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Get rid of stuff to leave a great inheritance.
Get rid of your stuff? That’s hard. The senior generation has spent a lifetime gathering stuff: the things you’ve inherited from your parents and grandparents; collecting everything from dolls to tools; and saving everything from your kids’ childhoods.
Throughout their lives, you’ve provided a lovely home and irreplaceable memories for your family.
Now, however, much of what you’ve amassed will become, at best, a giant, emotionally-charged project for your kids to deal with when you’re gone. At worst, dealing with the inheritance can be a nightmare of family infighting and time-sucking drudgery.
Consequently, one of the best ways to be productive before or during your retirement is to manage the removal of the mountains of stuff of your own making.
Don’t kid yourself
The process of culling the enormous amount of physical stuff from your home, garage, rented storage unit, and other hidey holes really is your responsibility – not your kids’.
Getting rid of your stuff can happen in different ways, but it will happen.
Your stuff will be dispersed, sold, donated, or cherished, but it’s unlikely to stay in the curio cabinet in your dining room for another generation.
You don’t need all your stuff to move forward
Several of life’s crossroads can provide the impetus to clean up.
Maybe you’re embarking on an exciting new adventure, such as preparing to move across the country or to a new country as an expat.
Alternatively, you may choose to downsize your home for ease and comfort in retirement.
Ultimately, either you or your family will have to manage getting rid of your stuff upon your death.
Or, you may simply decide to ‘rightsize’.
Rightsizing for intentional change
“Rightsizing your life means asking what’s really important, then aligning the way you live with those values, goals and needs. When you do that, you’re able to create a more fulfilling life,” says Kathy Gottberg, author of RightSizing: A Smart Living Guide to Reinventing Retirement.
Rightsizing is not about giving up what you love. It is about identifying what is most important, seeing what is essential, and letting the rest fall away. It is about keeping your most treasured things and letting go of the things that don’t matter as much.
Plan Ahead to Save Your Kids from Emotional Overload
Most often, adult children are forced to get rid of their parent’s estate at the same time they are trying to emotionally deal with their death.
However, just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s the best choice.
Experts from a variety of professions agree that you should work alongside your kids and heirs before you die to disperse, assign, and donate your stuff.
This way, everyone can avoid making poor decisions due to illness, grief, or lack of time.
To be sure, it’s emotionally challenging to talk about life after your death while you’re alive. But leaving your kids to try to guess at your wishes is brutal.
Your Kids Don’t Want More Old Stuff
Think about what your kids choose for themselves. Do they have shelves of porcelain figurines? How about fur coats? Stacks of old books?
No. They have sports equipment, electronics, and the mementos they’ve collected from their own lives.
In the past, family possessions were wanted and needed by the next generation. However, today, your kids’ tastes and spaces may have little resemblance to yours.
Adult children are often living in reduced spaces like small apartments or tiny homes. Additionally, they may have roommates with whom they share the space. Or, so far, they may be unsettled and move frequently.
They simply cannot take on the extra stuff that lived in your attic or basement for years.
Additionally, even if they do have a large permanent space, modern tastes tend toward clean lines and less clutter.
What kids do want
“They don’t want stuff for stuff’s sake. It’s about a deeper longing for the stuff that’s enwrapped in family memories,” says Rita Wilkins, 71, a noted interior design expert and author of Downsize Your Life, Upgrade Your Lifestyle: Secrets to More Time, Money, and Freedom.
Most important, she says, is to let your children make the choice themselves about what’s actually important to them. You shouldn’t choose for them.
Adult children want a few specific items that are personally meaningful to them. Things that represent a valued time in their lives with you.
For example, one or a few of the Christmas decorations they remember from their childhood, but not boxes of them.
Perhaps grandma’s handwritten recipes, but not all your cookbooks.
Maybe, if you’re lucky, some may cherish your vinyl record collection.
Other types of possessions that are popular among adult children are old photos, memorable knickknacks, toys from their youth, special holiday items, like a nativity scene, Dad’s toolbox or a few usable tools from it, and artwork they made as kids.
The value of most of your possessions has gone down
You are not alone in your realization that your lifetime of accumulation may have little real value, either as keepsakes or as assets. You may be surprised at the value you’ve insured things for, as opposed to what they are now worth.
When you leave your stuff to your kids, thinking you’re generously giving them a fortune in goods that they can sell later, consider the market they’re facing.
Many other adult children are also downsizing, flooding the market with inherited traditional possessions. Too much supply and not enough demand is driving value down for a majority of items.
Younger generations do not “collect” like their elders did in the 20th century. Subsequently, fine china sets and Hummels are no longer selling well. Everyone who inherited them is trying to sell them at the same time.
On PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, the values of certain types of period furniture have dropped dramatically. Therefore, some episode reruns note current, lower estimated appraisals.
Dining room tables and chairs, end tables, and armoires are now called “brown” furniture. These days, antique furniture is not desirable. “Old mahogany stuff from my great aunt’s house is basically worthless,” says Chris Fultz, co-owner of Nova Liquidation, in Luray, Va.
Fair market value
A fair market value is based on what someone else will pay for an item. It is not based on what you paid for it. Nor is it probably what a decades-old appraisal says it’s worth. Also, the exotic story and high value guesses of a handed-down item may turn out to be a big fish story.
You can’t just look up asking prices on the internet as a source of fair market value. Most people list high and sell for less. The state of the national economy also is a factor.
What is popular now
A few kinds of home furnishings and possessions can still attract interest from buyers and collectors.
For instance, “Midcentury Modern furniture — think Eames chairs and Knoll tables — is pretty trendy. And very high-end pieces of furniture, good jewelry, good artwork and good Oriental rugs — I can generally help find a buyer for those,” says Carol Eppel, an antique dealer and director of the Minnesota Antiques Dealers Association.
What you can do now
If you’re ready to begin the process – and it is a process – of getting rid of some of your stuff, you have to begin somewhere.
Some people say to do a room of your house at a time. Some say to begin on the uppermost floor and work your way down.
There are numerous sources of advice on how to approach the project. Most advise to allow plenty of time, and to discuss the process with your kids.
See what they definitely want. You may be surprised at what is meaningful to them that you wouldn’t have thought of.
One of the best places to start is with a scanner. Scan recipes, photos, records, cards, letters, and receipts. Then get rid of the original paper either by burning, shredding, or throwing it out.
Second, use your digital or phone camera to take good photos of trinkets, souvenirs, and anything you’d like to keep a memory of, without keeping the physical object. Then, put it in an appropriate pile.
Continue to take and send photos to your kids of furniture, jewelry, dishes, and anything that’s up for dibs. Give them a date to respond by. See how much of your stuff will find a home with them and get an idea of what you need to sell or donate.
For items that are not wanted or worth much, start a TAKE FOR FREE section of your front yard and put things out there as you decide to get rid of them. The people who go by your place will start to look often, to see what’s newly available.
Try getting rid of stuff on Facebook Marketplace or other online sales sites. There are also sites to give away stuff for free.
Regardless of the exact methods you use, the act of lightening your load provides a boost to your mental health. And, underlying all the work is the knowledge that you’re gifting invaluable piece of mind to your children.
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Aisa International, s.r.o. is a wealth management firm with an award-winning team who provides investment advice, financial planning, and asset management for U.S., U.K., and E.U. expatriate citizens residing abroad. Holding all current regulatory licenses, including the FCA license in the UK and the Investment Licence in the European Union, Aisa International is uniquely qualified to provide personal financial advice for U.K. pensioners living outside of the U.K. Headquartered in Prague, Czech Republic, Aisa International serves its global clients where they reside through its OpesFidelio network of highly-qualified advisors. For more information, please visit www.asiainternational.cz.
The views expressed in this article are not to be construed as personal advice. Therefore, you should contact a qualified, and ideally, regulated adviser in order to obtain up-to-date personal advice with regard to your own personal circumstances. Consequently, if you do not, then you are acting under your own authority and deemed “execution only”. The author does not accept any liability for people acting without personalised advice, who base a decision on views expressed in this generic article. Importantly, where this article is dated then it is based on legislation as of the date. Legislation changes but articles are rarely updated, although sometimes a new article is written; so, please check for later articles or changes in legislation on official government websites, as this article should not be relied on in isolation.
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