Frank Work is well beyond the years when you can play hooky and get away with it. Yet, he finds himself daydreaming about ditching his brothers and sister this Saturday at a pivotal family event.
They’re hosting an estate sale at their childhood home and Frank doesn’t want to go.
“Just, you know, let me know when it’s over,” Work said.
“It’s been tough in that way because you go through stuff… ‘Oh, I remember that! I remember that.'”
Over the last few months, the family has been deciding what to do with hundreds of pieces of furniture, dishware, collectables and other items in their parents’ Calgary home of more than 50 years.
Their father passed away six years ago and their mother is in a retirement community, so the job falls to them.
It’s a bittersweet experience many baby boomers are going through as their parents pass away or move into retirement homes or smaller accommodations.
Each family member has gravitated to the things they have an emotional attachment to.
Cathy Work is keeping the paintings and vases her mother cherished. Granddaughters will each receive one of their grandmother’s trifle bowls. Frank decided to keep his childhood electric train and the front door.
“I guess I just remember coming and going through that door,” he explained.
“For the years I was going to law school in Montreal or working in Bermuda, whenever I would come back to Calgary for a visit or coming here for Christmas or Thanksgiving, I always of course came through that front door.”
The estate sale will offer up items unclaimed by family members.
Donna Ritchie, president of Brian Lehman Evaluations, has noticed a distinct trend in what is being passed down versus passed along.
“There’s definitely an abundance on the market right now of silver and crystal and china,” Ritchie said. “The value is not as high as it once was because supply and demand.”
Ritchie says her appraisal team is swamped as a growing number of Canadians reach their senior years and lifestyle trends change.
“Up until the ’90s, it was a collecting time period. Now, there is more of a letting-go period — less is more — so we’re starting to see that trend of people letting things go.”
Ritchie also says younger family members often don’t want to keep labour-intensive formal pieces, even if they were grandma’s.
“They’re not as formal as they once were. Now they’re being a little bit more simplistic,” Ritchie said. “People like to put things in the dishwasher, so we’re finding that everyday use is more to people’s liking than to see it stashed in a china cabinet.”
Ritchie, who has been in the appraisal industry for decades, says gold, paintings, coins and rare collectables tend to hold their value. But pieces with emotional significance are worth holding on to as well.
“If you love it and it has a special memory in your life, then you should keep it.”
For Frank, that’s the front door. He plans to refinish it, attach it to the front of his house, and walk through it for many more years.