Family Keepsakes | General Organizing
WHAT TO DO WITH GRANDMA’S SET OF DISHES
I’m a West Coast girl turned small town, Midwest Mom. I love the outdoors, cooking, writing, and spending time with my family. I am dedicated to keeping my life as simple as possible.
With a B.A. degree in Psychology, I have many years of experience working with families and seniors. I believe in a holistic view to organizing. Clearing our minds of the clutter and chaos in our lives is just as important as clearing our physical clutter. By taking a holistic approach to organizing, we can make lasting change.
I am a high energy person, and love to see a messy room transform into an organized space. My need for order and simplicity stems from my ADHD disability as a way to compensate for my short attention span. So my gifts and my challenges are all ironically tied together to create who I am, and I am miraculously able to help others as a result of this coping method that I have developed for myself.
It is my deepest hope that you will find resources here that will bring you closer to living a simpler, more intentional, and more peaceful life.
HOW MANY SETS OF DISHES DO YOU OWN?
Do you have multiple sets of dishes claiming too much storage space in your home? If so, you are not alone. Extra sets of dishes appear to be a commonality in many, many homes.
They may be meticulously packed away in protective dish covers or occupying the top shelves of our kitchen cabinets. We may find them crammed into a dining room hutch or tucked away in storage somewhere. Wherever the dishes reside, they are often dusty, unused, and hogging up precious storage space. So, I ask you, why such madness? Why do we all keep one, sometimes two, extra sets of dishes in our homes when often we are short on space and don’t use them?
“I INHERITED THESE DISHES FROM MY GRANDMA”
The stories behind the extra sets of dishes are often the same. They are Grandma’s or Mom’s antique dishes, or perhaps they have been gifted to us by another loved one. Other times, these dishes are the ones asked for on a wedding registry, flawless and untouched because they are considered to be the “good dishes”…you know… just for dinner parties. But then again, we don’t actually use them for dinner parties because it’s just easier to use paper plates. I have found that there are 3 main reasons why many of us possess multiple sets of unused dishes:
GUILT STOPS YOU FROM LETTING GO OF GRANDMA’S SET OF DISHES
Maybe your inherited dishes are very pretty or maybe they’re not… either way, they came from your Grandma, whom you adored, so how could you possibly get rid of them? Furthermore, how can you use them every day when Grandma only used them for special occasions? What if they get chipped or broken? They may even be passed down from a great-grandmother, making them an even more special family heirloom and that much harder to let go of. It is easy to feel guilty about these kinds of inherited keepsakes. But your loved one would not want you to keep the dishes solely out of guilt.
The second reason for extra sets of dishes is that formal dinner parties are part of our parent’s and grandparents’ legacies, but they are no longer part of ours. Everyone had “the good china” accompanied by fancy silverware and they actually used them for most special occasions. But this is a tradition of bygone days that is merely hanging on… by our leftover sets of dishes. These days most of us are much less elaborate when we entertain and keeping things simple to save time is more important today than it was in the past. Even during the holidays, our family tends to use paper plates, we may spend a little more on the fancy Christmas-themed ones, but we still stick with paper. After all, who wants to spend all afternoon washing fancy dishes on Christmas Day instead of relaxing and visiting with family? Not me.
“I SHOULD PROBABLY SELL THESE DISHES”
The third reason we keep the extra set of dishes around is in anticipation that they may be worth a lot of money. We figure that since these inherited dishes are antiques, they must be valuable. The problem is that taking the time to find someone to assess their value, then taking more time to list, photograph and sell, becomes a barrier to getting rid of them. So, the unused dishes stay, and the years pass by and they serve no purpose in your home except to occupy space.
SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WITH UNUSED SETS OF DISHES?
If you love Grandma’s dishes, why not go ahead and use them every day and get rid of the ugly, mixed-matched, worn-out dishes you’re using now? Just because Grandma only used them for formal entertaining doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. And, not using them at all because a piece may get broken does not really make sense. That’s not a lot different than buying an outfit and not wearing it because it may wear out someday. If you want to ensure that you preserve Grandma’s treasured dishes, take one place setting and put it in a keepsake box so that you will always have it. Then use the rest of the set and enjoy them, because life is short, and Grandma will be tickled that they are getting used.
USE THEM OR LOSE THEM
On the other hand, if you really don’t like the set of dishes you inherited, why keep them out of guilt? Your loved one would not want to put this burden on you. Is it not better to honor the dishes by letting them go to someone who will cherish and care for them just as your loved one did? They are not serving anyone collecting dust in storage. Again, you can keep one place setting to have as a permanent keepsake.
IT IS OKAY TO LET SETS OF DISHES GO
If you happen to be keeping the dishes only to hand down to your child, talk with that child and be sure that he or she wants them in the first place. Many young people these days are less interested in these kinds of antiques. If your child is an adult and they do want them, pass them on now, you should not be required to store your adult child’s dishes for 10 years. If your child does not want them, check with other family members to see if a sibling, cousin, or niece may appreciate having them. Just make sure they plan to use them – we don’t want them ending up in your sister’s basement collecting dust either.
BE REALISTIC ABOUT ENTERTAINING
Just because our mother and grandmother kept a “good” set of china complete with formal silverware, does not mean we need to do the same. Embrace today’s lifestyle only keep one set of dishes that you use regularly. When you entertain, do yourself a favor and let go of the fantasy of impressing others with elaborate and elegant dinner parties. It’s okay to forgo the fancy dinnerware and opt for paper instead. By keeping meals as simple as possible, you can welcome guests into your home more often with less stress.
VALUABLE? – MAYBE, BUT PROBABLY NOT
I don’t like to be the bearer of bad news, but most antique dishes are worth much less than most people would expect, even if they are beautiful and ancient. Do you really want to store presumably valuable dishes for 10 or 20 years just to eventually discover that they are worthless? That said, some antique dishes can be valuable, so if you think you might have a valuable set of dishes on your hands, commit yourself getting them assessed by a local antique dealer. Make it a priority to do it now, rather than putting the task off. Then you can decide if you want to sell them to the antique dealer or take them home and sell them online. Be sure to consider whether or not the money you will make selling them on your own, is worth your time. Oftentimes, all said and done, it’s not.
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