Downsizing those heirlooms

November 13, 2017

By Karen Shinn, Guest Columnist, Toronto Star

From the onset, Boomers set out to change the world – and change it, they did.
In the 1950s and ’60s, there was a rapid increase in the number of schools built, in the late ’60s, a community college system emerged and now retirement residences and hospitals are ramping up to embrace the Boomers as they continue to age.

However, the one thing Boomers did, just like their parents, was buy houses and fill them with stuff. These days, two generations are letting go of treasures and keepsakes and discovering their children and grandchildren simply do not want them.

When I suggested to a group of seniors that their family and friends do not want most of their stuff, I was met with this response: “Not totally true. There is one thing I’ve collected that I know my family will want … and that’s my money!”

The decision to downsize and move to a smaller home can be made for a number of reasons including financial concerns, reduced mobility, increased health-care requirements and social isolation. The downsizing process is more challenging when you discover no one wants to take, much less buy, things you no longer want, use or need?

With 1,000 Canadians turning 65 every day for the next 20 years, this is one problem that is not going to go away. As Senior Move Managers, we help people downsize, organize and move. One of our biggest challenges is reducing, reusing and repurposing all of the furniture, household items and decorative treasures that made houses homes for Boomers and their parents.

Times have changed and the generation now in “acquiring mode” is not so keen on acquiring. Millennials want to be mobile, leave their options open and tend to favour experiences over stuff. Their homes are smaller so they need considerably less furniture to fill them.

The old-fashioned markers of success, like well-made furniture, good dishes and traditional artwork, aren’t as important to this next generation. These treasured heirlooms, traditionally passed from one generation to the next, seemed to have reached the end of the road.

What’s the solution?

You can try to sell surplus items in an auction or consignment shop knowing the price you get will depend on who sees your treasures and what they are interested in spending on them.

Holding a garage sale is always a great way to meet your neighbours but not necessarily the best way to make money. These sales are time-consuming, labour-intensive, weather-dependent and require you to negotiate the selling price of your stuff.

Contents sales are held in your house and coordinated by someone else. They can be conducted onsite or online and the cost is usually based on a commission split.

Lots of people might want to buy your stuff … at their price! Take out an ad in your local paper or, if you’re tech-savvy or know someone who is, post items for donation or sale online.

Antique and flea market dealers will visit your house, look at your treasures and make you an offer. The price they suggest will allow him/her to make a profit and you to get rid of your stuff.

Letting go of the items that no longer fit your lifestyle is a task that is best done in small steps.

Our advice: Start small. Start now!

Gail Shields and Karen Shinn, Co-Founders of Downsizing Diva, are NASMM A+ Accredited Senior Move Managers.