Are there any takers for the heirloom?

A recent report by the Christian Science Monitor suggests, 'As baby boomers begin to downsize, they are discovering that their adult offspring do not want their stuff.'
A recent report by the Christian Science Monitor suggests, "As baby boomers begin to downsize, they are discovering that their adult offspring do not want their stuff."

If it's practical and retro-cool, we'll make space for the antique ring or classic typewriter. Fortunately, sentimental values also feature in the age of minimalism, rent-a-wardrobe, and tiny apartments. Yes, the family china may still have some takers.

By Purva Grover

Published: Sun 8 Apr 2018, 1:45 PM

Last updated: Thu 1 Jul 2021, 4:00 PM

Every home has a treasure trove and its precious, charming, and vintage items aren't always tucked away in safety deposit boxes. Mostly, they're around us - the string of pearls in an aunt's dresser, the fine bone china set on the shelves of the crockery cabinet, grandpa's typewriter in the study, and the miniature silver candle stands atop mum's nightstand. We grow up admiring the silk rug, the recipe diaries, the classic watch, and even the armchair. Of course, these aren't items that we can bid for at auctions - these are valuables that we inherit and then pass down through generations.
But, as we grow older, we realise that we may not have space for it all. As expats, we're constantly changing jobs, homes, cities, and even countries - many of us live out of a suitcase, willing to pack and move to avail an opportunity. A recent report by the Christian Science Monitor suggests, "As baby boomers begin to downsize, they are discovering that their adult offspring do not want their stuff." Do we really not have space in our homes (and hearts) for the heirloom? Do the valuables, if picked up, lie unattended in the attic or
ultimately land up in a donation pile? Are we (un)grateful for items from our past? We took the questions to our readers.

How closely do we hold the family treasures? Very.

"My grandparents' heirlooms are in the care of my mother. When the day comes that I will inherit the items, I'll treat them with the same respect that she's treated them," says Tania Kreindler, 38, a wedding planner and presenter.
I attach value to things that aren't always financially valuable. I was raised that way. I will raise my children in the same way - to be humble and appreciative of the emotionally valuable and small things in life.
Tania Kreindler, wedding planner and presenter
"I am big on family, and cherish memories and items from my past; they're part of my heritage. My mother has told me the stories that go with them; so, I grew up loving them. I wish to find room for them in my home and do all I can to pass them through the future generations," says Natasha Hatherall-Shawe, 39, founder and managing director, TishTash Marketing and Public Relations.
I have a dress that belonged to my grandmother and a few stunning ones from the '70s that my mother gave me. I don't know if I'll ever wear them, but they are stunning pieces and I like knowing that they were worn by those closest to me. I also have letters, Christmas cards and a number of ornaments from my grandparents, which sit on our shelves and make me feel like they're always with me.
Natasha Hatherall-Shawe, entrepreneur

Can we make space for heirlooms in our small apartments? Yes.

"Eight years in the city and I realised that I wasn't going home any time soon. I shipped all my remaining items over from storage, bought a house and now have all of my treasured items with me in Dubai. I'm blending new with old, and in a strange way, I feel even more at home now that I have important items from the past with me here," says Natasha. "I'm a self-confessed bonafide hoarder. I hold on to cinema tickets from dates with my husband to my salsa membership card from 1997. I doubt that there will come a time when I don't make space for sentimentally valuable items that remind me of my family and precious items from lost loved ones. My father passed away seven years ago; the items I hold dear aren't of huge financial worth, but I would be broken if they weren't in my life," shares Tania.

Practicality is important too.

Myriad research says that people born in the '80s and '90s were taught to save whereas post the year 2000, we've embraced an era of disposables. An entire industry has sprung up around figuring out where the stuff will go. "Homes of our parents and grandparents are precious, and we should hold onto the treasures that they possess. But, I also believe that being practical is more important than being sentimental. If I am financially stable and have the means to keep these heirlooms, then I definitely will. However, if I am ever at a stage where I need to sell off an old property or pawn a treasured heirloom to make ends meet, I will do that without hesitation. I feel at the end of the day, things are just things, and our real treasures are our relationships and memories," says Mahabb Parwaiz, 21, an intern with a real estate and investment research firm.
I would be happy to receive all kinds of heirlooms because everything has a memory, a meaning attached to it. Although, if I were to assign a preference, I would give more choice to things like letters, books, and a bridal dress over furniture and china because those items have a profound meaning behind them, a more vibrant history.
Mahabb Parwaiz, intern
"As an expat, it's not easy to have items from your past with you. Let's face it - a majority of us came here with a two-year plan. We came with a suitcase, filled an apartment initially with affordable furniture, and bought nice accessories to make it feel homely. Only a few of us shipped all our belongings over initially, let alone photo albums, our grandmother's jewellery or a much-treasured armchair. This was the case for me anyway," says Natasha. She adds, "Whilst it's not possible to keep everything you may wish to due to space and other reasons, I feel you should keep select treasured items with you so that your ancestors are with you in some physical way."

Are the millennials listening?

"As somebody pursuing a history minor at the undergraduate level, I'm definitely a millennial interested in heirlooms. I still have my grandfather's original Polaroid camera and it's something that I will always cherish," says Kaavya Ranjith, 18.
I think a mother's saree is one of those priced possessions every girl dreams of owning and wearing in the hopes to look as graceful as their mother did. Speaking on behalf of the entire millennial generation, I do think heirlooms and treasures of the past still have a place
of importance.
Kaavya Ranjith, student
"It seems that the younger generation is more concerned with technology and items for the future, but I will definitely talk to my (future) children about the items we have in our home, share with them the stories of the people behind them so that they see their value, love and appreciate them like I do," says Natasha.

What is it about vintage items that is getting the attention of young adults?

"Humanity's inherent sense of nostalgia - anything classic or vintage holds a special place in the heart. And, if it is from family, it means even more so. I can't think of anyone who would purposefully shun an heirloom," says Parwaiz. "The effortless cool factor of the Polaroid camera, the typewriter, the circular glasses, the high-waisted jeans, and black-and-white photograph filters proves that millennials aren't simply in awe of vintage items, we're positively invested in them! So, if your vintage possessions aren't bought for exorbitant prices and you simply have them lying around at home since decades, your popularity points go way up. Paradoxically, keepsakes of the times of yore are becoming increasingly contemporary. If not for the personal story behind the object itself, the style factor of the retro items speaks volumes for their importance in the average millennial's home, life or Instagram feed," says Kaavya.

And the most treasured items are.

"I'm keeping my wedding dress in the hope that one day my future daughter will want to wear it. There's a stamp collection from my father along with his flat cap and pipe, which still remind me of the way he smelt after a Sunday lunch. There's also a china set that is only ever handled by me (my husband is scared to touch it!), and of course, pictures," says Tania. "Old jewellery is something that I treasure a great deal. I want the special pieces to stay within the family. I also have piles of old photographs and albums that I love looking through," says Natasha.