The Decluttering Project : Heirlooms & Sentimental Items

The things that are the hardest to let go of in life are the items we hold closest to our hearts.  Professional organizers and declutter-ers make a living by going through our stuff and getting rid of things because they have no connection to our treasures or our triumphs.

We don’t keep heirlooms and sentimental items because we might need them one day (which is the reason we tend to hang onto most things).  Heirlooms and sentimental items connect us to our family’s roots, moments that have passed, and the people that we were.

{Hope} original painting

But do we really, truly need to hang onto every bit of that?  We’ve picked up on a few tricks at our house.  Some of  you long-time readers of Making This Home might recognize a few.

1.  Give family heirlooms or your prized possessions to members of your family.  If you have your great grandmother’s ring collection, give one to every girl in the family – maybe for her birthday, an achievement in her life, or just because.  If you have more religious items than you could truly appreciate, give one to someone you love when she reaches a milestone.  I think it’s all about giving from the heart.  It makes saying goodbye so much easier.

2.  Take pictures of your items and pass them on. My dad taught me this trick.  He can always go look at his old artwork or possessions.  He says that sometimes seeing a photograph gives him more joy than actually having the item.  He doesn’t have to dust or care for a photograph.  He is filled with just as many memories of a photograph of something as he is of the actual item.  It’s sort of like vacations – what do we treasure most?  The photos.  Not the shot glasses.

3.  Pick and choose.  You do NOT have to keep every heirloom. Keep the ones that are most important to you.  Break up gravy boat collections, and just keep a boat or two that YOU love and that YOU will treasure or use.  Give the rest to family.  Sell them to antique stores.  Donate them to charity auctions.  Tuck bits into branches of trees or fences where you know only exploring kids go.  Wouldn’t that be fun?

4.  Try to ignore the monetary value and follow your heart. We know a woman who inherited a painting from her grandmother over in Germany.  The painting isn’t attractive at all.  But it is worth a lot of money.  So the girl keeps it in her living room.  The picture doesn’t make her think of her grandmother.  It doesn’t bring her joy in her heart.  It just makes her think of money.  Why keep that?  I would rather pass it to someone who would love that painting.  I would focus on one of the dozens of other things that girl has from her grandmother and love and cherish those things.

Truly – don’t you believe we should hang onto heirlooms and sentimental items only if they bring happiness to our lives?  And when you decide that maybe you should part with some, ask yourself:  could this item bring even more happiness to someone else than it does to me?

Do you have anything to add?  How do you part with things you love or feel like you’re supposed to love?  And what is a treasured item you’ve received from relatives passing on their collections and own heirlooms?

Join me with the rest of The Decluttering Project as we tackle everything from books to gifts we can’t use.