Home Downsizing: 5 Ways to Cope When Your Family Doesn’t Want Your Stuff

Home downsizing is an emotional endeavor. It not only involves you, but it involves your family. In this post, I’m sharing 5 things to consider that will make the process easier!

Just the thought of packing up your current home, and moving it, is enough to make most of us want to hide under a pillow. It’s not easy, it’s filled with many different emotions, and there are literally hundreds of decisions to be made. If you make the choice to move to a smaller space, some of those decisions revolve around the issue of downsizing your possessions. The fact has to be faced that if you are reducing your space, you must declutter and reduce your stuff. So where do your belongings go?

In times gone by, family possessions were handed down from generation to generation, as were many actual houses. Home downsizing wasn’t even a thing. In today’s world, that’s no longer the case. Generally speaking, our kids don’t want our collections, our no-longer-needed furniture, or our sets of china. They don’t want the 25 mason jars in the basement, or the packed-away plates that belonged to Aunt Betty in the attic. We live in a different time now…and a minimalist lifestyle is very prevalent with millennials. Our kids don’t entertain by serving five course meals on a dining table laid with fine china. Most of them don’t even have china…so the question has to be asked…why would they want ours?

display shelves with china storage

Well, the answer is simple. They don’t. So what do you do with everything that doesn’t fit in a smaller home when you’re faced with downsizing? How do you reconcile with the fact that some of your stuff has to go? More importantly, how do you understand when your family doesn’t want your stuff? What follows are five ideas that make this whole issue simpler to cope with. They all won’t work for everyone, but my hope is that you come away with a nugget or two to make moving to a smaller new space easier.

living room accessories with flowers

Make the offer with the condition that there’s no obligation.

Our biggest downsizing problem was that we could not use our heirloom dining set in our new place, so it had to go. My husband was a very good sport about this, because he really didn’t want to part with it. He felt that keeping it in the family was the right thing to do, and that thought also helped him with the transition. We knew our daughter couldn’t use it, but there was a slight chance our son might want it.

When we asked him, we made it very clear that there was no obligation, but that we couldn’t pass it on to another family member without asking him first. I think he appreciated that, and he and his wife did think about it. In the end, it just wasn’t a good fit for their dining room, and they declined. It’s a unique set in that there are two corner cabinets. They only had one appropriate corner, so that basically made the decision for them.

early fall centerpiece on dining table

The next option was our nephew and his wife. She loves anything vintage, and when I sent them a picture along with the offer, they answered “yes” in just a few seconds! Not only was it a relief that the set had someplace to go, but it was going to a good home.

In the end, we were at peace. The initial indecision was nerve-wracking, but that’s where patience comes in. Just take a breath, and wait it out. Things have a way of working out the way they are supposed to.

pitcher of flowers on gas range in kitchen

Don’t take it personally when they say no…because they will.

Just because your kids don’t want the stuff in your closets, doesn’t mean they don’t love you.

OK…read that sentence again!

When we moved, both of our kids drew a huge sigh of relief. They were both very happy that we were getting out from under a house that no longer served our needs. They were also relieved that I was in charge of the clean out process and not them! In our case, I already knew there was really nothing that they wanted. They didn’t need our things, because they had things of their own. Our situation actually made the process easier because I didn’t have to take the time to consult them when it was time to make a decision. My husband and I were in charge of the decisions, which made things so much simpler.

If this isn’t the case with you, and your family wants to be involved in the decision-making process, my best advice is to give yourself extra time. By extra time, I mean months. That way you won’t be rushed into making decisions that you will perhaps regret, and you will be able to give your family the opportunity to be a part of the process.

Don’t use the “guilt trip” method.

Leading up to our move, both of our kids came home to go through their own stuff that was still being stored at our house. They each had stacks of bins filled with everything from their growing-up years. To be honest, I was surprised that they were ready to part with almost all of it. At one point, we ran across an Anne of Green Gables doll that I had given my daughter one year for Christmas. Clearly she didn’t want it, but she could tell by the look on my face that I wanted her to want it. She said “I can tell you want me to keep this.”

The last thing I ever wanted to do was to guilt her into keeping something she no longer wanted. So I told her it was fine, but would it be OK if I kept the doll…and of course she said yes. So that was a compromise we were both willing to make. When a compromise isn’t possible, just let them let go.

This also applies when they don’t want family heirlooms, or sentimental items. It’s better not to mention the fact that “your grandmother brought that all the way from Italy!” Let them say no without worrying about your feelings. In the end, it will be so much better for all of you, because guilt has a way of eating us alive…and that’s the last thing we want for our families.

neutral shelving with ironstone and dough bowl 2022

Do be prepared to sell and/or donate.

As you are packing/sorting, keep in mind that you don’t have to throw away what you don’t want, or can no longer use. Some things need to go in the trash, but not everything. Two great options for recycling your things are to sell them, or donate them. Selling takes considerably more time and effort. Facebook Marketplace, garage sales, consignment shops, eBay, or Craigslist are great options. I chose not to go that route, and donated what we didn’t want to a local Goodwill store. Most towns and cities have multiple options for donation destinations, so check around until you find one that you are comfortable with. Knowing our stuff was going to improve someone else’s life made me feel so much better about the whole downsizing process.

When downsizing, do consider an alternate storage situation.

No matter how hard you try, and no matter how determined you are, there are going to be things that you cannot part with. At least not in the moment, during packing and moving. These are the things that it’s better to keep. In our case, my husband had mountains of sports memorabilia, and other things he just couldn’t let go of. In his defense, I sprung our move on him very quickly, and he didn’t have enough time to process everything before we started the clean out. Instead of pressuring him, and making the situation difficult, I chose the path of least resistance.

I decided to get a storage unit, and honestly, it was a relief to have a place to put our can’t-part-with items. The decisions that have to be made during a move are varied and many. Having this storage space let us postpone some of those decisions until we weren’t so rushed, and could take the time to find the appropriate place for our things.

We moved several months ago, and yes, we still have the storage unit. I’ve been over there a few times, but have not dealt with what’s in it. You know what they say…out of sight, out of mind! I’m OK with that, because in my experience, everything gets decided eventually. I’ve built the minimal storage fees into our expenses, and the cost is totally worth the peace of mind that it gives me.

As OSP readers, you are always generous and kind with your comments. If you have a downsizing or moving story, please share it below. You are a wealth of experience and information, and we would love to hear from you!

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  1. Linda Johnston says:

    We are in the process of preparing for a major move. We have moved many times This is different because at this point we have a life time of things and more importantly, memories in our attic and scattered through the house. I love the idea of a storgae unit that is actully emptied at some point! Excellent advice for parents as they bring kids into the process.

  2. My elderly mother & I were MADE to go away when we downsized & we have lost quite a bit of stuff very upsetting I think it’s been binned

  3. Jeanie Nichols says:

    I really enjoy your blog, Ann. I don’t always have the time to comment, but I do appreciate you.

  4. You are right that sometimes you need to just put some things in storage to be dealt with later. However, in our case, I think we kept the storage facility too long after we downsized, because you’re also right that it’s out of sight, out of mind! When we finally did clean our storage unit out, we found that we wanted to take home very little of the stuff and clutter our nice, fairly uncluttered, smaller home. Since then, we have started to finish part of our basement and found that much of the stuff that was moved into it from our old home is also stuff that we no longer want. It’s just really hard to make so many decisions about your long held stuff in a short amount of time, so there’s grace for that, but we definitely learned the hard way that if there was a question about whether or not we wanted to keep something, in the end, we didn’t want it or need it!

  5. I needed this right now. Before the end of 2024, I will be selling my house and moving from NY to WI, to begin a new life with a new partner. He wants me to bring my furniture, so that the transition will be smoother, and so I feel at home, but I do not need a lot of the furniture I have acquired. The trouble I’m having now is two daughters who want the same pieces. It seems my oldest has always gotten first choice from her dad’s side of the family. I want to be fair, but not unfair. Wish me luck.

    1. I do wish you luck…but you’ve got this! It all works out in the end. I promise. ~Ann

  6. We down-sized and moved 1,100 miles two years ago (to be near our daughter). We actually had two fully-furnished homes to sell (one…our “forever retirement” home that became rental property). We told our son and daughter that they could take anything they wanted but it was “as is/where is.” As I expected, there was nothing they wanted. Because we were moving so far and knew we would be displaced for awhile, we opted to have an estate sale at each location. It was actually a rather easy decision because we knew it was the right decision. So, in our early 70s we literally started over. But we are happy in our new location and have not second-guessed any of the decisions we made.

  7. Mary Alice Kenley says:

    Great thoughts on downsizing! We’ve just been through this, and it’s an exercise in reminding yourself that familial relationships and oeace in theranks is more important than Aunt Molly’s marble-top entry table! In my work, I encountered an interior designer who’d rebranded herself as a relocation designer, focused primarily on downsizing. She took very good pictures of things donated or sold, made a lovely album called appropriately, Memories, and presented it to her clients. Genius!

  8. Betty Kayser says:

    I just recently lost my husband and I would like to copy this information to present to my children – without all the ads…thank you. I do love your blue and white everything.

    1. Hi Betty…I just sent you an email. If you don’t see it, please check your spam. Thank you!

      1. You very wisely did not pressure your children to take your stuff. I downsized 15 years ago and donated what I didn’t need in my current house. My kids took very little and I was fine with that. Two of my China sets went to a tea house that is set in a very old building. They also sell china, silverware and crystal to raise money to support the upkeep on the building and property which we can all enjoy. I felt good about donating my aunt’s, mother’s, and grandmother’s precious things that were no longer of service to me. It’s quite freeing to get rid of things that were important to us at one time but no longer serve a purpose.

  9. Debra Matcovich says:

    I know my downsizing will be in the next couple of years. I just can’t think about it yet. I will tuck away your information when the time comes. It’s a no brainer, a storage unit for me.

  10. Judy Cline says:

    We will definitely have this situation. Our daughter has already told us she doesn’t want our stuff. My plan is to donate to Habitat for Humanity.

  11. Julie Brown says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this. It kills me when my family says they don’t wNt anything! My sweet husband also says he will not keep any of it! I may be a bit of a hoarder, looking for treasures to repurpose. In the end it is just stuff and I don’t want to burden my family. Thanks for all the good reminders

  12. A few years back, I was going through some old photos that I inherited when my grandparents’ house was sold, & then more again when my mother moved back to the city, and photos I had taken years ago. So, one Christmas I bought each of my 3, now adult children, a nice photo box & as I was going through the photos, I divided them into the 3 boxes according to which photos I thought they each would enjoy or want to hang on to. Those photo boxes were their favorite Christmas gifts! I was so glad I did that so they could enjoy the photos now & share them with their kids, rather than years from now, when they are having to make some decisions about my husband & me.

    1. This is right where I am at this point in my life. I know there will be a major move in the next year and am trying to prepare for it. My style has changed in the past 43 years but I still hate to say goodby to sentimental items! A friend and I were discussing this dilemma recently and I like her solution. She has a corner of her living room that she refers to as “hospice”. Anything she’s having a hard time parting with spends time in hospice. She rarely need more than a week there before she’s ready to part with them! I’ve been using this method as I go through my clothes and it works!

  13. Linda Charlton says:

    As I read your post it brought to mind the elephant in the room here. We are approaching that stage of life. We are probably past it actually. I started looking at my spring and summer items and put them in a tote instead of having bags sitting around the totes. I need to look through my fall and then Christmas bins and decide what I want to keep or donate. I don’t believe my girls want any of it. It saddens me.

  14. Sharron Tullis says:

    I too refuse to leave a house full of “stuff” for my kids to clean out! Been there, done that! I clean out closets and cupboards once a year. If it’s something I don’t need or use anymore. I donate it. Thank you for your insightful post.

  15. Laura Lander says:

    My mother left me a huge set of Havilland china. It is beautiful and I have fond memories of how lovely it looked on Sundays when we gathered after church for a meal. But our family has shrunk and Sunday dinners are rare. I know I’ll rarely if ever use this China. So I’m in the midst of decision-making. My sons aren’t interested in formal china with garlands if pink roses.

    But I found out that our local public library occasionally hosts teas for volunteers or other groups in town. They were borrowing whatever cups and saucers that could.

    My mother was a librarian.

    The cups and saucers have been donated to the library. They will be used and appreciated snd my mother would love that.

    This was a great opportunity for me.

    Now to figure out the cream soup bowls snd berry bowls snd luncheon plates etc!

  16. Ann, thank you for sharing. After I read this, I went into our attic and really, and once I I got in my head…. I don’t need this, and none of my boys wants this about the first thing, it actually was liberating putting lots in the donate pile. : ) Thanks!

  17. Ellen J Sorce says:

    I am to the age where this article is very helpful. Thank you for sharing.

  18. You are so right about our children not wanting most of our collections. We only have one unmarried son and he is just not interested in my things I have collected. His father’s tools, yes. Very stressful, for sure.

  19. Eleanor Hornbeck says:

    Ann, Thank you for this timely post… One of my daughters told me just the other day to start getting rid of stuff, because she didn’t want to have to do it. I admit I was hurt. Your suggestions helped. I am going to look at the idea with different eyes, now. So, Thank You. Eleanor

  20. Downsizing…what a poignant subject. In one way or another, it’s a subject that we can all relate to. Thank you for sharing such great suggestions and information. I loved how your heart is not to burden or guilt trip your children with the things that have or had significance in your life. They can love us without loving all of our things. Burt Rosenberg says, “God loves us all so much that He lets each one of us take a genuine whack at it.” Thanks for providing a space to share our whacks and wisdom.

  21. Debbie Pope says:

    I love the plate rack on the wall and tried to save the photo but couldn’t. Is there
    a way to save it?

  22. Jan Delorme says:

    One thing I didn’t see mentioned was donating vintage/antique items to a museum. I know a lady who did that with her mother’s wedding dress and was going yo donate more items, as well. I have recently been diagnosed with an illness that requires I downsize quickly and move somewhere without stairs. It’s been difficult because, as someone else said my sons don’t even want their own stuff that’s at my house. I find it especially difficult with dishes because I have two sets of good China, one French antique set from about 1910 and another set that I started collecting in the 70s as well as several holiday themed serving dishes and platters. I will be renting a storage unit to slow down my purging activity but eventually decisions will have to be made.
    Last week I read or heard on TV (can’t remember which) that on the east coast younger people have started buying vintage/antique items in a big way. Maybe there’s some hope after all!

  23. Times have changed so much as well as this generation’s desires. It is very difficult to come to the realization that your trinkets or sentimental items will not be going to any of your loved ones because they don’t want them. I don’t have a great deal of items so I will probably try to find good homes for them by selling or donating. Your suggestions are much appreciated, thank you.

  24. Amy @ Ms. Toody Goo Shoes says:

    This is so helpful, Ann. We are now starting to think about downsizing, and the task of cleaning out the house is overwhelming. The storage unit is a great idea. Thanks!

  25. Great ideas for handling a difficult subject. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  26. Unfortunately, I never had children, so when we moved, there’s been no one to pass things to. It’s a constant refrain from my older friends that their kids don’t want their stuff. They offer it to me bc I sell online, but there are certain things I don’t do. And one of those is dishes!
    When we moved a year ago, we had a huge estate sale, and that worked well for us. I still hate to let certain things go, but have to do it anyway.

  27. Valerie Bostick says:

    Although we are not downsizing, my eldest daughter has moved away and my youngest will be in the next year. This was wonderful advice and also made me feel better knowing my girls aren’t the only ones not interested in family hand me downs. I did chuckle about the doll situation, because I ended keeping my daughter’s American Girl doll as well!

  28. Mary Anne says:

    My Mom has recently gone through the same process with a lot of her belongings, it is definitely not an easy process. Thanks for the words of wisdom!

  29. Paulette Beal says:

    I recently cleaned out (with a helper) 40+ years of accumulated furniture, children’s possessions, craft supplies and JUNK from our basement. What an overwhelming task. I too learned quickly that my children didn’t want any of the antiques or furniture we had. I was also surprised when I had several companies come in to look at the furniture for consignment. We have a beautiful dining room set with 8 chairs, a china cabinet and a side board. I was told that young people of today don’t want dining furniture. So I still have that beautiful set in a dining room that we only use on holidays. Times and thinking have certainly changed. I enjoy your weekly news and glad that most of the items you suggest are budget minded.

  30. Ann,
    I am sharing this blog with my husband….You should see our garage!

  31. Ann, thanks for this information. Down sizing is yet to come to our household, but it will be that time before we know it. You always tell it like it is, and I like that about your blog.

  32. Janice A. says:

    I am also downsizing some of my collectables. My kids wanted a few, but I found someone who also collected baskets and she has purchased some of the ones I was willing to let go. It is progress, which is my goal. Thank you for the blogs about letting go of items and dealing with the emotions of this journey.

  33. Good to know my kids aren’t the only one who don’t want the family heirlooms!

  34. Mary Evans says:

    Thank you for letting us know we aren’t the only ones with children who do not want our stuff. I have what I think are beautiful dishes but no one wants them. The same way with furniture. I do feel better now you have shown my children are no different. This generation is really different about collections from the older generation. I love items my Mom left me. Thanks for an insightful post.

  35. Although we are not downsizing at this time, we are certainly attempting to rid our home of outdated decor, along with “stuff” we no longer care to manage. Have been watching minimalists, as well. It is a daunting and emotional task, and yes, the kids do not want much. We were fortunate to contact a second hand shop who paid cash for several items. Score! Whatever does one do with a beloved mother’s hand crocheted afghans? Have enjoyed your wonderful blog and hope to have a bathroom like yours, one day soon.

  36. Jeanie Nichols says:

    I feel a little sad about the house on Sutton Place, I have enjoyed watching you decorate, remodel, etc. But at the same time, I completely understand your wanting to move, and I look forward to seeing all the things you do in your new home whether it is cooking, decorating, gardening, or life in general. Best Wishes and God’s Blessings to you

    Jeanie Nichols

    1. Laurie Buschell says:

      I am not ready to downsize just yet but thank you for all of the great suggestions.

  37. Carol Kindt says:

    Ann, I found your downsizing article very helpful even though we haven’t thought about moving to smaller digs just yet. I’m still going to offer the kids a chance to speak up if they want something in the house and I’m going to have to be prepared for their rejection if they don’t. They have their own stuff and may not want our stuff. I feel it’s time to start letting go of some of our stuff. Thank you for all your tips.

  38. Hi Anne,
    This certainly is a well written post that will serve many of us well as we contemplate downsizing and parting with our treasures! It really outlines taking the plunge and not burdening our kids with the guilt.
    Thank you,

  39. Deborah Broadwater says:

    I have moved houses 8 times, to 5 different states. I just moved to our condo that we had for visiting children and grandchildren in another state. Our condo was already decorated. Now I have two large storage units storing all my things. Every week I fill my SUV with boxes to go through and get rid of things. It is an arduous and depressing process. Most of the stuff goes to trash or Goodwill. It can be very depressing.

  40. Hello, I totally agree, and I appreciate this post with your experience.

    Over the past two (2) years, my husband and I have cleaned out a parent’s home.

    We are young, but we are nearing early retirement.

    I am having a dumpster delivered next week, and we are going attic to garage and clearing out. We had decided this last week when we realized we needed a “clean sweep.”

    My goal: we would be ready to have everything packed up and moved within 48 hours.

  41. Downsizing isn’t a fun thing to do especially if you have heirlooms. Some good tips here Ann.
    Some family members who gave you items years ago seem to ask about them 25 years later..as in where is that hutch? Armoire? Guilt trip. We have had to move several times and we too had to make decisions of what to keep.
    The family relationships and even small memorial items such as a tea cup and saucer, one beautiful wood chair or vase is what is can be just as memorable to keep and important to those who can’t keep it all…it doesn’t have to be everything.
    Thanks for the tips!

  42. I understand the guilty feeling of turning down family possessions- it feels like I’m saying “I don’t care,” when that’s absolutely not the case! But especially when it comes to things like China sets, they just aren’t practical anymore. Families are smaller, they live farther apart, and adults-only dinner parties that require fine China aren’t really a thing anymore. Then add in the fact that we’d inherit China from my maternal and paternal grandparents, my parents, my husband’s maternal and paternal grandparents, and his parents, with 10-12 settings each plus sugar bowls, platters, soup tureens, teacups…where would it all go!
    None of the sets are rare, and they are valuable in sentiment only, so they’re usually split up between cousins and grandchildren. This way we each have a small piece to remember the loved one by, and personally I love the look of the mismatched sets and knowing that each piece is from a long and happy marriage of the couples that eventually led up to my husband and I.

  43. Perfect timing Ann. Chuckled when I saw todays post topic. We are starting the process with our home. Goal to put our home on the market next spring. Our boys live out of state and neither one of them are in permanent homes. The storage idea just went on our list earlier this week. I am blessed with a large family that includes many nieces and nephews. Sending pics and let them pick. So far no conflicts. I have already downsized three large bins of holiday and nine beautiful crystal pieces from our China hutch. Hardest part for me is letting go of the place we raised our children. Heard something this this past week, “your home is where you two are”. We will survive the change and I look forward to recreating our new space. Looking forward to your next post!

  44. Such a useful post. I loved Zoe’s suggestion about asking the police if displaced women in shelters could use our extra items when they start their new lives again. My great grandmother, grandmother and mother, all passed away, would be delighted to share their lovely things to brighten others new lives.

  45. Cheryl Post says:

    When we downsized I learned much of what you have already said, our kids don’t really want our stuff but they were invited to take what they wanted. Very little was taken. We lived in our 5 bedroom, 4 bath house for 27 years and it was full. Because our grandson was serving as an apprentice for an auctioneer, we went that route and thought it is worth sharing. You won’t make a ton of money but the auctioneer brings a crew that Carrie’s everything outside and we easily had 40 tables plus garage tools against a fence. Tons of Holiday decorations were also included plus some furniture. All items are bud on and if no one bids on a box, they put two boxes together for a bid sale. At the end, the auctioneer takes all un purchased or objects left to the dump. Easy peasy! I never looked at the itemized list either because I knew the amount things were sold for would hurt but I didn’t do it to get money I did it to give our 17 year old grandson our support and to get rid as efficiently and quickly as possible. I wasn’t going to hang around for the sale but changed my mind and was glad I did. One man was buying our hundreds of white large bulb Christmas lights for his barn wedding. Another women bought my mother’s fox fur for her sons room to hang on a wall. It was exciting to see how items would be reused and repurposed. It turned out to be a GREAT experience and it all happened in one day.

  46. Theresa Wagar says:

    This is beautiful. My grandmother did this and my mother as well. They both asked what we wanted to keep and hit rid of the rest. It is hard. I really work to keep my collections to a minimum so it will be easier to downsize some day. The hardest will be my beautiful piano.

  47. When I downsized and my children weren’t interested in keeping the things I’d cherished I had no idea what to do. A loving friend mentioned mothers that have had to move into battered women’s shelters & often have no funds to set up a home again. Usually those homes are in different areas for their protection. They can’t go back to their old home to pack up belongings for their safety. They’re having to start over.. completely. New jobs, usually little or no savings. They often can’t even afford goodwill prices to set up a new home. I contacted my local police dept who then contacted the battered women’s shelter & gave them my phone number. Long story shorter they contacted me, came to look at what I was offering and were excited to accept. They arranged a day to pick it all up since of course they can’t give an address to us. I attached little tags explaining the history of some of the pieces. What I didn’t expect were the letters of gratitude I got over the next 6 months. It turned what had begun as a painful decision into heartwarming experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat with no regrets.

  48. Mary Bannon says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. A lot is true about our children. My situation is slightly different. I have wonderful step-children but they have their own homes and simple styles. I asked them if they were interested in my china, Waterford stemware, figurines, Grandfather clock, etc. They kindly said yes, but after considerable thinking, I felt this is really not their taste and they would sell it. So disheartening. Now I must re-evaluate my personal life.

  49. Excellent post – We downsized to an apartment 5 years ago. Never had children but asked nieces and nephews if they wanted stuff before we started donating. They took some items and then since we live in an area that has a lot of antique stores we ( and everyone else in our neighborhood) had a yard sale during the antique weekend extravaganza. Sold some things and like you, donated a lot to a charity that resells it and helps an orphanage in India….good feeling. So glad we downsized and got rid of “stuff”…a very freeing feeling. All the best in your new space!

  50. Thank you sooooo much for covering this many faceted, heart touching, poignant issue. I am grappling with – shall I do this, or should I simply enjoy my very senior life in my too large, but wonderful gathering spot? Mayhap, a compromise. Get rid of all that I can, and make simple for my children!!

  51. Kathy Lux says:

    Thank you, Ann. This is such excellent advice. I’m in the sandwich generation right now, about to have to do this with my Mom and am looking forward to needing to do this for myself in the not too distant future. I am going to hold on to these suggestions. I always enjoy what you have to say…lots of wisdom with you.

  52. I have a ton of stuff that was my mothers and my grandmothers, because they lived together and died one year apart. It’s an overwhelming amount of stuff. I took it all and made it fit in my home, but now that we are thinking of starting a family it’s overwhelming. I have very slowly decided, piece by piece, what to do with things. One idea I’ve had is for the tons of cookbooks that I don’t need. I’m going to write a “this book belonged to” note with my mom’s name on every book I donate, and make sure they go to an antique or thrift store that I know will get them to a good home. That way someone, somewhere, will get to use her books. That would have made her happier than me keeping it on a shelf feeling closed in by the clutter. But again, it’s a slow process, and I have to convince myself for each item I let go.

  53. Mary Beko says:

    This was a very good article…. Thanks for the honest advice…. I think we do try and push off our things that mean a lot to us on our kids but you said it honestly: they don’t want our things because they have their things……
    Thanks for your great posts….

  54. I can’t believe it but it has been seven years since we downsized. It was a wonderful move for us. There are a couple of things that I wish I had kept but overall, we made the right decisions.

  55. Lora Helton says:

    These are very wise suggestions. We aren’t ready to downsize quite yet but when we do, I will keep these things in mind. I agree that it is better to maintain family relationships than to manipulate and guilt people for their decisions.

  56. Great article. We are busting at the seams with sentimental things and I feel overwhelmed at trying to weed it all out but, a little at a time, I’ll get it done. Karen Harrington and others who have such a hard time parting with the memories could maybe take a picture of the items and put them in a ‘memory scrapbook’ before parting with them. Just a thought.

  57. Cathy Guynes says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience of downsizing.
    My husband and I are empty nesters still living in the thirty two square foot house we bought for our family. Now I’m cleaning bathrooms and bedrooms no one is using. We’ve discussed downsizing several times and it feels so overwhelming we usually drop the subject. I’m the keeper of all the family treasures. As a matter of fact I’m actually storing seven full sets of dishes some never used since i acquired them !
    I agree our children don’t really want much if any and of our stuff.
    So I love the idea of not forcing yourself to deal with sentimental ideas until you feel ready. I tell myself it’s only stuff but really it’s my memories ❤️

  58. I had to send an additional comment that I hope will be helpful to some of you.
    Take pictures of your treasures that you don’t have room for,or heirlooms your children do not want. Make a little album that you can flip through and still enjoy your memory of the item. It has still helped me enjoy them and takes up little space!

  59. Charlotte Prow says:

    This was post is very helpful, Ann. I appreciate your words of wisdom. We aren’t planning to downsize immediately, but when we do, I will remember this post!

    On another note, where did you purchase the light fixture in the last picture?


  60. Thanks for the downsizing tips. It is a very emotional
    Thing to go through. Many memories go along with it and most of the time it is our memories… not our children’s. Good to ask them but without the guilt. Nice inspiration… thank you!

  61. A wonderful post….and great advice. My husbands cousin died suddenly, and while we were blessed with her modest home and belongings, it was overwhelming. We live in California, and the home was in Tennessee. We brought home some things, and before the house would be sold, we paid for our children and their families to join us for a week. We had to deal with the emotional distress of their pleading with us not to sell the home. Needless to say, it presented an alternate lifestyle to a busy California. We also knew we could not manage two homes, so the sale proceeded. The children and grandchildren all had the opportunity to choose what they wanted….and an estate sale afterwards was a huge blessing. We could close the doors, and know the items would be sold or donated. We took the proceeds from the house and now each year we choose a destination, rent a house for the week, and we gather as a family. We hold Tennessee and Cousin Trish close to our hearts. We remember she was more than her “stuff”. ❤️

  62. Ann, your post is spot on.We downsized and retired to Florida 6 1/2 years ago.Before we moved,I donated so much to a small thrift shop in town.I’m still donating, bringing things to a consignment shop and have sold some items on line.We have no storage in this house so it’s hard to have a place for everything.And you’re right, your kids don’t want your “old stuff”! It does feel good to get rid of things and have less.I think your home is always a work in progress especially when down sizing.As time passes, the things you thought you couldn’t part with are looked at with a different eye.it’s ok to let them go.Good luck to your getting through your storage unit !

  63. We downsized 12 years ago. Since then we have purged again once a year. I can say there is only one thing I regretted, it was a crock pitcher of my mothers. I just couldn’t believe I let it go. This year during our purge I found the pitcher in a box of old pictures. ( Why it was there ?) Just keep on purging you never know what blessings you will find.

  64. I love this post! It struck so many chords. My own experience about giving unwanted stuff to goodwill or charity shops (or selling it on the ‘net) is that while members of the immediate family might not want the heirlooms, there is a whole world out there which would love to own Aunt Mima’s best china.

  65. Excellent and honest post! Thank you for sharing valuable insight and tips.

  66. I love how you have used the white wire shelves for your beloved china. I have a cabinet like that but all the china, 7 sets from family members how have passed and no one wanted it but me, are just stacked on top of each other. I need those shelves to not only use the unused space at the top but keep the china safely stacked. Thanks so much.

  67. Ann, as always your posts seem to be timed perfectly for me! I actually first downsized quite awhile ago, but now find myself wanting to purge more and more. My motivation is primarily two-fold; I don’t want to leave any more work than necessary to my family someday. And the new feeling that many of these things just don’t have the same hold on me anymore. My latest ‘target’ is my many (many!) books. Even if they are favorites, am I really going to read them again? And if I decide I’d like to, most ate available ay the library as ebooks! I still can’t part with a few sentimental favorites, but I’ve donated about 10 large bags of books recently. And I find the space on the shelves looks ‘clean’, not empty, so that tells me I’m doing the right thing at this print in time.
    Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom!

  68. Ann,
    I have to say that “Downsizing” is truly liberating!! When we decided to make a cross country move from Maumee Ohio to Port St Lucie Florida, we knew that we would have to part with quite a bit of “Stuff”. We lived in a 2 story, 4 bedroom 21/2 bath home with a full basement, attic and 3 car garage. WHEW!!! There was “Stuff” everywhere! I was a collector of antiques of all kinds and had a massive amount of Holiday decorations for every season, not to mention all the kids stuff. I started upstairs going room by room and making 3 piles. One for things I wanted to keep, another for Kids stuff and the third was for garage sale or donation. Donations were taken almost immediately to Goodwill. Things I wanted to keep I left out and would end up going through them a second and sometimes a third time, whittling down to “really Love-can’t part with it” and “ummmm maybe it can go”. By the time we had a garage sale, I had purged the whole house and basement but hadn’t touched the attic. I had so much stuff in the sale it almost made me sick to see that so much of what I had collected over30 years was going bye-bye. Antique furniture (my much loved Westlake pump organ that I decorated for every holiday) and numerous Christmas decorations and other stuff. What we didn’t sell, I asked my kids if they were sure they didn’t want any of the stuff. Then I asked other family members, neighbors and friends. My good friend bought the organ and I knew it was going to the right place! I gave boxes of Vintage Christmas decorations and other collectibles to her and another good friend as well. Whatever was left after that went to Goodwill. We also had to get rid of more furniture, after all, going from that large home to a 3 bedroom bungalow with no basement or real storage was going to be a stretch. After all was said and done it actually felt great, liberating even!! Such a weight seemed to be lifted off of my shoulders. We don’t realize how much our “Stuff” weighs us down-so to speak. After living in Florida for 6 years, we decided after Hurricane Matthew it was time to move back up North. I began purging again. We took everything that we didn’t want to Goodwill this time and sold some furniture to a neighbor. There wasn’t a whole lot that we got rid of, but not having to move it all was easier. And we found that anything that we had stored in the attic was ruined from the extreme heat. For some reason the roof didn’t have vents in it like we do up North. We never really used the stuff in the attic the whole time we were there, so we weren’t really going to miss any of it. Since moving back North, I usually go through everything in the house, room by room, at least once a year and get rid of unused or unwanted items and ask the kids if they’re interested in them and if not they are donated. I’m down to a minimum now and not feeling “weighed down” by “Stuff”.

  69. Carol-Dee Chisholm says:

    Thank you so much for this post. It really spoke to me! I went through a very similar experience with my daughter and daughter-in-law…I was a little hurt that they didn’t seem interested in any of the family “treasures” and I took it personally. Your experience and your gentle way of saying “don’t beat yourself up” made sense to me. Memories are what we carry in our hearts, not things.

    Truth be told, my grandmother did bring several items all the way from Italy…!!

  70. Such a “spot on” post, Anne! I’ve had several occasions to sift and sort through family heirlooms (for myself and my aging parents) and it’s not easy. I come from a long line of “savers” that cherishes every item that is attached to an ancestor in any way, and “guilt trip” has been the main method of ensuring the legacy continues. It’s been a long process for me, but I am now able to offer items to my children and respect their decisions because I understand that what is cherished by me may not be cherished them…and that’s ok.

  71. I just moved my mom closer to me from out of state and unfortunately it was a quick one. I could relate to everything you mention here. So many emotions! Do your family a favor and go through your treasures while you are able physically and mentally.

  72. We are not moving at this moment, but I really need to begin getting rid of remnants from 54 years of marriage. My basement also contains items from our children who are fully grown. I appreciate the approach to downsizing and the inspiration to do so.

  73. My husband and I downsized from our home of 35 years a few years back. It was a challenge to say the least. Our sons and their sweet wives didn’t want much, including their own belongings. We gave/donated a lot of things. My husband passed late last year, and I’ve moved into what I like to call my cottage. There was more paring down, but our sons wanted quite a bit, which was a huge relief.
    I’m surprised how liberating it feels to have just the things I need/love in my new, much smaller home.
    You provided some very valuable tips and ideas. Thank you!
    Karen B.

  74. Melanie Sanchez says:

    This post is VERY timely as I am cleaning out my parents’ house to sell. The responsibility for finding homes for their lifelong treasures weighs heavily on my soul right now. By getting rid of their possessions, it almost feels like I am having to say goodbye to them all over again. Thank you for sharing these helpful tips that will guide us with this heartbreaking, emotional process. Prayers as you move forward with your own downsizing process… Not an easy thing to do, but in the end, we don’t want our kids to deal with it when we are gone. That makes taking the bitter pill of cleaning out a little easier to swallow.

  75. Sue Daugherty says:

    We are visiting our new smaller home ( under construction in a different state) this weekend. We bought the lot 18 months ago and I started clearing things out of our current home back then. The question I ask myself is “do I love it/ use it enough to pay someone to move it?” Because it’s not free to move anything. Also the things we needed when we were a family of 6 are very different than what my husband and I need at this stage of life. I am keeping the attitude of less is more time and freedom from cleaning when it comes to possessions.

  76. Anne, you have made some good suggestions. I haven’t downsized my home but I have downsized my Mom’s home. Oh boy was that fun.🙄 My 2 sisters and I went through her possessions and decided who would like what. Then with the possessions that were left we asked our children what they would like. Be very surprised what they want to keep. My sons have there own house with own style, so they only requested a few things, with my nephews some have started with their apartments, they wanted certain items as well. Some hard choices were made but it was alot of work but my Mom was happy with the outcome and enjoyed her little apartment with her loved pieces. We all have cherished pieces. I have tucked mine in my home and in my garden where I enjoy them.😊

  77. I have been working since February on moving to a wonderful new space. It can’t accommodate all our things so I’m right with you!

  78. Sonya Wright says:

    Ann, this is absolutely a beautiful post! I’m not quite at the point of downsizing, but it’s definitely on the horizon, and you’re right – my kids don’t want my china (or any other “heirlooms” sitting around my house)! At the end of the day, it’s just stuff – and people/relationships matter way more than stuff. Your points are very well made and I will take them to heart – thank you!

  79. Karin Harrington says:

    Hi Anne, this is the first time I have come across an article about this subject and it’s very interesting. My family and I had to move house several times as part of my husband working for the military in the US and Europe. So ,you basically learn to let go off stuff that you accumulated over the years and replace it with new treasures along the way. But we are now coming to a point where we will move into our probably forever home and it’s considerably smaller then all our previous homes before. And let me tell you, it’s hard to let go. To let go of the relationships that formed over the years ; even though the internet has made it easier to stay in contact, and of the items that are so closely intertwined with memories of loved ones ,some of them long gone. And like in your case, my kids are not interested in taking in more items that they don’t need. I just wished I could keep the memories alive that come with the items. For me that’s what it’s all about. When I look at Aunt Marie’s vintage soup terrine I have a tangible item that is tied to her laughing face at the dining table and her zest for life and big family dinners. When I let go of my treasure it’s only a memory in my head. But I guess I have to lern to let go and embrace the minimal style. Good luck in your new home and to making lots of new memories
    greetings from across the pond. Karin

  80. I really appreciated this today. I watched my parents go through downsizing and it was agonizing to watch my dad be unable to let go of his cherished things. Another good thing to remember as we downsize is that if you are selling your things, you will see that the value you place because of sentimentality is not going to be the value others see.