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America's attics, basements and garages are filled with treasures

Previous generations kept nearly everything they had — a fact that’s easy to overlook in today’s fast-paced, disposable world.

Furniture was built to last; jewelry, often carefully handcrafted, was treasured and shareda> with family members. <

Not just that: With infectious-disease potentially turning into an endemic, many activities such as garage, attic and basement sales have returned this spring already or are about to — offering even more opportunity to snag treasures from someone who has made the decision to part with them after years of holding them close.

Sentimental value and much more

A New York woman years ago helped a friend unpack and clean out her parents’ house after the parents had passed away. Treasured items of all kinds occupied every room, including the garage — some of which the parents’ daughter donated, some of which she kept and some of which she gave away to family and friends.

A nice set of tools — passed down by family or not — can be a highly coveted gift for the DIY craftsman or craftswoman in your life. 

A nice set of tools — passed down by family or not — can be a highly coveted gift for the DIY craftsman or craftswoman in your life. 
(iStock)

The New York woman recalls how her friend gifted her with a set of tools her dad had used for decades — they were in near-perfect condition. The woman eventually gave them to her own sons.

Another woman, whose parents lived in the lower Hudson Valley of New York, also spent time cleaning out the house after her parents passed from this Earth. She shared handmade blankets, kitchen items and much more with her two daughters, as well as with friends and neighbors. 

A New York woman recalls how her friend gifted her with a set of tools her dad had used for decades — they were in near-perfect condition. The woman gave them to her own sons.

Using hand-me-downs is practical for anyone hoping to redecorate this spring. It’s good for the environment. It can even be a nice mood booster if the items have sentimental value — or if someone learns that a great-grandmother’s style was actually pretty great.

“There’s joy in putting a piece together and knowing you’re restoring a piece of history,” Shawn Hollenbach, a New York City comedian, told The Associated Press. 

Do you have a jewelry box like this one somewhere in your home? 

Do you have a jewelry box like this one somewhere in your home? 
(iStock)

He recently rehabbed an antique settee that had been among his late mother’s prized possessions.

It was a challenging DIY project. The fabric was badly worn; he had not reupholstered anything before. But today, he proudly shows it to house guests and tells the story of this cozy piece of furniture.

“It just gives you a sense of pride,” he said.

One family "upcycled" this outdoor bench — rather than toss it or donate it.

One family "upcycled" this outdoor bench — rather than toss it or donate it.

There can be stress too, though, as items tied to family history can carry emotional baggage.

Yet as interior designer Melissa Cooley of the Washington, D.C., firm Case Design told The Associated Press: Take those precious items out of their boxes. Dust off the furniture. Take a fresh look.

“You don’t do them honor by keeping them in the attic,” she said.

‘Even the dishes were from the 1940s’

Aileen Weintraub, a veteran of handling furnishings from family, recently published a memoir, “Knocked Down,” which details the months she spent on bedrest in a house filled with items her husband’s family owned for generations. There’s also a barn full of hand-me-downs from her own family.

“It’s become the most beautiful spot to sit and watch the sunset every evening.”

“I was trapped in this old farmhouse with everybody else’s furniture,” she told the AP. “Even the dishes were from the 1940s.”

MAN FINDS HIDDEN ATTIC IN NEW HOUSE FULL OF VALUABLE ANTIQUES

Eventually she persuaded her husband to try moving some items to new locations or use them in new ways. A sofa was moved to give better access to a view out of a window. A marble-topped table didn’t look right anywhere but was too precious to give away — so they put it outside on a covered porch. 

Old things can become new again — as long as someone has the eye, and the time, to make them so.

It hadn’t been designed as outdoor furniture — but Weintraub said, “it’s become the most beautiful spot to sit and watch the sunset every evening.”

A family in New Jersey inherited many beautifully handmade quilts and blankets from a grandmother — and now those quilts and blankets, still in terrific shape, are used by their own families and their own children. 

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Old things can become new again — as long as someone has the eye, and the time, to make them so.

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this article.

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