What To Do With All My Stuff? What To Do With All My Parent’s Stuff?

All the furniture, crystal, and china sets our dear old folks have acquired may have suited their needs just fine, but the baby boomers and Gen-Xers who stand to inherit it may find themselves overwhelmed. There’s often just so much stuff, and in many cases its value has diminished.

Not only can our parents’ stuff be hard to let go of when they pass on or move in to an assisted living facility, it can be impossible to sell.

This was the beginning of a nbc.com article I recently read describing experiences a writer had gone through following the death of his father at 94-years. Unfortunately, the story isn’t unique. At some point, when working with a client, family, or caregiver, the issue of what to do with all the household items attached to our elders.

The definition of value is central to this discussion. The generation that experienced the Great Depression grew up with ration coupons. The idea of wasting anything is abhorrent. Prize possessions – crystal, china, silver, and front room furniture are no longer carry far less meaning (and value) to Baby Boomers, Millennials, or Gen-Xers.

Antiques, artwork, or tchotchkes do, not move a generation uninterested in working a lifetime to purchase a home, or living in that home for a lifespan. The recognition of real value – financial and emotional, of household items often results in despair for the elder. It is the catalyst of guilt, or avoidance, for adult children.

There is no one solution. Our recommendations include:

  • Identify one or two household items that are the most meaningful to family and friends and share those pieces.
  • Look for documentation (ownership, purchase, licenses, etc.) supporting family stories about a piece of artwork, jewelry, vehicles, and other pieces.
  • Learn and understand what not for profits will accept. It is important to understand that if a couch, for example, is worn or in disrepair, most not for profit organizations will accept it. For someone starting over, the notion something is better than nothing isn’t true.
  • What is selling on the open market? A silver tea set, for example that was expensive at purchase may not have any resale value if there is not a market to purchase it!

The bottom line is having purposeful conversations in advance, creating a plan, and gathering data is the best way to avoid family discord, depression, avoidance, and being overwhelmed.