Coping with Your Parents’ Estate Furnishings

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A hard truth that those of us in our 50s and 60s will soon learn is this: Nobody wants our parents’ stuff — not even the kids. Many boomers charged with disposing of the family heirlooms are unprepared for this reality.*

For the first time in history, two generations are downsizing as 90-year-old parents are trying to give their 60-year-old children their things, while the 60-year olds are trying to get rid of their stuff, which their children don’t want.

Dining room tables and chairs, end tables and armoires (“brown” pieces) are no longer in demand* – even the antiques. Young couples just starting out are part of the Ikea and Target generation. They are living more simply, don’t pick out china patterns anymore and are unlikely to want their grandparents formal dinnerware and heavy furniture. Charities like Salvation Army and Goodwill do not always accept upholstered pieces, or mattress sets because they may carry fleas of bedbugs.

You may find that antiques dealers and auction houses will reject pieces that may have been in the family for years because they find that they can’t sell it. Owners of these things may find that hard to swallow, but anything is only worth what someone will pay for it.

Here are some tips to help you get started.

Get your parents’ input. When I was going through my parents’ last home before their downsize, my mother kept wanting to give me stuff. If I held an object for more than a second, or commented on how I remembered it from my childhood, she immediately asked, “Do you want it?” I didn’t. And then there were things that she was going to get rid of that I was attached to because of a story that I remembered about it. Some of those stories I had imagined, including one about someone’s Swedish grandfather having made a rocking chair. Turns out that one wasn’t true, but I wanted the rocking chair anyway.

Be open to alternative methods of selling. Store small items that you are not yet ready to part with in your own home, or consider a storage unit until you know that nobody in your family is going to claim it. There are some companies who will list and handle sales for you on Ebay. Another idea is to offer things to friends through your social media outlets. One person we know was getting rid of a flat screen television and posted it on his Facebook page. Friends offered their bids, and he was able to sell it for $85 AND got it out of his house! It is much more satisfying to know that you are sending usable items to a new home, rather than hauling them to the dump.

China and crystal. An auction house, or local consignment shop might be interested in trying to sell things for you, but don’t get your hopes up when it comes to glassware. There is an overabundance of the stuff in antique and thrift stores. See if the china pattern is one that is still in demand. My mother is certain that her china is worth “a fortune”. After just a few minutes online I was able to find out that it is not. Yes, perhaps a couple hundred dollars if there are large serving pieces in play, but generally not that windfall your parent might imagine that they are leaving to you.  Click to read full article.



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