I’m 50 years old, but I think I’m turning into a millennial. Keep reading and you’ll see what I mean. My family is in the process of downsizing from a house to an apartment that’s half the size. (This is an update from a previous blog in which I said we were going to move to a smaller house.) The reason is to cut our monthly expenses in nearly in half.
In the process, I’ve been aggressively donating and selling things that previously I was holding onto. I’ve tried to include my 13- and 15-year-olds in process. My thought was that they would tell me what items they wanted to keep and what to throw. To my surprise, though, they expressed an interest in my story about various things, but then found a way to politely walk away without committing to keeping anything.
So you have a flavor of what I’m talking about, here are some of the things that I thought I was keeping for posterity that my kids don’t actually care about:
- Multiple photo albums of older or dead relatives. (I had thought these were important for genealogy. But it turns out there isn’t much family joy involved in sitting around a table listening to me show old pictures and tell stories about relatives that my kids have never met.)
- Knick knacks of my mom’s. (I had thought for sure that my kids would want these. After all, they knew my mom when they were younger and before she died. These were porcelain figures from Northern Germany where my family is from. Again, the kids heard the story, but never took me up on the offer to take these items.)
- A 1960’s cuckoo clock from Germany. My step-father had brought it back after being based there, and gave it to his parents. So, it has multiple deceased people’s stories involved (which I thought was relevant). My wife and kids gave me a blank stare when I said I thought we should keep it.
- File cabinets full of music manuscripts from when I was studying music performance at Indiana University-Bloomington and the University of Iowa 25 years ago. (I’ve hardly used any of this, but kept it just “in case.” After all, the replacement cost of this written music would be in the thousands of dollars.)
I could go on and on. But this gives you an idea. In all, I’ve donated or sold what seems like half a house full of items in the last 30 days.
I was holding onto these things because of fear.
As an estate planning and probate attorney, I’ve found this process interesting. I was holding onto all these things because of fear. That’s the same reason that hoarders hoard. I never considered myself a hoarder. After all, I didn’t have piles of old newspapers, so I had to have pathways to get from one room to another. But my refusal to let things go was based in fear nonetheless.
I was afraid of the following:
- That my kids would forget about their past. (That’s why I thought I needed to keep multiple boxes of photo albums.)
- That my memory would not be carried on. (And therefore, I should keep lots of things showing what I did in my childhood, etc.)
- About losing money. (So rather than sell bronze sculptures for a loss, I should keep them indefinitely.)
In short, I had what philosophers call a “Fear of Annihilation.” The fear of no longer existing. I know intellectually that this is silly. I’m going to die one day. And in all likelihood, no one will remember me in 50 or 100 years.
Millennials are different from my generation (Generation X) and the Baby Boomers. They don’t care about things (unless it’s equipment for a video game). I’m learning to appreciate their simpler approach to life.
So, rather than force possessions on my offspring, I’m choosing to leave them good values and memories. They are much easier to haul around than boxes.
Do you have any experiences of inheriting “stuff” from a loved one? Or perhaps simplifying your life? Please share.
Paul Deloughery is an estate and probate litigation, and law insurance dispute consultant in Scottsdale, Arizona. Visit his website to read more of his blogs or follow him on Twitter!