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You collect...and no one cares

DavidDavid Member Posts: 10,307 admin
edited July 2017 in What else do you collect?

Boomer parents: 'One day, this will all be yours.' Grown children: 'Noooo!'

A SHIFT IN THOUGHT As baby boomers begin to downsize, they are discovering their grown children do not want their stuff. In fact, they recoil in something close to horror at the thought of trying to find room for collections of Hummels and Thomas Kinkade paintings.

Samantha Bronkar/The Christian Science Monitor

JULY 25, 2017  BOSTON—Two hundred stuffed animals, two violins, and a 7-1/2 foot-tall Christmas tree: That was just a corner of the possessions Rosalie and Bill Kelleher accumulated over their 47-year marriage. And, they realized, it was about 199 stuffed animals more than their two grown children wanted.

Going from a four-bedroom house in New Bedford, Mass. – with an attic stuffed full of paper stacked four-feet tall – to a 1,300-square-foot apartment took six years of winnowing, sorting, shredding, and shlepping stuff to donation centers.

Among the possessions the Kellehers are keeping are three hutches – one that belonged to his mother, one that belonged to her mother, and one that they purchased together 35 years ago. One shelf is carefully lined with teacups Rosalie collected during her world travels. Another houses a delicate tea set from Japan, a gift her mother received on her wedding day.

“We really don’t need them,” she admits.

That refrain is becoming a common one as baby boomers begin to downsize and discover (as many generations before them have) that their children do not want their stuff. In fact, they recoil in something close to horror at the thought of trying to find room for the collections of Hummels; the Thomas Kinkade paintings; the complete sets of fine china and crystal, carefully preserved and brought out at holiday meals.

For their parents, to have a lifetime of carefully chosen treasures dismissed as garage-sale fodder can be downright painful.

“When [people] try to throw something away, they feel like they are losing ... personal history, losing a bit of themselves, losing a little of their identity, and they fear if they get rid of it they’ll never have that same experience again,” says Randy Frost, a psychology professor at Smith College and co-author of “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things.”

While every generation has its turn with an attachment for antiques or nostalgia for outdated technology, today’s tech-heavy culture shows few signs of trading in its sleek, modern designs for dark furniture or knick-knacks from bygone eras. And many younger families see trips, vacations, and photos as the repository of family memories – not shelves full of mementoes.

“Their kids ... oftentimes have homes already, they have families already, they have furnishings already,” says Kate Grondin, owner of Home Transition Resource in Andover, Mass. Ms. Grondin is part of a senior move-management industry that will pack, move, unpack, sell, and donate clients’ things as they move to smaller homes.

There are other signs that the next stop for those attic treasures may be the town dump. “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” by Marie Kondo with a specific process for getting rid of things, has sold 1.5 million copies since 2014 in the United States. Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, otherwise known as The Minimalists, have published several bestselling memoirs, produced “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things” in 2016, and are currently traveling across the US in their “Less is Now Tour 2017.”

When a pile of possessions has come to embody a sense of identity – or even what someone could yet become – it’s not always easy to figure out what should stay and what should go.

Dr. Frost recounts the story of a woman who “saved all of these cookbooks and all these recipes,” even though she didn’t really know how to cook. “If she were to try to throw some of that stuff away,” he explains, “that [removes] the opportunity for her to become the cook she thinks she’d like to be. In a sense, it’s removing a potential identity for her.”

‘You know you don’t have space for it’

Judy Maguire of Andover, Mass., and her siblings helped their mother move to an assisted living facility after their father died. They carefully selected some furniture and photographs that would make her feel at home.

But then they faced the difficult task of figuring out which heirlooms to keep for themselves.

“We were all pretty sentimental,” Ms. Maguire admits.

She recalls the siblings arguing over one particular piece – not over who would get it, but how to stop one sister from keeping what Maguire describes as a “big, hideous piece of furniture.”

“I said, ‘You know you don’t have the space for it. You don’t really need that.’ And she said, ‘I know, ... I just can’t let go of it,’ ” Maguire says.

They ended up donating the table.

Dr. Frost suggests posing a simple question for those going through this process: “How does this object … fit into your life?”

The Kellehers created staging sections in their house for specific items, using their kids’ vacant rooms, the living room, and the sunroom. Eventually, all of the leftover items to be taken away fit into the downstairs rec room, half of which had been filled with empty cardboard boxes being saved for some potential use.

Others have found that parting ways with familiar possessions actually brings a sense of freedom.

‘It’s like he’s still in college’

Carolyn Ledewitz of Cambridge, Mass., discovered that her son didn’t want anything when she downsized. “My son drove all the way up from New York City to go through his childhood things. I was appalled [when] he just grabbed them out of the boxes and dumped them into the trash,” she says.

Ms. Ledewitz describes her 40something son’s apartment as “so sparse – it’s like he’s still in college. He doesn’t have a single picture on the wall” of his Manhattan apartment, she says.

But Ledewitz ended up adopting some of her son’s attitude to achieve her goal of living in a sleek city condo in Boston’s Seaport district. She and her husband made the transition in two steps. First, they downsized from their ranch home in Springfield, Mass., where they had lived for 33 years into a three-story town home nearby.

“I had a china cabinet in my dining room with all my wedding presents ... my mother’s sugar bowl, the silver. I just loved it. I would look at it every day,” she says.

Ultimately, she says, the lifestyle she wanted outweighed the things she thought she cherished.

“Over the years, when you can’t hand it down, you have to let it go,” she says. She and her husband are now living out their urban dream.

That said, even professionals are not immune to temptation: Of all their late father's possessions, Nan Hayes and her siblings found themselves squabbling about a large statue of a conquistador. (Ultimately, the brother whose vehicle could transport it lugged home the booty.)

Ms. Hayes, the business development director of Caring Transitions, spent 10 years as a transition specialist helping individuals downsize their possessions and homes.

“The part of the job I miss the most,” she says, is seeing her clients “so much happier to be where they are because they know it’s where they need to be.”

“[Downsizing] was challenging, but it was good for [my husband and me],” Ledewitz admits. “It’s been so nice not worrying about all that stuff…. Life is much simpler without all that maintenance.”



  • BrudeBrude Member Posts: 265 ✭✭ One-Sheeter
    What a painful fact of the 'collecting life.'  Someday its all gotta go.

    September marks my 50th year as a movie-poster-holic and the kids want me to liquidate rather than leave them with the burden. 

    I can't say that I blame them.  It could be a nightmare.
  • BruceBruce Member, Captain Movie Poster Posts: 957 ✭✭✭ Daybiller
    Here is a funny/sad story on this subject:

    I had a great customer who bought tons and tons of movie paper (all sizes). The only common denominator was that they all were related to his home state. He was in his 60s and one day he called me up and said "Bruce, I can't buy anymore because my house is filled to overflowing, and my wife said if I buy one more poster she will divorce me"!

    A few years went by and then one day he bought some more. When he called to pay, I said, "What happened?" and he said, "I found the solution. I bought a second house, which is now my 'poster house'."!

    Around 5 more years went by and he called me up and said, "I am driving a 26 foot truck to your place with my son that has ALL my posters in it, and I will explain to you why when I see you."

    So after he arrived, and my guys were unloading his truck, he told me that six months before his doctor told him he needed quadruple bypass heart surgery, and that, while his chances were good, he COULD not "make it" and the doctor said, "If you had any last things you want to say to anyone, this might be a good time to do so".

    So he visited his son (his only child) and told him what the doctor said, and asked his son if there was anything on his mind in case this was their last conversation, and his son said, "Dad, if you survive, PROMISE me you will do something about your poster house, because I don't want to have to deal with it after you are gone!".

    He said he was so struck that THIS was what was on his son's mind, and he vowed that if he survived the surgery he would bring all his stuff to me, and now he had recovered, and he was fulfilling that vow!

    As Ted said, it really IS a burden to leave kids with a giant collection. Plus there is every chance that even your friends might take advantage of your kids (and I have been shocked and saddened to see it happen many times over the years).

    And while people fear it will greatly sadden them to "let go" of their collections, I have not found that to be the case. Many collectors have reported a great sense of relief, because when you have a house full of posters, you always have a fear of a broken water pipe, or a fire, or a theft, or whatever. Some people have said that they didn't realize how much they were "owned" by their collections.

    I recently have been auctioning a large horror collection for a long time collector, and he told me how interesting it has been watching items sell, and how some have gone sky high and others have tanked. He told me it has been almost as much fun watching it sell as it was putting it together.

    And of course there is the nice benefit of "cashing out", because as we have all seen prices can go down just as well as go up. And more importantly, most long time major collectors hardly ever look at substantial amounts of their collection, and when it is sold it likely goes to someone who will get a great thrill out of owning it.

    But after so many years, I have learned to never try to convince ANY long time collector to sell part or all of their collection. Most people go through years and years convinced that they  will NEVER sell, but then one day they wake up and a light bulb goes on in their head, and they realize it is time for them to sell.
    We ( hold 3,000 auctions a week, 138,000 a year.
    See all of our current auctions in one gallery here:
  • DavidDavid Member Posts: 10,307 admin
    Since we've downsized out home I no longer have the walls to display like I used to, it has encouraged me to thin down the collection.
  • HereComesMongoHereComesMongo Member Posts: 924 ✭✭✭ Daybiller


    Heck, my other friends do likewise:

    Mel S. Hutson
    Charlotte, NC USA
    My reference website:
    My Current Poster Collection

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