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The Weird World of Too Much "Stuff”

By Mary Holmes

Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are currently the largest segment of our population. And many are in the process of transition from their large family home to a smaller, retirement living situation. This means that they have more possessions than they will need going forward, so they will need to right-size. So the question is what to do with all the “extras”. A few obvious answers are to gift to relatives, sell valuable items, or donate to charitable organizations. Sounds simple enough on paper – unfortunately, the reality can be quite different.

Gifting - First, your children, other relatives and friends may not really want what you are offering to them. This could be because they already have a house full of furniture and household items or because the items aren’t their taste. Tastes have changed over time, for sure. Gone are the days that people are registering for china and crystal when they get married. Each younger generation seems to be less about accumulating material items and more about gathering experiences, e.g. travel and adventures.

Selling - Next, it is a sad truth that possessions acquired over the years that were at one time very valuable (antiques, many collectibles, etc.) are no longer desirable, so therefore, very difficult to sell. Again, this has to do with changing tastes over time. Since there is currently a very high supply of “stuff” in the world and not much demand, even if you can sell an item, the price will be much lowered than anticipated in many cases. This said, we do have many outlets for selling items in one way or another, e.g. auctioneers, collectors, consignors, on-line sales, etc.

Donating - Lastly, even donating your cherished possessions isn’t as easy as you would think. If a donation store such as Goodwill can’t resell or repurpose the item, they really don’t want it because it becomes an expense to them versus making a profit. A perfect example of this is cut glass and even some lower- to mid-level crystal. There is no market for these items currently, so Goodwill can’t sell them - they are crushing and recycling when possible instead. Another example is that many smaller, local charitable organizations, like those serving the refugee community, are inundated with donations. So much so, that they can afford to be very picky. Quite often they are looking for furniture that is no more than two years old from smoke free, pet free homes.

I recently had a client in Yarmouth, ME realize that a beautiful antique breakfront that was over $10,000 when originally purchased was worth a tenth of that now. She commented that she would put it in storage until the market changed. Unfortunately, I believe this will not be in our lifetime, as those in their 20’s now are more interested in buying disposable furniture at Ikea so they can have more money to travel and have fun with friends. So although it is very hard to say goodbye to a beloved piece in a less than desirable manner, it is also quite sad to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on storage when there is no real prospect of recouping that money.

Having said all this, when Integrated Move Management is involved in a right-sizing and/or move, we make every effort to find a new and loving home for downsized items using our vast database of resources. If you would like to learn more, please Contact Us.

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