In recent months many publications such as The New York Times and Forbes has published articles on a common problem many older adults have encountered. They have spent a lifetime collecting material things that their children do not want. There was a time when family heirlooms passed from generation to generation. That time has passed. Tastes have changed, and other than perhaps a ring or some other small item that has special meaning, many senior citizens are finding out that their children are not interested in their treasures.
Many of the auctions I do are for senior citizens who are downsizing. Often, they are moving into assisted living or a nursing home. Sometimes they are moving out of state to live closer to relatives. The move often involves a smaller home where there is not room for the things they’ve amassed over the years. Very often, they are shocked when they invite their adult children to come and take what they want only to find out they’re not interested in taking anything. Not their great-grandmother’s dresser. Not the family china. Nothing.
When these individuals call me they are often hurt and stunned that their heirlooms are not going to remain in the family. They never dreamed they would one day have to sell those items, but they have little choice. There is simply no room in their smaller home for all their possessions.
As we walk through the house listing the property they are going to sell they often want to tell me the history of each item. It’s important that they can rehearse that history so I spend the extra time listening. Besides, some of their stories are quite interesting, and they haven’t had the opportunity to tell those stories in years.
I feel bad for these folks. After all, I’m the same age as many of them, and I’m quite sure our children will not be interested in much of what my wife and I have accumulated over the years.
It’s important to have a conversation sooner rather than later about what possessions family members might want after you’re gone or if you need to downsize. It might not be an easy conversation to have, but it won’t get any easier if you wait until it has to be done. Try to understand the perspective of your family. Tastes change, and what was important to one generation isn’t as attractive to another. It’s not personal.
Once you’ve had the discussion and had time to process your feelings, then you’re ready to decide what to do with your family treasures. You may want to go ahead and begin to sell them off. Sometimes selling them slowly isn’t as painful. For others, however, it might be better to just rip off the bandage. Just go ahead and sell what you know you can’t keep if you plan to move into a smaller place.
While there are many ways to sell off your items, an auction is one of the quickest and often the easiest. The auctioneer can handle the sale of your items which some people find less painful than having to sell everything personally. Contact a reputable auctioneer in your area and let him or her guide you through the process.