Let It Go, Let It Go
At the still-sharp age of 82, my mother came to live with us. The keeper of over a hundred years of family photos, furniture, papers, china, etc., she was hesitant to part with her treasures. It was difficult to explain that her children were old enough to have all they needed, and her grandchildren were living minimalist lifestyles. Hard to explain to a woman from a generation of china cabinets and Spode (that took up a lot of space and might be used once a year) that no one wanted her stuff. It was okay to let it go.
It was almost impossible to explain why there was little value in her cherished objects. Unless it’s something rare or expensive, there will be few takers. Even the 1904 Victrola, considered a collector’s piece, only fetched $200 when no one in the family had room for it.
It’s common for older people to have a sentimental attachment to their belongings. They may have accumulated items over a lifetime and have memories attached to them, making it difficult to let go. It’s important to understand that just because something has sentimental value, it doesn’t mean it has monetary value. Be realistic and let go of items that are unnecessary or taking up valuable space. Unfortunately, they might not be worth much.
Because of different lifestyles and taste, the younger generations may not see the value in keeping items such as old china or furniture that their parents have held onto for years. It’s important for both generations to have an open and honest conversation about what will happen to these items before a move or downsizing takes place. The goal should be to find a solution that works for all parties and ensures the items are not just discarded or left unused.
History Keeps Repeating Itself
Over the next few years, I was blessed with many clients in their late eighties, early nineties. It was always the same story. “But my husband paid hundreds of dollars for that Naugahyde couch in the 1960s. It was very expensive.”
It is of vital importance to be compassionate, to be kind in explaining that life is no longer the same in terms of possessions. I’ve been doing my job for decades, and the more I deal with people and their lives, the more I realize – nobody wants your stuff.
I love to hear their stories and I love to listen about their lives. But it’s distressing when I have to break it to them that people don’t want their Melmac dishes, their stemware that can’t go in the dishwasher, their mother’s huge rocker that came all the way from Oklahoma during the Great Depression. I try hard not to hurt their feelings, but as they age, it becomes harder for them to understand that most of what they cherish is considered beautiful junk.
In hundreds of transactions over the years, I have yet to meet a grandchild who wanted a full set of china, old furniture, or the chachka’s of their ancestors accumulated over decades/centuries of living.
If it’s taking up space and making a move more difficult, the best solution is to get rid of as much clutter as possible before you go. Donate items that are still in good condition to a local charity, sell items you no longer need, and throw away anything that is no longer usable. It will not be a quick process, but it will make your move easier and will benefit someone in need.
Sentimental Value vs Practicality
It’s difficult to let go of furniture that has sentimental value, especially if it was passed down from a loved one like your mother, aunt, grandmother. In these cases, it’s important to weigh the sentimental value against the practicality of keeping the item. If the piece is still in good condition and serves a functional purpose in your home, it might be worth keeping as a cherished family heirloom.
Taking a photo of the piece of furniture before letting it go can be a great way to preserve the memories associated with it. Those photos can serve as tangible reminders of the memories you shared with your grandmother and the pieces of furniture she passed down to you.
If the item is no longer meeting a need, by letting go you are freeing up valuable space in your home and allowing someone else to enjoy it. You are honoring your grandmother’s memory by ensuring her furniture is being used and appreciated, rather than collecting dust in your attic or basement.
The decision to keep or pass on your grandmother’s furniture (no matter what your age) should be based on what works best for you and what will bring you the most joy and comfort. You can still cherish the sentimental value of an item even if it’s not physically in your home.
One option can be to give a grandchild one platter that might be a cherished Thanksgiving memory rather than the full set of gold leaf china that can’t be put in the dishwasher and will never be used.
And keep in mind, thrift stores and antique shops are full of bulky furniture and tea sets with dainty cups that no one wants anymore.
The trend towards simplicity and minimalism has changed the way people view their furniture, with a focus on functionality and space-saving design. This shift has encouraged people to declutter their homes, prioritize their belongings, and live a more intentional life.
This has led to a decrease in the amount of furniture people own, as well as a preference for functional, multi-purpose IKEA-type pieces.
The rise of technology is also playing a role. With the growth of online shopping, people have access to a wider range of furniture and decor options, making it easier to find functional pieces that fit their lifestyle. The popularity of tiny homes and smaller living spaces has encouraged people to rethink the amount of furniture they need and focus on owning what they have room for.
The revolutionary Marie Kondo KonMari Method of decluttering is a rage. Her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, became a sensation as people were looking to simplify and declutter their lives. A unique system that leads to lasting results, starting sooner rather than later may make a move more manageable.
The younger generation often has a more minimalist taste and lifestyle compared to their parents. They may not see the value in keeping items such as old china or furniture their parents have held onto for years.
Be realistic about the value of your possessions. There are many factors that determine the value of an item, such as its condition, rarity, and demand. Because you paid a lot of money for an item or it has sentimental value, doesn’t mean others will see it the same way. Researching similar items online or at local consignment shops can give you an idea of what you can expect to get for your items.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Donate
In giving away old furniture, be honest about the condition and ensure it’s safe for use. Here are several options to consider:
- Charitable organizations – Many charities accept gently used furniture and will either sell it in their thrift store or give it to someone in need. This can make a positive impact on your community and can even provide a tax deduction. Think local churches, battered women’s shelters, ARC, Salvation Army, God’s Pantry, and many more.
- Family and friends – If you have friends or family members who need furniture, consider giving items to them. This can be a good option for items with sentimental value.
- Freecycle – This is a website where people can post items they no longer need and offer it to others in their community.
- Craigslist – You can post your furniture on Craigslist for free and offer it to someone in your area. Or you can offer it for a minimal amount. Be realistic about what it’s worth so you can move it in a timely manner. As always when allowing anyone into your home, be careful, be safe.
- Furniture banks – Furniture banks provide furniture to people in need, such as families transitioning out of homelessness or other difficult living situations.
- Facebook Market Place – much like Craigslist, Market Place is a good option for selling antiques, furniture, dishes, etc., at a fair and reasonable price.
- Garage Sale – While always an option, garage sales can be a lot of work, especially for the elderly.
Any of these options can give your old furniture or household items a second life. Whichever option you choose, be sure to check with the organization first to see if they are accepting furniture and what their requirements are. Your old furniture can provide comfort and a fresh start for someone in need.
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning
There is a wonderfully informative book called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. It’s all about learning to ‘let it go.’ The author says she wishes she had started before she was in her 80s so she could have accomplished more. It is well worth the read and advertises itself as “A charming, practical, and unsentimental approach to putting a home in order while reflecting on the tiny joys that make up a long life.”
It’s a book about clearing out unnecessary belongings before someone has to do it for you. Told in a wise and humorous fashion, the author, Margareta Magnusson, is encouraging readers to embrace minimalism, especially as we grow older and have need of fewer things. She makes the process joyful rather than overwhelming. It approaches this difficult topic in a sensitive manner.
From the back cover: “Margareta suggests which possessions you can easily get rid of (unworn clothes, unwanted presents, more plates than you’d ever use) and which you might want to keep (photographs, love letters, a few of your children’s art projects). Digging into her late husband’s tool shed, and her own secret drawer of vices, Margareta introduces an element of fun to a potentially daunting task. Along the way readers get a glimpse into her life in Sweden, and also become more comfortable with the idea of letting go.“
Work with an Expert
Over the course of a long real estate career, I have been voted one of the Best Realtors in Colorado Springs five times. I have a heart for the elderly, and patience to help acclimate those who need extra hand-holding to new surroundings. Whether you’re buying or selling, in-state or out-of-state, I would be happy to help you navigate your next move. Downsizing or upsizing, it’s an exciting process and I’d love to talk with you about your possibilities.