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In the News: Unwanted Heirlooms

In the New York Times story "The Tyranny of the Heirloom," writer Joyce Wadler explores the idea of the unwanted family inheritance. Melodie Bryant, a New York composer whom Wadler interviews, for example, inherited a portrait of her Great-Great-Great-Uncle Ivins, even though she had no desire to hang the painting in her tiny Chelsea apartment. Add to this a moving accident, which ripped the canvas and cost Bryant $3,000 in repair costs, and you can understand why this portrait became a wall hanging you'd avert your eyes from.

In the article, Wadler writes,

Ambivalence and guilt, it seems, are central elements of furniture inheritance, the anchoring pieces around which everything is organized, like the sofa in a living room. Barry Lubetkin, a psychologist and the director of the Institute for Behavior Therapy in Manhattan, has observed this in a number of patients living with inherited furniture they hate. It’s an unhealthy setup, in which people become “slaves to inanimate objects,” he says. “Once you’re defining it as something you can’t get rid of, you’re not in control of your life or your home."

Of course, you probably know that my philosophy for decorating and design goes something along the lines of "less is more." That doesn't mean that I'm not living with some inherited pieces, but luckily, thus far, all of the pieces are ones that I love.

Have you been saddled with any unwanted heirlooms? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

Join The Conversation
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 8 years
I've always feared this. I hate stuff especially useless stuff and don't want to inherit anything from my parents that they feel I need to keep. I want my house to be very minimalistic and this just wouldn't work for me.
carak carak 8 years
omg that painting is AWESOME! i would totally hang up something like that in my home, especially if it was a relative.
outofhere outofhere 8 years
I have a lot of crystal I've inherited from a great Aunt. I'm just not a crystal type person. I still have everything boxed up as I haven't decided what to do with it yet.
sfbutterfly24 sfbutterfly24 8 years
I was given this great all wood furniture by my Great Aunt that I love the lines of but hate the color. The problem is that I want to paint it but my family is like how are you going to paint Tia Maries furniture which sucks because it is MINES now but I cant do what I want to do with it. (But I am after 2 years of feeling guilty about even thinking about painting its going all black!!!)
lizs lizs 8 years
Mini-pixie - I have that same piano to deal with, though not in as good of shape! There are only a few like mine, and all the rest belong to the Smithsonian...I'm tempted to send mine there too, because I don't even own my own home yet, so I'm not sure how I'll deal with it when my mother sells her house! The rest of what I've inherited is jewelry and silver, so I can handle that much better. :)
kristyy kristyy 8 years
Hahaha...this just sounds really funny for some reason. I guess my family is too poor to have owned anything worth passing down.
mini_pixie mini_pixie 8 years
My dad has his great-grand parent's piano in his living room. It's a beautiful old square grand, fully restored rosewood etc. It also has the portraits of the people who owned it in these huge ornate silver frames hanging above. It's a beautiful piece of furniture, but not a very good musical instrument. And my Dad is really ready to let it go to a museum or something, but he knows it'll cause a family fight if he gets rid of it, so he's waiting until after my grandma is gone to do anything- that way when his brother & sister get all huffy grandma doesn't have to worry about it.
darkangel2305 darkangel2305 8 years
Haha in this case I'm so happy that my parents & I immigrated here with little to nothing. No crazy stuff to inherit; we got a fresh start :)
RosaDilia RosaDilia 8 years
That is so true. I have a friend who inherited all her grandmothers furniture. And some of it is UGLY. She has it all arranged in her small apartment and is guilty of even throwing any of it away. Unfortunately, she's an only child and was the only grandchild so she has no other relatives to give some of the furniture to.
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