Monday, June 5, 2017

Baby Boomers Are Downsizing — and the Kids Won’t Take the Family Heirlooms

For 30 years, Pat Fryzel stored her children’s memorabilia, and her grandmother’s, too. But when she and her husband downsized, from a large Winchester home to a two-bedroom Boston townhouse, there was no room for the American Girl dolls or Nana’s cake plates. So Fryzel asked her grown kids to collect what they wanted.

She was not met with much enthusiasm. “They said, ‘Take a picture and text it to us,’” recalled Fryzel, 64, a retired nurse practitioner.

For generations, adult children have agreed to take their aging parents’ possessions — whether they wanted them or not. But now, the anti-clutter movement has met the anti-brown furniture movement, and the combination is sending dining room sets, sterling silver flatware, and knick-knacks straight to thrift stores or the curb.

And feelings are getting hurt, as adult children who are eager to minimize their own belongings — and who may live in small spaces, and entertain less formally than their parents did — are increasingly saying “no thanks” to the family heirlooms. (...)

The cold math of downsizing can be seen in a 2016 profile of buyers and sellers from the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. From the ages of 18 to 54, when a person sells a house, the next home he or she buys is larger. When sellers hit 55, the homes they buy next are smaller.

But the square-footage numbers don’t capture what space means in emotional terms, in memories: the mahogany hutch Grandma inherited as a young bride, too big for the dining nook in her retirement community apartment; the books that have been like friends, too voluminous to take along; the kids’ art projects and book reports from long ago. (...)

“I have a lot of mementos from my grandmother that my mother foisted on me,” said Fine, 59. She dutifully stored them for three decades, in boxes she never opened, and while she doesn’t expect her daughter to take them, she’s now facing a quandary.

“How can you take these things to a consignment shop?” she asked. “It’s almost like a burden that we carry with us through life. Sometimes I wish we had less connection to our possessions.”

The burden is only likely to grow. The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double, from 46 million to over 98 million by 2060, according to a 2016 report by the nonprofit, Washington, D.C.-based Population Reference Bureau.

by Beth Teitell, Boston Review |  Read more:
Image: Shutterstock
[ed. No surprise here. I'm in the process of moving and the storage units in my town and the one I'm moving to are all booked (1200+ units).  Talk about a growth industry.]