One of the biggest challenges in downsizing is deciding whether to keep or dispose of something. I’ve noticed that my clients generally want to keep things for one of two reasons (sometimes both): they think the items have monetary value or they have sentimental value.
We all hold onto certain things because we think they will increase in value over time, such as artwork, silver, coins, china, antiques, and various collectibles. When the time is “right,” we will happily sell them, hopefully at a profit. However, many of us learn a tough lesson because the items that we so carefully tended over the years actually did not increase in value as expected. We did not consider that times change and tastes change as well. And even more disappointing is that many younger family members have no interest in those collections. So, we must decide for ourselves if the value has actually been in enjoying the hunt while collecting these items, anticipating the arrival of the next in the series, and/or seeing, touching and sharing them over the years. Regardless, the question becomes: What do we ultimately do with them? When space becomes an issue, obviously we have to make choices.
Unfortunately, items with such sentimental value are difficult to relinquish – something that is not exclusive to seniors! I admit to having a collection of children’s books squirreled away in my attic that are just waiting for the next generation to enjoy. These books have been read by me, my younger brother and my children, and the books truly reflect that. But, it’s hard to get rid of them – won’t my future grandchildren want to read them, too, especially if they know those books belonged to their (hopefully) beloved grandmother? Won’t they want to snuggle with a book at bedtime like we did with their parents? That’s hard to say – kids favor laptops, I-pads, notebooks, Kindles and smart phones these days, not so much books! Who knows what the future will bring!
Since I have been unwilling to part with my books, I realize how important it is to help others share the reasons that their treasures are so meaningful to them. Sometimes just holding the item and reminiscing about it advances the decision-making process. For items that are really difficult to let go, there are creative ways to keep them so they do not take up precious space in a smaller home. Creating memory boxes that display items like a child’s first shoes or baseball mitt is just one idea. Quilts can be made of swatches from favorite clothes. My sister-in-law made throws with family photos on them that everyone contributed to. Scrapbooks and photo albums preserve memories and can trigger conversations among friends and family. Things that hold sentimental value can also be shared with family and friends. It’s always heartwarming to find that one family member who relishes the role of keeper of cherished items and stories that are passed from one generation to the next.
While making decisions about what to keep, what to share, and what to dispose of is not always easy, sharing this task with family and friends makes transitions easier. Be careful to avoid getting rid of things just because there appears to be no space for them; you may regret that decision later. Likewise, you need to consider their usefulness and dispose of things you don’t really need, especially when you have multiples – really, how many can openers, pot holders, hand towels, do we need? Sorting them first into piles such as “keep,” “give to ___,” “donate,” and “recycle,” will make the task easier and give you time to reflect on the true value of your treasures.
Remember, you can always consult a professional when in doubt about an item’s true monetary value. And perhaps if you are lucky, you will have one family member who loves your treasures as much as you do! More likely, though, you will need to consider that your treasures will be “adopted” and enjoyed by someone else.