Saving stuff for your kids – there isn’t a parent I’ve worked with who hasn’t wanted to save some of their kids’ stuff to pass down later. Totally normal and awesome! But sometimes what’s meant as a gift can turn out to be a burden.
Take ‘Jennifer’ – a classic example of the ‘sandwich generation’ – an older GenXer, she is raising her children and has been taking care of her aging mother simultaneously. Until last summer, when her mom passed away.
Flashback to three years ago. I began working with Jennifer with the goal of organizing her kids’ old schoolwork, toys, baby items, and other mementos. She made a significant investment of time and money to organize American Girl furniture, Brio trains, wooden blocks, miniature tea sets, books, plush animals, you name it. We filled a large walk-in closet plus much of a crawlspace with bins of clearly labeled items – all waiting to be passed down to her children down the road.
And then last summer, her mom died and Jennifer became responsible for her mom’s estate. Days led to weeks led to months of poring through everything her mom had saved – old greeting cards from strangers, her husband’s files and paperwork from a business gone for decades. And yes, every toy and stuffed animal that she was convinced her now adult children would want. Almost a year later, Jennifer and her siblings have sold their mom’s house and had a major estate sale, but are still working through an entire storage unit of stuff.
This stressful and emotional experience led to a huge epiphany. In saving so much stuff for her kids, she was doing the exact same thing her mom had done! She realized that the last thing she wanted to do is to leave this enormous burden of stuff for her kids to have to work through. And so we’ve been working together again to go back over what she had previously thought was priceless. The result? She’s kept about half – but it’s the most sentimental stuff. The family christening gown, a very carefully selected representation of much-loved toys, the family Bible.
The lessons learned? There is value in revisiting stuff you’ve already organized. Before you worry about what kind of bin to buy, what labels to print, put some good thinking into whether there is value in keeping the items first. Ultimately, make sure your legacy is one your kids can savor and look back on with admiration and love.