One person’s treasure is another’s clutter. That’s especially true when it comes to family heirlooms. Pieces that have been handed down for a generation or two are increasingly finding themselves kicked to the curb as Millennials move toward a minimalist lifestyle.
Some people feel obligated to hold onto everything “just in case,” while others want to sell off estate pieces as quickly as possible. Here’s our best advice on which family heirlooms to keep and which you can go ahead and politely decline.
Skip: Formal China
Pop quiz: When was the last time you (or anyone you know) held a formal dinner party? Place settings of “good” china can still fetch a decent price as long depending on the maker and the pattern. However, more and more sets are hitting the market since younger folks have little interest in storing china or serving pieces. If you’re hoping your grandmother’s china will increase in value, you may be disappointed.
Keep: Photos and Letters
Just because you don’t have a keen interest in genealogy doesn’t mean you should toss out your family photos, postcards, letters, and other ephemera. If you’re truly pressed for space and can’t keep the originals, creating a digital archive is a good compromise. But ask around to see if anyone else in your family wants them, because once those pictures are gone, you can never get them back.
Skip: Large Furniture Pieces
Sideboards, wardrobes, and china hutches aren’t exactly hot commodities these days. Few of us have formal dining rooms, while most homes have plenty of closet space. These relics of the past may find new life through repurposing. But if you’ve already turned down (or sold) the formal china, then you hardly need the china cabinet, right?
Keep: Fine Jewelry
It’s tempting to see what you can get for gold or silver jewelry, but consider holding onto family heirloom pieces instead. Antique engagement rings can be reworked, including resetting the stones in a more modern design. Jewelry items with sentimental value are best kept in the family with someone who’ll cherish them just like the original owner did.
Sell: Knickknacks & Tchotchkes
Trends come and go, especially when you look at inexpensive home décor items. The market is flooded with trinkets, vases, and figurines from bygone eras. If there’s a piece in your family that you really like or associate with a happy memory, keep it. Otherwise, don’t clutter up your home with the ghosts of past decorating trends.
Keep: Rare Books or Sentimental Favorites
Cicero once wrote that a home without books is like a body without a soul. While you shouldn’t feel pressured to hang onto mass market paperbacks, but consider keeping family heirloom books to class up your shelves. Signed first editions are naturally the most sought-after rare books, but even older editions of the classics can be worth more than you think. There’s a different kind of value in books from your childhood—especially if you can pass them on to the next generation of young readers.