We Boomers are Asking The Wrong Generation If They Want Our Prized Possessions As We Do Our Spring Cleaning or Downsize

We Boomers are downsizing, or so I continually hear in the news and media.  Moreover, especially during spring cleaning time, articles and advice columns about how our adult children do not want our possessions abound.  

We are told to tell our adult children to pick just one item each, instead of asking them to divide all our prized possessions among them.  We are told that second-hand stores are full of items no longer of interest to our children’s generation, such as our china and crystal and silver.  There are even new businesses to get rid of our possessions that we accumulated over a lifetime.  Learn all about it in the New York Times article, “Aging Parents With Lots of Stuff, and Children Who Don’t Want It,” by Tom Verde.

We are told no longer do the generations that follow us have registries for things and do not want stuff.  They have registries for experiences, such as a honeymoon, or for a down payment on a house.  We are told they want disposable items, want the ability to change, which account for the upswing at IKEA and Target. Our adult children live smaller and lighter and are not interested in living with what they grew up with.

Inundated with this information, I expected that all of our prized possessions would end up as I had read, auctioned or sold or a company just hired to dispose of everything.

Then, our oldest teenage grandson came for a visit.

When he was two or so, he laid claim to a colorful lithograph he loved.  He had no idea of the value.  He would stare at it.  One day, he just pointed at it and said, “mine.”  Since he was our first, and then only, grandchild, I said of course it was his and we would give it to him someday.

Now, many years older, he sat in a lounge chair he loves, and again said, “I would like you to leave this chair to me.”  He got up off the chair and proceeded to walk around our home, pointing to different items, saying how much he loved them and kept laying claim to them.  Finally, he stood in the middle of our living room and said, “really, I love everything in your home and I love your home.  Please leave me your home and everything in it.”

Yes, we kvelled (a Yiddish word for feeling happy and proud).  How wonderful that our grandson appreciated our taste in mid-century modern collectibles and wanted everything we owned for himself.

Unfortunately, we had to remind him that we had other members of the family who would be entitled to some of the possessions, and of course a share in our home.  If they wanted some things, they would be entitled, and those would have to be divided up.  He was so sad. But, we reminded him that the coveted Calder signed lithograph was definitely his and his alone.  We said we would buy him a new replica of our replica Le Corbusier lounge chair as ours was clearly worn. He said that we should buy a new one for ourselves, because our old one was what he craved.

Then it came to me.  I reviewed some of the articles and advice columns again.  Yes, they talked about how to distribute items, though unwanted, to adult children and what to do if the adult children did not want the items.  The articles did not discuss grandchildren!  Even this brand new opinion piece with a “The one thing your children want from you before you die,” by  Robert Wolgemuth | Fox News on line, April 22,2023, who says, “Your loved ones care deeply about you. But they don’t care as deeply about most of what you’ve accumulated over the course of your life. It’s time to take a hard look at all your stuff,”,mentioned asking his children but not his grandchildren.  Read in Fox News..

He mentions the purging as good for our souls as we age.  I think sharing memories with our grandchildren is a better soul journey.

As I was in the midst of drafting this post, a professional colleague called.  She discussed how she just dropped off her youngest child to college and she and her husband were considering downsizing.  On the drive to college, she mentioned this to her daughter.  Her daughter immediately responded that she had no interest in her childhood bedroom furniture, nor anything of her parents’.  They could just get rid of everything.  My professional friend felt so bad, she said, after a lifetime of accumulating possessions, that her daughter was not interested in keeping anything.

Then I told her about my grandson and my theory.  I told her to share her life with grandchildren through items she owned that meant a great deal to her or collectibles from trips and special occasions that she treasured.  It is part of our grandparent history.  I told her to take pictures of her prized items, keep pictures of occasions the items were used, and put as much of her possessions that she prized and really cared about in storage.  Her children were just of college age and just getting out of college.  One day she would have grandchildren and could share her history with them through the pictures, show them the items, and talk of the items she had accumulated.  I learned from my grandson that it is the grandchildren who would want possessions that belonged to her and her husband.  

During our lifetime, the memories we create with our grandchildren mean more to them than we realize.  Yes, I recalled that our younger daughter loves her china that came from her grandmother.  My mother used her china for all the Jewish holidays we shared as my daughter grew up. It does not matter that it is of an old-fashioned pattern and, in my opinion, not very pretty.  After all, I am the adult child who grew up with it.  I did not want it.  She cherishes it as she cherished her grandmother and the memories of the special holiday celebrations at her home and now uses it for the Jewish holidays at her home continuing tradition to the next generation, her children.

So, we Boomers must save our prized possessions for even the grandchildren-to-be or the baby grandchildren we now cherish.  One day those baby grandchildren will grow up, and like our grandson, cherish possessions that we have cherished.

In the Jewish religion we say that when we die we live on in the memories of the future generations.  When our grandchildren hold our possessions, they are reminded of the memories we grandparents created with them.  Then they can tell their children about us and our memories continue generation to generation forever.

After all, we love our grandchildren unconditionally and deep into our soul.  Our possessions are reminders of our love and caring.  Every time they sit on our chairs or hold our possessions, it is a memory of that deep and everlasting love with



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