Thursday, June 26, 2008

The tyrrany of the heirloom:




Dr. Lubetkin, of the Institute for Behavior Therapy, once treated a woman who longed to get rid of an ugly bureau in her bedroom that had once belonged to her mother. He advised his patient to hire a mover to shift the bureau closer to the front door. He also led her through imagery exercises.

“It’s called systemic desensitization: slowly, while in a state of relaxation, have the person imagine the fearful situation occurring, having the movers come,” Dr. Lubetkin says. “I also gave her an audio tape.”

Read it all HERE.

Have you inherited something you just can't get rid of? Are you sentimental about stuff?

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had a drop leaf work table, vintage 1850, of my grandmothers lacquered persimmon orange and the fam and friends were horrified that an antique of that caliber was desicrated. You know what.....she was a stinker and it got rid of the bad karma! I love it now. Ginny

An Aesthete's Lament said...

I am not sentimental about inherited furniture. If you hate it, paint it or chuck it. Or give it to a relative who'd appreciate it. Life's too short (and rooms are too small) to hang on to ugly furnishings out of sentimentality.

Jules said...

I'm sentimental, especially with things my parents give me. I've always been afraid of them dying, and I imagine when they are gone these "things" will bring me fond memories. And I know they are just material possessions, life's too short for ugly furnishings, etc., etc. I'm just not as pragmatic as aesthete's lament.

Oh, and when I was in law school my parents bought me a huge, ugly, expensive La-Z-Boy because I was having circulation problems and needed to keep my feet elevated (I was pregnant, too). As ugly and beat up as it is, I can't part with it.

It's ugly and huge, but it really is so comfortable. You can't deny it. When one of they boys are up all night sick? We hang out in the la-z-boy. When I hurt my back and couldn't sit or lay down w/o passing out? La-z-boy. Huge, torrential downpour and a good book? La-z-boy. It's ugly as sin, but that thing comfy-cozy.

Not everything in your house has to be de rigueur. At least not in my house.

Anonymous said...

Love that, Jules.

MaryBeth said...

I have the love / hate relationship with heirloom crap. I feel so bad about throwing out but get mad at myself for keeping something so awful. I also feel the same way with birthday, christmas, wedding gifts. What should I do with these things??? Maybe try Craig's List?

Anonymous said...

Throwing out gifts is something I made peace with. I decided it was the gesture--the presentation of the gift--that was the important thing. The gift itself? Not a big deal. I donate my bad ones to charity thrift stores.

Kelli said...

Years ago, my grandmother gave me a large needlepoint peacock portrait that she made, and she has one just like it. It is so tacky, especially the way it's framed, but I can't bear to part with it! Our house is for sale right now, but when we move into our next house, I'm determined to reframe it and find a place for it. There's no telling how long it took her to finish it (the thing's something like 24x36). Maybe I'll buy other needlepoint pictures and make a quirky little montage on one wall or something.

Anonymous said...

Nobody's ever left me anything. I wish they would - I love old furniture.(Well, actually I guess I'm just glad that nobody's popped off yet!) Now I have to buy it on our local version of craigslist. No problems however with painting/ sawing off leggs/ changing doorknobs etc. to make stuff fit in with the rest of the 'decor'. Just a a problem with finding the time to do so. Am now banned by BF from buying more furniture until I do up the stuff I've bought up until now.

Anonymous said...

PS: I'd like that pink lamp the woman in the pic is holding, please.

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is so funny-- it's my life! I am so grateful to have inherited all the furniture I have, but sometimes I look at my house full of dark brown wood pieces and think, "Oh my God, I am not even 35 and my house looks like a little old lady lives here!" Most of it I actually do love, but our storage space is pretty full because I'd feel so guilty if I got rid of anything. I made my husband get rid of a horrible rug but wouldn't allow him to tell me when-- it was just gone one day. And I've given stuff to my sister-in-law and said, "I really want you to have this because you're family, but if you don't want it, please take it, get rid of it, and don't tell me!" I've started to let go of more and have learned the magic of reupholstering and painting. I had two COMPLETE dining room sets (and I'm not really a "set" person) before most of my friends were out of their Ikea tables, but on the other hand, as someone else pointed out, it's sad to think of all the people in my life who are gone. When I try to get rid of this one particularly horrendous piece, I think of my grandparents, going out to buy their first dining room furniture, so excited to get it, and I CAN'T throw it away!

Anonymous said...

My parents both died, and it's pretty much just me left. They had beautiful stuff. Trouble is, much of it is too grand and too large for the way I live. I have an exquisite 1700s table in the dining room and people keep bumping into it, the cleaning lady hits it with the vacuum cleaner, etc. Part of me thinks I should sell the stuff and buy more regular stuff that won't make me feel like hurling every time someone sneezes on it. But, it's gorgeous, so I'd rather not get rid of it...

Anonymous said...

I'm unable to turn down the old stuff. Recently my sister came to see my new living room and said "it looks just like grandpa's house". But the real curse is the family canoe, which I have pleaded to give away, back, sell, but have been forbidden to. Its nineteen feet long, indestructible, and I can't pick it up.

Anonymous said...

A nineteen foot long canoe?? Now THAT'S difficult to get rid of! I tried to think of some uses for it, but then I thought, how many people even have a room that is 19 ft long? Hmmm. I'm still thinking and can't really come up with anything... Unless you are an avid canoer...

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

Cut the canoe in half and turn it into shelving/ bookcases?

Maria said...

ugh yes. my sister and i are dreading my mom's teacup and scary doll collection. freaks me out.

dewy23 said...

They are a burden that mostly haunt me when I go into the basement...but I'm not able to get rid of them for some reason

girl meets glamour said...

I don't have an ounce of sentimental in me, and I think that has to do with moving a lot...I also re-gift like it's a sport!

~Kate

Anonymous said...

kelli,

The Peacock Needlepoint doesn't have to stay that way. It's large enough to upholster the back of a chair, or be cut up and made into pillows.

DeAnna

Tara.Fields said...

I've found that 3 years after my father's death it's easier and easier to part with his things. I really did get rid of about 90% of it at the time, but some of the remaining 10% is simply a burden. His nieces nephews and son-in-law (my ex) have been honored and happy to have a few things.

The opposite is my grandfather. Well, now I call him my ex-STEP grandfather, even though I never called him "step" until shortly after my grandmother died and he turned into a raving asshole controlled by his raving c-word of a daughter who had stolen 10s of thousands from them when she was alive and was only a couple years older than I. At one point he sold their house and moved out of state with his daughter, and who knows what became of the contents which included things of my mother's biological father's family. What she pines for is a dining room set with all 6 side- and 2 armchairs with needlepoint seats made by her grandmother. My best hope is that he sold them for nothing to someone who LOVES and CHERISHES them so he received no benefit, but the pieces are loved by someone, even if it isn't my mom.

Anonymous said...

We inherited a lot of things from my husband's family, first after the death of his parents and then the sale of property dating back to the 1700's. It can feel suffocating {to my own style} at times - so much dark, ornate furniture and items I can appreciate but rarely use - but, I know that these things mean so much to him. I am grateful for them and the opportunity to be stewards until we pass them along to our sons and also that my husband returns the favor and puts up with my collecting of odd shit.

Linda Merrill said...

I've been lucky that the things I've gotten from my parents are items I like. But, I did a client consultation once for a woman whose apartment was stuffed to the gills with old furniture and accessories. Everything was a shrine to her late mother - and nothing could be moved from its' spot, sat on, or even breathed on. (And her mother had never lived there, it was just her furniture!) I was never sure why she wanted a design consultation when nothing could be changed. There's loyalty and sentiment, and then there's obsessiveness. She had, sadly, slipped over that line.

Anonymous said...

I lack the sentimental bone, too.

Mostly, I just worry that someone's going to notice I don't have something they gave me. I swear, both sets of parents watch us like hawks to see if we've kept and treasured the furniture they cast-off.

kimbo said...

My mom died when I was 16 and my dad died 2 years ago. After my dad died I removed the things my parents had bought together from the house before the evil stepmother could get rid of them. My parents had some nice teak mid-century modern pieces that they bought in the late fifties, which my my stepmother did not appreciate or want as she preferred newer badly made reproduction antiques. I now have a beautiful teak china cabinet, a couple of teak lounge chairs with box cushions, a teak lounge chair and ottoman set, and the teak hidden leaf dining table I grew up with. They are all wonderful pieces and I enjoy using them. I have reupholstered the all the chairs (same colors as original, but ultrasuede instead of wool). I love their history--I have photos showing the pieces in our house throughout their life together and my happy childhood, which adds to the sentimental value. Of course, I consider myself lucky that I had parents with good taste and style! I inherited lots of other odd and random stuff as well, got rid of some but can't bear to part with others due to sentiment. (Although there were other gems, like two sets of china for twelve and a set of four cut crystal sherry glasses used in 1901 at my grandfather's christening in Germany.) So--long story short: sentimental, yes. Lucky in the quality of my inheritance, yes; which makes it all so much easier to live with. (Now if we inherit things from my boyfriend's family someday, then we will have problems--first of all we are out of room; second, I could not live with their style and I would say NO before it even made in the door!)

karyn said...

I don't have much sentimentality for other peoples things but have a husband with lots. So we have a few pieces mostly relegated to the bedrooms that I could do without but am not overly concerned with.

I am finding that I am getting emotionally attached to the items that I have purchase though which is sickening to me because logically they should do the job I've given them and then move on when they are no longer needed but I'm not finding that to be as easy as I once did. Maybe because I have too many things that I really love now.

David said...

Nothing comes into my house if I don't love it, and it doesn't matter who it's coming from. I'm rarely sentimental about things, and luckily neither is my mom.

I do have a number of old mixing bowls from my grandmother and great aunts. I love them, I use them, and they look great in my contemporary kitchen. When they stop doing those things, they're out.

JJ said...

I am not sentimental about things unless they're diamonds. I tend to chuck shit out at the first opportunity. My mom asked me if I wanted some debate award I'd gotten in 11th grade. uh, NO. I don't even remember getting it. She was pissed. But she is also the woman still has my Sit N Spin and my big crazy rocking horse.

Reggie said...

Get rid of it without a moment's thought. I'm with Aesthete, life's too short to be burdened with one's family stuff -- whether it be furniture or phobias. If you don't like it then either sell it or give it away, or go see a shrink and work it out.

Anonymous said...

reggie, your profile is hysterical!

Anonymous said...

What about when your normally awesome mother-in-law gives you a dreamcatcher that she made herself? And then comes over and says "where's the dreamcatcher?" Oops. In the Salvation Army pile.

No sentiment here, especially for fucking homemade dreamcatchers.

She Who Must Be Obeyed said...

"Stored" stuff for downsizing relatives. When we were moving we informed them that they should collect their stuff or otherwise deal with it. NOBODY liked any of the stuff enough to make either room or arrangement. I think I learned a lesson - I hope...

alis said...

I keep my grandfather's calculator. It's very old but small so not much of a burden.

My cousin has my grandma's ring (NOT ugly), which she had been wearing ever since I had known her. She passed away recently so whenever I look at my cousin's hand with the ring, I think of my grandma's hands, and how beautiful and caring they were, and how she held my hand so tight in her last night... *sigh* My mom can't let go some of her clothes..

alis said...

Also it never ceases to amaze me that all these ppl who once walked the earth and had hundreds of possessions crossed over without taking anything, not even something a size of a toothpick.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

My Mom is asking me to take some of her furniture. It's all 19th Cent. Flemish, French and the like that my parents bought while we were stationed in Holland in the '70's. I know that it's considered beautiful, but it's just not our style. But, I'm terrified that I'll wind up wanting to decorate like that someday and will have gotten rid of things that are far too expensive for me to buy again. Right now I'm staring at a bureau made from extinct white pine that my great grandfather brought with him on the boat... can't stand it, but can't bring myself to part with it.

I did manage to give away a porch swing I couldn't hang to a good friend. It was from my grandparents in Louisiana and was a part of the plantation house that actually survived the War Between the States. It lives happily restored in the Blueridge Mountains of Virginia on a beautiful farm. I have visitation rights.

One down.

gabriele contessa said...

My family was moved from Pakistan to India during partition over 60 years ago. All of their land and everything they filled their homes with was left behind with the false belief and hope that one day they would be able to return and reclaim it. Of course, that never did happen. They started again as refugees and never acquired nearly as much as they'd had. They struggled. My parents moved to Canada when they were young and left most of what they had behind. All I have from my family are bits and pieces - a hairpin that belonged to my great grandmother, a wood and silk fan carved by a prisoner for my grandfather (who was a government doctor at this prison at the time) following the birth of his first son. I cherish these pieces, though they are not "my style" (whatever that means today. Basically whatever's in the magazines I admit). I wish my family had had the opportunity to pass their heirlooms on to me, but thanks to politics/history, they weren't able to.