Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Doing it up brown?

I’ve been reading that vinyl LP’s are making a comeback. And I’ve been reading that “brown furniture” is death knelling.

Not in my house. At least not in the living room.

My favorite wood is cherry, but in my LR (which doubles as my DR), I have a mahogany table and chairs, and a matching credenza. I’m guessing the set is from the 1930’s or 1940’s. We got it 30+ years ago at an antique store in Brookline, where it likely landed after an estate sale, demonstrating that, even back in the 1980’s, interest in brown furnishings were on the decline.

I also have a dark wood chair that came from my Aunt Margaret’s dining room set. Not sure what the wood is – I’m no expert – but it’s dark. Not to mention too rickety to sit on.

Then there’s the claw foot table that came from my grandmother’s house. (Mahogany.) And the rickety desk and rickety chair (fake mahogany) that also came from Nanny’s. I know just how rickety that chair is because it fell apart when I went to sit in it a few weeks ago. I have some wood glue, and I’ll get around to wood gluing it at some point. But since I’m usually here by myself, there’s no big hurry. As long as I avoid the Peg and Nanny chairs, I’ll manage not to break my hip while attempting to sit and have my lunch.

I also have a mahogany glass-front china cabinet. It holds the CD’s that replaced vinyl LPs. I got this about 30 years ago at an antique store in Cohasset. Again, it likely landed there because no one wanted it.

But it looks like when I got to jettison my brown furniture – whether pre- or posthumous – I may not have any takers.

The Baby Boomers who were apparently all too eager if not willing to latch on to some of their parents’ and grandparents’ wares are finding no takers for this and all the other stuff they’ve accumulated and need to shed now that they’re downsizing.

For generations, adult children have agreed to take their aging parents’ possessions — whether they wanted them or not. But now, the anti-clutter movement has met the anti-brown-furniture movement, and the combination is sending dining room sets, sterling silver flatware, and knick-knacks straight to thrift stores or the curb.

And feelings are getting hurt, as adult children who are eager to minimize their own belongings — and who may live in small spaces, and entertain less formally than their parents did — are increasingly saying “no thanks” to the family heirlooms. (Source: Boston Globe)

This, of course, has given rise to something called “senior move management.”

The thriving industry is a symptom of the challenge. While the senior-move specialists assist older clients with the mundane aspects of moving — choosing a mover, say, or calling the cable company — they also play the role of family therapist, buffer, diplomat.

I have no children to guilt and, in truth, while there are few things that I hope stay en famille – the steer horns that hung in my grandfather’s saloon, my grandmother’s cookie jar – in truth, once I’m gone, it all my stuff ends up in a flea market or on eBay or at the St. Vincent dePaul thrift shop, that’s fine with me. If it just hits the dumpster, well, I don’t want to know about it. Which, presumably, I won’t.

And, fortunately, I never did get fancy china, silver, or crystal. So I don’t have to worry about someone turning their nose up at my Lenox and Waterford. (My dishware is Dansk, and my stainless came courtesy of my mother who used, I believe, Betty Crocker coupons to get it. Since my mother was a mostly scratch baker – the only boxed cake mix I remember her using was for angel food cake - I’m not sure how she managed to collect enough Betty Crocker coupons to get full stainless sets for each of her daughters, but there you have it.)

In any case, at 1,200 square feet, and never having owned a big house in the ‘burbs, I’m somewhat downsized already, so I don’t think I’ll ever have to avail myself of the senior move management industry.  

Unknown just a few decades ago, the field now has a trade group — the National Association of Senior Move Managers — that counts 950 member companies.

One of the services they offer is reaching out to family members to see if there are any takers for, say, that Hummel collection.

I was talking to a gym acquaintance a few weeks ago, and she’s going through this problem now. S is younger than I am – maybe in her 50’s – and she was an only child whose parents both died within the last few years. She decided to move back into the house she grew up in. But she wants her stuff there, not all those ghosts of Christmas past.

Yes, she wants to keep that cool 1950’s luggage her parents use on their honeymoon. It’s fun and – of course – she can store stuff in it. But what to do with her mother’s Royal Doulton statues? She’s reached out to all her cousins to see if someone wants the Balloon Seller. But all her cousins are trying to figure out where they can foist off the stuff they’ve inherited from their parents.

Meanwhile, I actually have another accumulation I need to do something about: all those dead laptops going back 15 years or so. I have a closet full of them. Maybe I should call one of those senior move management companies and have them come over and take a look. Maybe I can throw a tchotchke or two in as a sweetener.

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