I’m a sentimental, sappy kind of person. I absolutely adore Family heirlooms. I was lucky enough to inherit my Nanny’s curio cabinet, the family bible (complete with a stylish padded lace cover, no less), my great-grandma’s china, and family photos. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon this article some time ago that I considered the frugality of family heirlooms.
I have 12 quilts that I don’t use
The article got me thinking about all the inherited items that I don’t use. For example, I inherited my family’s collection of quilts. Some of the quilts are stunning and wonderful, while others are, uh … not in fashion. I’ve personally always preferred comforters over quilts, so I stored all of the quilts in a chest and forgot they existed.
It’s really tough, because I do want to show our future children these quilts. On the other hand, I’d really like to have the extra space.
There’s so much history behind these heirlooms, particularly ones that are hand-made by your family and passed down. But what if these items are never used? What if we just hang onto them out of obligation, and not genuine want? I’m not sure it’s frugal to hang onto objects that no longer serve a purpose for you.
On the other hand, family heirlooms can be extraordinarily frugal. You’re giving old, quality items a second life, which saves you money and prevents waste. What’s not to love? But if an item is just collecting dust, it might not be a match in frugal heaven.
I don’t plan on liquidating any of my family heirlooms since I’m a sentimental little packrat. But in the future, I plan to apply these rules to heirlooms before accepting them:
- Will I use it at least once a year? I inherited some very nice china that I use for Thanksgiving. It’s great because I would never buy nice china for myself anyway.
- Is it downright hideous, and will it always remain that way? You might inherit a sugar dish, but does that sugar dish have teal triangles and pink squiggles all over it? Not worth it.
- Is it useful? I inherited my mom’s collection of figurine glass cows. Yes, figurine glass cows. I ended up selling them online because what the hell am I going to do with those? I’m even more amazed that people bought them!
- Is it an absolute non-negotiable heirloom? I hate to say it, but there are some items that you just need to keep for the sake of keeping. In my family, it’s the family bible. I freely admit that it’s a hideous heirloom covered in lace and white beads, but it’s a non-negotiable. It contains a handwritten account of our family tree, as well as family photos.
This thought process keeps me from taking in too much stuff. I determine what’s meaningful and useful for my life, and politely decline anything else.
But what happens if you find yourself inundated with tons of heirlooms that you don’t want?
How to deal with unwanted heirlooms
Picture it: you politely accept Grandma Bootsie’s old doilies because she wants so badly for them to go to family. Sure, they’re well-made and handcrafted, but they’re ugly. Here’s how to deal with the doilies.
Ask family members first
If you’re considering getting rid of a family heirloom, reach out to family first. You might not want the doilies, but maybe your cousin has always wanted them. This ensures that there are no hard feelings if you chunk an item that someone really wanted.
Ask close friends
If your family doesn’t want the heirloom, consider asking close friends if they would enjoy the heirloom. I always feel a little better about giving items to people I know before offering them to strangers.
The key, though, is to make it very clear that you aren’t pressuring your friends to take these items. You don’t want to be the person who’s pushing gaudy saucers on people.
Okay, so that vintage stool from the 1950s is falling apart. But you still really like the stool’s story and the look of the wood. Fantastic! You can repurpose this heirloom and turn it into something beautiful that you’ll enjoy.
Turn lace doilies into Christmas ornaments. Frame your grandparent’s old love letters. Convert spoons into drawer pulls. Give Pinterest a whirl to find modern ways to preserve heirlooms that you’ll actually enjoy.
Sell or donate
The inevitable next step for Aunt Martha’s brooches is to sell or donate them. Depending on your preferences, you can donate items to a local charity that can either make use of your items or sell them for a profit. I tend to prefer the charitable route first since it spreads some extra goodwill in the community.
But hey, you can also sell heirlooms, too. Try Craigslist or eBay to make an extra buck off your grandpa’s vintage baby shoes.
The bottom line
Although there are important items in our lives, we have to remember that stuff is stuff. A gravy boat reminds you of your grandma, but it isn’t your grandma. Ultimately it’s your memories around these objects that matter. It’s not easy knowing how to deal with a family heirloom, especially if it’s unwanted, but there are a few ways you can make sure these items live on.
We want to know: What’s your favorite family heirloom?
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