Tag Archives: heirlooms

Capture the Story, Release the Object

still life marlin

While we are working with people who are downsizing or just clearing space, we hear the stories about many of the objects that they might be parting with. We’re always looking for ways to help our clients to make room for their next chapters and/or to let go of excess stuff. It’s often the attachments to “stuff” that holds people back from making that move to a more desirable area, to downsize into a place that feels more cozy … or to just have people over.

We were introduced to Laura Turbow of Still Life Stories. She and her partner Rachel Friedman, photograph and capture the essence of special items. Grandpa’s chair, a prized-but-bulky trophy, that taxidermied swordfish that just doesn’t fit any more (did it ever?). In the process, they honor an individual and/or the story behind it.

One of the goals of Still Life Stories is to help people hold on to what matters and brings them joy and to let go of the rest. That happens to dovetail with our work as Professional Organizers. We help people discern what our clients will bring with them into their future. And to keep what brings them joy.

Downsizing does not have to mean the end of things. Converting the ‘thing’ into digital photos and story that can be shared and remembered, that can survive fires, floods and disasters…while giving you the space you need. The April 4th post on the Still Life Stories Facebook page shows the power of a story when the history behind an object is shared.

 

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Filed under Decluttering, downsizing, Empty Nest, General Organizing, Guest Experts, Memorabilia, Perspective, Seniors, Strategies

Bringing Old Furniture Back to Life

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade

Ever wondered what to do with that special but damaged furniture that has been handed down in your family?

Dana had a conversation with Bernice Rapoport, owner and primary restoration expert, at Geppetto’s Antique Restoration in Point Richmond. Bernice provided some valuable context and practical information.

When is it worth having furniture repaired?

When you love it enough to fix it. Depending on what current styles are popular, many antiques don’t have a lot of resale value so often the motivation to invest in a repair is far more about preserving the piece for sentimental value. Knowing you and your family will be able to use grandma’s favorite writing table for years to come can mean the world.

What alternatives are there to a full repair?

If the piece is useable, sometimes it makes more sense to just give them a clean up or have finishes touched-up to make them more presentable. An example would be a tabletop with some old gouges or scratches. Rather than sanding out the damage and refinishing, some touch-up of the finish over the damage is sufficient. The scratches are actually part of the character of the piece and add to its charm.

How can we best protect our furniture?

  • Don’t place items near heating vents. This accelerates the drying out of both the glues in a piece and the wood itself
  • Keep furniture out of direct sunlight; it bleaches the wood
  • Cane seating: twice a year (you can do it when the clocks change) use a water bottle to spray the underside of the cane seats with slightly warmer than warm (but not hot) water. Let air dry indoors at room temperature. This keeps the natural fiber supple and allows the fibers to tighten up.
  • Rotate area rugs and tables twice a year to allow for more even wear
  • Water rings occur when moisture gets between the wood and the finish. Finishes are slightly porous to allow the wood to move.

We’ve all seen the Antique Roadshows episodes where the appraiser tells the person how many thousands of dollars more their piece would be worth IF they hadn’t refinished it – how do you protect antiques without affecting their value?

It’s important to use period products and techniques when working on true antiques and to know when cleaning or touchup is advised over a full refinishing.

What’s the oldest piece you worked on?

A high back chair from the 2nd settlement to Jamestown from between 1608-1610. The chair had a natural reed rush seat. Really the only work it needed was a cleaning and waxing.

Bring Your Furniture Back to Life

Bring Your Furniture Back to Life

What about modern furniture?

There’s lots of decent enough solid furniture out there, even from places like Restoration Hardware. Overall though, design is compromised for the cost savings of mass production. Handcrafted furniture can last for so long, sometimes centuries, because of the detail that went into it’s construction and design.

Do you have furniture pieces you love but can’t fully use because they’re broken or fragile? Don’t let them languish in your home or garage just taking up space. Explore the resources available to bring them back to life!

 

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Filed under Bay Area Services, Guest Experts, Memorabilia, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse

Are There Treasures in Your Attic?

How much is this worth?  How do you find out?

How much is this worth? How do you find out?

Let’s say you visit your garage or basement, looking for something you’ve stored there.  As you trip over boxes, furniture and odd-shaped  items that you’ve been housing there for years you realize that there is a lot of interesting stuff there… family heirlooms, furniture, art, books…but they aren’t on display and they’re just taking up room.  All that could be worth something.  What do you do about it?

If you think you want to sell some of it, this post is about finding out how much things are worth so that you can make a decision about whether to have your own estate sale, send items to auction, or donate things to your favorite charity…or a specific group, such as a local historical society, that would appreciate your collection of ephemera.

Mostly what determines an item’s value is current culture and styles. Even if something is very old or cost a fortune back in the day – if it isn’t valued in modern culture nobody will want to buy it! A beautiful set of antique china may not sell well because modern families just don’t entertain that way.

There are a variety of free online resources you can use to get a sense of how well different types of items would sell. Live Auctioneers is an international online auction site – their Auction Results Database is a great resource to search by keyword and see how comparable items have sold at auction.

Other resources for specific items:

Metals are a little different from other items in that regardless of how popular the type of item is, if it is made of a precious metal it will always hold the current market value of that metal. Monex.com is where you can find out those rates.

How do you tell the difference between sterling silver and silverplate?

Silverplate usually is marked with the label “EPNS,” “EP,” “EPS” or “EPC”. Silver will have the mark “Sterling Silver,” “Ster,” “925” or a picture of a lion. Another test is using a magnet – solid silver is not magnetic so if a magnet sticks to your silver item it likely is silver plated.

Another resource for finding out values is appraisal days at local auction houses. Here in the SF Bay Area both ClarsMichaan’s Auctions, and Slawinski Auctions host weekly appraisal days where you can bring in a few items for assessment. Most auction companies will come out to look at items if you have a significant amount or do an assessment from a photo if not.

Do you know of a good resource for valuing items? Share it here!

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Filed under Closets, Decluttering, Garage, General Organizing, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse

Excuse: “It’s Too Important To Let Go”

Would it be heartless to pass on your childhood awards?

Do sentimental items clog up your living space?

Have you ever opened up your desk drawer trying to find a pen and find yourself sifting through memorabilia–the medals of your recent 10K run, certificates, photographs, or ticket stubs?   If your memorabilia impedes your use of active space, it’s time to get serious about its true value.

Lately we’ve been reviewing a wonderful organizing resource book, It’s All Too Much, by Peter Walsh.  Peter also wrote a companion book, It’s all Too Much Workbook.

We appreciate Peter’s style of getting right to the heart of the emotional holdbacks our organizing clients face. One section of the book covers all the excuses we’ve heard for justifying keeping things that are no longer being used. Here is a great one and Peter’s response:

Excuse:  “It’s too important to let go.”

Excuse Buster: “If it is so important, then I must give it the honor and value it deserves (or let it go.)

Here’s how Peter counsels his clients on this topic:

“Don’t tell me something is important, has personal value, or is a family heirloom if it’s covered in dust, lost in a pile of clutter, or buried somewhere in your garage.  If you value an item, you need to show it the honor and respect it deserves.  Otherwise, it has no place in your home.  No discussion, no negotiation–it goes! Either you value something or you do not. You have room for something or you do not–it’s that simple.  If we each had a palace, we’d have infinite space in which to cherish and display our prized possessions.  Maybe you’d devote a whole room to the porcelain figurines you inherited from your grandmother.  But most of us don’t live in palaces, far from it.  You can’t own everything, so you have to pick and choose.  The value you say an item holds for you must be reflected in the place you give that item in your life, otherwise your words have no meaning and the object is little more than clutter.”

 So the next time you stumble upon some memorabilia in an inconvenient place, ask yourself, “Am I giving this the home it deserves?”

Are you really honoring the memory of this person or personal achievement?  Or is it keeping you from moving through your life with ease?

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Filed under General Organizing, Perspective, Strategies