What will be your legacy?

During a presentation at a conference I attended a couple years ago, Illinois-based professional organizer Sue DeRoos made the obvious, yet insightful comment:

Everyone gets organized at some point, they just might not be around for it.

DeRoos’ comment was morbid, but absolutely true. At some point, someone is responsible for sorting, purging, and getting your affairs in order — either you do it while you’re alive, or your loved ones do it after your gone.

I was reminded of Sue’s comment after reading The New York Times online editorial “How to Lose a Legacy” from July 12. The author, Ellen Lupton, uses the op-ed to express her mixed emotions about her possessions, specifically her fears that her things won’t be of value to her daughter after she is gone:

I probably wouldn’t have kept [a set of Wedgwood cornflower blue china inherited from my mother’s mother] if I had bought them in a junk shop 20 years ago. But they were my grandmother’s, so I keep them safe, and take them out a few times a year for family celebrations. As I wash each piece by hand, I wonder, with a pang of melancholy, if my daughter will someday do the same.

I had somewhat of a negative reaction to Lupton’s piece. I stand more firmly in DeRoos’ camp. I think that if you truly love people, you don’t want to burden them with your clutter after you’re gone. You want to make things as simple as possible for them, not bog them down with guilt, piles of stuff, and responsibilities. I hope to ease their grief, not make it worse.

What are your reactions to the DeRoos quote and Lupton’s piece? What are your thoughts about what you plan to leave behind? Yes, it’s morbid to ponder, but we are mortal. What do you want to be your legacy?

79 Comments for “What will be your legacy?”

  1. posted by sylrayj on

    I’m somewhat lucky, in that when my mom dies, I expect to get nothing at all. I have nothing of my dad’s, and I think she got rid of most of it. I don’t even have anything left from when I went to college. It wasn’t convenient for her, so she turfed it. I do have a significant clutter problem – it’s hard to let things go when I learned that if nobody can find what I consider valuable, they can’t ruin it, and that if I need it I won’t get it unless I convince my sister that she needs it too, so loading up with *everything* means I’m protected. It’s very hard to clear out life lessons like that, but I’m trying. I don’t want my family to have to dig through crud to try to find what is valuable.

  2. Avatar of

    posted by Another Deb on

    Just two weeks ago I was in another state helping clear the house of a young man who died in an accident with no relatives living within 600 miles.

    Everyone was in shock and it was hard making decisions in a small time window we had to deal with the estate. Lots of things went to charity but we came across a few things that had meaningful memories to the family and we did our best to decide which relative should take them.

    But, as a lasting tribute to the meaning of “sentimental clutter”, we came across an old pocket watch that no one could identify. His mother insisted that we should keep it because it “looked like” an heirloom. Even though we will never know the significance of the item, there was an obligation to preserve it for the ages.

  3. posted by panig on

    I have three grown children who have lives of their own. I am going to be 60 and could live another 30 + years. However, I have decided not to keep any sentimental items around anymore, knowing that I have been pretty lucky so far. I have given away to my children what they want. Some of it went to my nieces and nephews. Now I have what I need to live- like minimum number of dishes, beds and clothes that are all well used.

  4. posted by Melissa on

    Generally I like what my family does. While people are still alive, the elderly folks/parents ask each child individually what things they like and why. They keep note of it.
    If they want someone to have something, they give it to them right then, while they are still aware of mind. My grandpa gave me a cedar trunk he made in high school, when I was in high school. Unfortunately it’s since gotten beat up due to my using it/being in a closet that flooded. But I love knowing he made it. I also have a coffee table that my great uncle made, because no one else wanted it, and a sweater that was my favorite uncles, who got killed by a train when he was only 21. I wear the sweater in the winter time, and treasure it. I feel connected to their memories, but I genuinely love the things I have and use them regularly.

    I think it is important to have things of our family members. But at the same time, people now have SO MUCH STUFF that it’s ridiculous, and it’s hard to sift through what is genuinely important.

    There isn’t much of my parents stuff I would want. Just the bird figurines my mom brought back from Germany, and some photos. I just like having copies of photos of my family members. I don’t really want anything else.

    My grandma collects dolls, and we feel awful because none of us like dolls. We would love to find someone else who would treasure them. I have two she gave me as gifts, packed away, but that’s really all the dolls I will ever need/want.
    She’s a collector, and my mom and I are not at all.

  5. posted by Kenneth on

    My wife’s family is still going through the process of sorting out the parents’ house since my wife’s father passed away about 15 months ago. Yes, there was a lot of stuff and a lot was just dumped. They had lived in the same house for over 30 years, ever since my father-in-law retired. He was an engineer and had a large collection of tools, many of which were from his father, who was also an engineer. I recall a few years ago him my father-in-law saying to me when were walking through one of his sheds that he didn’t want anyone arguing about who would get what. Well, there was enough for everyone to have all they wanted with some left over.

    It was a job going through everything, which only happened this past June. While it could have been very sad, mostly it was somewhat enjoyable in a sentimental way because my father-in-law’s character came through in so many little ways and he is missed. However, he would not have been better off had he not had any of that nor would we and no one had a problem with getting rid of things no one wanted. I grew up in a house that was practically empty and my father died rather poor, so it is easy to understand how “stuff” is important to some people when you’ve never been burdened with any degree of wealth.

  6. posted by Molly on

    I’m really enjoying all these comments. I already get guilt about “things you inherit have to stay in the family.” Um… why?
    When my grandmother died a few years ago, the only thing I wanted were her aprons. I have a few now, and they make me smile every time I use them. They’re very frilly half-aprons, and it’s quite amusing when my husband wears them.

  7. posted by Anita on

    Reading the majority of these comments, I guess I’m lucky not to have hoarder, collector, pack rat or guilt-tripping parents. In fact, though I doubt they’ve ever heard the word “unclutterer”, they live its spirit, despite having grown up in poverty, despite having lived through a famine, and despite having moved across an ocean with all our belongings in 4 suitcases a few years ago.

    What I admire most about them is that, since I’ve become financially independent at least, they live for themselves, not for their child (i.e. me). They don’t buy stuff to pass it on; they’re not out to create a physical legacy. My parents’ greatest gifts to me, while they’re alive and after they pass (which won’t be for a long time), will be their love for me, the guidance they gave me growing up, and the freedom to make my own choices. And that’s enough.

    I don’t plan on having children, but my legacy to whomever survives me will be what I’ve accomplished, not what I’ve collected. At the same time, however, I don’t intend to deprive myself of anything I want to have in my house just because someone will have to deal with it after I die. I don’t care what’s done with my stuff once I pass, but while I’m alive, I’ll judge what comes into my home by my own values, not my survivors’.

  8. posted by Kay Chase on

    My parents are currently downsizing, and having some trouble with the fact that none of their children want some of their things, especially things which are sentimental to them and not to us.

    I’m beginning to realize that some of my hoarding habits are actually my parents’ hoarding habits — they’re not severe, but it’s there. I remember being a kid and trying to “unclutter” my room, only to be told that I couldn’t get rid of this or that because it was a gift from or had belonged to someone who mattered to my parents (but not to me).

    I’m just grateful that they’re doing this now, and we don’t have to deal with stuff and death at the same time.

    @Kenneth — a fire destroyed all my personal possessions years ago. It struck me at the time how most discussions of materialism and how you “don’t need stuff” assume a basic level of material goods — I didn’t have a TOOTHBRUSH, I didn’t have a WALLET; my mother made me buy CLOTHES HANGERS but I didn’t have any CLOTHES. I think a lot of the “unclutterer” mindset is about focusing on the luxury of having *enough*, which is a privilege and a luxury which is hard to have if you’re distracted by too much and *more*.

  9. posted by Karen on

    My in laws are leaving a legacy of clutter. My husband’s baby pictures were found, a few years ago, on the floor of a cluttered closet; my mother in law didn’t know they were there, but when she found them, she was reluctant to even let me borrow them to make copies so my husband has some record of his childhood. Their house is infested with insects and mice and rats, but my mother in law won’t consider moving until she’s “gone through” all her stuff. Her “stuff” is hoarded canned and boxed food stored in the bedrooms, it’s old mildewed books that she can’t dream of just tossing (no library wants mildewed books, nobody wants to buy them at a thrift store either). Her stuff is church bulletins from over a year ago, and letters collected over decades and stuffed in drawers.

    It’s depressing. They are in their seventies and live in a house nobody can stay overnight in to visit–we have to get a hotel room–because it is so dusty and moldy and cluttered. It’s hard to have our kids visit their grandparents, and they’re missing out on a rich relationship.

    It’s not just about what happens when you die. It’s about the memories you can build if your life is uncluttered–or the experiences you deprive your grandkids of, if your life is surrounded by and filled with junk.

  10. posted by teresa on

    I dread having to deal with my FIL’s stuff when the time comes. He is a 2nd/3rd degree hoarder. He has acknowledged that he has a problem and is taking some baby steps to help the situation.

    Sadly as part of the hoarding he lost a large number of family heirlooms like his father’s WWII papers and letters, his mom’s wedding ring, china and family photos that his kids actually WANTED. He had the items in a storage locker along with a lot of junk. The storage locker went to auction for unpaid fees.

    We had offered to store the wanted items (3 boxes) or ship them to the kids who wanted then but he wouldn’t let us.

  11. posted by Kenneth on

    The “luxury of having enough” is not a privilege, now is it? And for that matter, is having enough a luxury?

  12. posted by Lilliane P on

    Most of us no longer live in homes that have been in the family for six generations or more when the idea of keeping things within the family made some kind of sense. Now that we’re so transient and have to a great extent lost our feel of history, it makes little sense to continue as if we still lived in the old way. Photos, for me, are the things to keep.

  13. posted by Kay Chase on

    @Kenneth — I do not understand you. Unless you believe “enough” is the human norm, than “enough” is a privilege. Unless you believe “sufficiency” is common, “sufficiency” is a luxury.

    I suspect you are arguing exactly the point I was trying to make, which is the germ of many pointless internet comment threads.

  14. posted by Marcie Lovett on

    As a professional organizer, I help people get rid of clutter, often things that they have received from someone else and don’t want.

    I agree that you should not be bogged down by excess; however, I also believe that family members should know why certain things were meaningful to their owners.

    If, for example, Ellen Lupton’s daughter doesn’t like the dishes at all, then she shouldn’t keep them. However, if she knew the history of the dishes, and could use them, would she prefer to keep them instead of going out and buying a new set?

    I inherited a set of silver-plated souvenir spoons when my aunt died and I didn’t want them. I held onto them for almost 15 years before I realized that it was okay to give them away. I didn’t like them and I didn’t use them, so I’m sure my aunt would have been satisfied with my decision.

    I ask a simple question when someone is struggling with whether to keep an item: Does it add value to your life? If not, let it go.

  15. posted by Kenneth on

    To Kay, it wasn’t the idea of having enough I was arguing about but rather the concept of privilege. I am not saying that having enough is necessarily a norm. Just having enough is usually termed subsistance living. The idea that living any other way is a privilege is an unacceptable idea.

  16. posted by Jen on

    As others have more eloquently said above, I would like to live my live based on what I value and cherish, within reasonable parameters, not on how easy it is for my family to clean up when I die. But – as others have also pointed out, it is important not to expect others to hang onto what I leave behind.

    Moderation in all things . . .

  17. posted by Mletta on

    Mletta and Grace – really? You wouldn’t want to have the family gathering if you couldn’t have it without the d***d china?

    “Can you have [the special occasion] without it? Of course you can. Would I want to? No.”

    Really??

    Surely that’s not what you meant.

    No, that’s not what I meant. Can’t speak for Grace.

    I’m basically saying that if my mother or grandmother had something that I also valued and it was left to me, and I refer here to a very special family token/momento, I’d like to have it.

    This post continues to equate having “stuff” with clutter and with hoarding.

    How much you have is relative (no pun intended). The contents of one crowded one-room apartment/office is different than the contents of a multi-room house (for the most part). Most people I know have more in their attic, basement and/or garage than I have in my whole apartment. (Even if their “house” is uncluttered!)

    I’ve only met a few people ever, who lived with next to nothing in a particular house. And almost ALL of them had other houses, whether second homes, vacation homes or they just were wealthy and had multiple properties.

    To me, that’s a lot of excess and clutter, no matter how spartan their interiors. So “clutter” is very subjective, folks.

    And I bet anything that a lot of people who are calling others “hoarders” in response to this column are exaggerating.

    Are people with art collections, book collections, etc. hoarders?

    I doubt people here are using it in the most accurate clinical sense.

    And nobody is saying anyone should feel guilty if they don’t want what someone else wants them to have.

    I don’t believe in guilting anyone into keeping something, but I do think that some requests are made with a much longer view in mind. (You as the children of your parents may want nothing of theirs. But you may one day find out that YOUR children did!People should just TALK about all this in advance.)

    And it’s funny, but nobody mentioned here all the ill will, bad feelings and lawsuits that result over who gets what stuff, or, more importantly, who does not.

    So let’s not pretend that “stuff” doesn’t matter. Whatever quantity. It does. And yes, that is because we ascribe a value to it–whether we keep it or toss it. The whole world can’t be so Zen about everything, nor should it. Just my opinion.

  18. posted by Rae on

    @chacha1

    “Mletta and Grace – really? You wouldn’t want to have the family gathering if you couldn’t have it without the d***d china?

    “Can you have [the special occasion] without it? Of course you can. Would I want to? No.”

    Really??

    Surely that’s not what you meant.”

    Your comment comes across as hateful. Shame on you. I’m among those who feel as the posters you’re attempting to ridicule do, and your post was snide and uncalled for. One of the wonderful things about this site is that Erin doesn’t generally look down her nose at others, and we’re all free to come away with what we find useful. Get off of your high horse.

  19. posted by rosita on

    I am a senior citizen, who appreciates this blog and living the uncluttered life. I have started a plastic tote box with alphabet dividers clearly labeled SHRED. I’ve removed a lot of files from my regular 4 drawer file and put it the SHRED box. Fortunately I can still remember what’s in each file. When I die, these documents, personal papers that have meaning only to me (health records for example), or that I don’t want anyone else to see, can more easily be purged. Gave away heirloom antique china to a young person starting out, that I don’t even know. Bringing boxes of books to used book store. It’s a very good feeling to know I am reducing my “things” and they are going to good homes. Good to do this gradually and before it gets left to your family to deal with.

  20. posted by panig on

    I have heard that when someone passes away, often relatives descend on the house and help themselves to things even before the funeral is over. It may sound mean, but I don’t want certain people to have any of my stuff even when I am gone. Therefore, I have started to regift some of my sentimental possessions to people with whom I have good relationships. I have also heard that people should take pictures of valuables (with instructions as to what goes to whom) and keep that document in a safe deposit box.

  21. posted by Nisijane on

    My mother, who has incurable lymphoma, has been very conscientious about paring down her belongings in order to spare her family this onerous task whilst in the throws of mourning. I appreciate her efforts, and am still saddened by it all; what must it be like to rid yourself of possessions you’ve had for 50, 60 years because you know you’re going to die soon(ish)? I guess to me it feels like she’s throwing away bits of herself, and that forces me to face the inevitable — a life without my beloved mother.

    The thought of going through this myself someday sends me into a tailspin. What if my treasured items end up at the Goodwill or worse, in the landfill? What if my daughter ends up with piles of stuff I loved and she could care less about but having to face it and get rid of it makes her feel like she’s throwing bits of me away?

    Ugh. It’s too much. My conclusion is that I have to get rid of it all now so no one else has to clean up my messes, emotional or otherwise. When thought of in these terms, my treasures feel more like burdens; the price of keeping them is greater than the enjoyment they bring.

  22. posted by nicole 86 on

    My parents are hoarders, may be I would keep a few items : a few letters, some embroideries and a few china pieces, may be nothing. I think I will get rid off each photo.
    As for me, except for a Chagall drawing my daughters gave me I hope I have a few weeks to throw away all my stuff.

  23. posted by meribor on

    Unlike most of you, I cannot remember my past clearly without visual helps, so I will at least need photos of things. timgrays idea is totally great and I hope to implement that in my family.
    My mum is very relaxed about what we do with her stuff when she dies, so that won’t be a problem. It will be more *fun* when my grandpa dies, because he has made plans (which he updates regularly), about who will be invited and how the party will be. Weird, no?
    My mum and I would happily throw his wishes to the wind and do it the way we want, but my aunt and uncle will adhere to his wishes. Well, let them have the hassle, is all I say.

  24. posted by gypsy packer on

    My mother appointed me to have her estate sale while she was dying. She gave a few heirlooms to her brothers and sisters, and I sold out everything else in one weekend.

    My niece is to be left a few items from my stash, IF I die a natural death of old age. The remainder will be sold and the proceeds donated to a charity. My relatives are ruthless, and a combination of charitable beneficiaries and some notices to the life insurance industry should be sufficient to keep them in line.

  25. posted by Kenneth on

    Thoreau said that when someone dies, we take stuff out of their attic and put it in someone else’s attic. When we die, we literally kick the dust.

  26. posted by Jen on

    My mom has been a hoarder her whole life. She apparently has things that belonged to my grandparents and great grandparents in this one particular closet, but I’ve never been able to physically get into the closet to go through anything with her, because the door has been blocked with her stuff, and the closet itself is 15 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 4 feet deep of stuff. So when it comes time to clean out my mom’s clutter, I’ll have missed out on so many potential stories about the things that had sentimental value to her.

    Time is more important than any of the things. It will take weeks to clear out what she leaves behind, and it will be a sad, dreary, dusty task (most of her stuff is papers from teaching elementary school over the years). But what gets to me is that we (physically) couldn’t share a couple hours together when I still lived at home to look at her parent’s things from when they lived in Poland, or any other items that might come with interesting stories attached.

  27. posted by Colleen on

    My mother passed away when I was 12, so I was not the one tasked with purging clutter. My aunt & grandmother did that with a ruthless efficiency, which at the time I did not understand, but now appreciate. My aunt (who raised me from that point on) kept specific pieces of furniture that my mother had requested go to me and my sisters, as well as my mom’s jewelry box.

    I have several jewelry pieces from her that have sat around in boxes collecting dust. Just this week I went through the box where I kept all of this jewelry and realize there were only 3 pieces I actually associate a memory of my mother with, the others are– for lack of a better word– just junk. Yet I feel a pang of sadness, and perhaps guilt, in getting rid of them, because they were hers and she wanted me to have them for some unknown reason.

    I offered them to my sister, who had most of my mom’s jewelry stolen from her in a burglary (had already sent her some pieces directly following the burglary), but anything she doesn’t take… I’m not sure what I will do with them. It has been over 20 years since she passed away and there aren’t too many people who would want this. I’ll probably end up selling or donating all but the key pieces.

    Ironically, in all these gold and pearl necklaces, the only one that is “worth” keeping is a cheap pukka shell necklace that my mother wore almost daily. THAT is the one piece I’d be crushed to lose. Funny what does and does not have value (alas, my neck is too big to wear it!)

  28. posted by Wendy on

    I suppose it is morbid, but I have been dealing with morbid since January of 2006 when my father died. My mom had to deal with the uncomfortable task of sorting through his clothes and a few of his belonging. However there was too much of a mess left for her, and she didn’t do much else. Sadly, she took ill in July of 2007 and now resides in a convalescent home, where she will spend the remainder of her life. My brother and I are left to deal with sorting through tons of stuff. Unfortunately, his view is that that none of this really needs to be done now so he just doesn’t deal with it. He and I think opposite on just about everything. I started some of the cleanup on my own a few years ago and made some headway. I consistently chip away at it now. However, without his help, much of the belongings just sit. He won’t deal with any of it because he doesn’t want to think of unpleasant things. I just stress over how long it will actually take to clear out the house before we eventually sell. I don’t want any of it save for a few pieces of Mom’s jewelry. Otherwise, it can all be donated or given to her friends. To me, this isn’t morbid. I feel that everyone has a responsibility to deal with their stuff so that someone else doesn’t have to.

  29. posted by Elisabeth on

    it is interesting to me to note that the majority of the time, people talk about inherited clutter that came from someone AFTER they died.
    sometimes, it starts long, long before that.

    my father’s parents hated him. they loved his children. they liked my mother (his wife at the time). therefore, when they died, they made my mother a steward of all of their stuff- to “hold onto” for me when i was “old enough to be a lady of my own home.”

    my father’s parents were in their early forties when he was born, so I am VERY young compared to other family members of technically the same generation. this means that my grandparents were people who were born within the first decade of the 20th century, and grew up in both times of polite/rich society excess and depression and war, and again, returned to the society where having things means a fruitful life. because my grandparents came from older money (but certainly weren’t vanderbilts or something).
    this means that when it came time for me to move to my own place (an apartment for a college student), i inherited about 7 sets of china, countless pieces of flat and dishware for specific single purposes, oodles of supposedly antique chinese ephemera, more antique furniture than i know what to do with, freaking sterling silver table brushes, french, russian and english tea sets, crystal decanters, vases, and massive amounts of tablecloths, napkins and other assorted “proper” decorative items.
    the problem is that it’s all TOO MUCH. I have literally inherited things from relatives i never met because my grandfather hoarded all of their things after they died. I have kept some of the furniture leftover supposedly from my great great aunt, who lived in china during the late 19th century to mid 20th century. (what’s stupid is that my family is not chinese at all, but i have had more authentic chinese antiques than my friend FROM china!) my husband and i are choosing to keep A set of depression dishware, some silverware, and very little of the pretty ephemera (and 2 sets of the teasets- he likes the russian, i like the english). outside of that, i have little to no interest in keeping these things anymore.

    my problem is that because my mother was the steward of all of this stuff during my childhood and WELL into my adult years, she feels that unless I choose to give these things BACK to her, I’m “throwing them out”. she gives me hell for deciding to put most of it on consignment, or trying to sell these things at a yard sale. She believes that because I won’t get the full value’s worth of these items, i shouldn’t get rid of them at all. Even items that WEREN’T antiques of any value she had a fit over when i donated nearly 7 carloads of items both modern and antique to goodwill- still using the term “throwing things out”, or worse “trashing them”.
    she essentially says to me, over and over again, whether she realizes it or not, that she doesn’t trust me as a grown and educated woman to make my own decisions about stuff my family has and left to me, and worse, doesn’t respect the decisions i DO make unless I KEEP THEM or STORE THEM or GIVE THEM BACK.
    She and I have had this dance more and more as i’ve gotten older, and worse, married. Now she feels it’s her job to make sure I have *everything*, even some of her own things and her mother’s, because i’m a married woman.

    let me be clear: i am not rich, neither is my husband, neither is my mother. I do not have a home nor a career that can justify having this kind of stuff, as beautiful as much of it is. I DO NOT NEED SEVEN SETS OF CHINA. we simply do not live the kind of life that requires Orange juice glasses versus iced tea glasses, or gold espresso spoons, or decanters, or individual butter knives.

    these blog articles, and some of the commenters, seem to think that clutter can mean a small set of teacups, or plates, or clothing.
    perhaps it is. But the problem can be, and usually is, bigger. it’s worse when people who have the feeling of ownership of things are STILL ALIVE, and aren’t satisfied with passing on A teacup (or seven), but 4 TEASETS.
    Clutter, with a capital C, is every piece of dishware, china, silverware, knick-knacks, coin dish, souvenier, napkin ring, butter tray and vase that was ever collected before and after your grandparents marriage, world tour honeymoon, and during the time your grandmother owned a Treasure Shop full of more of the same. Clutter is also the emotional guilt-tripping that comes with having a relative still alive that feels that storing things in boxes and bins never to see the light of day because you DON’T USE THEM is more preferable to selling them (even for less than what they are worth), or simply giving them away. the stupid part is that I had some of it appraised: less than half the things left to me as “valuable antiques” are not at all, and have only been overexaggerated and inflate din my mother’s mind. the only people I have who could truly tell me the “value” and history of these things are long long dead.

    My mother in the last 5 years, especially after a severe skeletal and joint injuries (rendering her wheelchair bound for three years), and after her mother’s death, has made a point of trying to reduce her clutter so she doesn’t, and I don’t have to deal with it all after she dies. however, the caveats and the conditions that come with all of that make me wonder if she really understands how much value she places on Things as opposed to her own life or her relationships. She doesn’t seem to realize that i’m still dealing with the clutter aftermath of grandparents I barely knew, nevermind preparing for her eventual death.

    So for the people who say that you should be keeping things for the children to decide if they want them or not- DON’T.
    Saying that keeping things for your children to decide on later comes with a can of guilt worms that no one wants to acknowledge. sure, you can keep the pretty blue china that was your great grandmother’s that you use during thanksgiving, and hope that your daughter wants it as well. WHAT IF SHE DOESN’T? what if she says no? how will YOU feel? are you prepared to deal with it and respect their wishes, or will you be resentful, or worse, will you just say “oh, maybe you’re just not at the point in your life that you can *appreciate* this kind of stuff”, keep it anyways, and let it be an albatross just because YOU can’t let go?

    the only major real Bad Spot in my relationship with my mother is the resentment she feels at the fact that I DON’T want most of the stuff she spent over 2 decades storing for me, or worse, things of her own that she genuinely loves and wants me to have for emotional and sentimental reasons.
    The truth of the matter is that I never ASKED her to keep all of that stuff. The storage costs and the emotional toll it’s put on my relationships with family and my husband have far exceeded the worth of 3 sets of cambridge pink ten-sided depression dishware.

    Wanting to pass on something valued and family-owned is natural, i guess. But with that can come the tendency to decide that that status applies to more and more Things, not just a pretty blue dishset used on Thanksgiving. for people who habitually attach emotional value to things, it doesn’t just stop at one pretty blue dish set.

    This is probably the reason the author had a negative reaction to Lupton’s op-ed- because some people just don’t know when to stop, and the hard decisions about things with emotional attachments are therefore unfairly placed on the people left behind. When exaggerated emotional attachment is placed on things, making someone handle it after you’ve gone (even if it just moved away), means making them handle your emotional baggage as well.
    try asking your kids if they want to have any of your emotional attachments after you’re gone, specifically the ones that come with dish sets, and see what they say.
    letting them keep memories, instead of things, might be an option they choose more readily.

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