What do you do when your parent(s) start downsizing?
The first time, I was in my 20s, and my parents were leaving Michigan to live in Arizona.
They asked me and my siblings if there was anything we wanted. I didn’t.
When you are starting out on your own, it’s hard to imagine wanting anything that your parents have (unless, of course, you are much smarter than I – and that’s very likely). I didn’t want anything they had, I wanted all new bright and shiny things.
A few decades later and I kick myself for not being smarter.
My sister was smart, she asked for the mashed potato bowl. Every time I see that ceramic bowl on her table, I’m filled with memories of family dinners when we were young.
I also learned that telling your parents or grandparents that you don’t want any of their stuff is a lot like an insult.
“Sorry, nothing you have means anything to me. Move along now.”
My mom started downsizing again a few years ago. The first sign of this was the arrival of a box at my house filled with every single (I am not exaggerating) card sent to me since the day I was born. Every single card.
It was great going through and seeing the signatures of my grandparents, great-grandparents and others, now gone. But what do you do when you’re done looking at them? I kept a few, the rest I packed away until I have to downsize at which time I’ll give them to my sons and let them deal with the guilt that comes with tossing out stuff your parents give you.
A friend told me about the time her father stopped by with a giant box of holiday decorations. Apparently her parents were downsizing and decided to get rid of most of the holiday stuff they had collected over the last 40 years. She didn’t want the decorations, but she couldn’t say no. So she took the box.
The next holiday when her parents came by, first thing her mom wanted to know was where were the decorations she had been given? It was a painful conversation that ended with “Well, I guess you really don’t want anything that we have.”
Another friend had the opposite problem, she loves everything her parents have and would love to have it all, but when it came time for her parents to downsize, they decided to sell everything. So she had to buy what she wanted.
I’ve read a number of blogs about this subject lately and the overwhelming majority seem to be focused on telling parents that you don’t want any of their stuff.
That’s easy to say when you’re young and your future is unwritten.
Just a fair warning, someday you’re going to wish you had that mashed potato bowl.
Brenda’s column appears most Mondays around noon, although, fair warning, she’s taking a few months off soon.