by Texas Homesteader ~
You value your family’s heirlooms. But it seems we can no longer be sure future generations will be interested in receiving grandma’s finer things. A generation shift could make it harder to pass grandma’s stuff to your kids. Read my thoughts about the difference in typical life for different generations.
Estate Sales – Why Didn’t Family Want Grandma’s Things?
“I see there’s an estate sale this weekend, do you think we should attend?” I asked RancherMan recently. As I went over their high-end offerings we got into a pretty deep conversation.
We were talking about the interesting social shift of current generations compared to generations of the past.
And why are younger generations not interested in things like fine china or heavy well-made antique furniture?
As we talked, a couple of things came to mind. It seems generations in the 30’s, 40’s & 50’s were vastly different than later generations.
Does that explain why Junior is no longer interested in grandma’s fine china? And what does that mean for the special things a typical family might carefully store back for their children one day?
Economic Differences Throughout The Generations
Many in earlier generations really had to claw their way through various stages of their lives.
My grandparents married young in 1938 and struggled to finally get their own home, which my grandfather built with his own two hands.
Extended family members would often help get a young couple on their feet by sharing belongings they were no longer using. These things had often been previously passed down to them such as their grandma’s china and Aunt Dorothy’s dining table.
Little by little my grandparents made their house into a home and started their own family, while still struggling financially every step of the way.
By the time their children grew up and started out on their own my grandparents had finally reached a slightly more financially comfortable place.
Now they wanted to make sure their children had the same assistance they received when they were just starting out. It was just the way it was done back then.
But today’s young families have more options that are much less expensive available to them. There’s no shortage of lighter-weight & inexpensive furniture & household goods.
Retailers such as Walmart & Ikea help to outfit a young adult’s home on the cheap.
Difference In Entertainment Events
Our grandmothers often held lavish dinner parties. And they dedicated that good china for only such special occasions.
Those past generations used these gatherings as a major form of their social interaction & entertainment.
Their china was often passed down in near-pristine condition from generation to generation. Such finery was often cherished for its opulence.
Although there’s still no shortage of dinner parties being held today, now it’s common for groups of people to hang out more often at other entertainment venues – clubs, bars, theme parks and the like.
Formality Shift Though The Generations
It seems past generations were much more formal as well. Those dinner parties were often well orchestrated and they displayed all the finest possessions they had. These fineries were a great source of pride for those families.
Today’s dinner parties are almost always much more casual. They often involve serve-yourself covered dish foods served on cute yet inexpensive or sometimes disposable dishes.
Families Put Down Roots Closeby
Once older generations had their own home, often it was there where they raised their families and go through the various life stages all in the same location.
It was not uncommon for many generations of the same family to live within just a few miles of each other all their lives.
Today’s generation is often more mobile. They might live in several different apartments or rented houses in various cities when they first strike out on their own.
And oftentimes there are job transfers and moves to different states as they find their own way.
Today’s generations often live in several temporary locations before finally putting down longer-term roots.
Should I Save Family Heirlooms For My Children?
There are always exceptions, but we shouldn’t assume that our kiddos will be excited to receive that china passed down for generations or the sturdy well-made vintage furniture we enjoyed as a child.
It’s always a good idea to check & see if there’s any interest of course. But today’s generations are often in a different place than generations gone by.
Use Your Fineries Now!
And for me one of the most important takeaways for me is that I don’t want to put back the ‘good stuff’ for use only on special occasions.
RancherMan & I own very few higher-end items. But the nicer things we have are not tucked away behind glass or in a dusty chest, unseen and unloved.
Those Waterford Crystal glasses are relished as RancherMan & I sip on a glass of wine as we watch that golden sunset in the evenings.
Grandma’s beautiful handmade quilt is on our bed right now, not tucked away in a box to make sure it doesn’t wear.
And I think that mentality applies to other ‘special occasion’ fineries as well. I make sure to enjoy nicer soaps & specialty lotions now. They’re not tucked away for a special occasion.
Heck we’ve decided every day is a special day. Why not enjoy those nicer things now??
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I have Mom’s and Grandma’s china but got rid of the set I got as wedding presents. I had to association of good times and family events with my own dishes. I got rid of my silver service and Waterford crystal at the same time for the same reason. Call me crazy, but having a link to past good times is more valuable than newer things. – Margy
p.s. I’m approaching 70 so that may be tainting my view.
I often feel the same as you Margy, the association of love & family with the things I use around my home is important. I realize not everyone feels that way but I totally understand where you’re coming from because I feel the same. ‘Cept my Waterford Crystal – I only have 2 wine glasses and RancherMan & I like to use them often because we feel every day is special enough for the best! 🙂 ~TxH~
This was a great discussion with many wonderful opinions about the good old hand me downs we get and what we do with them depending on everyone’s individual family’s . They are all different and make a wonderful topic to discuss and share with others.
I don’t have kids to pass on any of the things that have been passed on to me from my parents or grand parents so if there is something that I think I am going to pass on it will have to go to my siblings children or my siblings being I am the oldest.
The Glass and dish things that were passed down, I am free of and have went to my sisters. There cupboards are full and only get used during the holiday seasons when we all get together. Now that we are getting older in our early to late 60s they have taken on a different meaning as what has been already said here.
For me and the things I have from the past are usually up-cycled or repurposed in hopes of passing something down that can be used again in a different way or talked about in a different light.
I loved all what was shared here. Thanks for a great topic of discussion. Greg
You’re so right Greg, everyone has their own perception of things passed to them. I have a few precious things from each of my grandparents. But I’m not sure any of our kids would be necessarily anxious for me to pass to them. Of course I’ll offer those things to the kids, but in the meantime I’ll continue to cherish those things for the precious memories they bring. ~TxH~
I love love love dishes and sterling silver and cloth napkins – Linen of course – all that even though I’m a country woman (just got a load of manure from a man with horses – love that smell) . I spent a number of years teaching school in the city, small house, not a ton of company, have now moved to family home in the boondocks, a little more room , friends family and neighbors for any occasion and we all eat off treasured heirloom china. I really don’t care what family chooses to do with it when I leave the veil of tears (as my grandmother used to say) but I’m enjoying it now.
Good for you Candace! I think that’s the real value measure of our possessions – whether we love and use them or whether they are just stored in a box in the attic for ‘some day’. I have my grandmother’s cast-iron skillet and I use it every week. And her hand-made quilt is on our bed right now. But we don’t use fine china or silver – rugged things work best in our household. And yeah, I sure get your city-girl-turned-country-girl transition since I’ve been on that path as well. Love, love, LOVE living in the country! ~TxH~
I’m just not a “fine China” sort of person! I have a friend who is, and I was delighted to gift her my Grandmother’s good China dishes : ) Each unto his own. We love having friends over – but casually. No dishes to hand wash, and no all-year storage for a couple of days’ a year enjoyment. Besides which, I’m clumsy – I would just break them all! ; )
I have my grandma’s glass party dishes. They’re thise ones that are a plate with a little ring for a matching cup. My mom said when she was a teenager and had parties my grandma would bring them out. I would use them when my kids were young for grilled cheese and soup. I’ve thought several times of getting rid of them, but i haven’t been able to….yet.
I also have a set of Desert Rose (Fransiscan ware) that i bought because I wanted my grandma’s dishes and didn’t get them. So I bought my own when my kids were older, and those were our “everyday” dishes just as they were for my grandma. I was going to get rid of my corelle, but my oldest son said he wanted it. He still uses my corelle, but I have the matching wild flower corning ware. I love that he uses them.
Try having the whole dining room set. I’m the 4th or 5th generation to have it. It actually came down the Mississippi River when my Acadian Great-great-great-grandparents came to Louisiana. When I brought it all (table, 6 chairs, and china hutch with rolled glass and lead mirrors) home both my kids said “I’m not taking that!” I tried to give it to my niece who was remodeling the old hunting lodge on the ranch but she only had room for the buffet that my sister had of the set. I guess I’ll sell it.
Yikes Judith! It’s always an emotional gray area when you feel obligated to accept something that doesn’t fit your lifestyle or home simply because it belonged to someone in the family in the past. But if you sell it, someone who loves it will be able to enjoy it and I’d hope your relatives would be happy about that. ~TxH~
I am not sure who might want the china, but I asked my children to let me know what they would like out of the house when we go and they said oh we can’t do that, but then I have had them come back and say I would like that chair or corner cabinet or picture and that way I can make sure it is there for them. I don’t use the good china every day, but when we have a get together I do set the fancy table. I don’t move around as well as I use to and it takes several days for me to wash dishes and set the table, but I really think it is worth it so the grandchildren can experience a fancy table setting. My grandmother use to use her cranberry cups for jello and that made it such fun to have the fancy cup for jello. She didn’t believe in saving things. Use them.
You’re such a smart cookie Cynthia to find out what things your children would like to have. And I feel the same as your grandmother – my ‘fancier things’ are used regularly. Now we don’t have many fancy things but those we have are not stored behind glass to tucked into boxes in the attic because to me that just makes ’em pretty clutter. I luxuriate beneath my grandmother’s handmade quilt during the cold months and enjoy sipping a glass of wine from nice crystal stemware while sitting on the back porch with RancherMan watching the sunset in the warm months. ~TxH~
Oh, one more thing. I just remembered my favorite way to use my antique dishes. I eat a salad nearly everyday for lunch, and guess which bowls I use…one of my two purple sunglass antique bowls! I just alternate between the two. It makes eating a simple salad feel like a grand event right in the middle of my day!
I love to use my great-grandmother’s and both of my grandmas’ bowls, dishes, etc. for everyday occasions, because it makes me think of them several times per day. Just a few seconds of a fun memory makes the day a little more special. I don’t save heirlooms for special occasions, because, like you, I realize each day truly is special. We should absolutely enjoy every moment we’ve been given, and one way I celebrate my life is to use the fancy dishes to serve tacos or display my garden veggies in a crystal bowl. I’d like to think my grandmas would get a chuckle out of that.
I agree. I took out my china we received as a wedding present 24 years ago after it sat in the cabinet for years and now we use it daily. But, also as I get older, I realize there are few things I would want of my mommas just because it is hers. and it will make me think of her. It is funny how what is important to us changes over the years.
So true Marie and that’s a good point too. What we value often changes over the years. ~TxH~
This is great Tammy. I have my great-gma’s fine china ~ complete with nut dishes. When I told my mom I didn’t want them. She said I had to have them because they were g-gma’s. I like my sturdy plain dishes as opposed to the fine delicate china. The ostentatiousness of the Victorian era is responsible in part. Abundance and opulence were a sign of money. I’ve struck a deal with my mom. There are 5 grand kids (my 2 and 3 nieces.) If by the time the youngest is 25 or married (whichever comes first) nobody wants them, they are going. That might sound harsh, but they are dishes; they are not my g-gma. I do like antiques but my brother and I are the only “heirs” on one side, and there is only so much we can each fit in our house. (Sorry if this is TMI.)
That’s not TMI at all Lady Locust and a perfect example of what I’m talking about here. You loved your grandma but whether or not you store her dishes doesn’t have any bearing on how much you loved her. I have several of my grandmother’s things and I love to use them. But there are several other items from beloved family members that just didn’t fit in our lifestyle and style preferences. I felt uncomfortable saying I don’t want those things but I don’t want to shove fru-fru dishes in a lower cabinet just to store them for decades. Our household is more country-chic & rustic, it just didn’t fit with our lifestyle, but it had no bearing on my love for those beloved family members. ~TxH~
The beautiful old china is not dishwasher safe. My almost daughter in law does not use a dishwasher and wants my old china when she sets up house. I’ll be glad to give it to her as I do use the dishwasher. She can use and enjoy it as every day china.
I have a quilt my grandmother made from scraps. It is old and tattered. I used it when the kids were sick and they loved it’s soft feel. It is put away safely. I guess someone else will have to pitch it.
I enjoyed your article today. Thank you.
I totally understand Judy. I also have a handmade quilt made by my grandmother and I absolutely love it. (it’s currently on our bed keeping us toasty warm on those cold night!) I also have her cast-iron skillet that she received as a wedding gift back in the 30’s. I have special things from several family members and I love them and use them often. BUT there have been other family items that have been offered and I had to pass on accepting them because they didn’t fit my lifestyle. Fine china, silver, etc. antique furniture, etc. It made me realize that fineries like that may not be desired by our children either. So putting something back ‘just because’ so I can pass to our children someday might not be the best course of action for us. I use & love the things we have without attempting to preserve them only for future generations. ~TxH~