What do I do with my family heirlooms when my kids don’t want them?

china assortment

Frequently, my antiques shop customers ask “What do I do with my family heirlooms when my kids don’t want them?

When I respond with “Why don’t your kids want them?” I regularly hear these replies: “My kids say they don’t have space,” or “They say they don’t have any use for them.”

It’s our responsibility to give family heirlooms meaning so future generations want them in their own homes.  

An item with a cherished story can become a favorite piece.

Parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles can share the history of an item and what it means to their family. Tell children the covered crystal butter dish in the curio cabinet was Grandma Mary’s. Describe how she always had it on her walnut dining table for every Sunday dinner and the youngest kids pleaded to have more butter. If that butter dish sits in the curio cabinet and the grandkids know nothing about it they’ll have no connection to it!  It’s important to tell your kids what a family heirloom means to you.  

It’s common for younger generations to be more selective with their collections and furnishings.

They’re often mobile or limited by space. They may not want everything from their ancestors. If Grandma Susie had 24 English bone china teacup sets, her college-aged granddaughter may want a few favorites — likely the ones when she shared tea with Grandma. If she’s never seen or used those teacup sets, they’re meaningless.

Don’t save items just for special occasions.

Use your family pieces often. Items like a crystal butter dish, pedestal pie crust occasional table, or green depression cake plate are antiques that are perfectly appropriate to use as part of everyday living. These pieces will become part of the memories and tradition in your family.

Some antiques you don’t want to use everyday.

If you are fortunate enough to have museum quality antiques enjoy them on display only. Museum quality antiques such as a circa 1900 Tiffany Lamp or a piece of art glass signed by Dominick Labino are valuable pieces that will hold their value. To maintain their value, keep them in excellent condition by keeping them on display.

You discern what legacy you’d like to leave your kids.

Do you use your special items and teach younger generations to enjoy them? Create fond memories of using the same birthday plate, or the lovely tea set. Stories and memories are what make fancy serving dishes and mahogany furniture family heirlooms your children cherish.

Memories and love are what turn items into treasures for future generations.