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What Happens When Children Don't Want their Parents' Stuff

Written by Mary Luz Mejia

Friday, June 1st, 2018

The prints bought on vacation. The hutch housing decades' worth of crystal. The area rug that you and your siblings learned to walk on. This is some of the "stuff" that gets collected in the homes of our parents and grandparents.

If you're the child or grandchild, you might one day have to ask yourself: What do I do with all of this stuff I don't want?

It's a dilemma that's becoming more prevalent as parents downsize or move into retirement homes. Walk into just about any consignment shop, go online, or head to your local thrift store, and you'll see where many unwanted heirlooms end up. The reasons behind this vary as much as the stories behind each item, but there are a few common denominators.

Saddled with Stuff

Marketing specialist and blogger Sandy Avvari Nayani says, "My parents and in-laws know we don't want the knick-knacks they have collected over the years. My mother-in-law has a collection of lovely Royal Doulton figurines but we've already told her they wouldn't be something we want to take later on."

Nayani's home is more modern and minimal than those of her parents and in-laws. The prized collectibles they want to pass on to her just don't fit her home, or her lifestyle.

Food and nutrition expert, and mother of two, Abby Langerr faces a similar situation. "China," she says, "Who uses two sets of dishes anymore? We use our plain dishes for every occasion, fancy or not! Plus, I find china ugly!"

Selling the Family Heirlooms

Tammie Cancelli, owner of Singing Lady Consignment Emporium in Toronto, says that china, in various patterns, makes it through her doors and sells very well. So do vintage kitchen implements, glass bottles, tins, cookware, flatware, good quality crystal, Depression-Era glass, and original art.

Who's Buying?

"People purchasing period homes who honour those homes by decorating them in period style — be it Victorian or Tudor. And others looking for items to complete a china or flatware set given to them by their parents or grandparents," says Cancelli. Harder sells, she says, include bulkier furniture from the 70s and 80s, collector plates, figurines and light oak pieces.

The Parents' Perspective

Travel writer Toby Saltzman knows her grown children aren't at all interested in her cherished antiques. "They want contemporary furniture and accessories. I just gave a genuine Louis XVI settee and matching chair to a Toronto consignment shop. It kills me that my kids aren't interested in what I consider priceless or rich in heritage. But they are entitled to cultivate their own styles," she says.

Saltzman has sold prized pieces to consignment shops and galleries, and donated others to community stores she supports.

"I won't get the furniture's real value, but I no longer have the space to display it. I do not want to be like the legendary parent who burdens kids with hordes of stuff," she explains.

Until then, she says she'll de-clutter her home, one piece at a time, in the hope her treasures find new owners who love them as much as she does.

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