D.L. STEWART: A problem for the ‘too-much-stuff generation’

Like most members of our generation, my wife and I have spent a lifetime accumulating stuff. We have walls covered with art work. Armoires stuffed with crystal, fine china and silverware. An attic filled with holiday trappings and photo albums. There’s not a flat surface in our house that isn’t littered with picture frames, candlesticks and porcelain figurines of little dogs.

We have rooms crammed with furniture, including a giant dining room table my wife treasures. If a fire breaks out in our house some night, she will jump out of bed, drag that table out the nearest exit and then come back to wake me. (In all fairness, she’s had the table a lot longer than she’s had me).

But, also like members of our generation, we have no idea how to get rid of it all when we eventually downsize to a smaller house, a nursing home or a cemetery.

Previous generations simply passed along their stuff to their children. But as a New York Times article pointed out, today’s children don’t want our stuff. “Some children take the objects just to keep Mom and Dad quiet,” an estate liquidator related. “They’ll take them and store them until Mom’s dead, and then they can’t wait to get rid of them.”

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“Today’s young adults tend to acquire household goods that they consider temporary or disposable, from online retailers or stores like Ikea and Target, instead of inheriting them from parents or grandparents,” the article added.

And they’re not sitting down for dinner around giant tables set with crystal, fine china and silverware. The last time I visited my youngest son and his family, dinner was delivered by Hungry Howie’s pizza. Served on paper plates.

We could try to sell our stuff, but there’s probably not much market for a photo album filled with pictures of our honeymoon in Portugal. I called the Louvre about selling the print we have showing a guy throwing a large fish to another guy in a Seattle market, but I haven’t heard back from them.

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Donating our stuff would be nice, but even nonprofits are having trouble figuring out what to do with all our stuff. “We are definitely getting overrun with furniture and about 20 percent more donations of everything than in previous years,” a Goodwill official told The Times.

The problem has become so pervasive there’s a thriving “senior move management” industry that charges $50 to $125 an hour to help clients get rid of their stuff. We’re not ready for that, yet. But maybe they could tell us what to do with the stuff in our garage that my wife’s mom left us.

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