Are your heirlooms clutter or collection?
Heirlooms are very special things that we usually receive from someone special. The word implies that this “thing” should be kept forever and passed down to the next generation. Nobody wants to be known as the person that got rid of that special “thing”.
So, if your house is starting to feel like King Tut’s tomb needs to have a garage sale, keep reading!
The specialness of heirlooms
Receiving a memento of significance from a special friend or family member is a honor. That’s why it can be very difficult to try and decide whether it’s okay to get rid of it, or if we have to keep it forever.
When special heirlooms get stuffed into a closet it may start to feel like too much of a good thing. This is when it all starts to feel like clutter. But there is a way to sort through it all.
Physically and mentally, there’s a way to make sure your heirlooms are not just clutter. It’s possible that the bins full of historical ancestral clutter can easily become a meaningful collection for you and your family.
How to decide whether to keep or toss an heirloom
Physically sorting it all
- Throw it all into a pile and pick out the first thing you can’t live without. Keep going but only selecting to keep those “I can’t live without it” items
- If the other valuable or usable items aren’t in your pile of things you “can’t live without”, then ask other family members to pick what they would like. That’s always a nice way to share the family heirlooms.
- Take out the things that are broken, ripped, junky or not usable and throw them into a box to toss or recycle
- If something has historical importance, you may decide that it would be better to donate it to the appropriate historical society. Take a picture for your album and then donate!
- Any other items that are decent and usable, donate them or set out on the curb with a “FREE” sign
Ask yourself these questions:
- Why do I have this thing? (Be honest as to whether it truly has meaning to you, or not)
- What did this thing mean to the person who gave it to me? (If you don’t know the answer, then ask them to tell you about it! Write the answer down and keep it with the item)
- Is it worth it to me to keep this item, or would a picture of the item be just as meaningful to me? (This is a great option when you want to see another family member enjoy it as much as you did. You may even want to take a picture of you holding the heirloom.)
- Will I use or enjoy this item in the future? (If not, it may be time to pass it on)
- What words would you use to describe the item? (Heirloom, thing, treasure, junk, crap, clutter, etc?)
It’s special clutter!
After you’ve given it some good thought, maybe you decided that it’s just crap and clutter. Are you having a hard time parting with it because the person who gave it to you is special? The emotional attachment can be a big factor in why we hang on to so many “special” things.
What I recommend is that you take a few nice photos of the item and then write about it. Or, arrange several items into a nice composition and take the picture. Write down who gave the items to you, when you received them, and why they’re special to you. Then give the heirlooms away for someone else to cherish. Your photo can now be put into an album or framed!
It’s a keeper!
Maybe your heirloom is too special to toss but you don’t really know what to do with it, so it feels a lot like clutter. If there’s a special story to go with your item, I’d say keep it and find a way to re-purpose it in your life.
- Start a collection! See how I did this with a vintage Pyrex bowl from my mom. Use your original item as the focal point for your new collection.
- Incorporate your heirloom into your home decor. Frame it, repaint it, wear it – whatever works!
For ideas on how to turn your heirloom clutter into an heirloom collection, see my “Clutter to Collection” series of related posts.
Clutter or collection?? Go deep
When you’re deciding which heirlooms to keep or toss, remember to ask yourself what the item means to you and why it’s important to keep it.
Things like letters, postcards and photos are easy to keep and store, as they can be put into an album or scanned for efficient use of space. Jewelry, coins, and other small items are also easy to store. If they’re valuable, make sure to keep them in a safe place.
Larger items, like glassware, books, quilts, old toys, or pieces of furniture are much larger and often more difficult to find the space to store them. Keep in mind that these items can be photographed and then donated! No matter if it’s clutter or collection, there’s always a stress-free solution for every heirloom.
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