With the holidays upon us, many of us will be visiting family members of prior generations. They’ve spent decades collecting memories, stories, and, if your relatives are anything like ours, an amazing assortment of tchotchkes, souvenirs, and other memorabilia from lives well lived.
Each time we visit said relatives, they attempt to foist upon us more of these “gifts.” They range from homemade dolls from their childhood, Avon collectibles, a stuffed doorstop (I wish I was joking), and sometimes even furniture. The offer is well meaning and spoken out of love and an attempt, I think, to create a link from their lives to ours.
I was reading something the other day about the shift in mindset from our parents’ and grandparents’ needs to “save this just in case you need it one day” and “you never know, it might be worth something someday” to our current disposable culture where we don’t really save anything. It’s something of a privileged mindset that we throw things out because we know we can replace them if need be. For those that grew up during the Depression and War eras, having things was in and of itself, a privilege. It was a symbol of prosperity and wealth.
Our modern mindset is more fast paced. Clutter is the enemy. We want less stuff (unless it’s a Hatchimal or a Nintendo Switch for the kids or anything from Chip and Joanna’s Magnolia line). We want a clean slate and minimalist living.
In a world where Marie Kondo has brought to us the Magic of Tidying Up and encouraged us to toss (or donate) all those things which do not “spark JOY”. . . what is a millennial mom to do with the treasures from a family’s fabulous past?
First, this is family. We love them, even when they are trying to drown us in their treasures. So thank them. Thank them for thinking of you and that you appreciate all the memories that (said item) is imbued with. Then you have a few choices.
Option One: Take the item.
Nod, smile, and take it home. Once home, you are faced with yet another dilemma: where to put it? If the gift-giving relative visits your home, place it somewhere they can see it. You might also choose to re-gift the item to your favorite thrift store. Locally I am a big fan of both Goodwill and Palmetto Thrift.
Option Two: Lie through your teeth.
Say you don’t have space. You have nowhere to put said item. This may present yet another dilemma should your relative call you out on this or offer to hang on to the item until such time as you do have space. In which case, I present the third option.
Option Three: Uncomfortable honesty.
Tell your dear Aunt Myrtle that while you appreciate her fabulous assortment of ceramic cats and enjoy admiring them when you visit, you do not seek to create your own collection at home. She may still want you to take one and be devastated that you don’t want to choose one to remember her by (because she won’t live forever you know!), but that’s just the kind of uncomfortable conversation the holidays are meant for, right?
A Good Compromise
Here is where you can offer … the most modern of all ways to remember things by: a photo. Say while you can’t or won’t take any of your relative’s stuff with you, you’d love a photo with them (and their stuff!) to remember this visit. You may have to go the extra step and actually print the photo and send it by snail mail in a card to them, but in this way you can create new memories with the old stuff without creating more clutter in your home.
May your holiday be merry and clutter-free! How do you deal with those unwanted “gifts” from relatives and friends?