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The Challenge of Inheriting Collections

Image at left: These do look comfortable, but 200??

My mom’s love of collecting things made her incredibly easy to shop for. Every Christmas and birthday my brother and I could rotate between the champagne flute/candlestick/mini pitcher/teapot/padded coat hanger obsessions. Actually, my brother stopped at padded coat hangers. That’s all he bought her for about 15 years straight, and she LOVED it.

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These collections defined her space. You knew when you walked in her house what she loved. When she passed away, we had no idea what to do with all these collections. It’s harder to dispose of 200 puffy coat hangers than you’d think. While nice, my brother and I didn’t need 25 teapots, 40 mini pitchers, 30+ champagne flutes (all different) or 15-20 random candlesticks. It was overwhelming.

A "few" of the flutes from the collection
A “few” of the flutes from the collection

So, as many families probably do, we distributed a few items from each precious grouping to those who wanted them and donated the rest. Your coat will be extremely comfortable in my front closet thanks to her hangers. I have one mini pitcher (one I gave her I think). I may have gotten away without having to take a teapot. However, I got more than my share of champagne flutes and about 3 candlesticks. I realize that by keeping only a few of these things, the fact that she had grand-ish collections will be lost on future generations. As these things pass down to future generations they will simply become “the pitcher that belonged to Sybil” or something like that.

Then there’s the stuff that we’ll end up fighting NOT to take. A friend’s mother collects extremely unattractive Christmas dishes. The siblings have openly fought over who *doesn’t* have to take them. That’s one collection destined for the Salvation Army. Other collections may be so valuable that there are specific heirs called out in a will. My youthful baseball card collection, however, will not be putting my kids through college.

Such is the fate of our collections. It made me sad at times to get rid of so much of my mother’s belongings. There were probably a few things I should have kept, looking back. But in the midst of bereaved purging it’s hard to be logical. I look around at the things I collect, and I know my kids don’t have a particular passion for these items. I’m sure they’ll end up with one of each after I’m gone. And that will be okay. While my material “stuff” seems important now, I know they don’t define who I am. As long as my family keeps one or two around to remember my by, I’ll be thankful. It’s probably for the best that my great-great-grandkids won’t know the extent of my obsession with old class photos!

If you have an amazing collection that does have some value, take the time to find someone in the younger generation who shares your passion. You might not want to leave something like that to chance!

4 thoughts on “The Challenge of Inheriting Collections”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing Mimi! I hear you on the genealogy research. I’ve got one nephew who seems interested – all my eggs are in that basket right now!

  2. I have to laugh and can relate so well to your mom! my kids will relate well to you! My collections are passions that no one shares, but have brought me great joy thru the years. As I begin my de-stuff phase I’ll find out if anyone cares enough for the onesey-twosies. The things with any value will be in the will, but likely not to the children…some organization that could use or appreciate them. My real concern is the genealogy research. I am still hopeful that someone will get turned on enough to pass it along to.

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