CLEAN OUT THE CLUT­TER

What to do with the stuff your kids don’t want

Chicago Sun-Times - - DRIVE HOME - BY LIZ WE­STON NERDWALLET

Par­ents who are down­siz­ing or sim­ply de­clut­ter­ing may have to get creative at find­ing homes for all their un­wanted pos­ses­sions — par­tic­u­larly th­ese days.

The gen­er­a­tions that came af­ter the baby boom are fa­mously less in­ter­ested than their pre­de­ces­sors in the trap­pings of do­mes­tic life, says El­iz­a­beth Stewart, au­thor of “No Thanks Mom: The Top Ten Ob­jects Your Kids Do NOT Want (and What To Do With Them).”

Gen Xers and mil­len­ni­als of­ten don’t want to pol­ish sil­ver or hand wash china, Stewart says. They’re also typ­i­cally not in­ter­ested in dark, heavy fur­ni­ture, books, photo al­bums, vin­tage linens or some­one else’s col­lec­tions.

It’s hard enough for par­ents to re­al­ize that their adult kids don’t want their stuff. The next chal­lenge is fig­ur­ing out what to do with it all.

The pan­demic is af­fect­ing val­ues

Some of what par­ents own may have real value, but find­ing buy­ers right now can be a chal­lenge, says estate ap­praiser Julie Hall, au­thor of “In­her­it­ing Clut­ter: How to Calm the Chaos Your Par­ents Leave Be­hind.”

“Dur­ing th­ese times where peo­ple are con­cerned and wor­ried, they’re not go­ing to be open­ing their wal­lets quite as much as they would have,” Hall says.

Even be­fore the pan­demic and re­ces­sion, many items that peo­ple thought were valu­able re­ally weren’t, Stewart says. Steamer trunks, an­tique sewing ma­chines, Per­sian rugs, old books and sil­ver-plated ob­jects are among the items that may seem rare and costly but typ­i­cally aren’t, she says.

An ex­pert opinion could help

Per­sonal prop­erty ap­prais­ers, found through the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Ap­prais­ers or the In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety of Ap­prais­ers, can help peo­ple de­ter­mine what might be worth sell­ing.

But not ev­ery­one feels com­fort­able hav­ing strangers in their homes right now. Most ap­prais­ers need to see and touch ob­jects to de­ter­mine val­ues, although some, in­clud­ing Hall, will work vir­tu­ally to ap­praise com­mon items such as vin­tage lamps, old cam­eras, cos­tume jew­elry and fig­urines.

“Peo­ple just wanted to email me a few pho­tos and needed a quick an­swer whether it was valu­able or not so they could just get rid of it and not feel bad about it,” she says.

Peo­ple can use auc­tion sites such as eBay to es­ti­mate val­ues, but they should check the most re­cent “sold” list­ings, Hall says.

“Any­body can ask the sun and the moon,” she says. “You need [to know] what are things sell­ing for presently.”

Find­ing homes for ev­ery­thing else

Own­ers of ster­ling sil­ver flat­ware, china and crys­tal may be able to sell in­di­vid­ual pieces to Re­place­ments Ltd., a table­ware re­tailer that makes pur­chases through an on­line process, Stewart says.

The value of books of­ten can be es­tab­lished with an in­ter­net search or by vis­it­ing Bi­b­lio.com, a mar­ket­place for rare, out-of­print and col­lectible books.

If you’re com­fort­able with peo­ple com­ing to your home or garage, you can list items for sale on Craigslist or neigh­bor­hood apps such as Nextdoor. Those are good sites to list items you want to give away, too, and many com­mu­ni­ties have Freecy­cle groups to help you find homes for un­wanted items.

Char­i­ties such as Good­will, Sal­va­tion Army, St. Vin­cent de Paul and Viet­nam Vet­er­ans of Amer­ica ac­cept a wide va­ri­ety of household items, in­clud­ing cloth­ing and fur­ni­ture, and some will pick up do­na­tions.

Char­i­ties are of­ten se­lec­tive about what they’ll ac­cept, and many were in­un­dated when pan­demic lock­downs lifted. It’s best to call or check the lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion’s web­site to see what is and isn’t be­ing ac­cepted.

Fur­ni­ture can be do­nated to Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity or to a char­ity as­so­ci­ated with the Fur­ni­ture Bank Net­work. Habi­tat also ac­cepts new and gen­tly used ap­pli­ances, build­ing materials and household goods.

Stewart en­cour­ages her clients to look for po­ten­tial re­cip­i­ents more lo­cally, as well.

Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence shel­ters, refugee ser­vices and hous­ing au­thor­i­ties may need clothes, fur­ni­ture and household goods to help peo­ple es­tab­lish new homes, she says. School or com­mu­nity the­ater groups might want vin­tage clothes for cos­tumes. Youth clubs might ac­cept fur­ni­ture, game ta­bles or mu­si­cal instrument­s for their recre­ation rooms. Stewart was able to do­nate a pi­ano — an in­stru­ment that’s no­to­ri­ously hard to give away — to a lo­cal Boys & Girls Club.

Stewart also sug­gests in­quir­ing if friends, neigh­bors and ex­tended fam­ily mem­bers could use an item, par­tic­u­larly those with sen­ti­men­tal or emo­tional at­tach­ments.

“It’s much more palat­able for peo­ple to give to some­one they know than to give to a face­less or­ga­ni­za­tion,” Stewart says. “You don’t wake up at 3 in the morn­ing and say, ‘Should I have re­ally given that thing away?’”

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