What Do You Do When Family Heirlooms No Longer Fit Your Life?

I’ve been thinking of family heirlooms, large and small, as I prepare to go through the items I have in storage and as I wrap up spring cleaning. I’ve been lucky enough to have inherited things that belonged to people precious to me, but unfortunately too many have lives relegated to storage. I donated a number of more recent things with fewer memories attached, but I’m somewhat stumped with what to do with others. I have some handbags, for instance, that I’d love to give to a good home. But it’s hard to say goodby in a way that honors the person who originally owned and loved them.

Something else I’ve been contemplating is the contents of the storage containers that have been filled with things from my parents’ house for years. We haven’t had the space and frankly, I haven’t had the inclination to go through them. Some of the things in storage are things I want to keep, like my mother’s bedroom furniture from when she was a child, but we already have furnished our child’s room with other meaningful pieces and they don’t fit in with the room we have. But not only were they in my mother’s childhood bedroom, they were in mine. So I’m stumped.

There are other pieces I plan to donate or sell, in some cases, but it’s hard to say goodbye. What would you do if you have heirlooms that don’t fit in with your life, and can no longer store them?

6 thoughts on “What Do You Do When Family Heirlooms No Longer Fit Your Life?

  1. Love your thoughts on this subject, many thanks. I have the problem too, there must be a line between an item well loved and cherished by an ancestor and something they bought and used once. Where that is, I’m not sure. It’s doubly difficult when the living family insists on giving you something and you keeping it when it doesn’t fit your lifestyle/home/needs/etc. I confess that some things may have “disappeared” between visits.

    As always, love your blog. I’d love to hear your thoughts on things that expecting and new parents should have on hand when the bundle of joy arrives.

    1. Yes, I agree! It’s a tough decision for me especially because almost all of the pieces I have are ones that I personally cherish and some just don’t work right now. I have a few things I’m planning to donate to our local op shop (like the enormous Silver Cross pram my grandparents gave my parents when I was born; not sure how they thought it would a) fit in a New York apartment and b) fit in an elevator (!)), but otherwise I’m pretty stuck on what to do.

      Thank you for your kind words! Good idea for a post, and one I’d love to work on. When my husband and I were expecting, there was just so much information out there, and truly, you don’t need too much. I’ll put a post together! (And congratulations to you!)

  2. Sarah,

    Your bedroom set and your mothers sounds lovely. How special that you have saved it. It hold so many special memories. I grew up in a home that was passed down in my family filled with family heirlooms, and often if something did not fit, or my mother redecorated, another family member may appreciate it. You could also borrow it back again someday when you have more space or decide to redecorate yourself. An aunt, cousin, or even a close friend that may need furniture for their children’s room. Knowing you could always get it back someday would be a beautiful sentiment, while it is also being used by someone else.

    1. Thank you so much, Molly! I love the idea of loaning something to a family member. I’ll see what we have that can be loaned to a friend or family member, which would solve the problem! xx

  3. My wife and I are currently discussing this. We have several items we each inherited from our families mostly art, needlepoint, quilts and furniture and have purchased a number of items, mostly art, during our marriage always in the hope we would pass them to our son and daughter. Our children have a more casual lifestyle than we but we hope that when we hand them down they will learn to treasure them.

    1. That sounds wonderful, Fred, and it’s very thoughtful and prescient of you to think about your son and daughter and their future with items that you cherish. I think art is particularly wonderful to pass down–and if it doesn’t have a place at the moment, it’s also much easier to store than enormous pieces of furniture…!

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