The Kids Don’t Want Our Stuff

Many of our treasures came from Japanese flea markets. Our kids could care less. (photo credit: Astrit Malsija/Unsplash)

When we’ve talked with our daughters the past few weeks we’ve mentioned that we’d like them to think about what things of ours they might want, including artwork, antiques, and so forth.

The silence has been deafening.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, Meiling mentioned that while she likes our things and knows some of them are valuable, they just aren’t her style, and she thought her sisters pretty much felt the same. She said we should sell what we don’t want before we go and put the money toward our travels.

I was honestly a bit surprised by her thoughts at first. We think our stuff is unique, beautiful, high quality, and valuable, and we’ve worked hard to curate it over the years. But after some thought I realized I never wanted any of my parent’s stuff either, nice as some of those things were. I wanted to collect to my own taste and decorate my own way as well.

Walking through an estate sale is up near the top of my list of depressing experiences. After doing a couple of those I decided I would do anything in my power not to have my children ever have to go through that. Going through a house filled with old books, linens, dishes, bric-a-brac, clothing, furniture, out-of-date technology, dirty tools, etc. that no one in the family wanted was very sad for me. According to Forbes magazine, most children don’t want their parent’s treasured possessions these days. And, as we have found out, a parent’s interest in collections does not automatically pass on to their children.

We now intend to sell and donate the things we won’t want, need or plan to use in the future. We’re not going to get rid of everything, but will downsize once again from what we currently own. We’ll hold a yard sale before we leave Hawaii, and put other items on our local Facebook Marketplace to reduce the cost of shipping what we do keep back to the mainland once again.

When we downsized for our move to Kaua’i in 2014, Brett and I came to enjoy the process as we went along, and found that going through our things before we let them go could be fun at times. We read and reminisced about all the letters that Brett and I had sent to each other during his time in the navy and then shredded them (because we would have been mortified if our children had seen many of them). We talked about books we had read and enjoyed before we sold or donated them. We sold or passed on things to people who wanted them. Done in a period of over a year, downsizing was a very positive experience for us. We have missed nothing we got rid of then.

The kids don’t want our stuff, but we hope to make further downsizing a positive experience once again. Because we have so many fewer things now than in the past, letting things go will require a bit more thought than it did before, but I’m pretty sure we will once again end up keeping just the right amount, and we’ll be happy and satisfied with the result.


16 thoughts on “The Kids Don’t Want Our Stuff

  1. I don’t have kids, but I’ve always been the family historian because I somehow ended up with a lot of things that belonged to relatives who have passed away. I’ve asked my brother and his kids if they want any of this stuff and no one does, so I’m in the process of doing what you are Brett are–going through it all and getting rid of most of it. It is a daunting task. It’s bad enough when you have to get rid of your own stuff!


    1. I ended up with a bunch of family stuff as well and ended up either sending it on to another family member or selling it when no one else wanted it. My grandmother’s silver and crystal salt cellars went to a woman in Australia who was absolutely thrilled to get them, and that made me happy because she appreciated them so much whereas I had no use for them.

      We have come to love decluttering, which in turn has led to a desire to acquire less. Brett and I enjoy seeing how we can manage with what we already have.


  2. When my great aunt passed away, my mom inherited her tea wagon. She had it restored and I grew up with it in our home. I always told my mom that I wanted it. She and my dad built a smaller house and downsized. My mom gave me the tea wagon. I have realized I am not fond of said tea wagon now. While it looked good in my parent’s home it sticks out in mine. It is stored in our spare bedroom. Now I have to hold onto it until my mom passes because she always asks if I still have it.


    1. Your story reminds me that my mother gave Brett and I a duplicate of my grandmother’s sewing cabinet (she had the original in her house). It was a nice piece but did not fit into our decor at all and was always hidden in some back room. I eventually gave it to a cousin who had a home where it did fit, and who sewed and could use it! I don’t know if my mom even remembered that she gave it to us but she never asked about it.


  3. It does seem that the younger generation is quite uninterested in our things. Like you, I wanted my own things and my own style. I love how you are able to see another point of view without becoming offended by your children’s choices. It’s smart of you to sell it for travel money, and lovely that your daughters can be straightforward so you know their positions and do so.

    We have a few classic pieces that our kids will want, and quite a bit they won’t. I have seen enough people in my extended family get left cleaning out someone’s estate to want to avoid causing that huge task for anyone else.


    1. I think lots of the stuff our generation has is very dated, and unless they are classic pieces like you have (I would so take your furniture!!) they aren’t practical. Also, many of our children’s generation are living in smaller homes, and move more frequently than our generation did (or like us, they live overseas).

      We’re going to start selling things at the beginning of next year. The first thing to go will be our stand mixer. Our older daughter wanted it, but has realized she can buy a new one for less than the cost of shipping ours back to the mainland!


  4. I think our kids will covet our home, not so much what’s in it. I was actually shocked when upon checking in with my youngest about some silver I was preparing to donate, she asked me to save it for her. Thrilled, but completely surprised.

    Conversely, and sadly, I can think of nothing in my Dad’s home that I will want. I far prefer the memories of times spent together.

    I do think your things are beautiful however, and really quite timeless in that uniquely Asian way, so hopefully one or more of your children will discover that as well before they go up for sale.


    1. I covet your house!

      I think our things are beautiful too, but get that the girls don’t want them. We gave our son and DIL a couple of our antique tansu (Japanese chests) when they came to the States for him to go to law school. They used them but gave them away to their friends when they moved back to Japan. I’m going to ask again when they’re here at Christmas, but am not expecting a different answer.


  5. My kids took very little. They want less. We know what we have moved we will be selling in the West. Since most of it is Western, it will find homes out there. I am saving one small painting for each grand as they go to college—10 -15 years from now. LOL.


    1. There is so little our kids want, even the art. I think WenYu wants one of our Japanese woodblock prints because she has been to that place, and I’m hoping Meiling and YaYu will want the Chinese watercolors, but who knows? There are some things, more documentation, that they want, but otherwise they’re pretty much, “sell it all and take the money and travel.”


  6. Before you sell them. . Maybe take pictures of all the things you and your husband collected during your travels that have sentimental value and happy memories for the both of you. You could look at the pics years from now and recall the happy experiences and places where you traveled and acquired them.


    1. Yes!! I have taken pictures of everything. I did this before we moved over here for many of the items we were not keeping. It’s one of the best tips I found for decluttering or downsizing sentimental items.


  7. Laura, you are so pragmatic. I spent months in the first year of the pandemic purging my mom’s home of 50 yrs of living – filed paperwork, photos, yarn, fabric, Christmas decorations, tchotchkes, preserving jars, etc. And to her credit she had done some culling prior to her move. What a task! I love your forward thinking style. And it’s true, the kids don’t want our stuff. My aunt taught me a lesson years ago when I was showing off my scrapbooking. She said – no one will care about those when you’re gone. I was offended at first but then came to realize how right she was. My son wouldn’t know 70% of the people in those pictures. Lessons learned.


    1. Those few estate sales I went to had a deeply profound effect on me. I also remember how much work it took my mother and her sister to clean out my grandmother’s house and get it ready to sell. Brett and I really don’t want any of our children to go through that experience. Plus, we enjoy living with less stuff.

      I did a LOT of scrapbooking when Meiling and WenYu were little (but couldn’t afford it any more after YaYu joined our family). Meiling and WenYu have both said they want their scrapbooks, and those will be going back with them after their visit at Christmas. So will most of the other things we are currently storing for them.


  8. I don’t want anything of my parents, although I do have two lovely blue crystal bowls (currently at our vacation house, as they have a bit of a “beachy” vibe) of my grandmothers. They are one of the three items we have on our “not to sell” list for the house. We’ll bring them with us when we move the remaining two items: a standing desk & M’s favorite leather chair. I’m not sure where they will go in our house, as we are really, really not big on decorations. We’re super boring. 🙂

    I have two boys, so I can guarantee they will want zero of our items. I’m a constant declutterer, and also enjoy the process very much. I love nothing more than going through the house, asking if we regularly use something, and selling/donating/tossing if not.


    1. I honestly don’t think less decoration is boring; it takes more effort and thought to decorate with less. I especially like having less to clean and keep up around the house.

      I am getting antsy to start getting rid of stuff, but am trying to wait until after the first of next year. Some things will be going back with the girls, but I want to check with them one more time and make sure they see the items before we do go ahead and sell anything


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