As I was dusting today, I got to thinking about a couple of items on my mantle. First is a pair of candle holders that belonged to my paternal grandmother. They aren’t valuable or even nice - they’re the kind one could buy in a dime store in the 50s and 60s. I’m guessing one of the grandkids gave them to her, but I don’t ever recall seeing them in her house. (Rumor has it one of Dad’s sisters pretty much stripped the house of anything nice before any of the other sibs knew what happened.) I’m pretty sure Dad gave it to me so I’d have something of my grandmother’s.
The other thing is a vase - part of a set that my maternal grandmother bought from Franklin Mint. Three of my sibs got the other vases from the set, and the fourth sib got the Hummels (she was the only one who wanted them.) I vaguely recall seeing this vase in the living room. I was also given a diamond ring that belonged to my maternal grandmother. I don’t wear jewelry, I don’t like diamonds, and I never saw her wear it. After worrying about losing it and asking my daughter if she wanted it (she didn’t) I fessed up to my mom that I wanted her to take it back. My mom loves diamonds and she wears that ring often. On one hand, I felt bad about giving it back to her, but honestly, it was meaningless to me.
I keep the other two things out of guilt. I wonder how many people do that - keep family “heirlooms” our of respect for the dead. My mom started clearing out some of her stuff - trying to simplify her life - and she gave me a lead crystal creamer and sugar bowl. They’re sitting in my hutch collecting dust. I’ve already asked my daughter if she wants them - she’s not interested. They’re apparently pretty expensive, but I’d feel really bad if I sold them. I feel like I’m stuck.
Lest you think I am entirely unsentimental, I have two items that I do treasure. One is the treadle Singer sewing machine that belonged to my paternal grandmother. I’ve had it since I was a teen - before that grandmother died. Lots of memories are tied in it, plus I store my sewing supplies in the drawers. The other is a picture that used to hang over the mantle in my maternal grandparents’ house. It’s a rather ordinary print in a cracked frame, but I’ve always loved the scene, and no one else was interested in it, so it’s mine. I intend to write down the memories associated with these things and give it to my daughter so she’ll know why I have them - perhaps they’ll be special to my grandchildren some day.
But the other stuff is just stuff. No meaning. Just dust-collectors. Assure me that I’m not alone in this. Tell me how you deal. Help me get over this stupid guilt.
My grandmother had a red, glass swan that stood on the front hall table in her house. It was there for decades. When she moved house, it went in the new hall. We all had very strong associations with that swan, because it was the first thing you saw when you went in the house. Unfortunately, it was pretty ugly.
After she died, her daughters went through her belongings and divided them between different family members, and a pile of things to go to charity. No one wanted the swan, but it was unthinkable to give it away. I ended up taking it. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I put it on the hall table at my house. I impressed the value of this item on my children, because it was a relic of my grandmother. One time, my daughter and her friend were playing catch in the hallway, and my other daughter realised it would be smart to move the swan out of harm’s way. She wanted it to be to very safe, so she climbed onto a chair and leaned over to put it on a tucked-away shelf. In doing so, she slipped, fell, and smashed the swan to pieces. I was quite happy to be rid of the thing, and no one had to be blamed.
You’re not alone, and I don’t have any guilt. I’ve gotten rid of scads of stuff that should have sentimental value – souvenirs, gifts, things I used to collect, even the Elvis plates mom gave me for every birthday for ten years.
If an item ends up in a closet or a box, unused, I gotta ask why I’m hanging on to it. Somebody will have to deal with it, sooner or later.
If I like using, wearing, or looking at the item, I’ll keep it. I still use handmade Christmas decorations my kids made 40 years ago.
But if it gives me no pleasure, I have no problem getting rid of it. It’s just stuff.
After my Mom passed away, my brothers and I sorted through things and pretty much divided up what we wanted. She had already given us important things she wanted us to have; she gave me a couple of rings, one of which is a cameo ring that she had given her mother–even though I have never worn rings very much, I now find myself alternating the two rings. I am grateful too to have a reminder of my grandmother.
Most of what I got, though, was dishes and the silverware, both of which I use frequently. She had wanted me to have some of her furniture, but I didn’t really like her style, and we ended up donating it to the local Salvation Army I think. My Dad moved from a three bedroom townhouse to an efficiency apartment in a retirement place last year; all I asked for from him was a painting which I had admired since I was a child (I’ve also asked for a favorite print; he took that to his apartment, though, so … well, I guess I have to wait for that!).
My whole take on this, I guess, is unless it is something that you’re actually going to use or holds a deep sentimental value to you, you should go ahead and dispose of it. Ack, that sounds kind of bad now, on reading it, but it’s all just stuff anyway in the long run. I hope this makes sense!
Hah, good thing for preview … that did NOT make sense when I read it and I went ahead and corrected. It should make sense now … I hope.
You could make a picture of it, write your memories of it on the back, keep the photo and lose the thing. Preferably find something else of your grandmother that you do like to remember her by, even if it is something immaterial, like a saying, an expression, the way you arrange furniture or some other habit, a recipe or song.
If I were your grandmother, the last thing I would want is to remembered by something my granddaughter thinks both cheap, ugly and a dust collector. It is a bit insulting to her memory NOT to throw the damn thing out. Your grandmother is better then those candlesticks.
I even did that with a beautiful little desk of my maternal grandmothers’. I loved it, was thrilled when I got it, but it was a little girls desk. When I grew up and had my own place, there was no room for it anymore. I sold it for 200 bucks and now it is someone elses’s little girls favourite desk.
OTOH, I have three beautiful little trinkets of my paternal grandmother that I do like and that fit in my home. Those have places of honor. It’s an ivory netsuke, a silver box, and a silver tea sieve.
Oh, FCM, I have some bad news for you. One day in the future your child or grandchild will look at that old Singer sewing machine and lovely print (or something else they inherited from you) and wonder the same thing you are now - “why am I keeping these things my mom/grandma had? I don’t even like them.”
Keep the things you like; get rid of the things you don’t. Life’s too short.
Just think of it as helping support the price of antiques by limiting supply.
My wife and I dragged shite around with us for years, until finally we admitted (what we had probably both thought for years) that it was more of a burden than a pleasure. The fact that some of it was meaningful to my grandparents and hers in no way entails that it is meaningful to us. So we just gave away most of our possessions to our friends–furniture, china, crystal, etc. (Hard to sell that stuff over here.) It was as though an enormous burden had been lifted from our shoulders. We kept a few things, of course, that did have meaning to us.
The papers that Dad got from his mother’s house are the manuscript of a novel, perhaps from my great-grandfather, quite illegible (both due to decimononic style and to tiny handwriting). I would toss it away, but Mom insists in offering it to one of my uncles. Whatever.
The furniture from the same source, crap. Anything good, my aunt already grabbed it.
The trunk which was bought for my great-grandfather (grandma’s father, who died in his early 30s during an epidemic) when he went away to college (Medical School) and which grandma gave to me when I was going to graduate school in the US? Aunt tried to claim it back and my response can more or less be translated as “over my dead body, and I’m in good health.”
When my husband’s grandmother died, he asked his mother for a clock that used to hang in her kitchen. It’s not valuable as an antique, but it’s full of memories for him. And it still works, so it’s useful, too.
My mom is 75. She’s a very practical person, and she’s already told me and my sibs that we should ask for anything we want now. I’ve been thinking about it, and I can’t come up with anything. There are a few paintings that she and Dad got overseas that I might like, but really, I don’t want any stuff. I foresee a big yardsale when she dies…
And I have only one daughter, so she’ll have to deal with my crap some day. Another yardsale, I guess.
FairyChatMom, has a friend of yours or your daughter’s ever expressed admiration for any of it? It might be easier for you to get rid of something you feel guilty about keeping if you know it will be cherished by someone else.
But you really ought to get rid of it, if you’re keeping merely out of guilt. I never thought of it as such, but I think Maastricht is right that it’s something of an insult to keep something you hate.
Between moving an average of just over once a year for about the past decade, and a divorce and subsequent loss of space and other ability to hold on to things, I’ve really come to pare down what I’ve got. I’ve felt guilty from time to time, and downright sad at some things, but in the end, I can’t tell you about what I got rid of (except one set of things, but MEH at that).
In the end, it’s quite freeing, and I keep wondering if there’s more I can pare down, while continuing to keep the things that really matter.
For years my grandmother put names on the backs of things she had, that members of the family wanted. Grandma didn’t have valuble antiques, but that’s not what this was about. It was about memories and sentiment.
My most prized possession is a simple orange candy dish that has a covered top. For as long as I can remember it was on my grandmother’s covered back porch, and she kept pillow mints, lemon drops, and peppermints in it. We grandkids would try to sneak candy, being careful not to rattle the lid. I later came to realize that of course she knew what we were doing, but let us think we were getting away with it.
Grandma got it as a gift from a school board in 1924, for arranging a student program performed at the board’s annual meeting. The memories are priceless. I also have a small recliner in my bedroom that was in her house. She likes hearing about how I sit in it, with a cat in my lap. When she had to move to the nursing home she missed her cat.
I think on her next birthday, her 106th, I’ll bring the candy dish to the party, with just the things she used to have in it.
I agree. Please don’t feel guilty about getting rid of stuff. I’d hate to think that my future grandchild would schlep around some dumb old pottery bowl just because it was important to me. If she keeps anything, I’d like to be something that’s important to her.
I’ll bet my grandparents would be sort of surprised to hear that one of my most treasured possessions is the little carved wooden goldfish that sat on their side table. And that I wore Papa Arnold’s bathrobe for years until it finally fell apart.
I don’t have anything. My grandbother’s butter mold has my name on it. Much more a keepsake for my father who grew up on a dairy.
sibling’s and step-sibs have ‘claimed’ everything of value. I asked for and think it’s in the will that I get my father’s combat bayonet that is razor sharp and lived in his boot throughout the Korean war.
My mom only had a couple pieces of jewelry that were/are worth anything. She wasn’t a “stuff” collector and disposing of her personal things was a simple call to AmVets.
My friend is going through the “heirloom” situation right now. There are a few items that are worth something, but most of it is stuff whose time has come and gone.
Have the stuff appraised. You might find that it’s worth something to someone. An Estate Sale company that my sister in law used told her that the furniture and big items sometimes don’t draw an audience. It’s the salt-n-pepper shakers and all the crap from carnivals of yesteryear that are worth something.
I’m not much of a collector. There’s not much stuff I get attached to. If I can make a couple bucks off it, that’s cool. Otherwise, check with other possibly-interested parties and then give it away or garage sale it.
Stuff is stuff. Our grandparents kept stuff from their parents more for the economic necessity than sentimentatility. One did not look a free set of dishes in the mouth so to speak.
Nowadays most of us are drowning in stuff. Most of our aged parents are drowning in stuff. Most of their stuff means very little to them, and even less to you.
If a thing truly helps you remember them, or your childhood or something, keep it. If not, send it on its way. Speaking just to my extended family, I’d hate to imagine my grandkids’ generation (very few in number) feeling stuck with the volume of stuff I & my generation (much greater in number) have accumulated and continue to accumulate.