Downsizing for Seniors: Taking Care of Family Heirlooms

Downsizing in senior living

A Different Kind of Caretaking

Why can’t we say no to our relatives who want us to take a lamp, chair or knickknack because it’s “worth a lot of money” or it was “Grandma’s favorite”? Downsizing can be painful for everyone involved.

Right now, we have a hand-built rocking chair, a chaise longue, a two-foot-tall Murano glass bird, and an antique dining table that seats up to 12 if you put all the leaves in. We took the dining table when we got married thinking it would “hold us over” until we bought modern furniture of our own. It’s been 40 years.

The chaise longue is a throwback to another era when you actually had time to lounge. It badly needs reupholstering so it’s reclining in the garage for now.

The glass bird is a newcomer to the scene. Someone donated it to the thrift store at my mother’s senior living community. Money raised through the store helps pay the monthly fees of residents who need financial assistance. The bird goes with absolutely nothing in our living room, but I couldn’t say no. Now I’m kind of attached to it.

This last Christmas, I tried to get my son to take some of the furniture out of the warehouse we call our garage. No luck.

I know so many people who have faced major purges after their parents passed on. Weeks of garage sales, postings on Craig’s List – even giving things away – have been only marginally successful. Sometimes the only solution is to donate the items to charity. But even charities are getting particular these days.

I’ve come to realize that our generation already has the “stuff” we want. If anything, we’ve started purging our own homes. Meanwhile, the younger generation is not interested in Grandpa’s black recliner or Great-Grandma’s china. They want to create their own style.

So, unless my daughter wants a giant glass bird for her apartment in New York, looks like we’re the caretaker for both the bird and the heirlooms – at least until we start downsizing ourselves.

Do you or a loved one need help with downsizing? Check our tips on how to manage the transition.


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