Have you inherited keepsakes you don’t know what to do with?
I can’t tell you how many of my clients have had a garage or storage unit full of stuff they inherited from a loved one. These items represent a mix of emotions – memories good and bad; guilt over secretly wanting to reclaim the space they occupy; fear that they will accidentally discard a priceless heirloom. They are paralyzed with indecision: Am I betraying my loved one if I part with this item? Will I forget them if I don’t keep all their stuff? (I promise you won’t!) How, and where, can I get rid of it? How, and where, can I keep it?
What keepsakes have you inherited?
Sometimes clients’ homes are decorated with grandma’s artwork and accessories, which are not reflective of their own taste. They seek moral support and permission to declare something clutter and part with it. Quite often they don’t even know, or remember, what’s in their boxes. They anticipate an unwanted flood of emotions. Once the last flap is lifted, though, often as not, the reaction is, “What the heck is that?!” Or, “I can’t imagine why she kept that,” and laughter ensues rather than tears.
What are you leaving behind?
Just imagine if you died today without having yet de-cluttered your life, and without leaving instructions about what goes to whom, and why. Someone else – your kids? – will have to decide. And they’ll have to do it in the midst of their own grief.
How are they supposed to know that you hated the painting that always hung in the living room — unless you tell them — and that you only kept it because YOU inherited it and kept it out of guilt? Or, that the miscellaneous box of linens, knick-knacks, and clothing in the garage was packed up and stored away because you simply never got around to deciding what to do with those everyday things during your lifetime?
And what about your photos? How many of your precious digital memories are mixed in with blurry and redundant photos that you didn’t bother to delete, and spread across all your electronic devices? What about those printed photos hidden in a box under the bed that are also all mixed up and unlabeled? Save your photos while you have a chance!
What can you do with keepsakes?
I encourage you to use your inherited items, repurpose them, or display them in a place of honor. Do this with the things that you love, and that have meaning for you. If it’s so special, why is it out in the garage, where it may be deteriorating, and you can’t even get to it, much less enjoy it? Rescue your keepsakes from the dirty boxes in the garage. And don’t stack your boxes; use shelving to protect them from getting crushed, and to make them more easily accessible.
The things you don’t love, and that have no meaning, can be gifted to others, donated to charity, recycled or tossed. Honor your favorites by using them, and displaying them. Let the rest go. Take a picture first if you want to keep the memory but not the thing. Tell the story — after all, what’s a photo without the story? Then save the photo — and the story — in a special folder. Or, print it out and frame it!
What do I do with my keepsakes?
Among the things I inherited from my mom were her cedar chest, crystal punch bowl, and sewing chest. She used the cedar chest as originally intended, to collect items for her wedding trousseau (personal and household items collected by a bride-to-be in the 1950’s). I use it to store my own memorabilia, and it doubles as a TV stand.
I use the punch bowl as a fruit bowl – when am I ever going to make punch? At the time the photo was taken I was using it for pecans from my tree. The sewing chest holds my own sewing supplies, and doubles as a side table in my living room, with a hidden stash of remote controls inside.
The point is that I use these things and enjoy them in my everyday life. They are not languishing in a hot, dirty, critter-infested garage or storage shed. I do have a bin full of my mom’s possessions that do not suit my taste in décor, that I am not currently using. But there are not so many items and bins that they affect my ability to live a clutter-free life, and they do not banish my second-most-expensive possession (my car) to the mercy of the elements.
So….this goes both ways:
What keepsakes have others left you? Are they really special, or just everyday stuff? Are you honoring these items by using them or displaying them?
And, what about you? Are you leaving a legacy? Or are you leaving a liability?
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Copyright 2010-2019 by Hazel Thornton, Organized for Life.
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