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Do you ever think about the provenance of things for sale in charity shops? (could be upsetting)

(83 Posts)
WeBuiltThisBuffetOnSausageRoll Wed 12-Feb-20 01:04:55

I often see items in charity shops and wonder about the situations that led to them being there. Some of them must be sad and others probably amusing.

Most stuff is straightforward - outgrown baby things and toys, clothes that people have replaced with new items or which no longer fit, upgraded electricals, unwanted gifts etc.

But I was doing a charity shop trawl the other day and, among other things, there was a lovely soft little teddy bear with "I love Daddy" written across his tummy and a '50th Wedding Anniversary' picture frame - quite a nice one too - although it had the 'stock' picture in there and hadn't apparently been used; unless it had and the personal photo had since been removed before donating or even by the shop staff themselves before displaying.

I've also seen other one-of-a-kind personalised items that one would have expected to mean something very special to the owners or to their descendants - not talking about generic tat taken off the rack in the gift shop with the top 20 kids' names printed on, but things engraved with a person's name and '40 years' service at XXX company' and the like. Obviously only worth a couple of quid at most to anybody unconnected.

I think the same about things that come up on eBay or for auction as well - such as this from a few days ago - a man who was awarded a very special medal, but now needs the money: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-51383434. It seems sad to me that somebody with plenty of money will end up owning it, even though it will hold no personal memories at all for them and will surely bring them much less joy than the man who was specifically awarded it. Also, this story from November about a man selling his late father's much-loved teddy: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-stoke-staffordshire-50574030

Maybe I overthink things and maybe some people are just pragmatic about 'stuff'. Perhaps some of the personal items came from deceased people with no family and an anonymous house clearance company has swept their former home and already sold anything valuable.

Am I the only one - just a pathetic, sentimental old fool - or have other people pondered this? Or have you given something to a charity shop that might have caused people to wonder the same? Did you find it hard to part with but needed the space, easy to offload something that had become a burden or held painful/mixed memories or just thought "I don't want this clutter" and didn't give it a second thought?

OldHarrysGameboy Wed 12-Feb-20 01:19:39

When I came to clear my parents' house, my overwhelming feeling was to keep everything, at first. And then I realised I couldn't, because there was a houseful of things and I also have my own stuff. What I kept from there will be whittled down in time when I go. It is what it is. Unless we turn the entire country into a procession of mausoleums, people will part with things that come into their possession. Most of your treasured items will end up in the 50p bin, unless you're the queen. All that you really leave are memories, and they do matter, but they also disappear when the person holding them does.

It's the eternal problem. The only thing that survives is your diluted DNA. There isn't an answer. Sorry.

WeBuiltThisBuffetOnSausageRoll Wed 12-Feb-20 01:49:42

Thanks, OldHarrysGameboy - beautifully put.

I'm not really looking for an 'answer' as such, as it's up to individuals living their own lives, and I'm not convinced that there is one; but FWIW I think you're right.

I suppose it's just stopping for a moment and seeing what may (or may not be) a complete stranger's memento mori and taking a moment to consider things from their pov.

Nandocushion Wed 12-Feb-20 01:55:18

Well, tbh the "50th Wedding Anniversary" picture frame and the "40 years with X company" thing sound like awful tat to me that I would get rid of immediately. But I was thinking about this just the other day as I'm trying to clear out some junk from our house and one of the things I found was a "baby's first Christmas" embroidered rug from my late Nana. Only thing is, it wasn't embroidered by her - it's the ugliest piece of fabric I've ever seen, and I'm pretty sure it was ordered from the back of a magazine or something, it's cheap and nylon and horrible and really means nothing to either of us (DD is a teenager now). But it's "sentimental" so not sure I can throw it away without feeling guilty. I probably will anyway though.

OldHarrysGameboy Wed 12-Feb-20 01:59:29

Well, that's a nice thought and not something I'd considered re my parents' items but actually I do that too so maybe something of us does live on in a way, because that's what thoughts are. A moment's reflection doesn't cost us much but it keeps things going. Thanks OP, I'm going to be thinking of all the people up and down the country who look at items and consider, every day, now, and feel a bit more happy.

OldHarrysGameboy Wed 12-Feb-20 02:02:38

Maybe the erstwhile owner of the 50th anniversary frame is now sunning herself in mustique with a 25 yo having ditched hubby+pipe+slippers?

dontgobaconmyheart Wed 12-Feb-20 02:06:48

I see your point but also I think these things are often more about the sentiment, and the context at the time they were given. Things from a past love can have had huge meaning at the time but none if it ends. People keep things when people die to get them through that time and then often dilute those down over the years, keep one or two things. Engraved gifts and the like aren't to a lot of peoples taste so I'm not surprised they end up in a charity shop, when they can be given up and the sentiment still appreciated.

I'm of the opinion that it doesnt need to be held in esteem or memoriam forever to have had the value it was intended to have. I'm not one for keeping 'stuff' so tend not to either. DP and I recently did a huge cull of all the tat we gave each other in the early days of dating (been together 13 years since we were 19) - we don't need tangible symbols anymore and have ticked off all the cliched gifts- it's become clutter and it was nice to laugh at them, think what on earth was wrong with us and clear it all out to charity. I think we kept a few cards and a couple of tiny joke gifts that made us laugh and that's all.

Kez200 Wed 12-Feb-20 06:21:52

Yes I do too.

Not generally but then one thing will hit me. Last time it was a glass the type of which my Nan had. Made me think.

HelgaHere1 Wed 12-Feb-20 06:29:05

When DM died I discovered that many of her 'good' things that she thought were valuable and special were actually almost worthless eg nice tea services with, sadly one or two pieces missing, pictures which when looked at closely had foxing and discolouring, in her cold house, holiday souvenirs which were worthless.
Made me realise keeping stuff for best is not advised and 'nice' ornaments are now out of date.

OccasionalNachos Wed 12-Feb-20 06:29:14

I do sometimes think about this stuff - teddies and stuffed animals (anything with a face really) get me more than photo frames and personalised things, mostly because having seen the sheer amount of celebratory tat that my parents and grandparents received for their significant wedding anniversaries, it would be unfeasible to keep all of it forever. That photo frame may well have been one of six received, possibly a duplicate!

The teddy would break my heart a bit, even though realistically it will probably have been donated from an older child...

EnidBlyton Wed 12-Feb-20 06:59:10

I buy clothes from charity shops and do occasional consider this was a clear out from some old lady's possessions , or old man if its for dh. But i think no more after that.

scrivette Wed 12-Feb-20 07:06:50

I was helping at a jumble sale the other day and a lovely piece of embroidery was donated that had been done for someone's 50th anniversary with their names and dates.
It made me sad that someone had put the time and effort in and this is where it ended up. (It was a good few years old so I suspect the people had died).

BalloonSlayer Wed 12-Feb-20 07:22:54

My Dad was a collector of a niche item. Some of his pieces were worth a lot of money, others very little; we couldn't tell. When we tried to broach the subject of what would happen to his collection when he eventually died, he always said he didn't care what happened to it as he would be gone.

Come the time, most of it (we all kept some bits to remember him by) the collection was auctioned by a specialist. I thought it would be heart-rending but most of it was bought by people he knew from the collecting scene - some of whom had had their eye on "Balloon'sDad's xx item" for years - and were now thrilled to be able to buy it. It was nice to see it all going to a new home. I hope Dad would have been chuffed with the amount of money fetched, although I expect he would have said it should have been more.

One of his best friends asked me where a particular item was as it hadn't come up in the sale and he had wanted to buy it. We had at random stuck it for the "keep to remember Dad by" collection, so I gave it to him and he was quite confused as he didn't want to get it for nothing (I don't think "here, go on, you can have it," was a "thing" in their circles), it was only worth about a tenner anyway! grin

So what I am saying is that not everyone is all that bothered, and in fact may even welcome it.

CeibaTree Wed 12-Feb-20 07:31:11

I think it goes to show that things and clothes that we think are 'disposable' last longer than we do! It's tea and crockery sets that make me think the most - especially immaculately kept ones that presumably were someone long gone's pride and joy and saved only for special occasions. I always think it was a shame that these were kept for best and not used daily by the person that owned them. Very poignant thread OP!

Calledyoulastnightfromglasgow Wed 12-Feb-20 07:36:04

I think this a lot too but am a sentimental old fool. We have a zero waste shop nearby and some of the trinkets have set me off. Lots of little pictures from Greece or spain that look 1980s to me. I imagine them being carefully chosen and hung on a wall where they stay until someone dies age 80 and they are discarded. Just memories.

I also see lots of silverware “Presented to William Jones with great appreciation from all at Smiths limited.”

Makes you wonder - I try not to buy anything much now as it will just be discarded!

WelcometoCranford Wed 12-Feb-20 07:47:41

We probably all have "too much" stuff. I have a box full of similar tat from my 18th birthday. It seems a shame to bin/charity shop it as the people gave it with love.... but I'm realistically not going to use 18th-branded glasses at any point. Thankfully, I firmly refused to have a 21st party hmm so I escaped more. Give me experiences, not an ornament.

AllPointsNorth Wed 12-Feb-20 07:49:56

I liked the idea of my parents’ stuff going to a new home rather than the dump.

DreamingofSunshine Wed 12-Feb-20 07:57:28

Something like the 50th anniversary embroidery would make me sad, but equally I'm not sure if we are meant to hold onto this stuff forever, one could be overrun with items.

Last year we moved from a four bed house to a two bed house and did a huge clear out. I had kept every card DH and I had ever exchanged (11 plus years) but realized that it was a growing pile that we never looked at and would turn into a huge bundle of paper for our DS to sort out so I put it all in the recycling bin.

The only things I care about what happens to them are my engagement ring and diamond studs, and Chanel bag. I'd hope to pass them onto a younger relative.

ElectricMistofelees Wed 12-Feb-20 08:14:21

“Maybe I overthink things and maybe some people are just pragmatic about 'stuff'.”

This is a large part of your answer - nothing more, nothing less!

bsc Wed 12-Feb-20 08:59:43

We are too attached to things, and I have no idea why. Why do we need them? When you think of the future, exploring space etc, we won't take anything with us of this type of ephemera, only essentials will make it on board.
I think the people of the future will look back at the 20th and 21st centuries and think we were insane.

Rubychard Wed 12-Feb-20 09:14:32

Personally, I just think you can’t keep everything forever.

My parents small house is bursting at the seams. When friends have died, and they’ve been invited to choose a few items, they do so without consideration for where it will go. They have boxes unopened from when they moved in 50 years ago, a china cabinet full of wedding presents (now married 64 years) etc etc.

Mum, in particular, cannot bear to part with anything. Trust me, when they shuffle off, it’s all going. A few sentimental bits will be kept and there is simply no room for the rest.

I recently joined a fb group called charity shop shit. Buyers and charity shop volunteers post pics of stuff. And I look at stuff (particularly China) and wonder why anyone in their right mind would buy it, new or otherwise. And why anyone in their right mind would manufacture it in the first place. And due to the times we’re living in (too much plastic soup etc) it’s changed the way I think about buying things.

Sooner things went to the charity shop than The tip tho.

WeBuiltThisBuffetOnSausageRoll Wed 12-Feb-20 11:39:13

The teddy would break my heart a bit, even though realistically it will probably have been donated from an older child...

Yes, it was the teddy that particularly got to me. It probably was an older child, but that still makes me sad to think that a child grew up and didn't have any lovely memories of the time when they were little and their teddy declaring their love for their daddy.

Yes, they likely don't call him 'Daddy' any more (although plenty of older kids and adults still do) and they probably don't randomly vocalise their love for him in the same simple way, but to me, it would be like throwing away my baby photos as no longer relevant to me 'because I'm not a baby any more'. Maybe they just feel they've moved on from that stage - or maybe he didn't actually behave like a daddy they could love sad

NotMeNoNo Wed 12-Feb-20 11:47:44

We have a guideline we can keep a box of mementoes (we call it the "my precious" box) in the loft for each person or for things from grandparents, that's enough for really special items, but much more than that it becomes just hoarding.
It's one reason I think personalised/embroidered novelty gifts and souvenirs, especially for one off occasions, are a big old waste of money, space and carbon footprint.

NotMeNoNo Wed 12-Feb-20 11:49:22

Also most children have their own body weight in teddies and soft toys and sometimes even very cute ones aren't the ones that mean most to them.

bookmum08 Wed 12-Feb-20 11:50:22

My local Cancer Research shop once had a massive amount of Buffy/Angel books and memorabilia for sale and I mentioned outloud that I wondered the 'back story' for such a large collection. The story was quite simple. The owner had cancer. No one in his family was a Buffy/Angel fan so he had suggested it goes to the charity shop after he had gone.
Reading all the gift giving posts on here about 'pointless tat' like pictureframes, mugs and soft toys etc I really aren't shocked to see an I love Daddy mug in the shops.

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