Lea Wait, here, feeling overwhelmed by the history of things.

Yes. Things.

I know people are more valuable than possessions. My heart aches for those who lose everything they own, in fires or floods or wars.

But I cherish many possessions, and cling to them as connections to family, love, and home.

You see, I live in a house built in 1774. My family has only lived here since the mid-1950s, but I’m a fourth generation antiques dealer, and those who came before me not only brought family furniture, china, toys, kitchen and workshop tools here … in short, household furnishings … that they had bought or inherited but, in many cases, those things came with stories.

I loved those stories, of the tea kettle my great-great grandmother had used in Edinburgh, and the trunks my great-grandparents took with them on their annual train trip to the Rose Bowl over a hundred years ago. The labels are still there.

But I know in my head, if not in my heart, what so many men and women in my generation know: that my children don’t value these things in the same way. Antiques mean little to them. Silver? It has to be cleaned. Mahogany? It’s heavy. And who uses real linen and lace tablecloths anymore (even I don’t), or values a set of their grandmother’s wedding china that can’t be put in the dishwasher or …

The story goes on. So my house is full of things I love, and that were loved before me. At auctions I see the treasures of other families sold for a tiny percentage of their value as those older than I am “deaccession.” I see stories and heritage and a sense of where families came from being lost.

And I foresee the same happening to those things I treasure, not for their monetary value (although some have that, too,) but for what they meant in good and bad times to those who came before me.

I’ve done some downsizing already; sold some things; given things to children I was certain would value them. I’ve donated collections to museums and libraries. I know that after I’m gone my children will probably sell everything that is still here, and the house itself that I love and that my family has loved for four generations.

And all that hurts. Better for me to find new homes for these things than to leave them all to my children, who won’t value them, I think. Which is where libraries and museums come in.

But still I hold on. Hold on to the memories. The stories. The feeling that when these things go, as they will someday, somehow, they will take with them history and heritage and stories that can never be replaced.

And that makes me very sad.

About Lea Wait

I write mysteries - the Mainely Needlepoint, Shadows Antique Print and, coming in June of 2018, the Maine Murder mysteries (under the name Cornelia Kidd.) When I was single I was an adoption advocate and adopted my four daughters. Now my mysteries and novels for young people are about people searching for love, acceptance, and a place to call home. My website is To be on my mailing list, send me a note at
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Downsizing

  1. Have you thought about the Maine Women Writers Project/collection. They were thrilled to get Mom’s papers and correspondence.

  2. Sharon says:

    We also are trying to rid ourselves of things that we cherish but the next generation will not. I have 2 sets of China, decided each grandson would have a set, well they don’t want them. Things from my mother’s house, my husband’s mother’s home, time to clean out, a lot to our historical society, Georgetown Historical Society, and Boothbay too. Then there is my doll collection, 400 + of them, no granddaughters. Such fun, and my books that I cherish. The list goes on.

  3. Pingback: Downsizing – James D. A. Terry

  4. Barbara Ross says:

    I feel your pain. I have all this stuff–china from several generations, silver, artwork. My kids have been great about taking the artwork, but the rest of the stuff…not so much. I think they have a more realistic view of how they really live. We don’t have servants and have no need for six kinds of forks for fish and seafood. But somehow, I can’t let them go. The fact that generations have kept them makes them somehow more precious, even though a lot of them are merely markers of a middle class life and not really valuable at all.

  5. louy castonguay says:

    I understand the downsizing. Watched my mother do it three different times, from home I grew up in, to newly built home, to mobile home with addition to senior housing. I guess she just wasn’t ready to give it all up. Took four people a full day to empty the three room apartment. Saw things there I never knew she had. And yes, the new generations don’t treasure the old things. The things purchased dearly when money was tight, things handed down from mother to daughter or daughter in law. The history of t hings third and fourth generation no longer mesmerized the following generations, where possessions are so cheaply bought and reaadily discarded. Good luck with the downsize.

  6. Shirley Garvin says:

    I understand completely. I don’t have much because I lost stuff to a fire and a lot of photos due to dampness in garage at sisters house. But I have memories and stories(which I tell my kids and grandkids wether they want to hear them or not.Maybe they will remember them when I’m gone,)I worked in a thrift shop for 12 years and I saw so many photos and things that should have been handed down and treasured. Made me sad. I made up stories in my mind about these people in the photos,what their lives were like where they lived,etc. It was fun to do even tho their lives probably were not as exciting as I made

  7. Kammy McCleery says:

    With your writing talent, I think writing the stories of your family possessions and printing ten or twenty copies would be incentive for your children to give these antiques a new, wonderful home. Heck, I’d love to read them as well! BTW, pleaseeee tell us what happens for Maggie and Will… Sending you TLC-filled gentle bear hugs and flowers…
    Thinking of you often, and praying for you to have comfort and peace.

  8. Debra Clark says:

    It is sad indeed. However, I have inherited possessions of the kinds you describe from both sets of grandparents and since then, MY parents’ home, and I have still (after 5 years) not found the time or the boldness to make them an integral part of MY home. I hope that now that I am retired after 44 years of teaching that I will find the courage to do this before it is too late. Thank you for your posts and your writings. Praying for your journey and health.

  9. bethc2015 says:

    John and I are going through the same thing as we downsize to a smaller house. One thing that helped was when the yard sale shoppers said, “i just love this.” That person will enjoy it more than my children might. Selling to an antique dealer is not as much fun because I don’t know what will ultimately happen to the possession.My daughter no longer wanted the twin quilt my mother had made for her to take to college. It sported her school colors and a horse theme. I reasoned that the quilt served its intended purpose. The pain was lessened more when a girl at the library yard sale saw it and asked and her mother to buy it. The quilt is no longer stored away in a box and the library earned some money,

  10. lynn marie pelletier says:

    When looking at vintage and antique things, I often wish they were micro chipped with identifying information. Have you considered documenting some of your favorite pieces with photos and what you know about your family history with those objects ? It’s not the same as actually holding something but future generations would have some idea about family possessions that had real meaning (like the trunks which travelled to the Rose Bowl each year). There is something very special about a house full of family memories and possessions.

    At the moment I am reading Cynthia Riggs’ mysteries set on Martha’s Vineyard, and the 92-year old sleuth’s house is full of family history and possessions.

  11. Carole says:

    I struggle with that as well. It’s not the things but the memory. So I say a prayer that these things will go to someone who can really use them and will bring them joy.

    As well I’ve taken photos of things and saved them instead of the actual piece. You could have an album if the photos and where they went.

    Hope this helps. Let go and keep living in faith!

  12. fangswandsfairy(alt) says:

    I want silver cutlery – we never had a nice silver service. And I am still working to round out my Wedgwood Wild Strawberry. We don’t have children so when we go, if there’s anything left, it will go to our non-profit beneficiaries who can do with it what they wish,
    I do hear this a lot. I think Antiques Road Show changed how Americans view antiques: they were either worth a fortune, or they were not of any value other than sentimental, curiosity, or nice to look at.

  13. Hey, Lea. We recently sold our church and are now in a temporary building until the older new facility is remodeled. The congregation had worshiped in the building for over 75 years. Not long by New Englanders’ standards, but still a long time for us. We did two giant garage sales, and I agree it helped when people took “stuff” we knew they’d love. We gave away tons, but ultimately the building came down with some things remaining in it. My mother always told me to get rid of the old to make room for the new. I’m not good at it, but I remind myself of her advice. Ultimately, we’re all gone, and the next generation doesn’t care about the things we hold dear. They care about us and the memories of us they cherish, but not the stuff. God bring you peace, Lea.

  14. Lea, great post! I have a lot of trouble getting rid of things that mean something, are from people I care about, etc. I still can’t let go of my mother-in-law’s sewing kit and perfume bottle (she died in 2006 and I still miss her). Then there are my keepsake boxes, sitting in the garage. They hold every single bit of paper, etc., my kids gave me from cards they made, etc. And letters from them and friends I’ve (sadly) lost touch with.
    Maybe I keep these things because I unfortunately let go of these dear friends? Who knows why?

Leave a Reply