What to do when your children do not want the family china

Retirees are downsizing to move into smaller living spaces. Boomers are downsizing to put their resources toward travel and active living. And Generation X and Millennials are not looking to upsize their lives any time soon.

An August 18, 2017 article in the New York Times entitled “Aging Parents With Lots of Stuff, and Children Who Don’t Want It” cast a spotlight on this generational challenge. Boomers looking to downsize are finding that their children do not want their extra furniture, grandmother’s tea set, or even the family photo albums.

Historically, possessions and furniture were passed down from generation to generation. The beloved family china was a hotly-contested topic when it came time to pass along a lifetime’s accumulation. Today, many in the next generation are trying to figure out how to dodge a wave of “family heirlooms” they will never use and may have to pay to store.

The desire to pass along the heirlooms may be tied to a sense of family history, or to the desire to pass along what you see as useful. It is important to ask yourself and your family if the items will provide value for them.

Full disclosure, as much as I am grateful for the gesture of being handed down my grandmother’s crystal candy dish, it has never held a candy in the ten years it has been in my possession.

Both my parents and my wife’s parents have been proactive with this process. They asked all of their children what heirlooms each wanted when the time comes for them to move out of their home into a retirement community or care facility. It was an open and honest discussion and now everyone is freed from having these discussions at what may be a more trying time.

As well as their children not feeling obligated to take items, my parents know they are not in charge of “holding onto” anything just in case. My mother can pass along her china or spoon collection to another family member at any time, assured that I have no expectation she is holding them for me.

The hope for these items is always that the value will be passed along. As family memory, or as a practical item. I do not believe anyone passes along an heirloom to create an inconvenience for their children.

If you are decluttering or downsizing, look for non-profit organizations in your community that can benefit from what you do not need anymore.