How to Politely Say No to Family Heirlooms You Don’t Want

How to Politely Say No to Family Heirlooms


Your grandmother wants to pass her prized tea set and china collection on to you. Your godmother has a collection of valuable artwork that’s not your style. Your own mother is looking to clear out her jewelry box and says you need to take some of your favorite pieces.

But, you don’t want any of it. So how do you politely decline a family heirloom?

When it comes to getting rid of family heirlooms, many baby boomers and Gen Xers aren’t prepared for the task. Not only are fewer people collecting heirlooms as they once did, but many millennials just don’t have the space to store such items.

Speaking of heirlooms, see how Jackie Kennedy decorated the White House.

“It’s the biggest challenge our members have and it’s getting worse,” said Mary Kay Buyssee, executive director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers in a 2017 Forbes article.

So how do you handle the hand-me-down heirlooms?

If you’re short on space, just say so. An understanding family member shouldn’t expect you to take on a big china collection if you don’t have the space to store it all. You can offer to take just a couple pieces such a china cup and saucer and have them professionally framed in a shadowbox and then show off the heirloom in a favorite spot.

Inherit some mugs? Consider making a DIY mug display.

If you just don’t want the item, polite say that you don’t think you’ll use it. You can also say it’s just not your style. You can back this up by saying you’ll check around to see if someone you know could use the item(s). You can also offer to help donate the item to a thrift store or sell it on craigslist or eBay. Doing so will show the person you care about the item and what happens to it, even though you aren’t able to take it.

Downsize your home with help from these 12 tips.

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Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.