It's time to address a big culprit in the world of clutter: Guilt.
I've witnessed two sides of guilt that keeps us hanging on. First, there is the imagined guilt we place on ourselves, imagining (or knowing) the pain we will cause if we get rid of the stuff our parents gave us.
Yes, it may cause them pain. But it's also causing you pain.
The second version of guilt-laden clutter is when you are handed an item (or a truckload of items) to "keep in the family" or "It's a wonderful four-poster canopy bed; promise me you'll keep it and enjoy it."
Let's be brutally honest here, if you're in the middle of the Guilt Dance, it's likely you have relationship issues or boundaries issues. Or possibly, one (or both) of the dancers in this guilt-two-step is not entirely healthy and whole in the relationship.
Let's start with some respectful, healthy guidelines for passing stuff down to your own children.
ASK For heaven's sake, for closet's sake, and sanity's sake, please ask your children if they want your stuff. Ask if they like it, if they want it, if they have an appreciation for it.
IF THEY SAY "NO," BELIEVE THEM Don't assume that because your daughter is young that she just doesn't realize how excited and happy she'll be when she turns 30 and you give her your entire collection of tea pot cozies you've been collecting 30 years.
THINGS ARE DIFFERENT NOW If you're in my age category, you've probably figured out that our kids don't want a bunch of pointless stuff. They are much more environmentally aware and have their own sense of style. My girls aren't so interested in inheriting my pearls or jewelry . . . they want my mug tree. It's functional, quirky, and totally unique and has a great story. It's not that the younger generation doesn't have an appreciation for things from my generation . . . but they sure know what they like. Let them tell you. (Just be nice and respectful with us, kids. We're more sentimental than we look. And sometimes it's hard facing our own mortality when memories and values are extremely real and dear to us.)
GIVE THEM SPACE AND PERMISSION TO SAY "NO, THANK YOU" a.k.a. BE NICE This is where two of the most important factors in avoiding family clutter emerge: building a healthy relationship, and valuing honest communication. If we've raised our kids well, we can be honest without disrespecting each other. I am fine when they don't want or like my stuff, and I appreciate it when they care about me and my story. We're nice to each other and honor one another's differences -- they love that I love my treasures. I'm thrilled to know that my kids value me even when they don't want my stuff. They don't have to value my antique desk that was the first piece of furniture I bought when I first started school teaching and found it at a yard sale with my mom and still use it to this day. But if I want to tell the story for the hundredth time, they are willing to listen. That's seriously awesome.
My goal for my own kids is that they will inherit the best of me, and I'm honored to be a small part of the best of them. Anything more than that is . . . clutter!