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How to deal with family "heirlooms"?

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  • disneysteve
    replied
    Originally posted by JoeP View Post
    What you are talking about is one of my biggest fears: disposing of artifacts of someone's life. My wife's parents had hundreds of black and white photos...you know the kind with the scalloped edges. Even if some had writing on the back, I don't know who Edith and Sam from 1946 are, and those who could have answered are deceased. They probably meant something to someone long ago, but now we're generation or 2 apart from those people.

    The decluttering thread ties in here. We want to simplify so that our kids, or even their kids, won't be burdened with this problem.
    Exactly. And not just people we don't know, but even people we do, like my aunt and uncle. I remember them both very well, but do I need my aunt's high school diploma or my uncle's retirement plaque?

    And yes, this totally ties in with our decluttering. Since returning from Florida, I've been approaching it with a whole new point of view and purging things that I had previously held onto. I'm now looking at it through the lens of what our daughter will have to deal with when we're gone. Just in the 2 weeks I've been home, I've gotten rid of a ton of paper items - about 2-3 cartons worth. I'm actually back in Florida now but once I'm home again, I have a load of things lined up to sell on Marketplace and Ebay. My wife and I have been going through the house with a whole new focus on eliminating things that we just don't need or care about and that our daughter doesn't want.

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  • JoeP
    replied
    Originally posted by disneysteve View Post
    In the course of cleaning out my cousin's house, not only am I having to deal with personal items of his, I'm also coming across a number of items that belonged to his parents, my aunt and uncle. I remember them both well and other than some old photos, didn't previously have any sort of materials of theirs. The question now is what do I do with this stuff? Do I keep it? If so, why, and what do I do with it when I get it home. Do I take pictures of everything and preserve the memories that way?

    I'm not talking about items of any monetary value. A certificate recognizing 25 years of service at my uncle's job. A plaque presented to my aunt for service to her synagogue. My uncle's military discharge papers or his old Masonic name badge. I've really enjoyed seeing all of this stuff, but what now? I can't say I have any burning desire to keep it, but it feels so weird to just toss it in the trash. Maybe taking pictures is the right answer so I can always show it to others in the future if the topic comes up.

    How have you all handled stuff like that?
    What you are talking about is one of my biggest fears: disposing of artifacts of someone's life. My wife's parents had hundreds of black and white photos...you know the kind with the scalloped edges. Even if some had writing on the back, I don't know who Edith and Sam from 1946 are, and those who could have answered are deceased. They probably meant something to someone long ago, but now we're generation or 2 apart from those people.

    The decluttering thread ties in here. We want to simplify so that our kids, or even their kids, won't be burdened with this problem.

    Leave a comment:


  • GoodLiving
    replied
    Originally posted by sblatner View Post

    For the framed receipts, would a town museum be interested in this?
    I've reached out to an extended relative still in the area, we'll see. They company might want it but they also might already have some of this.

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  • myrdale
    replied
    While things like military records, masonic uniforms, church plaques may have been a huge source of pride for them personally, there isn't alot of value in holding onto this type of stuff. You might consider returning these things (well the masonic stuff or the plaque) to their respective organizations. But honestly they're probably going to toss it.

    If it were me, I'd have a bonfire and burn it all. For me there is a certain amount of catharsis that comes from destroying something with fire, and it seems like a bit nobler of an end that laying in a landfill.

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  • disneysteve
    replied
    Originally posted by Nutria View Post

    Steve's DD will (probably) eventually be old. My grandparents (who died 25 and 13 years ago) kept a bunch of stuff from their and their children's youth and (because my father owns the house) my younger cousin is finding all sorts of interesting old pictures.
    The one problem I've found with this line of thinking is that the photos are rarely identified. I've found some really neat old photos (like from the dawn of photography era) but I have absolutely no idea who any of the people are which makes them far less meaningful. If I knew that the woman was my great great grandmother, that would be really cool, but I haven't got a clue. That makes it just a neat old photo of somebody who probably had some sort of connection to my family.

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  • disneysteve
    replied
    Originally posted by scfr View Post
    Your daughter won't want it. The family members who would be interested in it are either dead or elderly. Steve, you're the last person who is going to be interested in those things.
    Peter Walsh (my go-to guru when dealing with my mom's clutter) would suggest that you figure out what the real treasures are. Treasure in this case has nothing to do with monetary value. What items best represent what you valued/loved/respected about your cousin that you want to memorialize? What items can you select from all of the stuff that best represents the beauty of what all of that stuff represents (your cousin and what you valued about him). Take those few items home and display them respectfully (don't just keep them in a box). For example, one shadow box hung on the wall in your office, or a special place on the fireplace mantle or on a shelf where you'll actually see it.

    The rest? It will feel uncomfortable to put those things in the recycle bin or trash or donation pile, but go ahead and give it a try. To again paraphrase Peter Walsh, it's "stepping in to the fear" (of losing memories) but if we do it, it can bring a sense of release.
    Very good advice.Thank you for this.

    Leave a comment:


  • Nutria
    replied
    Originally posted by scfr View Post
    Your daughter won't want it. The family members who would be interested in it are either dead or elderly.
    Steve's DD will (probably) eventually be old. My grandparents (who died 25 and 13 years ago) kept a bunch of stuff from their and their children's youth and (because my father owns the house) my younger cousin is finding all sorts of interesting old pictures.

    Leave a comment:


  • mumof2
    replied
    Since it only really means anything to you then if you don't want it shred it...for bigger items ask the places they came from if they would like them to put up on the wall...if not get rid of it..could always call the military and see what to do with the service records...it's up to you if you don't it displayed in your home then toss it...it's sentimental but just clutter for your house

    Leave a comment:


  • scfr
    replied
    Your daughter won't want it. The family members who would be interested in it are either dead or elderly. Steve, you're the last person who is going to be interested in those things.
    Peter Walsh (my go-to guru when dealing with my mom's clutter) would suggest that you figure out what the real treasures are. Treasure in this case has nothing to do with monetary value. What items best represent what you valued/loved/respected about your cousin that you want to memorialize? What items can you select from all of the stuff that best represents the beauty of what all of that stuff represents (your cousin and what you valued about him). Take those few items home and display them respectfully (don't just keep them in a box). For example, one shadow box hung on the wall in your office, or a special place on the fireplace mantle or on a shelf where you'll actually see it.

    The rest? It will feel uncomfortable to put those things in the recycle bin or trash or donation pile, but go ahead and give it a try. To again paraphrase Peter Walsh, it's "stepping in to the fear" (of losing memories) but if we do it, it can bring a sense of release.

    Leave a comment:


  • LivingAlmostLarge
    replied
    Gosh I hope to never do this. Of course I will but I hope it's not so hard.

    Leave a comment:


  • sblatner
    replied
    Originally posted by disneysteve View Post

    This experience has definitely renewed my motivation to deal with the clutter once I'm back at home. I don't want our daughter to have to spend weeks dealing with our stuff when we're gone.
    Steve, sorry you are having to deal with this. If I were you, I would put the memory kind of things that you mentioned in a box and keep them for a year and then throw them out. At least you will have had to sit on them for a year and could make a final decision (and maybe not feel disrespectful of this important stuff (that was important to him). Though, I know none of this is your direct family so maybe it doesn't matter. But, since you asked, that would be one way to handle it. We have some of my MIL's stuff from 20 years ago. We recently had to find a document in the box and I was able to throw away a bit of stuff that we know we don't want. My FIL has since died and we really need to put it all together (they were divorced for many years but a lot of her stuff overlaps with his).

    I agree with you - our kids don't want our stuff or our collections (my stamp, coin, football cards, doll and glass animal collections! Yikes, I guess I better get to work!).

    Leave a comment:


  • sblatner
    replied
    Originally posted by GoodLiving View Post
    Steve, I've been dealing with this but at a much smaller level. A few weeks back we cleaned out some of my Father's stuff from his partner's home. It was in the basement, some of it untouched since he helped his sister clean out their mother's home. They are all gone now. My Dad for 14 years. We only were addressing a portion of the basement so we still haven't touched his tools yet. I have a couple of boxes of records (will try to take them to a vinyl shop for some otherwise I'll drop them at goodwill. I was able to sell some of his old truck and car magazines. I did toss all my Grandfather's paperwork for his government job, where he had to put in for promotions....boring government documents, I'll probably toss his resume file with a portfolio of his work. My Grandfather has been gone for 30+ years now. My Father didn't have the best stuff, his sister took most of that. My father had three children and only one grandchild (who at age 30 may never have children and isn't really settled in their life yet) so there's very few family to pass the heirlooms down. I still haven't figured out what to do with this wall display my Dad made that has receipts from a business that the family owned near the turn of the century. Meaningful to my Dad because he worked there with his brother, meaningful to me because it was a frame that my Dad made but probably little value to anyone else....I'm trying to figure out how to downsize and not collection more things. Best wishes for all that hard work, my goal is to not leave this kind of work for my child.
    For the framed receipts, would a town museum be interested in this?

    Leave a comment:


  • disneysteve
    replied
    Originally posted by GoodLiving View Post
    my goal is to not leave this kind of work for my child.
    This experience has definitely renewed my motivation to deal with the clutter once I'm back at home. I don't want our daughter to have to spend weeks dealing with our stuff when we're gone.

    Leave a comment:


  • GoodLiving
    replied
    Steve, I've been dealing with this but at a much smaller level. A few weeks back we cleaned out some of my Father's stuff from his partner's home. It was in the basement, some of it untouched since he helped his sister clean out their mother's home. They are all gone now. My Dad for 14 years. We only were addressing a portion of the basement so we still haven't touched his tools yet. I have a couple of boxes of records (will try to take them to a vinyl shop for some otherwise I'll drop them at goodwill. I was able to sell some of his old truck and car magazines. I did toss all my Grandfather's paperwork for his government job, where he had to put in for promotions....boring government documents, I'll probably toss his resume file with a portfolio of his work. My Grandfather has been gone for 30+ years now. My Father didn't have the best stuff, his sister took most of that. My father had three children and only one grandchild (who at age 30 may never have children and isn't really settled in their life yet) so there's very few family to pass the heirlooms down. I still haven't figured out what to do with this wall display my Dad made that has receipts from a business that the family owned near the turn of the century. Meaningful to my Dad because he worked there with his brother, meaningful to me because it was a frame that my Dad made but probably little value to anyone else....I'm trying to figure out how to downsize and not collection more things. Best wishes for all that hard work, my goal is to not leave this kind of work for my child.

    Leave a comment:


  • Nutria
    replied
    Originally posted by disneysteve View Post

    Not that I know of. There's really only a couple of family members on my uncle's side that I'm even aware of at this point.
    Ask them, and like ua_guy mentioned, take high quality photographs.

    Leave a comment:

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