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Guest opinion by Marlene Holmquist

There are 77 million Baby Boomers (1946-1974) in the U.S. right now, myself included. We share a simpler time filled with musical lyrics you can actually understand, and before the rush of technology that still baffles many of us. And like all generations, we share the passing of our parents, along with the aftermath. One of the toughest tasks that comes along with the inevitable is to figure out what to do with the personal belongings that meant so much to them. That’s the dilemma I faced when my father passed away peacefully in his sleep this past Christmas morning. Every single item (ridiculous or not) that was left was filled with memories. As a result, I found it difficult to decide what to keep, toss or donate.

As an interior designer, I was relieved our son saw the value in the purple sofas and gaudy ashtrays from the living room that my mother’s own interior designer had so carefully chosen. Our daughter gave a home to the Spanish coffee table that doubles as a craps table, and my son-in-law even had the wherewithal to stash a greasy old smudge pot from the lemon orchard into their horse trailer when my daughter wasn’t looking. I am sure that smudge pot will spark many a humorous conversation in the future.

What makes a house a home are items that spark our imagination and memories that make us feel good. Last month, I (reluctantly) brought home a box from dad’s house, filled with serving pieces from his mother’s dining room. I gasped at the gaudy 22k gold-painted creamer and sugar set as I unwrapped it. They now house Q-tips, Tums and cotton balls next to my mom’s lipstick holder and the gilded horse from my grandmother. That horse has helped display many a necklace on my master vanity for the past 20 years. This little grouping makes me smile every morning as I get ready for the day.

A gilded horse passed down through generations has special value for columnist Marlene Holmquist. Photo: Courtesy of Marlene Holmquist

As Erma Bombeck (American humorist with a syndicated column about suburban life from 1965-1996) so famously said, “Use the Good Stuff.” Back in the day, that meant the fine china, the crystal glasses, the sterling silver trays, and the sterling silver flatware that no one seems to find value in today. Sadly, today, you can find these items at almost any thrift or antique store for less than 5% of their original cost. There were dozens and dozens of these types of items for me to deal with. I gave away as many as I could to family members and kept a few sterling silver teapots to use as flower vases, and pewter trays that have actually become quite handy. They will always make me smile, even as I reluctantly get out the silver polish and ruin my manicure. At least, I finally decided to use the good stuff.

Marlene Holmquist, ASID, owns Luxury Ranch Interior Design, a full-service interior design company specializing in remodels for residences and small businesses. An avid equestrian known as “The Cowgirl Designer,” she is a member of the San Juan Capistrano Equestrian Coalition and Las Vaqueras Women’s Riding Club. luxury-ranch.com or thecowgirldesigner.com.

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