“Sailors plan for safety. For escape. For survival. Sailors rely on plans, on strategies that have worked before. Trust me. Most mariners are conservative. We stick to the tried and true. The familiar." -- Randall Peffer, "Listen to the Dead"

Friday, September 16, 2022

The Things They Don't Want

      I have a beautiful old clock sitting in the garage. I bought it for $200 back in 1973. Last time I had it fixed, a few years ago, the guy told me, "This is a museum piece!" He said it was worth thousands. But my wife won't even let it in the house. And leave it to my kids? Hah. There's a joke. They think it's an old piece of junk.

     My wife has an old icebox. It's a beautiful piece of furniture, made of oak, and it weighs a ton. Somebody ought to prize this piece of furniture, too. But no one does, except us. 

My antique clock
      We have a friend who recently downsized from their huge old farmhouse into an 1800-square-foot, one-story house. Their old barn -- now owned by their son -- is full of their discarded furniture. The son doesn't want any of it. He wants the barn cleared out so he can use the space for his equipment. None of their other kids wants it either. So they are agonizing over what to do with the stuff. Sell it? Give it away? A lot of it will undoubtedly end up in the junk yard.

     It's a shame, but there's a lot of stuff our kids don't want.

     And it's not just our old furniture. There was a news item last week in our local paper. Marvin Frederick, 81, has spent a lifetime running his butcher shop in a local farmers market. He wants to retire. He has two grown sons, but neither one wants to take over the shop. And the man can't sell the shop either. He's asking $850,000 for the business, which includes all equipment, recipes, his customer list -- and he's willing to provide one month free training. But so far, no takers. "It's hard work," he admits. "You've got to be someone who isn't afraid to work."

     The kids don't want your business, they don't want your precious antiques, they probably don't even want your property. The house -- especially if it's a second home -- can cause all kinds of headaches, especially if there are a lot of expenses and maintenance issues involved. Arguments and hurt feelings could cause serious divisions if the property is being split among several family members. Time-shares just compound the problem since getting out of a time-share can be difficult and time consuming.

     The only lesson to be learned, I think, is that we should use our things, and not worry about "saving them for the kids." So don't worry if a piece of precious furniture gets scratched, or if you break a cup or saucer and no longer have a full set of dishes. You're enjoying these things, appreciating them for what they are and what pleasure they bring to your life. Then, if the kids don't want those things, at least you've enjoyed them -- which is the reason you acquired them in the first place.

     Leaving our children an inheritance can be a blessing -- something they will continue to cherish in the future as we have in the past. But that's only if they truly want it. Do we really think our kids want our old boat, or an antique car, or the china set we inherited from Aunt Alice? And for goodness sake, do not leave them a storage unit full of old furniture, clothes and sports equipment. 

My coin collection
     Our kids will surely not object to inheriting money. But even an IRA or 401K can cause difficulties. These assets aren't necessarily easy to transfer. The rules are complicated, and there may be emotional issues involved. If it's a substantial amount of money, it's worth the effort; but otherwise it may cause nothing but trouble.

     The best thing to leave our heirs is cash, or financial assets that are as close to cash as possible -- publicly traded stocks or bonds, CDs or bank accounts. Or, go ahead and make an exception for the storage locker . . . but only if that old piece of furniture is stuffed with hundred-dollar bills.

     So, I don't know. Do you think my kids will want my old coin collection that's been shoved into the closet in the guest room? After all, it is cash!

23 comments:

gigi-hawaii said...

If your coins are made of Silver, then give them to me. I can always pawn them. But I agree: Just enjoy your things and when you die, who cares what happens to your stuff? I wouldn't agonize over it.

Anonymous said...

I just watched a documentary on Netflix about minimalism. The gist of the message was that things don't give us true lasting happiness; relationships and experiences do. After my husband passed and I downsized from our large home to 1050 square feet, I was forced to do some serious culling of belongings. Who wants multiple sets of china (that were never used by me)? No one! Gave a lot of stuff to an organization that helps immigrants get settled. That felt good. And when I think about it, I remember going through my parent's stuff, wondering what would I ever do with it all? Some day the next generation will be faced with the same problem.

Carole

ApacheDug said...

This is why I don't have a will. Who the heck wants my stuff? And I have designated beneficiaries for my bank and stock accounts. (I worry about the complications with my IRA too, even if it is substantial). A fascinating but "reality bites" read Tom, well done. You should submit this to Readers Digest. 👍👍

Arkansas Patti said...

"The only lesson learned" you stated to me is perfect. These things are important to you so use them and not worry about where they will end up in the future.

Jackie M said...

I'm to the point where even I don't want what I've got anymore.
Last move took care of most of that. Yeah , I get a wince every so often when I might remember something I got rid of , but the feeling goes away fast.
Jackie M

Olga said...

I remember the family fights over my grandparents' belongings but when it came time to deal with my parents' stuff, only one of the four of us really wanted any of it. My late husband was a collector and he did have some valuable antiques, but nothing I was interested in keeping for myself. It went to auction. I am so unsentimental about things that it is actually offensive to some.

DrumMajor said...

There's always eBay, but I've never used it. I inherited 1/3 of my Dad's coin collection; being 1 of 3 kids. I sorted through it, bought one of those coin appraisal books, and kept a few dated with family birthdays, events. The stash covered an entire card table. I took the rest to a jewelry, coin, pawn shop and received over $800 in paper U.S. cash. Might want to do that! Linda in Kansas

Red said...

It's hard to part with stuff and it's harder to get rid of our treasures.

Kay said...

This is a problem, isn't it? We have Waterford glasses that friends gave us years ago. My kids don't love it so it just sits on a shelf. We did get rid of a lot of antiques we used to collect when we moved to Hawaii. They weren't sold for much at all. But we still have some things which will probably be donated or my son-in-law might put it on eBay. It's a problem.

Janette said...

At 71&63 we moved from Delaware to Idaho with no help. I dragged my kids (37/39) over before we left. “Well, really, we would not use that. It won’t fit in our home”. I ended up giving away all the pieces from my Place settings except dinner plates and goblets- which we now use often. . All of the Nicnacs from our grandmothers are gone. Most of the furniture-gone. Stamp collection- gone. The things We kept, there is plenty, bringing us joy. I told the kids that they have my permission to get rid of anything they don’t want when we die.
They, probably, will have to sell a house and figure out a Roth. Otherwise, we are super simple.
OTOH- My son in law’s single father passed away (53). He did not have will. Lots of cattle, hay and land. You are correct, that was a mess. At 30 my son in law had to go it alone since his sibs were younger. It taught me a valuable lesson.
My opinion is, if you don’t love it, let it go.

DUTA said...

As much as I wish to learn from the experience of others, I can't help but reach the same conclusion - it's individual. We are different, live in different times and worlds, have different likes and dislikes.
One thing is, however, common to most of us: people seem to spend their best time and money on items that will ultimately get discarded.
Tip: wrapped, unused sets of plates/ mugs/cups/ glasses can make for nice wedding presents.

DJan said...

When we left Colorado we downsized a lot, and we still haven't gathered much since. But then again, we are two old people without heirs. I'ved tried to stay minimalist.

Ed said...

I struggle with this because I'm sentimental and want to preserve things with meanings. When my grandparents moved for the last time, they asked if I wanted anything of theirs. I was so excited because their house was full of things I was interested in. But I realized upon arrival, that most of that stuff had been sold or given away over the many moves before. My grandfather gave all his fishing boxes (one of the things I really coveted) to the handyman who had helped him do things around their house. I realized that what was left wasn't really of interest to me.

Flash forward many years, now I have a house full of things I have inherited from various people that are full of memories. But I have no room for more. So now I am forced to part with some of it and it is gut wrenching at times to make those decisions. But I know that just like you said, while it may mean something to me, it means absolutely nothing to my children and will thus end up in a garage sale sold for a pittance someday if not the landfill.

Rian said...

I agree it is a problem. Kids today don't want your stuff... not china, crystal, furniture, etc. Today's generation simply doesn't use a lot of this. These things hold memories that make them meaningful 'only to us'. There may be a few things our kids might want, but very little. Most would be sold or donated. I imagine our house and what may be in our bank accounts, etc. will simply be sold and split between our 3. It should be simple. And we should get rid of a lot now... but it is hard to part with things that bring back memories. However, I intend to try and started this week donating several things to the Salvation Army. Actually knowing someone may make good use of it is comforting.

Tabor said...

Our children live in smaller houses and do not want my formal Ethan Allen dining room set which is very good condition. I have tried sending it to the local consignment store and they do not want it. They say it is impossible to sell formal furniture! So it will go to the local thrift store and they will probably dump it somewhere.

Tom said...

DUTA, I agree that we are different, live in different times and worlds. But still, I'd hope the younger generation would have some appreciation, maybe even some sentiment, for those who went before them. I can't blame my kids for not caring about the old side table that I have because I remember it as the side table in the front hallway when I was a kid. But I do hope they care about the painting we have of the house they grew up in, and a portrait of me and my wife, and a few other personal items. But ... who knows?

Unknown said...

It's not just about what we pass on when we die - I think we can all benefit by adopting an "I'll do me and you do you" attitude with what and how we gift NOW. My sister has a practice I adopted a long time ago. Every birthday present, Christmas present, or just because present comes with a note that says "I am gifting you with this because it made me think of you. Feel free to use it, keep it, sell it, give it away or throw it away. Honestly, it is yours to choose what to do with, no strings attached. I got my joy from giving it to you and from having you in my life. You get your joy any way that feels right to you." Of course, that only works if you really mean it.

Dr. L. Rambo said...

I feel this pain! Hubby and I downsized a couple years ago from a house with a large basement area in which I’d collected all the “things” of our family (from grandparents and such). My mom had been passing along stuff to me as well. Fast-forward to my current situation trying to clean out a storage unit I refuse to keep paying for but we don’t have room in our house! My grown kiddos don’t want this stuff - and honestly neither do I, but it’s SOOOO difficult to just throw out or give it to charity (I do like donating to organizations that put goods directly into the hands of folks in need). Anyway, I’m making some headway but keep thinking about the houseFUL of things and memories my mom will leave for us to manage and discard… she doesn’t understand the lack of connection to items like Hummels from Germany or sets of fine china and Crystal, and the heavy formal furniture… sigh.

RetirementCoffeeShop said...

That antique clock is beautiful. The real question is who gets the nice corded phone on top of the coin collection!

Tom said...

Ha ha. That phone is from the 1970s (pushbutton, not rotary), but it still works! It's only in my closet because it doesn't connect to our answering system. Mr. CoffeeShop -- you want it???

HJack said...

You are very close to Rago Appraisal and Auction company in Lambertville, NJ. Why not talk to them about what your antiques are worth? They are on Antiques Roadshow regularly.

Wisewebwoman said...

Death cleaning is a thing and should be done by everyone at our ages. Kids don't want the silver or the crystal or the linen tablecloths or or or. I strive to be minimalist and rid myself of all these ties to the past and do use the "good stuff" but most of it is already gone after several moves and evaluations.

Death cleaning to a Zen state is a good thing.

XO
WWW

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