Lara Spencer Shares Her Tips for Letting Go of Sentimental Items
The Everything But the House host also reveals when it might be better to hold on to them.
Lara Spencer has been around antiques even longer than you might think. Although the Everything But the House host has a storied and successful career in showing others how to spot time-honored treasures on shows like Antiques Roadshow and Flea Market Flip, her love of the hunt began well before her television career.
“I started going to yard sales in utero, I think, with my mom,” she says.
The youngest of five, Lara says her love affair with vintage pieces came from spending so much time with her mother.
“My mom had really great style and not a very big budget,” Lara says. “She would scour thrift shops and yard sales. I think through osmosis I learned how to spot a diamond in the rough and the value of vintage pieces. It’s in my blood.”
On her newest HGTV show, Everything But the House, Lara uses her well-trained eye to help families who are overwhelmed with their household belongings turn them into cash.
“Each family had a reason for finally deciding to part with their clutter, whether it was the death of a parent or the fact that it had just gotten away from them,” Lara says. “They were downsizing and realized that their stuff was overtaking their home. It’s hard sometimes to say goodbye.”
Although each family on the show had a different background and reason for moving on, Lara has a few words of wisdom for when it’s time to clear the clutter. While the main premise of the show is about letting go, sometimes holding on to a few sentimental items is worth it in the end.
“It’s not worth making a few dollars if it’s something that you’ll never find again. That was a conversation we had many, many times over with each of the families that we worked with. In every episode, behind the scenes, there were one or two pieces that ended up staying in the house that they initially thought they could sell, then reconsidered after our conversation.”
Lara says that after that conversation, the families would thank them and feel a sense of relief. The emotional behind-the-scenes moments were especially important when the family was grieving a lost loved one.
“On the other hand,” Lara continues, “it can get out of control really quick.”
The pilot episode is one such case. Four children were finally ready to sell their deceased parents’ house. The extensive collection of their father took up most of the space in the home, from closets to crawlspaces. Although the family knew that there were things of value, it got to the point where they were pulling clothes out of dressers to bag up and donate. Lara says that this led to one of the biggest surprises during the course of the show.
“We said ‘Just wait a sec, let us just go through it. It won’t take too long.’ And sure enough we found five Grateful Dead tee shirts from the ‘80s and ‘90s. They went for hundreds of dollars, and this family had no idea that they were there.”
Of course, a number of factors can determine the value of an item. While the internet allows people to do their own research, sometimes this misleads them into thinking their item may be worth more than in actuality. In the case of the shirts, they hadn’t been worn and there is a large market for vintage Grateful Dead merchandise. However, well-loved items may not fetch such a premium price.
Lara says that factors like condition, whether or not you have the packaging, and the age of the item all come into play when determining how much cash it might fetch at an online sale.
“In this particular case, I’m thinking about one person where their doll was very well-loved, otherwise known as beaten up in a really wonderful way. I said to her ‘You’re still going to make a couple hundred dollars. This is a very collectible vintage Barbie. And good for you that you enjoyed it as a kid and that it didn’t stay in this box.’"
As for the most-loved vintage pieces that Lara herself would never part with, she says it’s like choosing a favorite child.
“Every time I shoot Flea Market Flip, I’m at a flea market and there’s inevitably a beautiful vintage glass bowl or an old vase that I love. I look around my house and so many of my accessories and pieces remind me of a happy memory or shoot day. I love that there are all these layers of memories that have created a unique, one-of-a-kind design space.”