Like most baby boomers, I have stuff: stuff I bought, stuff from my parents, stuff from my grandparents and stuff I thought I was going to leave my child. I’ve learned over time, however, that my child doesn’t necessarily want that stuff. Here’s how it all started…
The greatest generation and their stuff
My parents are part of the “Greatest Generation,” a term coined by journalist Tom Brokaw. At least in my family, this also means they have the greatest amount of stuff.
A couple of years ago, I took time off to coordinate an extensive home renovation for my parents. They were not ready to downsize to an assisted living community, so as a compromise, improvements were made to their home in anticipation of a future sale.
To prepare, I had to declutter, discard obvious trash and move everything but large furniture out of the house and into the garage. There was something bittersweet about viewing mementos of the vibrant, creative life my parents had B.C., “before children.” Still, I felt like a naughty child, weeding through their stuff while they waited out the process in a nearby hotel.
Once the work was complete, I returned clothing, linens, lamps, pillows, books and other accessories to original or new homes, with the excess stacked in the garage for sorting and purging later. Anything there would have to earn its space back in or be let go. Fast forward two years later and we are still purging; however, it is at a slower pace now that my father has been moved to a nursing home, and there are other matters to help my mother with.
Some of that stuff has filtered down to me. Combine that with my own stuff, and I thought I had plenty to hand down to my daughter. Several years ago, when I was in the process of clearing out and downsizing after a divorce, I learned she wasn’t very interested!
An important lesson about my stuff
My daughter was living on her own, and as I picked through my castoffs, I set aside items I thought she could use. Once a week or so I would drop off a few things outside her apartment, or if our schedules aligned, I would hand them to her in person.
One afternoon, as I used my head to knock on her door (my arms laden with “gifts”), she opened the door, stepped outside and shut it behind her.
“Moooooom!” she railed. “Whatever it is, I don’t want it, don’t need it and don’t have room for it. I don’t want your stuff!”
I have to admit: I was a little hurt. She wouldn’t even let me walk through the door! Still, this was a learning moment: My kid didn’t want my stuff.
Protecting future generations from your stuff
My daughter’s reaction to my well-meaning, but unwanted “gifts” changed my mindset for hanging on to anything I don’t need, use or love. Since she is the only child/grandchild/niece in the family, everything from me, my parents and my brother will trickle down to this one, already overwhelmed millennial. I want to protect her from the impending avalanche of things as I purge generations of stuff and help others to do the same.
Here are some tips for reducing your stuff that I learned through this experience:
· Downsize before you have to.
· Sort and let go of the excess FIRST, then organize what’s left.
· Saving items to pass down to your kids? Offer them now, or mark these items with their name on a sticker. If neither of you wants these items, let them go.
· Weed out family photos, discarding duplicates or save for an upcoming family event for others to take. Write names, dates and places on the back of those you keep.
· Let young children select the school work they want to save at the end of each year.
· Grown children should be given these items to do their own purging.
· Be aware that EVERY family has big brown furniture.
· Acknowledge that you really CAN’T take it with you.
Barbara Trapp is a professional organizer serving Northeast Florida. For more information, visit zenyourden.com or contact her via firstname.lastname@example.org or (904) 500-7678.