Parents of adult children, please gather ‘round. I have something to break to you. There is no easy way to say it so I am just going to be straight. Your adult kids don’t want your stuff.
That ornate four poster queen sized bed? Sure, it’s expensive and “antique”, but here is the thing: I don’t want it. It’s old fashioned, it’s so far off the ground you need a ladder to get in, and every time you roll over it shimmies and creaks. The glossy mahogany china cabinet? I don’t even know what I would do with that. I guess I could put some of the 16 (yes, you read that right) sets of china my mother has in neat little carriers in the basement? If you are counting, that means place settings for 350 (factoring in breakage from over 60 years of use). What the heck is anyone supposed to do with that many plates?
I know this is an extreme example, but these are just a few of the items patiently waiting for my sister and I in our basement storage room. A storage room which used to be a bedroom and office but was converted specifically for the purpose of keeping all these things – things which neither of us want. I know that some of them still have some life left, I know that they are a part of your families history, I know you think you are being generous, but when I throw my 300 person dinner parties I need plates that aren’t gold-plated so they can go in the dishwasher. So no, I won’t change my mind.
My family has a rich tradition of hoarding developed deep in the Louisiana swamps in a home that housed 5 generations. That means 5 generations of people passing down undeniably beautiful pieces of furniture and history. That house where my mother grew up was like a museum to our families history; the bed my mother slept in as a child, the room where my grandmother was born, the curtains that hung in my great-great-great grandmothers living room. Small things changed over the years but most remained the same, a timeless photograph of my families history.
The world outside was changing though, and most of my family has long since left that tiny rundown town for greener pastures. Still that house sat, entombed under a silent veil of dust, until about 5 years after my grandmother died when my mother and uncle decided it was finally time to tackle it. They both flew in from Virginia and Texas and, swamped with memories and sadness, ended up fighting tooth and nail over tables and paintings and things. The feelings dredged up were bitter and set the stage for a three year fight, the end result being my mother shipping two full storage units of “valuables” up to Virginia where they sat for years. Fast forward to this summer when something finally clicked in her head. As we were walking through the basement looking at stuff I may want, she finally seemed to realize that I genuinely didn’t want any of it. I am not being unappreciative, it is wonderful to have such a generous family, but I don’t foresee myself living in a house large enough for a four poster king sized bed much less a banquet sized dining room table. I kept a few sentimental pieces and basic furniture, but the majority was sold at auction.
So when your kids turn down your offers, please don’t take it personally, it has nothing to do with how they feel about you. Their lives are different from yours, their houses often smaller, and many of them don’t even have real dining rooms anymore to showcase that amazing table.