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What to do with all that stuff

If you own a home and have a growing family, you probably have a lot of stuff. Outside of the things you use every day like your furniture or your car, there are many items you hang onto in cabinets, on shelves and within storage spaces that you haven't touched in years. Even if you haven't used them, these items are probably important to you in a sentimental or emotional way. Their presence supports your existence intrinsically even if they aren't always practical.

These items could be pictures, hand sewn quilts or other family heirlooms you and your loved ones have held sacred for generations. Or, they could be more recent like the china set you got for your wedding or the antique jewelry you received from your late grandmother. These items are based on your past, but you hope to hold them into the future. Are past items always practical when considering future needs?

Social attitudes toward "stuff" is changing

According to the New York Times, there may be a growing divide between the material wishes of parents and the lifestyle choices of their children. A closer look at the numbers shows that our country is facing a shift in populations and generations that are changing our attitude toward material possessions.

According to NYT, the 20 percent of Americans age 65 or older will begin to downsize as they near retirement. Meanwhile, according to CNBC, more Americans are renting than ever before. The intersection of these trends could leave our excess of generational "stuff" in no man's land.

Where can we keep it?

The Silent Generation born during the Great Depression and their Baby Boomer children have a different attitude toward "things" than Generation Xers or Millennials who rely on on-demand services. Therefore, you may have to employ careful strategies when sorting through your loved one's possessions.

As outlined on Caring.com, cleaning strategies could include:

  • Developing a set of questions that focus on the practical gains of keeping or getting rid of an item.
  • Starting small in both space and significance. A smaller box is easier to sort through and can be used as a way to ease a loved one into decluttering.
  • Hiring a professional. Services are available that help loved ones part with their things through an empathetic approach. Once you and your loved ones decide what to keep, you can use the help of an estate planning attorney to determine how to pass it on.

Even if the space for our heirlooms isn't there, the memories of them remain. When parting with a prized possession, we often don't focus on if it will be used, but rather that it will be treated well. Indeed, taking the time to fulfill the sentimental wishes of loved ones remains the focus of estate planning.

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