There’s nothing quite like moving to make you realize how much stuff you have. When every single item in your household has to be boxed up and carted elsewhere, it’s easy to be startled by the sheer volume of material possessions you own.
Often, when we move, we end up taking an opportunity to purge our belongings. Bags and boxes are donated to thrift stores. Hand-me-down clothes are passed to the neighbors. Keepsakes are re-gifted to friends.
This can be a painstaking process at any age, but a particularly emotional one for aging retirees.
The numbers show that, between the ages of 18 and 54, we tend to move into ever bigger houses. It makes sense – you start out with an affordable one bedroom place. You get married, have kids, and need to move into something bigger.
Retirees are on the opposite tip.
Their grown children have moved out, they are getting older and would like to lighten their load of housework and maintenance. After age 55, people typically move from larger dwellings into smaller ones.
A growing “senior move management” industry has arisen to fulfill the particular needs of the older set. The trade group, the National Association of Senior Move Managers boasts 950 member companies.
These companies handle everything from hiring the moving trucks to changing your address to renegotiating your cable contract for your new home.
Industry insiders say that one of the trickier aspects of their job is managing those precious items that won’t fit in the new home, but that the mover would like to keep “in the family.” Parents and grandparents often hope that their children and grandchildren will adopt their treasured heirlooms and collections. But the younger set isn’t having it.
The adult Millennial children of the Baby Boomer generation have their own style and taste that may not match their parents’. Many are living in small dwellings themselves with minimalistic aesthetics. An antique oak hutch simply isn’t going to mesh with a twenty-something’s Ikea-inspired bachelor pad.
The younger set also doesn’t entertain in the same formal style as the older generation, making silver flatware and fancy china obsolete. It’s not about being ungrateful, it’s about wildly different styles between generations.
What it boils down to is: Just because mom thought it was precious, doesn’t mean that daughter gives a damn.
Says Kate Grondin of the senior move management company Home Transition Resource, “We can help soften the blow if the kids don’t want anything but are afraid to tell their parents.” Sometimes the kids flatly refuse to inherit items like furniture, art, or dishware that their parents have held onto for decades, or even generations.
Other times, in order to avoid hard feelings, the kids might take items, only to turn around and throw or give them away.
When moving elders ask senior move manager Anne Lucas of Ducks in a Row, “‘What do I do with my crystal and china?’” she tells them “‘Drink your OJ out of it. Who cares if the gold comes off? The kids don’t want it.’”
This story was first published here in June, 2017.