Years ago my mother gave me a bunch of really nice furniture that was actually the stuff I grew up with in our family's home. It's really nice, walnut veneered, solid REAL furniture -- a large dining room table and chairs, some desks and night stands, and several occasional tables. She even paid to have the pieces refinished for me. It has been fabulous having the furniture, and I am so grateful to have had it.
But, as my decorating taste has evolved over recent years, I find that the furniture just doesn't "work" for me any more. I have plenty of other family hand-me-down dolls, pictures, and various tchotchkes that I have been able to box up in the attic, hoping that someday I'll have a space for them. But, the furniture -- not so easy to shove into a box and stow it away.
I don't want to appear unappreciative, HTT. But I need to figure out how to talk to Mom about my feelings without coming across as an ungrateful brat. She's a great parent in every way, and I wouldn't purposely hurt her feelings for anything in the world. Can you help me figure this out? How can I have the home and furnishings that I want without making my mother feel bad? Or, should I just suck it up and live with the furniture until my mother's gone to the great beyond?
Daughter in Distress
Technically, when someone gives us a gift, it becomes ours to do with as we please. But, sure, you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. You quietly exchange the polka CD from Uncle Joe for the newest from Iron and Wine. The giant, feather-covered hair clip your sister-in-law made in her crafting circle? You strategically place it on your dresser before she visits, suggesting that you’d just used it the day before. Nana’s sweatshirt covered with holiday-themed embroidery? Wear it only when you visit your grandmother.
As you point out, however, you can’t just whip out your mother’s dining room table the day before her visit and stow it away once she leaves. So honesty’s the best policy. Unlike the hair clip example, you actually used to like the furniture and got years of good use out of it before your decorating aesthetic evolved. So tell your mother how grateful you are that she gave you the furniture and about how you enjoyed it all this time. But explain that your taste has changed and that you have the opportunity to buy some new furniture that now suits you better. Offer to return the furniture to her, and take responsibility for moving it back.
Chances are, your mother will understand. She’s probably redecorated her home several times over the years (like, after she gave you the walnut-veneered furniture you’re currently feeling guilty about), so surely she’ll empathize with your desire for something new.