Dear Barb—The Stuff Moms are Made Of

Dear Barb:

My mother is in her mid seventies and is starting to slow down.  My father passed away five years ago and mom has stayed in our family home.  Recently, she decided to move into an apartment and has been getting rid of stuff.  The problem is mom expects me and my two sisters to take all her stuff, like dishes, pictures, and numerous mementos.  We don’t want any of mom’s stuff and when we hinted that we didn’t want anything, it was obvious she was hurt.  My sisters and I have a million good memories in our hearts, and we don’t need any of this stuff.  We don’t know how to manage this situation without causing mom more pain.  One of my sisters feels we should just take the stuff and donate it without telling mom.  I don’t want to do that because what would we say when mom comes over and doesn’t see any of her stuff.  We really need some advice.  Thanks, Jessica.

Hey Jessica:

You are in a difficult position which many adult children find themselves in.  The movement today is towards minimalism.  I think you and your sisters and your mom need to read the book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson.  The book will help your mom to understand the process of letting go and come to realize that it is nothing personal.

As well, you and your sisters could go through your mom’s stuff and pick out items that are special to each of you and create a memory box.  Your memories are not in a set of china, or a picture from your great grandma, your memories are in your heart and you need to help your mom to understand how you feel.  Perhaps you could spend some time speaking to other family members about whether they would want these items.  Also, you can take pictures to preserve the memory, without having to actually keep the item.  Millennials generally do not want to keep large sets of china to use simply for Christmas dinner, they use their every- day dishes.  Explain to your mom that you don’t want to keep stuff that you will never use.  Although it is understandable that the Boomer’s want their kids to keep their treasures, it is unfair to expect them to take on stuff that they have no use for.  The focus of today’s millennial is often on traveling and collecting worldly experiences and memories, rather than accumulating goods to sit in a cabinet or basement.  Hope this helps, thanks for your letter Jessica.

Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.