Your Kids Don’t Want All Your Stuff

I hate to break it to you, but that mug collection you have proudly spent 30 years building up, visiting souvenir stores on every trip you’ve taken, well, your kids don’t want it. Look I know you mean well, but the mugs have no sentimental value to them. When you die and leave your precious collection to somebody, they will roll their eyes and fret about where they are going to put them. If they box them up they will feel guilty; but they aren’t going to fit in their 1200 sq ft downtown apartment. Additionally, the dated mugs will likely not go with the scandi-modern aesthetic they have built up in their home. They will start to feel resentful. Instead of thinking about the good times they spent with you, they will start to just mutter about”those darned mugs”. It’s not going to be pretty.

The above scenario sounds harsh but it’s a situation we will all be facing over the coming years. Most of my generation are starting to face it now. Our parents’ generation was the last generation for whom it was normal to receive, say, crockery, or silver, piece by piece as a wedding present and it was specifically designed to be passed down as inheritance. It was also normal to receive large family heirlooms like tables, cupboards and the family bible. It was normal to just pass that stuff down the family line, it was seen as a duty to protect the family wealth.

Houses up until recently were getting bigger, so people had places to put that stuff. The trend now is to move into smaller places. I’m fully expecting our kids to want to live in downtown condos in the city in which they work. Not to live in the suburbs. They are not going to have room for a giant 17th century dining table. “Stuff” is much more consumable these days, we buy our furniture from IKEA not antique stores. We don’t need large ornate cupboards and display cases. Most houses these days have walk in closets and lots of storage in the kitchen.

Look, i’m not saying don’t leave your kids anything, but make it stuff that’s important to them; photo’s, small memento’s of family trips. Not giant items of furniture. There has to be a balance of course, you don’t want Grandma’s Revolutionary Era hope chest going to Goodwill!

As your kids get older, have discussions with them about what they would like to keep, about what’s important to them. Try not to guilt them into taking things because it’s important to you. If you do need them to take things that maybe you’re unsure they want, then at least tell them the story of the item, give them the history. At least that way if they do take it they feel like they are curating the item. If not, start going through your things now, prune down things as you feel you don’t need them any more (we are poor at doing this!).

As we all get older, we need to have difficult conversations with those that come after. That time will be difficult, so if we can make it easier by not leaving any surprises all the better, and don’t expect them to take your mug collection!


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