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What To Do With The Fancy Old Dishes

Posted by Ariel Davis on

Whether downsizing to a smaller home, preparing for a big move or simply decluttering, confronting years of accumulated stuff can be daunting, especially when that stuff carries sentimental or emotional weight.

No one knows this better than professional organizers who, as I recently learned from attending a National Association for Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO-CT) conference, often venture into the complex territory of helping clients navigate major life transitions in the process of helping them pare down their possessions for their next chapter.

Unlike other live events I've attended where I've really needed to explain the value of The Brooklyn Teacup's china upcycling service, the NAPO folks understood immediately. They were also super enthusiastic. Returning from the conference, I joked with my husband that I felt like a minor celebrity sitting at our booth. Nearly everyone who approached exclaimed how much they loved the concept and ogled over the creativity behind the designs.

NAPO-CT conference to show professional organizers the ways to help clients declutter their homes through upcycling vintage china

Flattery aside, I was happiest to hear the resounding chorus of organizers that felt our service could provide a real solution to their client's nagging problem of "what do to with the old china."

What To Do With The Old Dishes

If you (or your client) know that you don't plan to use the family dishes and are ready reclaim your storage space, here's our best advice for what to do next:

Step 1: Ask around

Even though you're the one who's stored the china for all these years, perhaps there is someone else in the family who feels a connection to the dinnerware who might want it. You never know until you ask. Especially if you also don't like the pattern and want it to dissapear, how easy would it be if someone else in the family just came to cart it away?

Step 2: Get Creative!

Professional organizers say that one of the barriers their clients face in parting ways with sentimental family china is that they think it's an all or nothing proposition. 

In reality, there are plenty of opportunities to simply repurpose items around the home into decor or unexpected serving pieces. We're not talking about crafting with it or creating other DIY projects that let's be honest, often just lead to more clutter.

A desert rose teacup and saucer turned into an herb and succulent planter on a window sill. Example of creative reuse.

Whether it’s using a teapot in lieu of a vase for fresh flowers, arranging plates to hang as decorative wall art, or upcycling your teacups or a gravy boat into scented candles, there are many way to infuse your home with cherished memories without kicking all of mom's or grandma's china to the curb.

Step 3: Upcycle it

Upcycling gives you the best of both worlds: you keep some of the china to turn into pretty and practical items you'll actually use and you regain your space. At the Brooklyn Teacup, we take great joy and pleasure giving new life to vintage treasures. It's our honor to help keep family memories in the family and spark new traditions with these pre-loved pieces.

desert rose china before and after upcycling image. Left side is a lot of different dishes, right side it the china transformed into serving pieces for cupcakes and desserts and a teacup birdfeeder

Step 4: Give it One Last Hoorah

If you've decided to part with your inherited china but still feel reluctant or guilty about giving it away, Washington Post writer Jura Koncius offer this fun solution: In her article "Five fresh ideas for the family china nobody wants" (which features The Brooklyn Teacup!), she suggests throwing it a party.

That's right. As Koncius puts it: If you’ve emailed every distant relative and canvassed your friends and can’t find anyone who wants it, it’s time to party.

Desert Rose Table Set for 12 with all the matching place settings, utensils and linens

Libby Kinkead, professional organizer and founder of Potomac Concierge who was interviewed for the article concurs. She advises, “Unwrap it all and set your table, invite your friends and have one last great time with your china...Take lots of photos and post them on Instagram. Then, get over it and kiss the china goodbye."

We'll cheers to that, with our vintage teacups!

eclectic blue and white teacups repurposed for drinking champagne - cheers in front of a red barn

5. Donate or Sell It 

Having celebrated with the china and picked out which pieces you want to repurpose or upcycle, you should feel free to donate or sell the remaining china collection with a clear conscience. 


Downsizing and decluttering your home can be a physically challenging and emotionally exhausting process.  With creative thinking and perhaps a little help from a professional organizer, it's possible to preserve sentimental items and create space for the things that matter. 

Want to learn more about upcycling?

If you're contemplating what to do with your family china or are helping a client through the process, we’d be delighted to chat. Visit our website to learn more about our unique china transformation service and the various options we have available. 


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