Things A Southerner Never Throws Away

Spring cleaning is no match for 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!)

Vintage Recipe Box with Recipe Cards

Beth Hontzas; Styling: Rose Nguyen

Handwritten…Anything

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!

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. It's a known fact: Some things just taste better when cooked in a skillet. 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.

Treasured China

Some of our best memories are made around the dinner table. In addition to favorite family recipes, the other thing present at any momentous occasion is the china. Also known as wedding china or simply "the good plates," the pattern you pick (or inherit) can say a lot about you. Owning your own set of china is practically a Southern birthright, and pulling it out when you're serving guests is all the more special when it's a set that's been in your family for decades.

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 Furniture

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.

Wardrobe Staples

Trends come and go, but the classics never go out of style. From your great aunt's pearls to mama's favorite white oxford shirt, these are the types of passed-down pieces you can build an entire wardrobe around. Even daddy's old hunting jacket can find a place in a modern Southern closet. The best thing about a good hand-me-down is that they're usually completely one-of-a-kind. We guarantee no one else will show up to the party wearing the same broach or monogrammed locket as you, and you'll have a great statement piece to build your look around.

Containers in All Shapes and Sizes

So this may not be quite as sentimental as the rest, but you can't deny how useful a spare Mason jar, can, or the beloved Country Crock tub can be when you're looking for a place to store leftovers. Southerners love their recycled containers so much that Birmingham-based BAMA Company started adding vintage designs to their jam and jelly jars. This way you'll have something charming to look at next time you open the fridge for a snack!

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 biscuits 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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