Baby-Boomer parents downsizing their homes for financial, logistic, or health reasons may expect their adult children will want the household possessions and family heirlooms their parents value most.
But that’s not always the case, according to Carrie Poulisse, owner of Northern Illinois-based Nana’s Treasures Estate Sales. “There are some items that adult children want, but there’s a lot that kids don’t want.” Poulisse said that the top ten household items featured in most estate sales fall into three categories of importance to adult children: Don’t Want, Might Want, and Definitely Want.
Things Your Kids Don’t Want
China, knickknacks & collections — “Nobody wants fine china, and I can barely give it away,” Poulisse said. “The same applies to glassware if it’s not dishwasher safe. Unless someone is filling in a missing piece of a particular pattern, or if the dishes are white, dishwasher safe, and modern, fancy china and glassware are typically not what people age 20-35 want.”
“Collectible items from back in the day, like Hummels,Precious Moments, or Dicken’s Village figurines, take up a lot of space, and young people just don’t have the time to manage these collections,” said appraiser Joan Welsh, owner of Possessions, an estate sale service and consignment shop located in northern Illinois.
“If an adult child inherits a set of sterling silverware,” Welsh said, “They will most likely rather sell the set for the value of the silver than use it because it’s not dishwasher safe and will need to be polished.”
Big china hutches — Since many adult children of Boomer parents do not typically use fine china, the large cabinets used to display fancy dishes have little use for the younger generation.
“Again, I can barely give away big china hutches,” Poulisse said. “This is because people nowadays aren’t into fancy dishes or keeping collections to display.”
She added that the time, expense, and logistics of moving large china cabinets contribute to their unpopularity among Millennials.
Things Your Kids Might Want
Linens — This category is arbitrary depending on the type and style of linens. “If you have a contemporary or mid-century modern table or kitchen linens, those can be of value to adult children, but anything with lace, embroidery or crocheted items is ‘hit or miss’,” Poulisse said. “Lace-type linens are too old-fashioned for most of the younger generation.”
Costume jewelry — Downsizing parents may have a plan on who gets what when it comes to fine heirloom jewelry and wedding rings. But what about costume jewelry? Surprisingly, costume jewelry can be a hot estate sale commodity.
“A lot of people who come to our estate sales are looking for costume jewelry,” Poulisse said. “Customers ask us, ‘Did you have any?’ ‘Did we miss it?’ People use costume jewelry for crafts, and others still wear old unique pieces.”
Appliances & electronics — Newer small kitchen appliances and microwaves, Poulisse said, are hot sellers at estate sales and can be used by family members of downsizing parents.
“Small kitchen items like toasters and microwaves will sell provided they’re clean, in good working order, and priced to move,” she said. “In the electronics category, no one will even look at old computer stuff, and newer electronics will sell but for a fraction of what they’re worth because there’s no warranty.”
Big-ticket appliances at estate sales, Poulisse said, are often purchased by landlords or young couples. Stereo systems and boomboxes, she added, are still decent sellers.
Medical equipment — Since most Millennials aren’t thinking about their old age and don’t have the storage space, acquiring medical equipment from their elderly parents is not a priority. However, Poulisse has found exceptions to this trend.
“Not everyone has insurance coverage for walkers, wheelchairs, and other medical equipment, so buying these items at an estate sale can be cheaper than retail. Though the younger generation isn’t looking for these items, there is a market out there, and people are interested in good used medical equipment.”
Mattresses & bed frames — Adult children may or may not want mattresses and bed frames, depending on their age, condition, and size. “When we price mattresses and bed frames, they have to be in great condition, with no stains or tears, and we usually sell them as a complete set,” Poulisse said.
Twin or double beds from downsizing parents are often the perfect sizes for young grandchildren.
Things Your Kids Definitely Want
Heirloom jewelry & antique furniture — “You can’t put a value on sentiment,” Welsh said. “As young adults move into their homes, they’re unsatisfied with cheap DIY furniture and prefer solid wood pieces like what their parents have.
Before running an estate sale, we’ll ask the adult children about the furniture they want, and they usually choose smaller antique items and heirloom jewelry that can be redesigned. There’s no price to sentimental items.”
Artwork & some home decor — “Younger adults like good art, and they’re investing in pieces that will have value,” Welsh said. “I’ll see younger folks at estate sales using apps to determine the value of the artwork, glass, books, and furniture,” Welsh said.
Tools — “Whether it’s garden tools, hand tools, or woodworking accessories, this category of items always sells at estate sales,” Poulisse said. The quality of older tools appeals to younger adults who would rather inherit these items than buy them.
“Why go to a store like ReTool and pay for a tool when you could get that equipment for less at an estate sale or for free from a parent who’s downsizing?” Poulisse observed.
Things To Keep In Mind
Downsizing, like all other life transitions, can be uncertain and stressful but also exciting and freeing. As the process unfolds, it’s essential to put people over possessions and respect the decisions of all family members. In the end, you can’t take it with you, and memories outlast the material.
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