When Good Intentions Go Wrong

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chinaThere was an interesting article by Jura Konicus in the Washington Post recently titled “Millennials eschewing their parent’s hand-me-downs”. As baby-boomers (that’s me) age and want to simplify their lives – they are discovering that their kids (that’s mine) may not want the things that they have spent their lives accumulating. Not only are Millennials not interested in their parent’s stuff – many aren’t interested in being weighed down by their own things which have been carefully saved by their parents Today’s generation thinks digitally, has their own set of values, and likely won’t choose the same lifestyle as their parents.

This got me to thinking about how often we are called upon to “value” things because they meant something to someone else even if they don’t to us. My mother loved beautiful china. As the only child, I inherited 3 sets – complete down to the butter chips (really – butter chips!) In fact, knowing that I was to inherit them meant that I didn’t choose my own china pattern (we still did such things in the 70’s). Even though I had special shelves built to store them, I’ve used them fewer than a half a dozen times over the last 30 years. Lovely as they are, they don’t suit my aesthetics or my lifestyle. Seeing them makes me smile – sure – because they remind me of my mom. But more often they make me feel tired and guilty.

I have one child. Should I save them for her? What are the odds that she will want three complete sets of these hand wash only, 1940’s taste inspired, dust-collectors?

Of the many hopes she had for me, I’m absolutely sure that neither tired nor guilty were on my mother’s wish list. One of the best things we can pass along is the graciousness to accept that what we value doesn’t need a purpose beyond that. Sometimes we acquire things that serve us well, sometimes not. But tying up our personal value with the things we acquire complicates life when we obligate others to accept our values in lieu of their own.

So what if your kids don’t want your dining room set or their 1st grade report card. If holding on to these things bring you joy – that’s fine– they’re doing their job. If your kids don’t want them – realize that’s fine too. After all, isn’t it the memory of laughs at the dining room table or a six year old’s pride in a great school year what you really want to leave to the next generation? These memories will always be there – no strings attached.

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2 comments

    • If selling (e-Bay, Craig’s List, yard sale) isn’t an option – consider the joy of donating to your favorite charity thrift store. Your items will find a home with someone who wants them, you’ll help an organization you care about raise some money, and you’ll have a tax deduction. Win-Win-Win!

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