6 Ways Boomers Can Get Rid of the Things They (& Their Children) Don't Need

It is time to do some serious spring cleaning in Boomers’ basements, attics and garages filled to the brim with family mementos and “treasures”.

Many of us have heard that the next generation doesn’t want all of our place settings for 12, family photo albums and scrapbooks and worn leather sectionals. They don’t want the scores of miscellaneous items that have been lovingly saved by the Greatest Generation, passed down to the Boomers and stored for years and years anticipating final delivery to the Millennials. It appears that the next generation doesn’t want their Beanie Baby collections, Grandpa’s stamp collection or any hand-me-down furniture and sets of china from Grandma’s house.

Can this really be true? Apparently it is. It’s time to face the fact that your kids may not want what we have stored for them.

Boomers are starting to recognize that Millennials are living a more transient life in cities and living their lives free from possessions. Millennials even store their photographs and memories digitally. Their mantra may be “less is better”.

All of the dust bunny covered boxes, assorted files and tubs of accumulated photos, trophies, collections of childhood art and graded school work unopened for years in Boomers attics and basements are no longer filled with stuff worthy enough for the next generation to keep. Perhaps one or two items may be special to them, but not a houseful.

While it is great fun sifting through the piles of your children’s well documented childhoods jammed in plastic containers, and it is great fun tripping down memory lane peering at old photographs – these preserved memories are headed for the trash bin sooner or later.

In December 2013, Zipcar reported in a survey that 61% of 18-34 year olds picked “experiences” over “possessions. If Millennials are indicating that they would rather collect a lifetime of experiences – not stuff – then it’s time to get rid of the stuff.

Luckily, the season of garage sales is drawing nearer and the throngs of treasure seekers will soon be sifting through your “treasures” and, with hope and reasonable pricing, cart away your knick-knacks. Selling the family dining table on Craigslist is also a way of cleaning out those no longer needed or wanted items. Plan C of course is the dumpster.

Whether or not you are in the process of downsizing, have recently become an empty nester or no longer wish to be the warehouse for things you thought might be useful to your kids or you thought they might have wanted – it’s time to put on your “purge, not profit” mindset and get to work. Save only what is truly special.

Get started with these 6 easy tips:

1.  Ask each family member for a “top 10” list of your personal property that they really, really want. This can be done in person or with the benefit of technology. If you don’t currently need those items, distribute them now!

2.  Enlist the help of a family member or your best friend to physically (and emotionally) tackle one room at a time. Start with the attic, basement and garage – then move on to closets, desk drawers, junk drawers, file cabinets and bookcases.

3.  For each room, make three separate piles: Your absolutely “must keep, special items” pile; the “I’m not sure” pile; and the “I can easily donate or toss this out” pile.

4.  Next, immediately distribute the third pile. Then tackle the second pile while asking yourself – do I need this or want this? Try to make clear decisions while repeating the mantra “purging”.

5.  Tell your adult children that it’s time to remove all of their things that have been stored in your home for decades. Ask if they plan to pick up their stuff or, if feasible, want it shipped. Give them a firm deadline for pick-up and delivery. If they want it, they will come get it. If not, out it goes.

6.  If you have a hard time letting go of a particular possession, create a digital memory by photographing the piece to diminish the anguish of parting with it.

If Boomers don’t embrace or attend to the clean out, pare down, donate or toss into the dumpster phase of life, the task of dealing with these mountains of collections will ultimately be left to the Millennials in the end – when the inevitable happens.

Do you really want to do that to those you care about?

This article was posted in "Inspirational Stories for Architects of Change" on Maria Shiriver's website at MariaShriver.com