Our stuff isn’t “worth” anything any more…
Remember when we collected china and crystal, paying an arm and a leg for each goblet, and how we saved up for each five piece table setting? For years I received china and crystal for my birthday and Christmas until I’d collected twelve piece settings of both my Christmas and “everyday” china.
As a high schooler, I spent hours thumbing through magazines imagining decorating my first home, setting the perfect table, and entertaining friends. Having not just a set of plates but beautiful china was a big deal to me; I don’t know where it came from, but that’s the way I was. Were you that way too?
I don’t know about you, but I imagined I’d pass these cherished collectible items to my daughter, as many beautiful pieces I have had been passed to me. I have my grandmother’s china, sliver and crystal, and though I don’t use it very often, as I touch it, I am reminded of my grandmother’s worn hands as she kneaded bread, how hard she worked to keep our home absolutely spotless, and her delicious cooking.
I also bought into the idea that my collectible items, china and crystal were “worth” something… not just memories, but real money; I was making an investment. I never thought I’d sell it, but I believed these special things had monetary value as well as memories and usefulness. I also thought that when the time came, my daughter would be thrilled to have not only the things I collected, but to have our family heirlooms as well. I thought she’d appreciate the craftsmanship and beauty, along with the fact that she would be the fourth generation to use these things. That used to be special.
At twenty one, my daughter is definitely interested in creating a cool environment for herself. Each time she moves, she changes her dishes, bedding and accessories to match her new place and has no compunction about dumping what she has for something new. She espouses minimalism and at any given time, she doesn’t have a lot of stuff, but if she had kept everything she’s dumped along the way, she’d have three sets of bedding, three sets of dishes, piles of throw pillows and a pile of decorative items.
In my daughter’s age group, there is lots of talk about minimalism, and transient living. Being able to put all your belongings into a box or two and move to the next destination. The young today will eventually settle down, but not soon. They are about collecting experiences, not items. They like a casual relaxed lifestyle where they don’t have to worry about something getting broken or ruined. They are happy to fill their spaces with items that are so cheap that they don’t feel bad when their furniture falls apart or they toss it to the curb when they move.
Even though my family was comfortable financially, furnishing a home was a considered enterprise. People saved up for a special piece to add to their homes and cherished the items they brought in.
Not long ago, I read an article about downsizing entitled “Our Stuff Isn’t Worth Anything Anymore”. The writer spoke of how he and his wife discovered that their collectible items had no value—people simply aren’t interested in fine furnishings, art, and collectables any more. He lamented the fact that today’s young adults don’t seem to be as sentimental as our generation, and that if we don’t want our stuff to be on the junk heap, we need to cash some of this stuff in now, especially if we aren’t using it.
I’ll never forget the feeling of my father’s home after he passed away. There was the grandfather’s clock… the sound system he’d loved and listened to every day… his camera equipment… pocket watch… recent projects he’d been working on… all silent. When he was alive, his belongings seemed alive and special. His seemed to have gone silent when he was gone.
How we felt about things had already begun changing between his generation and ours. He always advised we save up and buy the very best we could afford, focusing on quality and longevity. At one point he bought me a stereo, the top of the line Sony, which I enjoyed for years until we no longer used cassette tapes and the radio. I got rid of it after about twenty years when I discovered a tiny CD player had eclipsed the sound of my big Sony and I could own it for for far less. Now, my music is all on my phone and I am looking at getting rid of my CD collection.
The fast pace of technology, a consumer based economy built on super cheap, easily replaceable items and our children’s desire to experience the world rather than put down roots has significantly changed the way we look at things; and how we go about setting up our homes.
Five years ago, when I divorced and moved, I downsized my belongings considerably. Each year we have lived in the Casa, I have downsized further, yet I still have a lot of stuff. As Roger and I contemplate our move to the mountains, I am once again looking at downsizing, and am confronted with what to do with my collectible items.
Brooke says she doesn’t want things now, but there may be a point when certain family heirlooms will be important so I am holding on to a few things I think she may want when she settles down and starts a family.
How to Get Rid of your Collectible Items:
I have some thoughts about getting rid of more stuff, particularly things that have strong sentimental value. I’m going to be doing the following:
- Save one from a set or collection. My father was an avid photographer, and I have boxes of negatives and photographs. My plan is to save the best and my favorites, and pass on the rest.
- Make a scrapbook or cyber book. With Brooke’s artwork, family photos and other items, I plan to take pictures and make cyber books rather that keeping the items. Again, I will keep a few the best pieces.
- Donate with a difference — The natural inclination is to drop everything off at Goodwill or the Salvation Army, but sometimes where you donate can make a huge difference. For example, I donated my work wardrobe to a Women on the Way program for women leaving abusive situations. I donated my Dad’s photographic items to a school and his art supplies to Brooke’s art teacher who passed them on to a talented student.
- Some things I will look at selling, such as some of the china I have.
Taking some proactive steps now will help lighten the load for our upcoming move and take the burden off Brooke having to clear out lots of collectible items and stuff she will never want.
What about you? How are you planning to deal with your collectible items? Have you found good ways of distributing or getting rid of it?
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This is a dilemma we too are facing. I have five sets of silverware and two complete sets of really nice china, plus my set of pottery dishes, not to mention silver trays and a silver coffee/tea service. I have treasured items that belonged to my grandmothers and some things even older, that will probably never be wanted by my daughter and daughter-in-law and surely not any of my six granddaughters. When we downsized several years ago into a Garden Home, I was determined to keep only what I loved. Guess what! I kept those very things that are of… Read more »
I’m just on the precipice of this issue. As I contemplate retiring from corporate life and moving into a smaller apartment or even over seas, I’m starting to look at all this stuff and wondering what to keep. I’ve never had a problem deep cleaning and getting rid of stuff, but the things that have sentimental value, or I carefully curated over the years are posing a challenge for me. I really like the idea of donating with a purpose. Also, keeping a few items of a set. Perhaps with my patterned dishes, keeping just the bowls, or the salad… Read more »
I am so glad this post came at a good time for you, and I hope you enjoy your future retirement. I’m curious about your thoughts about retiring overseas. I’ve seen a few videos about people moving overseas to Spain in particular. let me know!
Right there with you! And as we have no children, it’s even worse! I’ve downsized a LOT over the last 15 years, but also recently just got my mother’s wedding china. It’s gorgeous, and I only use it a few times a year, but I love using it (did for a dinner party last night). It has to be washed by hand, so I know none of my nieces & nephews will touch it! I also love using my great-aunt’s sterling silver flatware. I’m going to to try to USE what I have as much as possible, and prepared that… Read more »
Hey Mary Katherine, check into a company called Replacements Ltd out of North Carolina. They BUY old china and silver. I sent them some photos of my china and they sent back an estimate of its worth and an offer to purchase. The estimate was $5,000 for one of my sets of china, only catch, they didn’t want the tea cups and saucers! I’m definitely going to do it but am holding off for the short term. Also your silver should be worth quite a bit if its solid. Best wishes and good health!
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