Recently I was doom scrolling TikTok when I came across Liz Brown’s video below offering advice on downsizing homes. No surprise there since everyone with an opinion to share is loudly shouting it on this platform. But I stopped scrolling for a second because her words caught my attention. It started with “They don’t want your china. They don’t want all the special things that you’ve been keeping.” And then went on to encourage elderly folks to just purge all their stuff.
In her defense she helps people downsize so this advice would seem to make sense. I have a different perspective on what she’s saying. And if everyone on TikTok can share their opinion then I’m going to share mine.
Downsizing Homes: A Reseller’s Perspective
I’ve been selling vintage for years now. We’re not putting a number on it because it makes me sad, but let’s just say I’ve been doing this about as long as she’s been encouraging people to get rid of their things. In the years that I’ve been selling I’ve met a lot of people. I have customers I deal with on a regular basis and we talk. I talk to even the ones that I don’t see regularly.
Here’s what I hear the most as a vintage reseller, “I have to have this because my Grandma had one just like it.” The very first piece I sold online was a fancy pie plate that the lady had to have because the pressed glass plate was exactly the one her grandmother owned.
Part of my job is reunited people with their past. It’s my favorite part of my job.
At Junk Bonanza a few years back I noticed a woman intently staring at a photograph I had randomly placed in my booth. I chuckled and said, “I think if you stare that long you have to take it home with you.” When she glanced at me there were tears in her eyes. She said, “This is my grandfather.” And she reached into her pocket to get money to buy the photo. She explained that she didn’t have any pictures on him and that she couldn’t believe it was him, but it was. She told me where he lived in Sartell which is near St. Cloud, MN. I purchased the photos from a photo studio in St. Cloud. It was in a box of their sample photos that had been in a basement and as the business was sold to the next owner and the next owner, shoved further back into storage until the new owner decided to clean house. That’s where I came in and the photo made it home to where it should be.
In another incident, I was working a Picket Fence Gals and wrapping up a cute little gnome. The woman was chatting and I said the gnome was adorable and she said, “Yeah my grandma had one like it that she made in ceramics class, but they were all sold when she died. I regret not getting her gnomes.”
As I was wrapping, I notice the name on the bottom and said, “Coco.” The woman’s head snapped toward me. “What did you say?” I pointed to the bottom of the gnome. “The name on the bottom is Coco.” Yep, it was her grandmother’s gnome. She ran upstairs and bought the remainder of the gnomes.
These incidents are far not few and far between. No, for me and every other vintage reseller encounters like these are normal. We are overwhelmed with people trying to find the “thing” that was purged by their family members when downsizing homes.
Even I am searching
For me, I’m searching for my grandmother’s mantle clock. I should have asked for it when she died but I wanted so many of her things (contrary to what the TikTokker would suggest). It was a camelback mantel clock with Windsor chime. I loved it so much because we moved a lot when I was a child and when we came to grandma’s I was comforted every time I heard the chime. In the middle of the night if I woke up unsure of where I was that clock would chime and I knew I was home. It was the only place I felt at home.
We had the option to buy whatever we wanted from my Grandmother’s estate. Nothing was held back. For some reason, the clock was so special to me that I though everyone was going to want it so I didn’t get it. Turns out to everyone else it was just a clock.
The clock went to auction. I have been searching my hometown ever since. I got to garage sales every summer. I haunt the antique stores and thrift shops looking for that clock. Yes, will know it when I find it. It had a unique sound right before the chime that I’ve never heard in any other clock.
My point is, you won’t know what your family will want when you’re gone. They might not be able to articulate what is special to them until you’re gone. And the thing that they most value and remember you by might be something as small as the candy dish you always kept stocked with butterscotch.