The estate sale I went to last week was a packed one; it was like a museum of my childhood, complete with thermal coffee mugs with woven-straw sides, and a large wood stereo system on tall legs just like you would have found in most of the houses in the neighborhoods of my childhood, back in the 1960s.
But what was most memorable about this sale was that on two separate occasions I heard women say, “I hope my kids don’t do this to me!” as they looked at the displays of two elderly folks’ personal possessions.
My goodness, do they think their kids will keep their houses (and contents) intact after they go to a nursing home, or after they die? Something will have to be done with their things, and it’s extremely likely that their kids will do this to them; what other choice will they have? Do they expect them to keep all of it? We’re talking about a houseful of stuff: tables covered in bric-a-brac, knick-knacks, plates, glasses, linens, tools, you name it.
I wanted to tell these women that there is only one way to be sure your kids don’t do this to you, and that’s to go through it yourself while you’re still alive and kicking. Make the tough decisions now so your kids will never have to put all of your things on display for strangers to pick through someday.
As the late philanthropist Percy Ross used to say, “He who gives while he lives knows where it goes.” Keep only your most favorite and necessary possessions, give the next best items to people you love, and sell or donate the rest. You’ll relieve your kids of a huge burden someday, and you’ll never have to spin in your grave because your home is the site of an estate sale.
(Learn how to give up anything you’re sentimental about in The Sentimental Person’s Guide to Decluttering.)