An antique shop owner and a historian share how they decide what’s worth holding onto

The average American house holds approximately 300,000 items. From antiques to artifacts, we learn how two professionals decide what's worth keeping.

According to the research firm Property Shark, American homes built in the last 6 years are 74% larger than those built in the 1910s. that means more space… for more things.

So how do we decide what to hold onto? It’s kind of an unanswerable question, yet we do our best to answer it every single day. We choose what we want and what we don’t want – documents, clothes, pictures, you name it — and it’s not always an easy decision.

Yet, as even those who do it professionally will tell you, the secret formula for determining the value of those things — is a lot closer than we might think.

Take George Anne Stringer, who does it for a living.

George Anne: I’m an antique shop owner right at this moment…

She says at the moment, but George Anne’s been in the business of old stuff for a little bit now.

George Anne:..Close to forty years.

And every time she walks into anyone else’s shop, she still has the same reaction.

George Anne: …I’m home. (laughs) Oh wow, like I’ve died and went to heaven, it’s wonderful!

Another lover of old stuff — and shops like George Anne’s — is historian Brad Belk.

Brad: When I go into an antique store, I’m like a child in a playground full of playground toys to play with or whatever, it’s just fascinating.

Like George Anne, Brad is in the industry of antiquity. When it comes to evaluating artifacts like those you’ll find in the Joplin Museum, he says it’s more subjective than one might think.

Brad: Defining value on an artifact has multiple definitions. One of them is the price of the artifact today and the future. There’s the sentimental value, the historical value. So there are different perspectives on everything. We are such a consumer society, and we hold onto our items and sometimes we dispose of them and sometimes we sell them. The value of those are different from the perspective that you come from.

The National association of productivity and organizing — oh yes, it’s a real organization — says 80% of the items we keep are never used…leaving really only question.

Brad: What should we hold onto? Well that is the thousand dollar question in that respect. For the person, I think the things that have meaning to your family and your life are the things that one needs to hold onto.

Brad recommends saving photos — they’re frozen moments in time that tell a story with the ones you love. George Anne agrees, and says it’s all about the people.

George Anne: Well I see in this wood, I see places that are worn. A certain person sat at this table, in the same place, and they’ve worn their spot. Someone’s hand has been right here where my hand is, and they’ve loved this table.
George Anne: (laughs) It’s sentimental, I know, but maybe it is sentimental.

Brad: You have longevity in your life way beyond your years…and it’s going to be, and should be well taken care of, and still of value, 100 years from now, 200 years from now, and the story gets better and more valued as you move forward in time.

No matter what you choose to save, remember — it’s your personal connection that truly defines its value.