Prac­ti­cal Tips for Deal­ing with In­her­ited Items

A family mem­ber left you their pre­cious be­long­ings. Now what?

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When a loved one passes, what items do you keep and which ones do you let go? More and more baby boomers are fac­ing this quandary, as well as the del­i­cate con­ver­sa­tions sur­round­ing it. If you’ve been be­stowed a keep­sake col­lec­tion or family heir­loom, and you’re not sure what to do with it, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Hon­our Your Loved One’s Mem­ory

Your par­ent or grand­par­ent may have spent their whole life work­ing on a spe­cial col­lec­tion, of dish­ware, teacups, model trains, or stamps, for ex­am­ple. Or they may have dreamt of pass­ing on a pre­cious family heir­loom, such as a piece of jew­ellery or a paint­ing. While you want to hon­our their wishes to keep these items in the family, it can be tricky to fig­ure out how to in­cor­po­rate the items into your ev­ery­day life.

“With a lit­tle cre­ativ­ity, these cher­ished heir­looms can have a sec­ond life in a way that fits your per­sonal style,” writes Shan­non Burberry, fu­neral di­rec­tor at For­est Lawn Fu­neral Home & Ceme­tery in Lon­don, On­tario. There are in­no­va­tive ways to dis­play or rein­vig­o­rate items in­stead of sim­ply stor­ing them in a box some­where. Burberry sug­gests print­ing family recipes on tea tow­els, or re­pur­pos­ing cloth­ing such as ties and dress shirts into a stuffed toy. She also notes one in­stance where an heir in­her­ited a col­lec­tion of old fur coats, and wasn’t sure what to do with them. “She de­cided to re­cy­cle them into teddy bears, giv­ing them new life,” Burberry writes.

Done thought­fully, you can reim­age many dif­fer­ent kinds of ob­jects. Re­pur­pos­ing dishes as serv­ing trays or cre­at­ing a family-tree cloche are easy, do-it-your­self projects that will give cher­ished ob­jects a fresh spin that fits you and your home. For more ideas and in­spi­ra­tion on dis­play­ing me­men­tos to hon­our peo­ple’s mem­o­ries, check out Me­moriesDIY.ca.

To Keep or Not to Keep?

It’s un­der­stand­able to feel a sense of obli­ga­tion when in­her­it­ing a loved one’s be­long­ings. But in some cases, it may not make sense to hold onto some­thing that’s been passed down to you. Per­haps the vol­ume of ob­jects is over­whelm­ing for you and your family, or cer­tain pieces don’t fit into your dé­cor. What­ever the case, there are sev­eral thought­ful and re­spect­ful ways to let go of items.

If the heir­looms have some his­tor­i­cal rel­e­vance, con­sider of­fer­ing them to a char­ity or mu­seum. Do­nat­ing the items in your loved one’s name would be a lovely way to carry on their legacy. Items that aren’t his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant but that have fi­nan­cial value can be sold, af­ter which you may choose to pur­chase some­thing mean­ing­ful with the funds. Or con­sider us­ing the pro­ceeds as a do­na­tion to a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that was im­por­tant to your loved one.

If you do de­cide to do­nate or dis­card items, there’s no need to feel guilty about it. Af­ter all, you may be let­ting go of your loved one’s per­sonal be­long­ings, but you’ll al­ways have your mem­o­ries of them to trea­sure. And, as Burberry notes, “Ul­ti­mately, what mat­ters is the love you have for the per­son who col­lected the items.”

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