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No One Wants Your Stuff!

By Terry Savage on October 06, 2020

No one wants your stuff! That’s the inescapable conclusion that aging baby boomers are facing as they plan to downsize by selling the family home. Suddenly the treasures of a lifetime have become an emotional and financial burden.

Boomers still have their grandparents’ china, silver, art, and furnishings. But their Gen X,Y, and Z children and grandchildren scorn those precious possessions. In a new podcast on FriendsTalkMoney.org we discuss how to handle this issue. And there are many opinions on what to do when even bidders on eBay show no interest in buying your precious items.

In the interests of full disclosure, I’m a saver. Good thing I have a big basement. My plan is to stay in my house (thank goodness for LTC insurance!) and let my kids deal with it when I’m gone! My podcast partners took a more practical view. We all agreed that for most people it makes sense to downsize at some point and offload the excess stuff. And a positive attitude lets you consider downsizing as an opportunity to do some real good in the world by enriching other lives.

After our podcast was posted last week, we heard from a listener, Ellie, who has raised downsizing to an art form. She gave permission to quote her specific tips as she sells her home and moves into a condo.

• Recycle the paper stuff you saved. “My husband saved so much paper for many years and never disposed of any statements, confirmations, notes, reports and other documents. I found a nonprofit near me that employs disabled adults and shreds sensitive documents for a small donation. I’ve made three trips there with boxes of files.”

What a great idea. Just keep the last four years of paper documentation – unless you think the IRS will suspect you of fraud. There is no statute of limitations on that kind of investigation!

• Donate old eyeglasses and hearing aids. Ellie found that the Lions Club gives those old readers and prescription glasses to needy people. And many opticians and hearing aid centers will help you recycle these items.

• Search for electronics recycling events in your town. Those old plug-in telephones, endless cords and chargers, and ancient computers and screens just clog up landfills. Just Google “electronics recycling near me” to find companies that will pick up your stuff. Many employ disabled workers, helping you do two good things at once.
Be sure to ask your in-house tech guru (child, grandchild, neighbor) to help you wipe your hard drive clean – especially if you’ve stored any financial records on your computer, as opposed to “in the cloud.”

• Old photos, 8mm movies, slides. Ellie came up with a terrific suggestion that I will follow myself. “The photos, most unframed, occupy many boxes. I took 970 slides to a company to scan to my external hard drive.” There are companies that will transform those old home movies to digital storage, and scan your photos onto digital media as well. Your adult kids have plenty of storage space on their hard drives – and these memories will be easy to share in digital form.

• Donating clothing you won’t wear again. Some needy person will benefit from having your work clothes, as one day there will again be in-person interviews. There’s a “bottomless closet” or similar non-profit in almost every city.

• An estate sale for what’s left. I liked Ellie’s approach: to sorting things out: “I plan to move the things I want to keep and have an estate sale to try to sell some of the other things. What’s left can be sent to a consignment furniture store or donated. Goodwill is nearby and takes many items. After my house is empty and a few repairs are made, I plan to put it on the market.”

After a lifetime of collecting possessions, Boomers face downsizing. There’s one consolation. One day, after we are gone, our stuff will become “collectible” again. And our kids will regret turning it down. That’s the Savage Truth.

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