As we enter an era of generational transfer, how do you deal with stuff that has been in the family, that has so much emotional baggage, yet is just not your style or you don't have room? Writer Antonia Zerbisias describes the sad trip to Montreal a few years ago:

I didn't want many things, much to my Mom's regret. She tried to press her treasures on me: china, crystal, silver, lace tablecloths, beaded evening bags, cut-glass perfume bottles...all stuff that would not fit in her assisted-living flat. I accepted only what mattered to me.

Returning home from her trip, Zerbisias vowed never to leave that many possessions behind for her family to deal with, although she admits now that she has not kept up her resolution to toss one item a week, every week, until all her belongings can fit a small apartment.Meanwhile, Steve Illiot has made a career of helping people break the ties to their things. He says:

So many people-mostly women-are tormented by being notorious custodians of stuff. Most people are just stuck-and letting go is having more meaning to us all as we grow older and totter into antiquity. A large part of what I do is play pocket psychologist in order to figure out where the land mines of emotion are hidden. And, boy, do they get set off when you least expect it. That's why I have to be hugely sympathetic and delicate. It's why I call myself a domestic archaeologist.

He notes that there is a real glut in the secondhand market, and that china and silver are hardly accepted any more; people looking for china want stylish and less flowery designs than our mothers had. He asks the key question: Do you want the item or the space it occupies?

He then advises to make a photo album of the stuff, and then sell, donate, or dispose of the rest. ::Decluttering and ::The Star

Difficulty level Moderate