Deciding When to Let Go: How to Handle Inherited Home Furnishings

I’m currently in the process of packing up my life and preparing to move to another state. This experience has me thinking about the huge amount of stuff one can accumulate through the years. The plan is to downsize and sell many of the things in the house. Of course, we have pieces that have been inherited and therefore have memories and emotions connected to them. This can make the decision to let go of certain items a bit more challenging. Since I’m in the midst of this, I figure other people have been in the same dilemma, so I thought I’d share some of my rules about how to handle a downsize or “purge.”

Over the years, I’ve worked with many clients who felt obligated to carry inherited belongings from family members along with them on life’s journey. As you can imagine, sometimes this is easy-breezy and sometimes it creates a challenge. If you love and need what you have inherited… enjoy and carry on! I want to speak to the rest of the tribe out there that might not have room for  new-found treasures or might find that the pieces don’t really jive with the décor of their current abode.

How to choose what pieces to keep

If you are one of those people who has everything you could ever want and has selected every piece in the house to perfection, you might find it a beast of burden toting Granny’s antique hand-me-downs through life. This is what I tell my clients that have too much of someone else’s stuff: Rest assured that your grandmother would not want you to feel burdened to keep and carry her stuff through your life! It is okay to let it go to someone who could use and love those pieces. I usually tell clients to pick a few items that have special meaning to them or invoke the best memories of the person from whom they came. We can work those special items into their home design and they can treasure those “curated” pieces forever. All the other stuff can move out into the universe! Poof! The weight has been lifted!

Re-life an inherited piece

The other challenge has to do with inheriting something that looks dated or does not fit the style of your home. Remember, if you give a piece a new look or identity it is still the same piece that represents your loved one. Painting or modifying an antique might be a great way to have something unique and meaningful in your space.

inheritedMany years ago, my husband inherited a very traditional china cabinet. However, our house was very modern. The cabinet was a special piece and needed to stay in the house. So, we had a specialty painter, who does lots of faux finishes for our store, paint it with a durable marine paint used on speed boats. After several layers of the special high-gloss lacquer, the once Country French antique was now a sleek and modern eye-catcher that looks incredible with the black grand piano in the same space. Success!

The moral of the story is that it is not your responsibility or obligation to carry other people’s possessions with you through life! It is just stuff. Have the sale! Donate to a good cause! Hang on to an item or two as a nod to your special lost loved one and then move on! You can let the special memories live in your heart where they belong!


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