5 Things a Southerner Never Throws Away

Spring cleaning is no match sentimental Southerners.

Southerners are experts at mixing the old with the new. Whether it's a leather purse or old wooden chest, Southerners know how to see the heirloom quality of what might otherwise be considered hand-me-downs. Take a tour of any Southern home and you're likely to find family stories in every room—from Mama's cast-iron skillet in the kitchen to a plush stack of quilts in the guest bedroom. Here are five things Southerners simply never throw away. (And a few of our top tips for saving everything from cozy blankets to bacon grease!)


Recipes, thank you notes, holiday cards…you'll find these handwritten mementos stashed all over Southern homes. And for good reason! Handwritten family recipes hold generations' worth of Southern cooking secrets. And not only are handwritten notes and cards nice to look back on – keeping the envelopes is a great way to update your holiday card list for next year!

Vintage Recipe Box with Recipe Cards
Beth Hontzas; Styling: Rose Nguyen

Cast-Iron Pans

When you think of Southern cooking, one of the first things that comes to mind is probably the ever-so-versatile cast-iron skillet. Good for everything from pizza to crisp cobblers, there's a reason you'll find these in every kitchen in the South. A well-seasoned skillet will be naturally non-stick and should appear matte black; if you inherited one that needs a little TLC, check out our guide to ensure yours stays in tip-top shape for generations to come.

A Good Quilt

If you're lucky enough to have inherited a quilt or two (or twenty), you know just how extra-special it is to pull it out on a chilly night knowing the years—decades even—of warmth and comfort it's brought your family. Interior design trends come and go, but a quilt is something truly timeless. Not just for the foot of the bed, every room of the house deserves a cozy quilt—you can even hang it up like art. (P.s., no family quilts yet? The famous quilts of Gee's Bend are available online for the first time ever!)

Mama's Decor

Whether a giant chest of drawers or a tiny side table, inherited home goods add that extra layer of style and patina that Southern homes are known for. And though you may be tempted to put a fresh spin on an old piece with a quick coat of paint, consider where it falls on the spectrum from hand-me-down to heirloom. Sometimes, it's simply best to leave it be.

And Finally… the Bacon Grease

Much more of a short-term treasure, Southerners know the value of a little leftover bacon grease. Swap it in wherever you need a rich, salty fat—saute some fresh veggies in it or incorporate it into a savory pie crust. Swap it for butter on fresh bisctuits or add a little to your salad dressing. Just be sure it's properly stored. Make sure to remove any bacon bits and run it through a filter before stashing in the fridge for up to three months or in the freezer for…well, as long as you can make it last!

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