Antiques Are Not for Sissies
March 21, 2014
A long time ago, I inherited a bunch of antiques from my grandmother that I never quite knew what to do with. Some of these items were pretty interesting, some were kind of junky, and most were handmade ceramics bearing her name on the bottom. Since I had no real interest in them at the time, and no way to display them that would fit with my own taste in home décor, they remained boxed up and in the basement for years. And there were a lot of them, many boxes of all sizes with carefully wrapped items that haven’t seen the light of day since 1990, judging from the newspapers they were packed in. A lifetime of collecting and making things all fell to me to process, and I wanted to do it right, not just throw it all away.
One obstacle preventing me from moving ahead with this project is the emotional struggle that comes up when going through the belongings of deceased relatives. There are memories, good and bad, that need to be worked through, and this can be emotionally draining. Also, I am not a collector. I like to keep my belongings pared-down, so these boxes have been bothering me every time I notice them. I have felt guilty for not loving these things as much as my grandmother did. They have a lot of sentimental value, but are unlikely to wind up on Antiques Roadshow with an insurable amount of $20,000, although I've had that dream more than once.
Since delving into my own genealogy, however, these items have taken on a new interest. The historical and family heritage aspects of the antiques have started to really resonate with me. For the first time in years, I am glad I didn't discard them without the careful thought required to deal with them properly.
There are many programs right now on how to declutter, showing how to separate stuff into categories of keep, give away, and repurpose. Shabby-Chic home decorating books and Pinterest can give you one thousand uses for junky old items, so I am looking into a few options. One solution was to renovate one of my grandmother’s hutch cabinets to create a look more fitting with my own personal taste. I used a little paint, some pretty knobs from a craft store, and voila! I now have a lovely hutch in colors I can live with. Gone is the worn, dark patina of the woodwork that never appealed to me, replaced by cheerful colors that provide a nice backdrop to a portion of the antique collection. I also have a plan to use broken china dishes to cover the top of an old table, a plan for making frosted glass candle-holders out of old glassware, and an idea for displaying smaller trinkets in an oval shaped bubble glass frame that also just needs a little paint and distressing.
As I challenge myself to transform this heavy task from a burden to artistic expression, I am giving my family heritage new life. I am still not sure what to do with the knick-knacks (things that cannot be smashed and made into other kinds of art), but perhaps a few ideas will present themselves as I open each old box of treasures.
Midwest Genealogy Center