Practical Tips for Dealing with Inherited Items
A family member left you their precious belongings. Now what?
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.”