Nobody Wants that Stuff
What do we do with these beloved antiques? These sentimental souvenirs? These cherished collections? Make plans now to help avoid stress later.
- It may not be completely true that “nobody” wants your collectables, furnishings, and special dishes – ASK. You may have a family member or friend who does, and it might not be who you might think. You may discover that a grandchild has always admired a certain dish, painting, or figurine, a son who likes the tradition of the relish tray and dessert plates, a daughter who doesn’t want anything but then has a new house to furnish and could really use that dining set or spare bedroom furniture. However, that person should take part in the sorting, packing, and transporting (unless, of course, they are a small child).
- The giver must give with no strings attached – because the beloved antique dresser might suddenly become painted with a new color scheme, giving new life to the old piece. The chair may have a new slipcover, the water glasses might be used to hold wine. It’s okay. It’s you who they will toast with that wine!
- The time to sort through stuff is not when you are dead (although much easier for you, very hard on the family) or too ill or frail to do so. It is not just when you are about to downsize. It should be a process that truly separates the wheat from the chaff, the junk from the treasure. Pairing down will spare the family (who can assist in this process) a great deal of work and stress and strain at an emotional time in the future. Doing a little over time, instead of all at once, can help alleviate the stress.
- You might consider giving some of the items while you are still alive to see the enjoyment in the recipient as they utilize the item in their home – a quilt on a bed, a picture on the mantel, a holiday tablecloth, a Christmas ornament collection. Giving smaller things over time may help them to be better absorbed into another space.
- You might consider utilizing a professional organizer to assist in this sorting process as well and might find one by contacting a professional organizers association in your area or contacting a local senior center that might have a contact. Look for someone who specializes in downsizing seniors, even if you are not downsizing. A good one will respect your space, your wishes, your stuff – but it’s important to let go as well. Tell the stories of the items, relive the memories, then let the item go.
- You might look on online sale sites and at yard sales to see what similar items are being sold for – and whether they are selling. You might consider having your own sale – but remember the old fundamental principle of supply and demand – it is only worth what you say it is if there is a buyer willing to pay that.
- You might go to an antique appraiser or have one visit you should the collection be large. It might be helpful to know what things are truly worth – of course, remember these are estimates and market dependent.
- You might consider a consignment shop, splitting the proceeds with the store. Please be mindful that not all shops accept all things.
- You might break up collections – giving just a few pieces to each person. This is much easier to accommodate and gives the person the opportunity to enjoy a place setting, a small number of items, a token representing you. This might be much more palatable to many recipients who might not be excited about receiving 50 beer steins but would love to have 3 or a whole pile of antique linens but would love a few embroidered towel sets.
- You might donate items to a charitable organization to support a cause that is important to you and/or one that helps people beginning or beginning again with furnishings and household goods.
- You might look on the web for in search of sites and pay it forward to someone who is struggling. Of course, be mindful of internet safety and meet in a public place such as a police station parking lot to exchange the items.
- You might periodically put a small number of items at the curb for free – the things that might seem like junk. This is great to do if there is a neighborhood garage sale. You might not need the mismatched mugs, the odd everyday plates, the old tools that you replaced – but a young person moving into their first apartment might. There are people who pick up scrap metal including old bicycles, metal bed frames, and the like. Some towns even host days when you might put anything at the curb for pickup - it’s always fun to watch the “pickers” come to and see what they take away.
- You may find as you start sorting that you have a lot of paper. Please be mindful to shred securely with a cross-cut shredder (makes confetti not long strips). If you have a lot, take to a certified shredding company or take advantage of “shredding events’ that some towns or businesses hold.
- If you have a lot of books, consider donating to a used book sale, or bring to a recycling event – many are held around Earth Day.
- If you find you truly have a lot of junk that you cannot dispose of other ways, consider contacting a junk hauling service – many will load the truck and you just have to point to the items you wish to have removed. This may cost some money depending on the amount, but it can be worth it in the time and hassle saved. Another option is to get a dumpster, but that means you/your people have to carry it out there and dispose of it and you have the dumpster sitting there until it is picked up. Just know there are options.
- Giving items away, selling, or otherwise downsizing possessions does not mean you need to live a spartan lifestyle – keep some things you truly treasure.
Having a strategy to rehome, repurpose, recycle, and revive possessions is an important thing to think about – and not during a crisis. This is an excellent project for families whose kids are in high school as the kids can help sort their rooms. It can be energizing to get rid of clutter and you may find you enjoy the freedom of living with less.
The opinions are that of the author. Seek professional advice before taking any action in regard to your finances.
This information is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice to any individual. Your circumstances may vary.
Todd A. Slingerland, CFP®
6 Tower Place Albany, NY 12203 (518) 867-4000 x105 firstname.lastname@example.org www.capitalfinancialplanning.net