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10 Things Your Kids Don’t Want When You Downsize

Among the list of least-wanted heirlooms? Fancy dinnerware, dark brown furniture and sewing machines.

According to Elizabeth Stewart, author of “No Thanks, Mom,” children of baby boomers aren’t interested in upsizing as their parents downsize. If your kids tend to favor the phrase “less is more” when it comes to possessions, check out this list of ten items they probably don’t want – and learn what you can do with them.

1.  Books

Check biblio.com for information about your books. If it’s rare or valuable, call a book antiquarian. Otherwise, ask libraries, schools or charitable organizations like Ronald McDonald House if they can use them.

2.  Paper

This includes old photos and greeting cards. Digitize family photos. Keep those that are linked to a celebrity or historical moment, Stewart suggests. There might be a market for your historical snapshots among greeting card publishers and image archive companies.

Other options include your local historical museum or county archives. The Center for American War Letters at Chapman University might be interested in any war letters and memorabilia.

3. Trunks, Sewing Machines and Film Projectors

They’re probably not valuable unless made by a renowned company. Consider donating.

4.  Porcelain Figures and Decorative Plates

Precious Moments figures may not be precious to your loved ones, but an assisted living facility may appreciate them for gift exchanges. Figurines that trigger fond memories may deserve a photo shoot with a professional photographer so you or your kids can continue to enjoy them without having to dust them.

5.  Silver-Plated Objects

Unless your serving pieces and silverware are from a manufacturer along the lines of Tiffany or Cartier, consider donating it.

6.  Sterling and Crystal

Many families appreciate these as heirlooms. But if your family doesn’t, check sites like replacements.com, which matches folks with pieces that will round out their collection.

7.  Fancy Dinnerware

The next generation likely isn’t interested in hauling out a full-service for holiday meals. Again, consider selling to a replacement matching service.

8.  Dark Brown Furniture

There’s still a market, likely secondhand stores or antique lovers who may look to upcycle your pieces for the modern aesthetic. But don’t expect much if you choose to sell. Stewart suggests you’ll receive about a quarter of the purchase price. Mid-century pieces should fetch higher prices if you decide to sell.

9.  Persian Rugs

High-end pieces are still selling in high-end places, like Martha’s Vineyard. Otherwise, your best bet may be to donate them.

10.  Linens

If your children don’t want the delicate textiles, see if you can find someone who repurposes hand-embroidered work into special-occasion garments, like christening gowns. Theaters and costume shops may also appreciate them.

It can be emotional to sort through a lifetime of where we’ve been, even when it means clearing a path for the future. Loved ones, friends and neighbors might be willing to lend a more objective eye as you cull. Ask for help, and be willing to return the favor. If you need even more objectivity, find a professional through the National Association of Senior Move Managers whose job it is to help people downsize. There are also companies that specialize in managing estate sales to help you manage the task.


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Mitchell Custenborder, CFP®
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