A 2014 United States census report states that more than 20% of America’s population will be 65 or older by 2030. And with an older population comes different needs for aging residents. For the first time in modern history, multiple generations are downsizing simultaneously, according to Mary Kay Buysse, executive director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM).
Boomers focused on retirement are pairing down and cleaning out, moving to smaller homes with smaller footprints. Meanwhile, their parents are downsizing, too—many to move into assisted living, what some call the “final downsizing.” These shifts are causing widespread tensions between generations.
Families want to pass on their heirlooms to the next generation: China. Silver. Crystal. Dining room sets. Armoires. Once marks of a healthy middle class, these possessions—even when of good, sustainable quality—don’t appeal to the millennial generation in the same way.
So why don’t millennials want your crap?
Value is Greater than Quality
First of all, millennials recognize that much of what you have been saving has intrinsic value. It’s not all crap. When kept safe, quality china remains quality. However, an item’s value is based on more than its quality. That’s why cheap cardboard baseball cards can be worth more over time, why solid rotary phones are worth less, and why it’s difficult to find someone to take your non-dishwasher safe, 52-piece dinner service for 12.
As a generation defined by its mobility, millennials value items that are useful on a daily basis. Furniture is multipurpose and easy to move as they switch apartments or move across the country for a job opportunity. Kitchenware has to fit into smaller spaces and be useful to different crowds in varying functions. Collectibles no longer reflect the cluttered chintz of the 1990s, but are chosen purposefully to fit a space.
Space is at a Premium
Many of the changes to millennials’ spaces has to do with the space itself. There simply is no space to store large items that are used once a year, at most.
As a generation, millennials are waiting longer to marry—if they do so at all. And while first-time homebuyers continue to make up a significant portion of national homebuyers, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to afford a mortgage on a single income. A significant portion of the millennial population is living alone or with roommates. It becomes difficult to adopt the furniture of your grandparent’s four-bedroom, three-story home when you rent a basement studio.
“Adulthood” has Changed
Since adults are marrying later, the trajectory of adulthood has shifted. Marrying couples are no longer going straight from their parent’s three-bedroom home into one of their own. Millennials are acquiring their own belongings long before they pair up, eliminating the need for “wedding china” and other items once a mark of successful adulthood. By the time Boomers and their parents are ready to downsize, millennials have no need for their possessions.
Instead, young adults prefer to collect memories and experiences, choosing to spend their money on travel and entertainment. Young couples are more likely to register for a honeymoon excursion than for what would be their third set of dinnerware. The markers of success look more like an Instagram story and less like a classic Better Homes & Gardens spread.
So, What do You do with Your Crap?
As a Boomer, now is always the best time to be concerned about what happens to your belongings when you’re ready to downsize. The more time you give yourself to find homes for key pieces, the more likely they are to be well received by your millennial family member—or the more likely you are to find a good buyer!
Discuss with family members what items you’d like them to have, and allow them the opportunity to take them at their own convenience—when they are in need of an overstuffed armchair or the perfect painting for the living room. For items that aren’t wanted, consider consignment shops, antiques dealers, or donating to charity. Selling items through a digital marketplace, like eBay or Facebook Marketplace, could also be rewarding. It can feel great to find an eager new owner of your precious end table, even if it’s not your own family member.
In the end, you know that most of your “crap” are real treasures. After all, you’ve been holding onto these items for so long for a reason. By planning your downsize well in advance, you can make sure that your belongings find the best new homes possible.
NASMM offers additional advice on “rightsizing” and relocation at nasmm.org.
Image Copyright: milkare / 123RF Stock Photo
What items are you having trouble passing onto the next generation? https://t.co/BHVbSd96yC
— Beverly-Hanks WNC (@beverlyhanks) November 28, 2017