Your Kids Might Want to Inherit


The Things Your Kids Might Actually Want to Inherit

Are you a Baby Boomer eager to part with your collections like china, furniture, and photographs? Is it your first thought to give it all to your kids? Continue reading “The Things Your Kids Might Actually Want to Inherit”. 

The largest generation (Baby Boomers) are either retired or thinking about retiring (and downsizing). If this is you have you talked with your family about what you want to happen with the contents of your house? You may have had an experience like my husband when the subject of inheriting was brought up to our kids. Watch the above video for the story at the beginning. Can you relate?

Boomers are realizing that their kids don’t want a house full of memories. This realization is showing up in the shift in the consciousness of people over 70. It’s spelled out in the book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson. The idea she explains in the book is to not burden your loved ones with your lifetime of collections. But instead, prepare for the end throughout your life by purging as you go. So DOWNSIZE BEFORE YOU NEED TO. The book is being made into a series on Peacock by Amy Polher. So look out for that.

So let me ask…

What are you keeping that is holding you back? Is it worth it? You may want to downsize and move to a warmer climate or near your grandkids or to a place where you have less to worry about. In order to do this, you need to let go of some of what you have and maybe a lot more of your expectations for what’s going to happen with these things. We suggest you find a happy middle ground. Your kids may be interested in inheriting some of your things, but small amounts. Think long of memory and short on size.

The Things Your Kids Might Actually Want to Inherit


Of course, your children (or grandchildren) would be happy to inherit your most financially beneficial items, such as the family car or house. You will need to make sure you have all your ducks in the row so this can happen. So talk to an estate planning attorney about this. But sharing an inherited home or car can come with challenges as well. That’s another subject for another day.


No one wants 40 photo albums.

A lot of people love old photos and some people don’t. I think it’s more about the number of photos you are trying to “gift” to someone. Too many are overwhelming. It becomes a project that no one asked for. So if you want your kids to be happy to inherit your collection of family photos here are some suggestions for you.

Sit down and look through one photo album at a time when the family visits. Ask them to pick out the photos they would like. Then have those photos digitized and place them in a cloud. Don’t know how to do that? We can suggest services that will help you or provide you with the personal service of one of our team members to do it.

Even better! Document who is in the photos. If your kids don’t remember who those people are the photos will have no meaning. Document every photo too! Why? Because they may get shared in the future and then lose meaning if the documentation hasn’t accompanied the photos. Give names, relation to other family members, where the photo was taken, year (or approximate), and a short story about what you see in the photo.

If you’d like to take on this project on your own I suggest you read What’s a Photo Without the Story?: How to Create Your Family Legacy by Hazel Thornton.

Extra special jewelry

Jewelry is another category that may have a monetary value. But some pieces may be more sentimental because of the family memories. Your kids may associate childhood memories with certain pieces. They’ll remember a necklace of Grandma’s or Dad’s watch. It’s a good idea to have a conversation with your kids (and grandkids) so everyone can express their feelings and understands your decision about who gets what.

Memorabilia knick-knacks

Surprisingly, you may get a request for certain knick-knacks in your home. Although, in my opinion, the younger generation doesn’t do knick-knacks like we do (did). Again, they are probably associated with a happy memory. Your kids may want small items with memories of parents or grandparents actually using them. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your loved one cherishes something of yours that sat on the shelf and coffee table and that they want to inherit it?

Holidays memories

Don’t be surprised if one of the kids asks for one or two holiday decorations. Things you used every year that connected them to their parents or grandparents. They probably aren’t going to want the whole box of tree ornaments, but let them pick and choose a few that hold memories for them.

Can you tell there’s a theme going on here?

A lot of what your kids want to inherit will be items that hold memories. Share on X

Accent furniture

The younger generation is eco-minded. So consider that they may want some furniture, although probably smaller pieces. Reusing is environmentally friendly. You may be able to offer them quality, solid wood pieces that are more sustainable. So the added benefit to inheriting some from mom is keeping things out of a landfill.

Americans dumped 12 million tons of furnishings in landfills in 2017.

That’s 5% of the total solid waste.

Particle board (the stuff from IKEA) does not recycle, glass breaks and plastic isn’t biodegradable. These are all reasons why your kids may be eyeing some of your good furniture. There is even a term for this Grandmillennial Style – reusing or repurposing traditional furniture and decor.

Don’t wait until you are downsizing. People tend to purchase quality home furnishing when they are in their 30s or so, with a family, so give it to them then (don’t wait until you’re done so they will inherit it) and don’t be surprised if they paint it.

Dad’s vinyl collection

Despite the story at the beginning of the post, record albums are experiencing a recent resurgence. Just not in my house! Yes, albums. Memories of playing the vinyl albums and singing along with you, siblings, or friends may be important to your kids. They may not care about the value of any of the albums. They’ll just want their favorites.

Grandma’s recipes

Special things like handwritten recipe cards that hold memories may be desirable. Your kids may only want only one or two cards, with instructions for their favorite dish that grandma used to make. I’ve seen some creative ideas for the reuse of those handwritten recipes.

The family toolbox

Once your kids have their own home (and have to care for it) you may be surprised that they’ll be interested in the tools on the garage workbench. The kids probably only want the tools in good condition. They want to use them – hammers, screwdrivers, and drills – the tools must be in working order. So don’t be surprised if they don’t go for Grampa’s rusty saw. They’ll want to inherit Dad’s fairly new electric yard tools set.

Toys of their youth

Are you harboring a few boxes of your kid’s old stuffed animals, old board games, or favorite toys? They may be happy you’ve hung on to them. If you have athletes in your family, that little league baseball mitt or anything else sport-related may be of interest. But probably they won’t want to pass the boxes of toys that you’ve saved on to their kids. KIDS THESE DAYS! They are into completely different things than their parents were.

The artwork they made as kids

Maybe you had a young Picasso? Save only the best, if they want any of it, they won’t want it all. Consider making a book of the best of the best. A book will take up a lot less space than all the artwork.

Repurposed memories

It’s all the rage these days to repurpose items to give them a new life. One of your kids may want to convert the quilted chest into a children’s toy chest. Maybe they’ll have plans for the old dresser or armoire to make it into something else. Even small things like costume jewelry can become something that they love even more.

I invite you to watch the talk I gave recently on this subject in the video above. In closing, I’d like to suggest that you be generous without any expectations and you may be surprised at the things your kids might actually want to inherit.

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Janet Schiesl

Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization.

She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client.

Janet is a Past Board Member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals and a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO were she has been named Organizer of the Year and Volunteer of the Year.

Janet Schiesl

Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization.

She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client.

Janet is a Past Board Member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals and a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO were she has been named Organizer of the Year and Volunteer of the Year.


  1. Sabrina Quairoli on July 11, 2022 at 8:49 am

    I love this, Janet. Thank you. I agree. Many things are not exciting or keep worthy to the younger generation. I tell people that the time to get rid of the stuff is when you lose interest in it. If you do it this way, people will likely still be interested in the trendy item, and you can sell them. For example, things like crystals were not popular when one of my client couples was downsizing. They honestly thought that they could get money for it. It sat and sat, and now it has 10% of the value it would have had if they had sold it 5 – 10 years after they purchased it. Technology is another issue. Selling technology when you upgrade is easier than waiting years to sell it.

    • Janet Schiesl on July 11, 2022 at 4:23 pm

      You’re right about technology! I like your saying of getting rid of stuff when you lose interest.

      • Jill Katz on July 13, 2022 at 6:05 pm

        What a chock-full informative and thoughtful post, Janet! I think many people aren’t having this conversation now because they don’t know how to begin. They also have a fear of the unknown, what will their kids say? Listing items that kids may want to inherit creates some great talking points for both the older and younger generation. Wouldn’t it be great to know what your kids cherish in your home? This blog made me curious – I plan to ask my teenagers tonight! I really do need to read Hazel’s book – this post is a reminder for me to order it.

        • Janet Schiesl on July 14, 2022 at 7:11 am

          Thanks JIll. Yes, I’m hoping that this will help bring up the subject for some people. It would be nice to know what the kids want upfront.

  2. Hazel Thornton on July 11, 2022 at 9:55 am

    Thank you for this written version of your class, Janet! The topic intrigued me because I generally talk more about what people don’t want to inherit than what they do. And what a pleasant surprise to see you’ve included my book as a resource!

    • Janet Schiesl on July 11, 2022 at 4:26 pm

      Of course Hazel.
      Downsizing is so hard but everyone looks at it with the idea of losing things (letting things go), so I though “how can I make this a positive” and talk about what your kids might want.

  3. Jonda Beattie on July 11, 2022 at 9:56 am

    I feel the real point of this is having the conversation with the family now. And if you are having this conversation early on in the game, revisit the conversation every 5 years or so.
    For example, my mom had a large glass fronted bookcase that I loved. I asked that it was tagged for me to receive when she no longer wanted/needed it. About 5 years later I moved, and that bookcase would never fit in my new home, but my sister had room for it and wanted it. Problem solved.
    Things that I have that I think my children might want I have tagged with the history and the possible value. I also verbally tell them about the items to see if they would have an interest.
    I am also giving away now items that I no longer want but that might have some value to them.

    • Janet Schiesl on July 11, 2022 at 4:30 pm

      Yes. Conversations are good. Get it out in the open.
      I have a brother that says yes to everything someone is giving away, but he always uses the excuse that he lives on the other side of the country and can’t take it now. The problem is he never takes it. I’ve started packing things up and shipping them to him.
      As mentioned in the post, my husband collects record albums and stereo equipment. I wish he would start liquidating. I can only hope.

  4. Stacey Agin Murray on July 11, 2022 at 11:30 am

    My parents are in their eighties and over the years we’ve joked about who will take their heavy and ornate living room and bedroom furniture when they no longer need it. At some point soon, we’ll have to get real about it. Your comprehensive list was an eye-opener. I’ll be keeping your post handy for future reference!

    • Janet Schiesl on July 11, 2022 at 4:32 pm

      Thanks Stacey.
      It’s nice to think about this, but some action needs to be taken. Making difficult decisions will create a plan for when you need it.

  5. Seana Turner on July 11, 2022 at 12:47 pm

    I love this post. It affirms the fact that even if kids don’t want your dining room hutch, they are still attached to you and family memories. I love the idea of sitting down in advance and asking what people want. My sister and I sat down with my Mom (at her request) and earmarked all of her jewelry so there would be no issues popping up. It was a special time, for which I am grateful.

    • Janet Schiesl on July 11, 2022 at 4:33 pm

      That’s lovely Seana. I’m glad you and your sister had a chance to have that conversation with your mom.

  6. Julie Bestry on July 11, 2022 at 2:58 pm

    Excellent points. I loved The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, possibly the best organizing/downsizing book ever written by a non-professional (and perhaps in the top 5 overall), and Hazel’s What’s a Photo Without the Story is a must-read.

    You’re so right about vinyl; my childhood home has records from the 1930’s through the 1970s, so at some point, that’ll be a whole project, and it’s actually more daunting than the photos. I’m the end of the line, so eventually I’ll get to decide about everything, but I’m GenX, and my tastes are very different. (Paint something? Ha!) But I’m delighted to be introduced to the concept of Grandmillennial Style!

    We’ve become so used to what the newer generations will NOT want, it’s interesting to have this perspective. Thanks!

    • Janet Schiesl on July 11, 2022 at 4:36 pm

      Glad you liked it. Yes, downsizing comes with many negative conotations. I was hoping that people would find some positive in it with this post and the earlier seminar.

  7. Katherine Macey on July 12, 2022 at 2:23 pm

    This is a really special and thoughtful post. I love that your focus is on preserving memories instead of things–because that’s what’s really important! A lot of young folks are proud of the home they’ve created for themselves, and don’t need their grandmother’s entire bedroom set! That’s why it’s important to be selective and thoughtful about what you give. I say this with all gifts, really! If a gift will be clutter, then what’s the point? You want the recipient to enjoy it, and that often means giving one salt shaker they remember you using instead of every kitchen tool you have, special or not.

    It leaves room for you to donate other items to people who have a need for them, too. If your grandchildren get a dining table they can’t really use, but feel too guilty to donate, it’ll just sit there. Keep items circulating, I say, and remember that you are not your stuff!

    • Janet Schiesl on July 12, 2022 at 3:09 pm

      I love it. I remember when my grandmother passed away, I took 3 things from her home. They weren’t even big things. I still have all three as decor in my home and see them every day.

  8. LInda Samuels on July 12, 2022 at 2:29 pm

    My in-laws (now gone,) had their kids mark all the items they wanted, so when they died, no one would have to argue over anything. My folks, didn’t do that much clearing before the end, so it was left to me. At one point in the dispossession process, I invited my siblings, nieces, and, nephew over to mark and take the things they wanted. At first they were shy about it, but I reminded them of two things. My folks would have wanted them to have what they wanted and anything they didn’t take, I’d have to find a new home for be it donation, giveaway, or trash.

    I impressed on them to take as much as they wanted, but not to feel obligated to take more than they needed or wanted. I was actually surprised how much they did want, especially since most are millennials. But even with all they took, there was still a lot left to handle.

    This goes to your point. Better to start the process early so your kids don’t have to figure out what to do with all of your things. Last fall I started doing some clearing. I stopped for a while, but know it’s time to begin again.

    • Janet Schiesl on July 12, 2022 at 3:11 pm

      Sounds like you did a great job with your parent’s home and your whole family got to keep something that was important to them. Good job.

  9. Susan Weber on July 15, 2022 at 3:21 pm

    Janet, I love the positive twist you place on downsizing and preserving memories through repurposing. As long as people are still alive, our work will never be done. I should have a talk with my own mother about her beloved, quality, solid wood furniture. Even though someone in the family may not want her furniture, there are still many people that would find it useful. I’ll show her the good works a local charitable organization does with unwanted furniture.

    By the way, I’m still a firm believer that less is more, even more so after recently reading an article about “cluttercore”. Have you heard about cluttercore? Maybe a future blog topic.

    • Janet Schiesl on July 15, 2022 at 6:38 pm

      Susan, I hadn’t heard of cluttercore and had to look it up. Cluttercore is a maximalist design style that centers on displays of large collections of items, typically ones that have some sort of emotional or nostalgic value to their owners. But done correctly, cluttercore is ​not​ a chaotic mess — rather, it’s organized chaos.
      Do you have Junkluggers in your area? Their business model includes a store where they resell items they pick up or artists recreate something else with pieces of furniture that the haulers pick up and then resell to give it a new life. It’s an interesting concept that hopefully keeps some furniture out of our landfills.

  10. Janet Barclay on December 5, 2022 at 2:04 pm

    I think I’ve finally accepted that what’s important to me isn’t necessarily important to my kids, even if it belonged to my parents or grandparents. In a way, it’s been liberating, because I no longer feel I have to keep everything in perfect condition. A table is just a table, and if it has a scratch or two, it’s just as useful. If someone wants the table but doesn’t like the scratches, they can get it restored or put a tablecloth on it.

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