What to do with Grandma’s Tea Set?

It’s been forever and a day since you have heard from me.  I guess I have been a bit busy as I am sure you all have been too.  It’s been such a hard time with this Covid situation which feels like will never end.  

I want to share a fun story with you.  I inherited a china cabinet from my grandmother which also included a tea set that she had.  I honestly don’t know if she ever used it.  I had the tea set in this china cabinet for many years and never ever used it.  I actually thought “it might be lovely for a baby or a wedding shower someday but……. realistically, what would really happen?  Likely, a punch bowl that comes with mugs or paper cups and paper plates (I know right?) 

My mom always said to me that this set was going to be worth money some day (which of course it likely won’t be – gold rimmed dishes and all) and that I could never give it away.  It felt like pressure to me because I didn’t really want to keep something I wasn’t using. So…..I packed away the dishes. My mom had not been to my house for many years because my dad was ill and we couldn’t leave him alone.  My dad passed away on Feb 01 of this year after being ill with many medical issues.  So really a bittersweet time for us all.  

My 91 year old mom, now on her own, said she wanted to come over to my house as she couldn’t really remember where I lived.  She has early stage dementia so having difficulty with her short term memory.  I just imagined my mom coming into my home and going straight for the china cabinet looking for these dishes (which have been packed away and luckily I did keep them).  

I decided (at the last minute) to dig them out from the box, wash them and have them ready for lunch with my mom.  I started by pouring us some coffee into the little tea cups.  My mom said they were perfect, exactly what she likes.  It was a beautiful day so we were able to go into the backyard to have our lunch.  Eventually, I said to my mom, “do you remember these dishes?” She said yes, she thought they looked familiar” I told her they were Grandma’s Dishes. She said “I thought so and I am so glad you have them, because you use them. I said no, I just got them out for you”. I know my mom appreciated it so much and I am so happy that I did not get rid of them. Some things are definitely worth keeping.

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About Kim

Kim Tremblay is a Clutter and Hoarding Specialist. She has worked with individuals helping them clear the physical and emotional clutter from their lives since 2008. Kim founded and co-facilitated a Clearing Clutter Support Group which has helped hundreds of individuals to make positive changes in their lives. Kim is currently working virtually with clients helping them to clear the emotional and/or physical clutter from their lives.
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26 Responses to What to do with Grandma’s Tea Set?

  1. Andi Willlis says:

    What a sweet story. I think actually using those precious items is how we honor our loved ones. Keeping them in a box feels like we are scared of damaging a memory when we really know that we can’t damage it.

    • Kim says:

      Hi Andi,
      That is such an interesting point. I was really worried about having my mom over and thinking she would notice those dishes missing. I am not sure that she would have but I know she was so appreciative of the special lunch we had. I hope we can do it again soon!

  2. First of all, I love that tea set from your grandmother. I have one very similar and other keepsakes passed down from my family. They’re very special and I do use them.

    The question you asked yourself, “Do I use this?” when deciding what to do with the tea set is exactly what we encourage our clients do. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to keep something we don’t use. Unless it holds a special memory.

    Taking the tea set out, unpacking it just for your mom, was a beautiful gift. I know it touched her and she remembered it. That must have been a special moment for the two of you.

    • Kim says:

      Hi Ronni
      Thank you for your comment. I am so thankful that I did hang on to the Tea Set. I was so tempted to let it go because I wasn’t using it. My mom really loved this.

  3. What a lovely post! My mother-in-law just passed in February and we have been clearing out her home for sale. There are only a few items we needed in our home so we decided to pick items that were my husband’s grandmother’s, like an end table and a bench. To update them and make them new again, I when and used chalk paint and cleaned/painted them, and gave them new life. It is a lovely way to honor the ones that passed. I did this also with an armoire of my father’s when he passed. Keeping everything is not feasible but keeping the right things will bring joy and memories to your life.

    • Kim says:

      That is a great way to keep some things that are old and make them new again. I have thought about painting the china cabinet with chalk paint – just haven’t gotten to it yet! I do think its important though to just keep the most important and cherished items that have been left by our loved ones. I honestly don’t know what this will be like with my mom. Thank you Sabrina

  4. Sara Skillen says:

    This post is a lovely reminder that if we have space to keep something meaningful, it’s totally ok to do just that. Just because we don’t use something every day doesn’t mean it can’t have a positive impact. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Kim says:

      Yes! I agree. Sometimes, I have a hard time with this as I can really get in the mode of major decluttering. I don’t keep much that I don’t actually use. I am definitely a wanna be minimalist.

  5. Beautiful story, Kim. I’m so glad you thought to get the dishes out and use them with your mom. That’s a memory to treasure. I like the comment that Sara made: there’s no harm keeping something if you have the space! I would add: also as long as you remember you have it and will bring it out on occasion.

    • Kim says:

      So true Diane – I actually had to think “should I get them out as I had to wash them, couldn’t use them in the microwave, etc”. Still had to clean up, make lunch – you know what I am saying. I am so glad I did. Thank you for your comment.

  6. My heart goes out to you, Kim, for the passing of your father and that your mom has early dementia. I’ve been through this with my parents and understand how hard-wrenching this can be. My dad died in 2012, and my mom just passed away in March after living with dementia for eight-plus years.

    I love that you decided to keep your grandmother’s dishes and use them for the special tea party with your mom. That is the sweetest story. So often, we feel the need to let go of things just because we think we “should.” And while you were ready to say good-bye to the dishes, it sounds like by keeping them, and you created a meaningful, treasured interaction for you and your mom—what a loving thing to do.

    • Kim says:

      Thank you Linda – it has been a hard time. My dad had been dealing with health issues for a long time so it has been bittersweet. It sure does change everything though. It is so hard to see our parents decline in their health. Thanks so much for commenting.

  7. I have my mother’s tea set and I happily have it on display in her china cabinet. I only remember using it once when my dad came over and it was nice for us to share an unspoken memory. I also like to use it as props for photography – https://www.instagram.com/p/CMKqXPfsUT3/

    • Kim says:

      What a great idea Janet. I am really happy that I didn’t let this set go. One of my friends suggested that maybe I could have a tea party with my grands at some point.

  8. My mother-in-law recently sold her large condo to move into an apartment. When asked if I wanted any crystal, I jumped at the opportunity to acquire a few more claret and water glasses. When we got married, I had chosen the same pattern as my MIL had (because I loved it) so it’s nice to know it all matches. I do use those very expensive wine glasses every time I get!

    • Kim says:

      That is so awesome Margarita. And that you have the same pattern too. I think it is so important to just pick out those few special things to keep and save from our loved ones. Thanks for commenting.

  9. Seana Turner says:

    Oh, I love this story. I can just picture the scene with you and your Mom, sipping from those teacups. That’s what these dishes were intended for – a special, shared moment. So hard when our parents start to lose their ability to record new memories, but also all the more meaningful when they connect with something from the past. That was a gesture of love for your Mom. What a nice Mother’s Day treat!

    • Kim says:

      Hi Seana,
      Thank you so much. I actually asked my mom today if my grandma used the tea set and she said no, she (my mom) used it with her friends. It was so fun to do this with her.

  10. April says:

    Such a lovely story, you’re fortunate to have them and all the years you’ve had them in the box is worth the one lunchtime you had with your mom. Keep them at the ready for more action for special occasions. Your little granddaughter will treasure them some day if you save them for her.

    • Kim says:

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting April.I am so glad I kept them and I would like to find a few pieces to add to the set. Need a matching tea pot and a sugar bowl and creamer. My sugar bowl has no lid and I don’t know what happened to the creamer. Many thanks my friend.

  11. Lucy Kelly says:

    This is such a tender story, Kim. How cool that you were able to easily find those special dishes! Now every time you use them, they’ll remind you of this sweet time.

  12. Julie Bestry says:

    First, my condolences for your father’s passing. Second, thank you for sharing this lovely story. You built new memories with your mom, and perhaps you’ll find ways to incorporate your tea set in your life going forward. I’m not a tea drinker, but I love English tea and those tiny finger sandwiches. Maybe you can invite a friend over to lunch on occasion, post-pandemic, and have tiny sandwiches…and your favorite beverage (diet Coke for me) in the teacups.

    • Kim says:

      Thank you Julie
      Yes, I am just really happy that I kept them because I do love to downsize, especially things I do not use. I can see myself using them again.

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