Who wants all your stuff?

There was an article in the New York Times in 2017 that probably struck fear into the hearts of so many Boomers and retirees. Tom Verde, the journalist, said that the waves of older adults looking to downsize and pass on their family heirlooms are in for a big surprise: their kids don’t want all those beloved keepsakes and material evidence of a life well lived! Their parents want to ensure their memories survive, but the kids have neither the space for, nor the interest in, all that old stuff. 

I’ve experienced this myself. My mom wanted to entrust her treasures to me as my parents downsized. Some of these items meant nothing to me and I had no practical use for them. For example, there is a treasured family heirloom that once belonged to my grandmother. I never knew my grandmother, so I have no idea if it was important to her. But my mom expected me to take care of it. I did some research on the piece to see what it might have been used for, and that’s how I discovered it’s broken. It’s missing several vital pieces that impact its intrinsic value and function. The memory this item triggered belongs solely to my mother. For me, it is nothing more than clutter and it will likely disappear some day. I doubt my kids will want to dedicate valuable space to it.


But that’s stuff....things. What about all of the old print photos, the 11x14-inch framed prints, the boxes of old video cassettes? What about all that AND the collection of even older photos that you inherited from your parents? Your kids will be thrilled to have all of it, right? How many thousands of digital images are on your phone (phones?), your tablet, your computers, and in the cloud? Will your kids value and protect them? These are your precious memories; will they be around so your great-grandchildren can appreciate your life and your legacy?

You can take some action to make it easier for your descendants to accept this gift and to take due care to pass your family legacy on to future generations. I wish it could be as easy as uploading everything to the Cloud or using an app. But an app or a Cloud storage site won't magically attach all the memories to your images. No one will know why you kept a particular photo unless you tell them where it was taken and why. You can’t assume anyone in the future will recognize the people in the photo or the occasion. The real story may not be visible in the photo. You have to put some time into building a collection of photos that will tell your stories.

It can seem overwhelming. If you look at your entire collection of photos and digital images at once, you might not know where or how to start. I don’t have a simple answer for you. There is no quick and easy route to perfectly organized and protected photos. But we can work on it together.