“Do you want this vase?”
“How about these overalls from when you were a toddler?”
“Not even the china cabinet?”
If those questions sound familiar, you might be a millennial whose baby boomer parent is downsizing — and trying to give you all their stuff.
Many of us have a simple answer: No. We don’t want it.
It’s not because we don’t love our parents, and it’s not because we’re ungrateful for their generosity. But we appreciate minimalism and want to avoid clutter in our lives.
If you want to avoid becoming a repository for your parents’ possessions — without hurting their feelings — keep reading. I asked experts in psychology, elder care, and organization for their tips on what to do.
1. Be kind
The most important rule is also the simplest: Don’t be a jerk.
Licensed professional clinical counselor Erin Wiley said it’s important to be gracious in your rejections.
Here are some phrases she suggested using:
- “It’s so special you want to pass that down to me.”
- “That’s such an interesting collection of [Russian nesting dolls].”
- “I don’t want to disappoint you, but I simply don’t have room for any extra furniture.”
- “I don’t think I’d use that, but thanks for offering.”
Lastly, she offered one important reminder: “If the person offering their possessions to you has an emotional reaction that makes you feel bad, they are grown-ups and can manage disappointment. It’s not your job to alter your life to protect other people’s emotions.”
2. Ask questions
Don’t understand why your dad keeps trying to give you his beer can collection?
It might not be about the items themselves, explained Joy Loverde, author of the forthcoming book Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? It might be about leaving a legacy.
If you think that’s the case, Loverde suggested redirecting the conversation with questions. Learn more about the item by asking your parent “Where did you get it?” or “Why does it mean so much to you?”
Asking questions, she said, “conveys validation and respect” — both of which will go a long way in smoothing your rejection.
3. Explain your reasons
If your parent understands why you can’t take their items, they might be more willing to accept your decision.
And no, your reason shouldn’t be “I don’t like your taste” or “That was a silly purchase.”
Instead, explain your reasons truthfully and kindly. It could be that you don’t have enough room or that you live a minimalist lifestyle.
If you don’t have a specific reason, your stance can be that someone else would appreciate it more.
Ann Zanon, a professional organizer in Connecticut, suggested saying the following: “I understand this tschotske is important to you — but for me, it doesn’t have any memories tied to it. Let’s let it go to a family who will create their own memories with it.”
4. Take something
Although you have the right to refuse every single thing your parent offers, it might be wise to acquiesce once in a while.
“Keeping a few of the small items helps to soften the blow,” said Eddie Chu, owner of home care company Qualicare. “People hold on to items for the memories associated with them. … This serves the same purpose of keeping the memories alive while also being efficient with your available space.”
In other words, you don’t have to take the entire teapot collection — but if it’s important to your parent, maybe take one. You’ll demonstrate that you respect their possessions (and your space).
5. Find an alternative home
It’s wise to help your parent find an alternative home for all the stuff you don’t want. One of the best options is another friend or relative.
“I’ve seen a lot of distant relatives willing to store or keep the antique furniture, which typically keeps our client happy that it stays in the family,” said Chu.
Just think: Aunt Edith probably would be delighted to add that hutch to her collection — and your dad likely would be happy to see it there rather than in the dumpster.
6. Sell or donate the rest
No willing takers? Then it’s time to sell or donate whatever remains.
You could hold a garage sale, bring the items to a consignment shop, or sell them online through eBay, Craigslist, or Letgo. Use some of the money to fund a bonding activity. Mom might not miss that dining room table so much if it means a day out!
If it’s more than you can manage, you might want to organize an estate sale. Look for companies in your area or consider a company like Everything But The House (EBTH). Available in 27 cities, EBTH takes care of the entire process — sorting, photographing, cataloging, and arranging payment and delivery — for you.
Of course, you also can donate the items to a local charity.
If your parent resists, ask them this question from Linda Barlaam, a professional organizer with House to Home Organizing: “Wouldn’t it be better for someone to actually use or want the items, as opposed to them sitting in storage?”
As our parents age, more of us are going to face these issues.
By demonstrating we care and showing respect, we can navigate these delicate waters and keep our relationships strong.
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
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2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.
Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
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