Whenever I meet with clients about their wills, they always bring up how to divide the family treasures, the stuff that is in people’s houses. According to Elizabeth Stewart, author of “No Thanks, Mom,” Gen Xers and Millennials don’t prize those treasures the way their parents or their grandparents did. Here’s a list of 10 things your kids probably don’t want.
Books. If you think a book might be rare, check with a book antiquarian or check sites like biblio.com for information about their value. Otherwise, donate them to a library, school or charitable organization like Ronald McDonald House.
Paper. This includes photos, greeting cards, old letters, and the like. They’re a pain to store and don’t hold near the sentimental value they do to you. Digitize photos, and donate or shred the rest. Some old letters, particularly war letters, might have some historical significance and be welcomed as donations at museums.
Trunks, Sewing Machines and Film Projectors. Just because that trunk was what great-grandma used on her around the world cruise in 1928 or that sewing machine was the one you learned to sew on doesn’t mean your kids have any use or desire for it.
Porcelain Figures and Decorative Plates. Once upon a time, in the 1950s and ’60s, every house had a glass-faced cabinet where collections of figurines and decorative plates were on display. If the sight of these triggers fond memories, have a photo shoot with a professional photographer, then either donate them or chuck them.
Sterling and other Silver-Plated Objects. Real silverware, made of silver, is one of those things that were looked at but not touched, because touching and using caused them to tarnish, which meant they had to be polished, which is just a cut above watching paint dry in terms of enjoyment. You might be able to sell your silver (depending on the silver content and the current market). Otherwise, just recycle them unless they are from Tiffany or Cartier.
China and Crystal. Along the lines of silverware, the fancy china and crystal were to be seen but not used, except maybe once or twice a year. The need for hand washing and the delicateness made them less than useful. Check sites like replacements.com, which supply pieces for people needing to replace or round out their collections.
Heavy, Dark Furniture. There’s some market for these in antique and second hand stores. You’re likely to get about a quarter of the purchase price or less.
Persian Rugs. Like silverware and china, Persian rugs are more trouble than they’re worth to many. High-end rugs still sell in high-end markets like Martha’s Vineyard.
Linens. Linen is a delicate fabric, not at all suited to the always-on-the-go lifestyle of today’s families. See if you can find someplace that repurposes hand-embroidered work into specialty items like christening gowns. Theaters and costume shops might love to have your linens.
Dolls. The market for Barbies, Cabbage Patch Kids, My Little Pony and even American Girl isn’t what it once was. Unless you have a discontinued doll in pristine condition, it’s not worth much. Dolls can find second lives at children’s hospitals and other charities.
A Few Tips to Make It Easier on Your Kids
Purge Periodically. If you haven’t used something for a year or more, get rid of it.
Stop Buying. Craft and hobby shops are dangerous places, not only for your bank account but also for your peace of mind. How many accent pillows, wall art, carved wooden pieces saying things like “Live Simply”, knickknacks and seasonal decorations do you need?
Determine an Item’s Usage. If it’s packed away, you don’t need it. Get rid of it.
Consider Your Kids’ Lifestyles. Let your children build their own memories; don’t force yours on their spouses who didn’t grow up in your house.