Aging Options

LIMITED TIME OFFER: First Academy Lesson is Free

Major Senior Challenge: Getting Rid of the Stuff Our Kids Don’t Want

Save as PDF

So you’ve made up your mind to get rid of some of the stuff you’ve been hanging onto all these years. What will you do with it all?

Just to be clear, the “stuff” we’re talking about isn’t simply the items we haul to the thrift store. Today’s retiring baby boomers have spent decades accumulating items that once had great value: sterling silver sets, serving dishes, and china settings for twelve; various collectibles, from figurines to stamps; the dining room set you’ve been saving for your son or the coffee table for your daughter. But what will you do if your kids smile and politely reply, “No, thanks, Mom and Dad – we really don’t want it”?

It has been a while since we tackled this topic here on the Blog, but because it comes up so frequently we wanted to bring it back. This time we have this just-published piece from NextAvenue, in which reporter Bonnie Miller Rubin reminds us once again of the so-called treasures our kids simply don’t want – and the surprising items that they’ll treasure long after we’re gone.

Getting Rid of Stuff: Once a Blessing, Now a Burden

“Not too long ago,” Rubin begins, “heirs would fight over who gets Mom and Dad’s valuable collections — sterling silver flatware, Lladro figurines or Lenox china. We’re not talking about a couch or a crockpot, but carefully-curated, much-loved possessions that were once considered an emblem of success and gracious living.”

But now, as she explains, these precious objects can be seen as “more burden than blessing”, and changing tastes and smaller living spaces have contributed to a more negative view of what once were treasures.

Jim Berland, a Chicago collector of autographed manuscripts, admitted to being “a little hurt” by his daughter’s lack of interest in his collection. “Kids just don’t want this stuff anymore,” he says.

Getting Rid of Stuff is Even Harder with Furniture

Moreover, if collections and “collectibles” are difficult to get rid of, furniture is even worse. This is especially true with what Rubin calls “brown furniture”: dining room tables with Chippendale chairs, breakfronts and buffets. Berland says that that market is over.

“You can’t even give it away,” he says. “Our kids look at these things as if they’re garbage.”

Rubin writes, “The story is the same for dozens of other artifacts — glass paperweights, leather-bound books, Oriental rugs, Wedgewood, and many other acquisitions that were once dutifully dusted and polished before being passed on to the next generation. Even today’s bridal registries are apt to be more Target than Tiffany’s.”

Getting Rid of Stuff Starts with Realistic Expectations

Personal rejection from younger family members is one thing, and that’s hard enough. But to add insult to injury, the actual resale value of these heirlooms isn’t quite up to expectations, either. Popular television shows like “Antiques Road Show” and “Pawn Stars” can create an unrealistic idea of how much something is worth.

Rubin explains, “To increase in value, items need to be in demand, rare and in mint condition, according to auctioneers, appraisers and antique dealers nation-wide.”

Jacquie Denny, co-owner of an online company based in Cincinnati that runs estate sales, says, “I tell clients that in every sale there are stars and cast members. It’s why the mass-produced stemware of the 1950s and ’60s barely gets $20, while Baccarat crystal can go for almost full price. Setting realistic expectations is just part of the job.”

Buying “Treasures” at Flea Market Prices

Rubin is no stranger to this phenomenon in her own life. “Take my Lladro – please — which my late mother cherished,” she jokes.

She goes on to explain that she recently took some of the porcelain figures to an Evanston antique store. The owner, Dawn Okamoto, told Rubin that she already has “hundreds”, which “sell only occasionally”, usually around holidays like Mother’s Day or Christmas.

“Typically,” Rubin writes, “Okamoto buys them at garage sales and flea markets for a few bucks — then sells them in the $18 to $65 range – quite a tumble for objects that originally retailed for $300 or more, leaving customers crushed.”

Okamoto says, “It happens all the time. We let them know that the market bears the value. If there’s no market, there’s no value. It’s all about supply and demand.”

Getting Rid of Stuff: Some Hobbies are “Dying”

For Rubin’s 70-year-old brother, the issue is his extensive stamp collection, which he’s been curating since he was in third grade. “Despite the fact that his album may be valuable, he doesn’t want to leave it to someone who will just turn it into cash – a transaction he could easily do himself,” Rubin explains. “Instead, he hopes to give it to someone who will derive as much enjoyment as he has over the years.”

But sadly, so far, his offer has not excited any interest from his nieces and nephews, because stamp collecting is considered a “dying hobby”, with the average age of its enthusiasts over 60.

“Even if he did want to sell, prices in the email era have plummeted by as much as 20 percent, according to the Philatelic Traders Society,” Rubin writes. “So, unless you have an 1867 Abraham Lincoln, which sold for $1.6 million in 2019, you may be in for a rude awakening.”

Getting Rid of Stuff: Practical Reasons to Say No

Sometimes it’s not a matter of desire, but of lifestyles and logistics. “Many millennials tend to be more mobile, following the job and living in smaller homes,” Rubin writes. This means that they have little or no space for larger collectibles, like furniture…or a model train set.

Melody Rogers of the Train Collectors Association says that the organization currently has 20,000 members, down from 30,000 in its heyday. As the museum coordinator for 23 years, she fields several calls a month from people hoping to “re-home” their train collections at the Pennsylvania museum. “They say ‘When I die, my family will probably just throw this all into the trash’ … It’s sad, but even we have to be concerned with space.”

Rogers, instead, recommends some alternatives, such as toy train auctions or Ebay. “I try to use comforting words,” she says.

Some of the Items You Don’t Want to Get Rid Of

“So,” Rubin poses, “what is the hot market?”

According to Denny, it’s stuff that falls under “Geek chic”, nostalgia-based items such as vintage toys, action figures, comic books, sports memorabilia, and sneakers. Denny herself recently sold a box of unopened Pokemon cards for a “good price.”

We also find that young people often want small items that they associate with a beloved grandparent or aunt. These can be as simple as a box of hand-written recipe cards or a favorite fountain pen.

Getting Rid of Stuff is Traumatic for Many Seniors

“Professionals agree that their primary role may be sales — their usual commission is 30 to 40 percent — but they are often called upon to be part-time therapists, especially when clients are downsizing to an assisted living facility,” Rubin writes. These experts listen to the stories attached to these items and collections, the hunt for that elusive piece, the connections to long-gone relatives.

Rubin notes that the lack of reverence that the younger generation seems to have for these items may feel insensitive, but it mostly reflects a shift in values. “They are often more interested in experiences — such as travel — than materialistic things,” she writes. “That is a different value from their ancestors, many of whom were working class or immigrants. Their possessions represented security and a sense of belonging; a sign that they had achieved the American dream.”

Denny adds that for many people, liquidating these days often has a purpose. One of her clients sold his treasures to fund a grandchild’s tuition to nursing school. Another, a widower, sold all of his late wife’s jewelry, expensive handbags, and other luxury goods. Rubin writes, “On their son’s wedding day, the father handed the son a check for $23,000 and said, ‘This is from your Mom.’”

Today’s Young People Entertain Differently

It’s also true that “entertaining” doesn’t look the way it used to, which means that certain furniture, crystal champagne flutes, or Limoges china might not be as practical for young adults, even ones who love to gather.

Rubin explains that today’s hosts are more casual, opting for “a buffet on the kitchen counter, a barbecue on the deck or pizza served from a cardboard box. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In the old days, after days of polishing, cooking and cleaning, Mom was often too exhausted to enjoy her guests.”

But overall, Rubin writes that when it comes to passing along heirlooms, “the elders shouldn’t let their bruised feelings get in the way of their relationships.”

One octogenarian she spoke to, moving from a 3,500 square foot home to a senior community in the Sunbelt, quipped, “They don’t want our antiques any more than we want their futons and particleboard furniture from Ikea.”

Denny concludes the article with her thoughts, in a job that gives her a “front row seat” to how people transition their lives: “You are working with people at their best and their worst. It’s an emotional journey to take apart a house. It needs to be met with practicality, but also with compassion and respect.”

Breaking News: Rajiv’s New Book is Here!

We have big news! The long-awaited book by Rajiv Nagaich, called Your Retirement: Dream or Disaster, has been released and is now available to the public.  As a friend of AgingOptions, we know you’ll want to get your copy and spread the word.

You’ve heard Rajiv say it repeatedly: 70 percent of retirement plans will fail. If you know someone whose retirement turned into a nightmare when they were forced into a nursing home, went broke paying for care, or became a burden to their families – and you want to make sure it doesn’t happen to you – then this book is must-read.

Through stories, examples, and personal insights, Rajiv takes us along on his journey of expanding awareness about a problem that few are willing to talk about, yet it’s one that results in millions of Americans sleepwalking their way into their worst nightmares about aging. Rajiv lays bare the shortcomings of traditional retirement planning advice, exposes the biases many professionals have about what is best for older adults, and much more.

Rajiv then offers a solution: LifePlanning, his groundbreaking approach to retirement planning. Rajiv explains the essential planning steps and, most importantly, how to develop the framework for these elements to work in concert toward your most deeply held retirement goals.

Your retirement can be the exciting and fulfilling life you’ve always wanted it to be. Start by reading and sharing Rajiv’s important new book. And remember, Age On, everyone!

(originally reported at

Need assistance planning for your successful retirement? Give us a call! 1.877.762.4464

Learn how 70% of retirement plan fails and find out how you can avoid this

Find out more about LifePlanning

Your Cart is empty!

It looks like you haven't added any items to your cart yet.

Browse Products
Powered by Caddy
Skip to content