Un­wanted in­her­i­tances

Chil­dren are tak­ing a pass on their par­ents’ pos­ses­sions.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Senior - By TREVA LIND

ES­TATE sales line up yes­ter­year’s valu­ables: china, sil­ver, col­lectibles, oak fur­ni­ture, 1980s geese decor.

In­creas­ingly, adult chil­dren of age­ing par­ents don’t want – or can’t fit – all that stuff.

“It is so com­mon now,” said DeAnne Wil­fong, se­nior move man­ager and co-owner of Smooth Tran­si­tions in Spokane, United States.

“The kids were raised on Ikea, Martha Ste­wart, Pier 1, Pot­tery Barn; that’s what they want. They want smaller, some­thing that can be trans­ported, that will fit with mod­ern.

“They don’t want any­thing that can’t go in the dish­washer or in the mi­crowave,” she added. “The other is­sue is if the kids are older, say in their 50s, they al­ready have full houses.”

What is pop­u­lar, likely boosted by TVs Mad Men, is mid-cen­tury mod­ern fur­nish­ings from the 1950s and 60s, or po­ten­tial “shabby chic” items for a slightly worn or farm­house look. Younger peo­ple might take fam­ily fur­ni­ture with clas­sic lines and “re­pur­pose” it with chalk paint.

What to do with a bulky 1980s oak cab­i­net? That’s chal­leng­ing these days, she said.

“It’s called brown fur­ni­ture now,” Wil­fong said. “The only way some­one will take an oak piece – I don’t care how low you go in the price – is if it has the po­ten­tial of be­com­ing a shabby chic de­sir­able prod­uct.

“The re­ally big, old oak china cab­i­nets, well I’ve seen peo­ple buy them for maybe US$50 (RM215), they get rid of the top piece, and take the bot­tom, turn it into a bar or a hutch and paint it. It’s the same with just about any oak fur­ni­ture.”

Coeur d’Alene res­i­dent Jacque­line Dean, 58, is fac­ing de­ci­sions of what to do with ac­cu­mu­lated pos­ses­sions from her par­ents’ home of 45 years, af­ter mov­ing her mum, 90, and dad, 88, re­cently into an as­sisted-liv­ing fa­cil­ity.

Her par­ents se­lected mean­ing­ful pos­ses­sions to take, such as old pho­to­graphs and wood carv­ings, but could only move what fit in a one-bed­room apart­ment. Dean has some fam­ily items with sen­ti­men­tal value, but she has lim­ited space her­self.

“My par­ents house is prob­a­bly about 3,000 sq feet (915 sq m), and ours is 2,000 (610),” Dean said. “Cer­tainly, our life­styles are dif­fer­ent. Fifty years ago, tea sets were com­mon, and you had af­ter­noon teas with your neigh­bours.”

Al­though her mum still had a tea set, that’s one ex­am­ple of how Dean is weigh­ing what to keep. Her men­tal check­list: Is it func­tional? Will it be used? Do they have room to store it?

Becky Reid, co-owner of Res­o­lu­tion Es­tate Ser­vices in Spokane, re­peat­edly watches fam­i­lies go through this. Al­though styles come and go, Reid said she’s also see­ing more adult chil­dren who don’t want or can’t take par­ents’ keep­sakes and decor.

Some­times, it’s be­cause of lim­ited space. Other rea­sons are dif­fer­ent life­styles and tastes.

“For many peo­ple un­der the age of 50, they don’t want the china; they don’t want the fancy sil­ver­ware,” Reid said. “They don’t en­ter­tain that way any­more. They’re more ca­sual. The peo­ple who do buy it tend to be older them­selves.

“The col­lectibles, what some peo­ple re­fer to as dust col­lec­tors, porce­lain pieces and lit­tle trin­kets are just a harder sell. It’s chal­leng­ing to sell china; it doesn’t go for what it should. Peo­ple just want to put stuff in the dish­washer.”

Reid does urge fam­ily mem­bers to re­flect over time be­fore dis­card­ing fam­ily heir­looms, such as a wall clock that be­longed to a great grand­fa­ther. They might be mak­ing a de­ci­sion be­cause of feel­ing stressed or over­whelmed.

“We want them to make sure they’re mak­ing the right de­ci­sions for them, and they’ve given it some thought. We try to be sen­si­tive to their sit­u­a­tion.”

Valu­able and col­lectible items do sell at es­tate sales, go­ing to peo­ple who are drawn to cer­tain pieces or are col­lec­tors them­selves, Reid said. For peo­ple de­cid­ing what to do with a few col­lectibles, with­out enough items to hold an es­tate sale, she sug­gests re­search on­line.

A Lladro piece might do well on eBay, but other items sell low.

“Small things like Pre­cious Mo­ments gift­ware, that’s just re­ally hard even on eBay to get a good price. You’ll al­ways find some peo­ple who like cer­tain things, but across the board, what’s re­ally hot is mid-cen­tury mod­ern.

“The cute­sie stuff, like the cows and geese from the ‘80s, not so much.”

Depend­ing on the item, Wil­fong said she some­times sees bet­ter re­sale in parts of­fered on Etsy, a web­site for hand­made and vin­tage items. Pin­ter­est is also hav­ing some in­flu­ence, such as ex­am­ples of how to turn a small pi­ano into a bar or foun­tain.

“It’s all rel­a­tive to who is buy­ing, what they’re will­ing to pay for it, and how much of them are in the mar­ket,” Wil­fong said. “The In­ter­net tells us how many Pre­cious Mo­ments are out there, how many ban­jos from the 30s, how many Cab­bage Patch dolls.”

She’s also see­ing a trend in re­cent months of thrift stores be­ing more se­lec­tive about dona­tions. Wil­fong sees two rea­sons why: A num­ber of peo­ple are cast­ing off more things dur­ing a hot hous­ing mar­ket with homes sell­ing fast, and more se­niors are mov­ing into re­tire­ment cen­tres.

“Back in April, I moved peo­ple, and then I brought in an es­tate sales per­son,” she said. For items left over, calls went to sev­eral thrift shops.

“They said, ‘We have all we can han­dle; we’re maxed out. They called two char­i­ties, and the char­i­ties said, ‘We’re not pick­ing up as much as we did.’ ”

Wil­fong said she helped a client move in June who couldn’t stand to see an­tique fur­ni­ture go out­side of fam­ily, so an adult child from an­other state used a U-Pack ser­vice.

“They had a com­pany trans­port it,” Wil­fong said. “Great grandma’s oak fur­ni­ture went back four generations. It will go into stor­age and will stay there in­def­i­nitely. She’ll in­cor­po­rate a few pieces, but her house is full, and it’s mod­ern as far as decor.”

Reid un­der­stands some of those whys. Her own chil­dren seem less emo­tion­ally at­tached to pos­ses­sions.

“I hear it a lot from a lot of older adults; their kids aren’t sen­ti­men­tal about stuff, or their kids don’t want what they call clut­ter,” Reid said. “It’s just a dif­fer­ent mind­set. A lot of times, they’re more into out­door ac­tiv­i­ties like camp­ing and trav­el­ling, not as much into the house.

“They want a more sim­plis­tic home they can eas­ily main­tain, then they can have their life­style.”

Dis­pos­ing of items within a house­hold crammed full is sober­ing for es­tate sale work­ers, or even for adult chil­dren, she said. One client had a sig­nif­i­cant Lionel train col­lec­tion, but af­ter years of en­joy­ment, no­body wanted it or had the space to re­lo­cate it.

“We put it on the mar­ket and tried to sell it,” Reid said.

En­joy items, but per­haps clean out clos­ets reg­u­larly.

“Peo­ple who are hav­ing to deal with their par­ents’ stuff, we hear it all the time from them, ‘I have to go home to my house and clean it out.’ ”

— Pho­tos: TNS

Lo­gis­tics com­pany Smooth Tran­si­tions co-owner Wil­fong says items like the old con­sole TV and wooden mag­a­zine rack are hard to move.

It’s tough clear­ing out the el­derly’s houses be­cause of­ten their chil­dren do not have the space for their par­ents’ things nor any use for them.

A mid-cen­tury mod­ern decor star burst clock is the sort of keep­sake that el­derly clients can’t pass on to their chil­dren.

A crock­ery set is hard to sell be­cause the younger gen­er­a­tion has a more ca­sual ap­proach to en­ter­tain­ing.

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