Even collectors crave more minimalism (sometimes). But it can be complicated for us antique dealers and vintage enthusiasts to declutter. On the one hand, we love historic pieces. On the other, sometimes maximalism doesn’t suit our current mood.
While it’s tempting to hang onto everything, we need to let go a little when our mess starts to mimic hoarding. Here are some antiques you can sell, donate, give away, or toss (gulp) without guilt. Okay, maybe with a little guilt.
1Large Armoires or Wardrobes
Antique armoires or wardrobes, while often beautiful and full of character, can overwhelm modern spaces, especially in the context of decluttering. Their size and limited functionality compared to contemporary storage solutions can make rooms feel cluttered and confined.
However, if you have a rare piece from a notable period or maker—like a genuine Chippendale—or a beautifully crafted Art Nouveau piece, it might be exceptionally valuable. In this case, an auction might be your best bet to find a buyer with space and appreciation for the piece.
Upright pianos, commonly found in many old homes, can consume significant space and often go unused, which can be at odds with minimalist aesthetics aiming for more open, functional spaces. Find a new home for this piece if you have no musicians in the family.
However, if the piano is a high-quality make like Steinway or Bechstein, or if it’s historically significant (e.g., played by a famous musician), it could be highly valuable. Adjust your expectations accordingly. It’s more likely your piano will cost more to move and tune than its worth.
3Sets of China
Sets of antique china, often inherited and rarely used, can take up considerable cabinet space, detracting from a minimalist and streamlined kitchen environment. Also, I hate to mention it, but you might be exposing yourself to unnecessary amounts of lead.
However, if your set is from a sought-after manufacturer—like Royal Copenhagen or Meissen—or includes rare patterns, it can be highly collectible. Find a niche antique shop and try to consign the set there. You don’t need it.
Victorian sofas, known for their heavily upholstered and ornate designs, can clash with modern, minimalist decor, making spaces feel overly crowded and visually busy. Also, they are not the most functional or comfortable.
However, if you possess an exceptional example of this style, particularly pieces by well-known designers or esteemed manufacturers, they can be quite valuable. For myself, I collect Eastlake-style furniture and would not turn down a chair or a rocker (but I’d sell the sofa).
5Vintage Magazines and Newspapers
Vintage magazines and newspapers often accumulate without serving a practical purpose, creating clutter and consuming valuable space. I mean, are you even reading them? If valuable, you wouldn’t even want to handle them to prevent damage.
However, if they cover significant historical events (like moon landings, wars, or royal weddings) or have features by famous writers or artists, they can be highly valuable. Do a little research before launching them into the recycling bin.
Outdated globes are usually no longer geographically accurate. So, they lose their educational value and contribute to clutter, especially in minimalist settings where every item is expected to have a purpose or aesthetic value.
However, if it’s a rare antique globe from a notable maker or from a significant historical period, it can be of great interest to collectors. These globes might be worth donating to a museum or school.
Old typewriters, while they have a certain charm, are often not used and can occupy valuable workspace, which is contrary to the purpose here: We want to declutter and only keep things we use. We aren’t using it… I mean, unless you’re this guy.
However, if the typewriter is a rare model—like an early Sholes and Glidden typewriter—or one used by a famous person, such typewriters can be highly sought after by collectors. How would you know? Research it like an appraiser.
Antique sewing machines, particularly those with large tables, are bulky. And most avid sewers replace them with more compact, modern machines, freeing up valuable space. So unless you’re repurposing one, pass it on.
However, if it’s a rare, early model from brands like Singer, especially those with unique or ornate designs, it can be quite collectible. Don’t just rip this type of sewing machine apart without consulting with a professional.
9Ornate Silverware Sets
Ornate silverware sets can be overly elaborate for everyday use and require maintenance to prevent tarnishing, making them less ideal for a minimalist lifestyle where simplicity and functionality are key.
However, if the set is sterling silver (not silverplate), is from a reputable maker, or has historical significance, it can be very valuable, even to melt. Check the hallmarks before making any final decisions.
With the advent of modern lighting, old oil lamps often end up as mere decorative pieces. They also pose safety risks if not properly maintained. (Though I wish I had one when a blizzard knocked out my power last year.) If your oil lamp hasn’t been dusted in more than a year, it’s time for it to go.
However, if it’s a rare antique piece, it can be of significant value to collectors. Keep an eye out for those featuring unique designs (like a double font wedding lamp). Get it appraised and either dust it more often or sell it to someone who will.