‘Why won’t my fam­ily take my stuff?’ Lament down­siz­ing adults

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FEATURES - The le­gal ad­vice in this col­umn is gen­eral in na­ture, Con­sult your at­tor­ney for ad­vice to fit your par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion.

A re­cent ar­ti­cle in The New York Times ad­dresses the is­sue of ag­ing adults who are down­siz­ing for var­i­ous rea­sons and find that their chil­dren or other close rel­a­tives do not want the “stuff” that they have been sav­ing for them. Baby boomers are grow­ing older, and as they move to smaller homes, as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties, or other liv­ing sit­u­a­tions, the vol­ume of fam­ily heir­looms, prized china and sil­ver, pre­cious fur­nish­ings, and other keep­sakes will con­tinue to grow. The dilemma is that the older adult’s kin sim­ply do not want the items that the older adult must part with to move on. (https://www.ny­times. com/2017/08/18/your-money/ ag­ing-par­ents-with-lots-of­stuff-and-chil­dren-who-dont­want-it.html?mcubz=3).

The author of this ar­ti­cle gave sev­eral spe­cific ex­am­ples of fam­i­lies fac­ing this dilemma. Tena Bluhm, 76 and her 77 year old hus­band, Ray, down­sized from a 3,000 square foot home with three floors to a sin­glestory, 1,400 square foot liv­ing space. Their two adult chil­dren took a hand­ful of items but were not in­ter­ested in “the china and the sil­ver and the crys­tal” this gen­er­a­tion’s “hall­marks of a prop­erly fur­nished, mid­dle-class home.” Amer­i­cans, af­ter World War II be­gan a com­pet­i­tive ac­cu­mu­la­tion of ma­te­rial goods, “a corner­stone of the Amer­i­can dream.” Juliet B. Schor, a Bos­ton Col­lege so­ci­ol­o­gist wrote in her 1998 book, “The Over­spent Amer­i­can: Why We Want What We Don’t Need” that “Amer­i­cans spent to keep up with the Jone­ses, us­ing their pos­ses­sions to make the state­ment that they were not fail­ing in their ca­reers.” To­day, how­ever, for many rea­sons, young adults con­sider house­hold goods tem­po­rary or dis­pos­able and pre­fer goods from Tar­get and IKEA rather than in­her­it­ing them from par­ents or grand­par­ents.

Mary Kay Buysse is the Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of the Se­nior Move Man­agers, a pro­fes­sional or­ga­ni­za­tion of mov­ing spe­cial­ists who help older peo­ple down­size. She is quoted in the ar­ti­cle as say­ing that “This is the first time we’re see­ing a kink in the chain of pass­ing down mem­o­ries from one gen­er­a­tion to an­other.” As a re­sult, the se­nior move man­age­ment in­dus­try has ex­pe­ri­enced un­prece­dented growth in re­cent years. But even these pro­fes­sion­als are hav­ing dif­fi­culty dis­pos­ing of the ex­cess once the chil­dren have taken a few items, and the items slated for the next home are culled out. Char­i­ties also are feel­ing over­whelmed by the grow­ing in­ven­tory of house­hold goods be­ing de­liv­ered to them.

One rea­son is chang­ing tastes in fur­nish­ings and house­hold items. An an­tiques ap­praiser in Mys­tic, Con­necti­cut cred­its this to the pop­u­lar­ity of the English coun­try look in the 1990’s (col­lec­tions, chintz, rich and lav­ish look) which gave way in the 2000’s when “clut­ter was out, min­i­mal­ism was in.” And Mil­len­ni­als are less in­clined to take par­ents’ and grand­par­ents’ house­hold goods as they sim­ply have no place for them.

Mrs. Bluhm de­cided to do­nate trea­sured pos­ses­sions that she no longer could keep to char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions. She says that she has “left the mem­o­ries at­tached to them” and hopes that “some­one who re­ally wanted them would pur­chase them.” This is some­thing to keep in mind as we ac­cu­mu­late “stuff” in our homes; what is go­ing to hap­pen to it when we need to leave?

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