Inside: Learn why millennials don’t want stuff and what to do when your kids don’t want your stuff.
If you’re the parent of a millennial, I’ve got some bad news.
They don’t want your stuff.
If you have plans to gift your children your antique furniture, fancy dishes and flatware, or your beloved collections, it’s time to reconsider those plans. Because chances are good that your kids don’t want your stuff.
Instead of buying larger and larger homes, many millennials are renting smaller spaces close to urban areas. And instead of filling their homes with stuff, many prefer to fill their lives with experiences and adventures.
Why are millennials rejecting prized family possessions?
Keep reading to learn why!
Why Are Millennials Refusing Treasured Family Possessions?
As a parent, it can’t be easy to accept the fact that your kids don’t want your treasured family heirlooms.
These things may have been passed down through generations. They may have survived historical moments – and pivotal moments in your family history.
Those things have meaning. They hold memories. They’re important.
Well, they’re important to you.
Your millennial kids may have other feelings about them.
Younger generations care less about stuff.
It’s true. Kids these days – broadly speaking – have grown up with the world at their fingertips through the Internet.
They can access photos and videos of cherished memories, their favorite songs and movies, and the answer to virtually any question they could ask via the Internet.
They no longer need stacks of VHS tapes and shelves filled with photo albums. They’ve moved beyond CDs and home editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Instead, they’ve embraced a modern, clean aesthetic. And they’ve decided to place more importance on making memories than collecting stuff to fill their homes – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Millennials Don’t Want Heirlooms. What’s On The List?
Unfortunately, quite a few things seem to fall into the “No, thanks!” pile for many millennials. If you’re trying to get rid of any of the following, bad news – your kids probably won’t want these:
- Wedding dresses. Sorry, Mom. She probably doesn’t want to wear your vintage wedding gown down the aisle when she gets married. Styles change, and unless you’ve picked a true classic and preserved it really well, chances are she’d rather get a dress of her choosing.
- Dinnerware of all kinds. Fine china, crystal stemware, silver-plated serving pieces, and other items intended to impress the guests aren’t commonplace anymore. They take more effort to wash and who has the room to store all of that extra stuff?
- Dark, heavy, antique furniture. Your millennial son or daughter likely doesn’t want your curio cabinet, entertainment center, or 300-pound coffee table. While some styles do come back around (and frankly furniture used to be made better), chances are they already have the pieces they want in their home.
- Antique dolls or figurine collections. While some collectible items never go out of fashion, some do. Your antique dolls and figurines may win you big points at an antique auction, but your kids don’t want to inherit your collection.
- Steamer trunks or suitcases. Luggage has made some serious progress over the last few decades. While old luggage is certainly reliable and sturdy, the suitcases on the market today are lightweight, durable, and easy to navigate through a busy airport.
- Sewing machines and film projectors. Unless your millennial has embraced a sewing hobby, they probably don’t want to house your old sewing machine for nostalgia’s sake (which is hard for me to say since I personally have a love of vintage sewing machines). And there’s a good chance they wouldn’t even know what to do with a film projector.
Why Millennials Don’t Want Stuff
Why don’t millennials want your stuff?
It may not be obvious at first, but there are a few reasons that they may pass on your prized belongings when given the chance to take them.
Stuff Depreciates and Creates Clutter
While the things around your home may grow in sentiment over the years, they probably aren’t growing in value. Unless you collect fine art or antiques, most of your stuff is, well, just stuff.
Your millennial kids may hesitate to take it in because they can see that a bit more clearly. Without any sentimental value or monetary value, it may not be a very appealing idea.
Stuff can also pile up quickly, especially in small spaces. Most millennials are living in smaller homes and apartments, not McMansions.
Stuff can quickly accumulate, leading to clutter, which can be very overwhelming.
Styles and preferences have changed over the years as well. While some millennials may love the midcentury modern style, others want something more contemporary.
They Don’t Have Enough Storage Space
Another big reason your millennials don’t want your stuff?
They have nowhere to put it.
Some millennials have chosen to take up smaller living arrangements than their parents; others simply can’t afford a larger space due to the rising cost of living.
But many millennials simply don’t have enough storage space to accommodate the furniture and collections you’d like to give them.
They’re renting apartments and buying starter homes – not spaces with basements, attics, and plenty of closets. They’ve also acquired their own furniture and things over the years which they may prefer.
Experiences Matter Most to Millennials
It’s not just a matter of having the space.
For many millennials, experiences are more important than anything else. Instead of spending money on things, or adding more stuff to their home, they would rather enrich their lives through experiences and making memories.
Millennials value grabbing dinner with friends, going to concerts and comedy shows, and taking vacations – not spending more time on the weekends dusting and cleaning the stuff in their houses.
Millennials Value Freedom in Life – Not Belongings
Many millennials consider travel and freedom a priority. It’s become more common to choose simpler lifestyles.
Some millennials are opting to convert school buses and vans into livable spaces, or to buy an RV and travel the nation.
Some take it a step further, choosing to travel full-time around the globe.
Others don’t travel as much as they’d like – but they want the flexibility and freedom to do so if they decide they want to.
The more stuff you have, the more difficult it can be to embrace that sense of freedom. You can’t just pick up and go.
You can’t just sell your stuff and travel. You’ve got a house full of things you need to make arrangements for instead, which can be a big barrier.
Which is why many millennials don’t want stuff.
What Do Baby Boomers Do With All This Stuff?
So, what should baby boomers do with all of their stuff? If you can’t give it to your children, what can you do?
Luckily, you have options. You aren’t stuck with it forever, and you don’t have to just throw it away. Instead, you can…
Have honest conversations with family.
The best way to figure out if your kids want your stuff? Ask them! An honest conversation can go a long way.
Just make sure you let them know that they can be honest. Tell them it’s OK to say no. Your kids may not know how to tell you nicely that they just don’t want your stuff.
Declutter what you don’t want.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of stuff you own and you can’t find family or friends to take it off your hands, get rid of it!
Find someone else who will treasure it as you do. Sell it – online, at a yard sale, or at an auction – or donate it to someone in your local Buy Nothing group or to a local charity.
Spend some time decluttering your home. You’ll be amazed to see just how much lighter you feel.
Decluttering is a gift to yourself, your family, and your loved ones.
When parents push their stuff on their children, it can cause more anxiety than intended.
Millennials don’t want your stuff. Or if they do, they likely don’t want all of your stuff.
They may struggle to tell you. They may not even be able to – leaving them with tons of stuff they don’t want and a healthy helping of anxiety to boot.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.,
By encouraging an honest conversation with your millennial kids about whether or not they want your stuff, and finding other ways to pass along that legacy and family history, everyone will end up happier.
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This article is so important Julianna! We moved in with my parents during the pandemic. They were not only keeping their lifetime full of stuff but also my grandmothers stuff! Our house was so full and they kept trying to give it to me as a solution. I accepted some useful items but most things I moved along through Facebook marketplace. I helped them realize that sentimentality in a dusty box in the garage isn’t getting anyone anywhere but cramped and stressed.
I am not quite a millennial, I’m a bit older than that, but I value freedom and time over anything and I don’t want stuff weighing me down. I actually like having simple kinda cheap things that are easy to drop if I need to. If anything the pandemic has taught me more so that flexibility is security and having a bunch of stuff is like being chained to the railroad tracks.
Several years ago I bought composition books in four different colors for our four grown children. I asked them to list the things in our home that they wanted with the understanding that if no one wanted it, I could get rid of it as I saw fit. I then copied the lists from the four books into my black master book.
The kids are free to add things and hope it isn’t gone yet. They don’t have to be concerned that a sibling has also asked for it – they can duke it out after I’ve gone. The point is that I know what I can part with and what I shouldn’t. I may keep a few things they don’t want – and they will have to dispose of after I’m gone, but I shouldn’t have to fee like I am the caretaker for family heirlooms that no one considers important!
What a great idea!
You left out one important option: Before dumping everything, consider donating to your local historic society. There are parameters to what each society wants, depending on what their space is like, but they all want certain things, such as documents, photos, diaries, period pieces. For instance, a photo showing a building (particularly one that is no longer there) with a resident (who may or may not have gone on to do important things) is of value. School yearbooks, especially if people are identified, are valuable. Advertising memorabilia from the town is valuable. If the town has a preserved building, it may need period pieces to furnish it. So, give them a call or a visit, and see if they are willing to take some of those extra things off your hands, before you toss them into oblivion!
Think this applies more to Gen-Xers, as Millennials still have some years to go…
If you have collectible family heirlooms, there likely is a market for them as the highly successful American Pickers show tells on every episode and has done so for two decades. It takes time to research what you have or have been handed down (in my case as a Gen-X’r I have both Baby Boomer parent and Greatest Generation grandparent heirlooms handed down).
However, as I’m on the top side of the half century age mark now and looking to downsize, I realized I had to get rid of a lot of items. The biggest items were my paternal grandparent’s Duncan Phyfe knock-off 1930s mahogany living room furniture which comprised of a claw foot sofa and love seat, two wing chairs, and two end tables (sold for $2,250 delivered). I was able to find a buyer who was restoring an early 20th century home and wanted similar decor of the period. Another selling score was my late father’s boyhood electric train set from the 1950s that I just kept in box (found a buyer for $300). There are too many other examples here to list that I sold.
There are countless interests out there if you know where to look and join the forums of the enthusiast websites. The takeaway is that you don’t just need to donate your unwanted hand-me-downs to get rid of or throw in a rented dumpster dropped off in your driveway. You can make money on those “unwanted” items if you want to take the time to research the market. But that’s what you are doing with your time: paying yourself to do the research and hopefully successfully sell. Unfortunately I find that younger generations don’t even want to bother doing that not knowing that they can make a quick buck if they get off social media long enough to spend the time doing it.
That’s true. If people are willing to invest the time, there may be interested buyers out there.
My brother has the Duncan Phyfe pieces and also some lawyer-style antique bookcases, filled to the brim with our pastor dad’s books. He’s also the keeper of the photographs. He has 4 grown daughters and 2 little ones. We had no trouble divving up the furniture when our mom died; we have different styles. We had just moved back from China and had little in the way of furniture, so all went well. I only have one adult child who is a minimalist.
As a Gen X-er this applies to me and not my millennial children. I’m 47 and my parents are 68, they offer items here and there, but I’m hoping they really start weeding out their possessions. I don’t want most of it, but I’m scared of what they will leave behind for me and my sister! It’s all lovely items and they have very nice taste, but I really try and live my life simply. We have moved 10 times and I’m trying to declutter my own possessions and minimalize so it would be really hard to take on their items as well. My kids and grandkids live with me and so we have this multi-generational thing going on here, and to have to worry about stuff is just too much. I want easy clean and GO !
Maybe not your children, but there are Millenials that are almost 40.
My husband and I moved out of our big family home several years ago. Before we did, we let our kids know that anything they didn’t want was going, because we too, wanted a simpler lifestyle. They let us know what they wanted, took it and that was that. However, I have discovered that as they get older, kids start remembering and wanting things. So, my advice is to hang onto some things for awhile.
These millennials will eventually grow up and come to their senses; and they may start changing their minds on just a few of these things. Don’t worry Boomers, Gen X will help you organize and preserve your memories. We may not want all of he stuff either, but we can at least appreciate the value in what you have preserved for future generations.
The oldest millennial turns 41 this year. At what age are they deemed grown up? I’m 60 and I have no interest in heirlooms for all the reasons mentioned in the above article. We travel extensively and ride motorcycles, hike, or experience new restaurants on weekends. Don’t want to work on dusting heirlooms all the time. I would say I’ve already “come to my senses.”
My daughter sent me an article about Swedish death cleaning. You give our stuff away while you’re alive and clear out your stuff to live the end of life simply, not leaving a lot of work for those left behind. That’s what we’re aiming for.
Great article. Thank you
Very insightful article. I was wondering why the antique market is so bad. Your article answered my question. Thank you! In 2023 antique dealers are lucky to break even. Many dealers are taking a 40% to 70% loss on items they bought years ago.