Updated: May 23, 2020
It seems to be one of the most common questions adult children are asked today by their aging parents. “Why don’t you want my stuff?” The parent is frustrated. The child is frustrated. Neither knows what to do with a household of antique of vintage collectibles, including fine dining china, art, crystal, silver, hummels, baseball cards and other items collected over a lifetime.
As an estate consultant and antique appraiser with close to 20 years’ experience, I see this constantly and I just want to get to the bottom of it. This trend and question has become more and more common, each and every year. Parents who are downsizing ask me, “Can you believe my kids don’t want this?” And I am kind of surprised too. For decades antique dealers, estate sale companies & auctioneers had to fight off family members for the antiques and collectibles in a house. Many have stories, that even after the purchased or signed a contract to liquidate an estate, some long-lost family member would turn up just to grab “a few things” that they wanted before the moving trucks came. A few minutes later, all the valuables were gone. We, in the business, used to call the extended family “the locust.” This was because of their voracity for picking a nice estate auction clean before we got to conduct the sale.
As most estate sale companies and auctioneers, don’t charge a fee, but rather, a commission, they want to have nice assets to sell, and when they found themselves left with the Tupperware and towels, there was no money in it. This, however, now has completely flipped to the point where I am asking myself, “Why doesn’t anyone in the family want this?” Not that the industry is complaining, mind you. Quite the contrary. The estate sale and auction business seems to be booming with fresh to the market estate items, many of which have been in families for multiple generations. Treasured heirlooms, passed from generation to generation, are now looked upon as a burden.
The younger generations are not interested. They say thing like, “Where am, I going to store that?” “It’s not my taste.” “It doesn’t fit my décor.” The parents don’t understand, and often are hurt by their children’s rejection of their valued collectibles. I have seen actual anger and bad blood over these issues.
I have written a book attempting to enlighten both sides in this interesting trend, but I did want to just bring a few things to your attention in this post.
First, I have found that this trend is not "new" historically. Second, there are a few good scientific and psychological rationales, behind this latest trend. And, third, I hope you believe the immortal words of George Carlin, “It’s just stuff" and don’t get so caught up in it or take it personally. Relationships are so much more important than stuff. Being raised by hoarders and one parent specifically, being a Child of the Depression, I saw first-hand how stuff can be "so important." I am sure it’s why I do what I do and feel like the messenger. My hope is, this post opens a conversation between you and your loved ones, for a better understanding of all of our motivations when it comes to "Stuff." Oh yeah, and gets shared and goes viral !
Also, I do have some great Downsizing Tips you may have not read a few weeks back, if you are interested.