General Organizing

What To Do With Family Keepsakes

Feb 02

About Laura

I am a high energy person, and I love to see a messy room transform into an organized space. My need for order and simplicity stems from my ADHD disability as a way to compensate for my short attention span. So my gifts and my challenges are all ironically tied together to create who I am.

Whether you are considering childhood memories or family heirlooms that have been passed to you from a loved one, following these guidelines should help you to sort through keepsakes and make decisions with confidence.

1. Don’t keep family keepsakes out of guilt. 

It is easy to hold onto items that do not have any personal value to us simply because we think that someone else would be disappointed if we let them go.  If these items cannot be given to the person that cares for them, let them go to a new owner who will care for and cherish them. Why would your loved one want you to hold onto something that you don’t really want?

2. Don’t keep any items that trigger negative memories. 

When making a decision about a given keepsake, pay attention to the way each item makes you feel.  If it sparks joy and a happy memory, then keep it, if it does nothing for you emotionally, or if it triggers any negative thoughts, by all means, let them go.  Why keep anything that brings us down or reminds us of something negative?

3. Don’t keep other people’s treasures. 

Keepsakes have very personal values attached to them, just because your mother treasured a set of china, does not mean you are obligated to treasure it as well.  Decide for yourself how each keepsake item makes YOU feel, if it does nothing for you, let them go to a new owner who will treasure the china and give it the love it deserves just as your mother did.

4. Find an honorable home for personal family photos and other treasures from the past. 

If you have too many vintage family photos and other antiques from past generations, choose the ones you want to keep and offer the others to any family members who might be interested in having them, then call your local historical society or a local museum see if they want what is left.  Museums appreciate these items and what better way to honor family heirlooms, than to proudly display them for others to see?

Family Keepsakes

5. Tackle keepsakes last. 

Keepsakes are the most difficult category to make decisions about, and they also trigger the most emotion, so if you have a large number of belongings to go through, hold off on the keepsake items until the end. Then, tackle them at the beginning of the day when you have the emotional and physical energy to go through them and make decisions.

6. Only keep a sampling of each collection.  

Rather than keep an entire set of your grandmothers dishes, consider keeping one place setting and let the rest go. If your mother made multitudes of beautiful quilts, choose a few of your favorite ones and gift the rest to others so that they can enjoy them.  A sampling of a given collection will bring you just as much joy as the whole collection and more is not necessarily better.

7. Keep in mind that we hold special memories in our hearts, not just in material objects.  

You don’t have to turn your home into a shrine of the past in order to hold onto or honor the memories of a loved one.    Material objects will never measure up to the memories that we have in our hearts so it is okay to be selective about what to keep.

8. Set tangible limits for yourself. 

Consider reducing your load by deciding how much you are comfortable with keeping, for example: Choose 1 or 2 plastic totes, and stay within that limit.  As you sift through keepsakes, place only the most cherished items into the bins and when you have reached your limit, be willing to let the rest go.  You can also take photos of items before letting them go and place the photos into the bins with the rest of the keepsakes.

9. Consider displaying your keepsakes. 

If you have made a decision to keep something, consider displaying them in your home rather than leaving them stored away in a box.  After all, if they are worth keeping and you enjoy them, perhaps others should enjoy them too.

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