the ’60s and ’70s, including the slightly warped but still playable “Best of the Village People.”
Questionable crap includes:
Your gigantic, 10-year-old Nordic Track treadmill, that takes up roughly half their spare bedroom and hasn’t actually been turned on since 2009. Telling your DIL that it also makes a great clothes hanger for bras and other items she doesn’t want to put in the dryer isn’t going to make that behemoth any smaller or less of a pain in the ass for them when they move.
Your commemorative State plates collection. Sure, Oregon has been missing since it mysteriously jumped off the wall and shattered on Halloween, 1984. And Vermont has a large, orangey glue mark running down the center where it broke in half and Hubs repaired with it Gorilla Glue. Don’t ask about Louisiana. It got inexplicably lost sometime around 1992 and hasn’t been seen since. Just tell the kids not to display them in alphabetical order, and no one will notice.
Grandma’s silver set, for 20. Never mind that it has to be kept in a special box and each piece must be hand polished before every use. Oh, and it can’t ever be put in the dishwasher. Yeah, the kids will be using these daily.
Ditto for Grandma’s heirloom, porcelain dish set, complete with gravy boat and soup tureen.
Your old tool set, which has been out in your Tough Shed for 30+ years, is missing critical pieces, and is in desperately need of cleaning. Especially since neither your son nor his wife has ever exhibited any skill or desire to fix their cars or the wiring in their rented home.
The beat-up Chevy in your garage, that hasn’t run since 1972, but “just needs some love and attention.” If you couldn’t get it running, how are they going to?
Those 15 boxes of photo albums, including your high school graduation pics, your wedding photos (first and second marriages for both of you) and the approximately 2000 pictures of your child growing up. While these albums may be interesting to your downline at some point, usually decades later, and until then will have to survive every move.
Your clothes. I realize that you’re RV’ing to warmer weather and won’t need that still-serviceable plaid, flannel coat you’ve been wearing every winter since 1989, but he’s not going to want it. And Mom’s expensive, long dresses, while gorgeous on a 60-something woman, will make your DIL look like a frumpy mother of the bride. She’s 24. Considering donating to her mother.
The 182 tiny metal toy trucks from your 40-year obsession collection. Yes, I know it took years to cultivate, and getting those last two models required six trips and four months of negotiations with the original owner. But trust me. These are not always shared passions. How to know? Ask yourself if your young progeny has ever made fun of your collection. Or you.
Your collector show car, that only gets taken out of its climate-controlled garage for parades and car shows. The kids have no place to store it and no idea how to maintain it. Nor do they have the means. This is not a gift. This is a money-sucking project. Give this to a rich friend.
Your books. We grew up in the hardback book era. Our homes boasted large bookcases, laden with best-selling authors, self-help books, travel guides, and tutorials on every recognized hobby, prominently displayed in our living rooms and home offices. Our kids grew up with Kindles. 40,00 books on one thin, 5×8″ device. You can’t compete. Make a librarian (and your kids) happy, and donate your books today.
Good luck. May your future be bright, and may all your junk turn out to be treasures.