Tips for Decluttering Inherited Items {Decluttering Sentimental Items - Day 24} | From Overwhelmed to Organized: Tips for Decluttering Inherited Items {Decluttering Sentimental Items - Day 24}
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Monday, October 24, 2016

Tips for Decluttering Inherited Items {Decluttering Sentimental Items - Day 24}




Today in the Decluttering Sentimental Items series I'm sharing tips for decluttering inherited items. Let me start off by saying, as with everything in this series, I'm not telling you that you have to declutter these sentimental items. It's entirely up to you what you let go of and what you keep. And if you have lots of space to store inherited items, or you actually use your inherited items, then they're really not clutter and you can keep them if you want :)

But if your home is cluttered with a lot of these particular types of items and the past is getting in the way of enjoying your present and your future, then it's time to think long and hard about what you really have space for and what is most important to you. These tips are to help you.


Why inherited items are hard to let go of 


Whether it's your grandma's china set, your dad's chair, your grandfather's war medals, or the entire contents of your parents' home, inherited items are very hard to let go of, because they remind us of special people and special times.  We can even feel guilty for letting go of these items because they were given to us by people we love who wanted us to have them.


Tips for letting go of inherited items 


If you know you need to declutter some inherited items, here are a few things to consider:

  • As Peter Walsh says, find the treasures. Keep those and let go of the rest. 
  • You don't need every item that was ever used by every loved one who has passed on. Find the ones that have the most meaning to you (which aren't necessarily going to be the items that had the most meaning to the person who gave them to you and that's OK). 
  • You can remember the person without all of the stuff. 
  • Keeping a few very special items and putting them somewhere you can appreciate them is better than having a lot of stuff in boxes or a storage unit that you never look at or that constantly overwhelms you.
  • If you have multiple similar items, let go of any that are broken, cracked, or worn out.  
  • If you don't have room to store a complete extra set of dinnerwear / china in your kitchen / dining room, then choose a few pieces to use and then let go of the rest. 
  • Give yourself permission to appreciate and honour your loved one without being overwhelmed in your home because you feel like you have to keep everything. They wouldn't want that kind of life for you.
  • Once you've decided what to keep and what to let go of, see if there are other family members interested in the items you aren't keeping. Maybe there are younger members of the family who could use some of the items. Tell them some stories about your loved one as you give the items to them so the memories can be passed on. {Just make sure they actually want the items and that you're not just passing sentimental clutter on to them!}
  • If you can't find anyone to gift the items to, you can try to sell the items. There's a good market for some vintage items {although there is an over-saturated market for others}. If it helps you to let go, you could donate the money you make to your loved one's favourite charity in their memory.

Note: if you have a whole house to sort through, take your time and really treasure hunt for those special items. You can't keep everything so give yourself permission to keep the treasures and let go of the rest. If you can't let go of enough in the first pass, do your best and then go through everything again in a year or two when your emotions are less raw and you can make better decisions.  More tips coming on day 30 for decluttering a whole home when a loved one passes away.

Another note: make sure you don't declutter items someone else inherited. That's up to them to decide. You can communicate with them about it, make suggestions on how to use/display it, other family members to give it to, etc. but it's ultimately their decision.


Ways you can reuse/repurpose/display inherited items 


We've talked about this many times in this series, but it's especially important to find ways to use or display those special inherited items you decide to keep. Or if you're able to, choose items that you know you can use or display.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Put those medals in a shadow frame with a picture of your Grandpa and hang it in a place of honour in your home, where you see it and remember him, and where guests in your home can see it and talk with you about him. That helps keep the stories alive for future generations too.
  • Use Grandma's china for Sunday dinners. Or Tuesday lunches. Or every day. It doesn't matter when. Just don't leave it in a box in the attic. 

And here are some more ideas and comments from members of the 365 Items in 365 Days FB group:

  • "We kept my great-grandmother's green depression glass for tea parties with my granddaughter."
  • "I have been dealing with this for 5 years now. At first, I couldn't part with a lot of the heirloom/special things my Mom had that I know she loved. So I boxed them up to deal with later (she had A LOT). I have slowly been able to go through things and get rid of some things. I keep everything that was really special or family items. I'm not going to keep everything, but when my Dad is gone, there is plenty of family to share those items with. Unfortunately, I'm the one that has to store them for now.....but that's ok. It's been a process and will continue to be a process.  Couldn't do most of it without the support of this group." 
  • "You commented something awesome a while back that I keep for reference... 'Remember that you don't have to hold onto the things to remember the person or the memory. And having things boxed up in storage isn't giving honor to the person's memory. Find the treasures and use them or display them in a way that will help you remember the past without cluttering up your present or your future.' I really appreciate this outlook. It helped me to get rid of things from my grandpa that didn't have any meaning, except that he owned them."


Here are a few photos shared by 365r's:

I love these shelves with special inherited items on display!  She said this about the shelves: "Items kept/displayed: grandma's skates, photo of brothers and I with her, signed football, foreign coins, guestbook from wedding, and childhood trinkets."



How awesome is that?  A little collection of things that are truly special for this family!

Here's another great idea from a 365'r:

This is a baby blanket, made partially from the baby's great grandmother's bathrobe.


How special is that for the mom-to-be and for the baby to be grow up snuggling in such a special blanket?


Don't Start Your Decluttering Journey With Sentimental Items


Just a quick reminder that if you have "regular" (non-sentimental) clutter in your home, it's better to deal with that first and set aside your sentimental clutter until your home is less cluttered.  Decluttering your everyday items will likely make more of an impact on your daily life than sentimental decluttering will.  And sentimental items are generally more difficult to tackle so it's better to build up to them.

Whether you're decluttering sentimental items or general clutter, join our 365 Items in 365 Days Facebook group!  You'll find lots of encouragement, motivation, and tips as we all declutter our homes and lives together.  You can find more details about the 365 Items in 365 Days challenge here too.



For More Decluttering Sentimental Items Tips


Want more tips?  Check these the 31 Days of Easy Decluttering series!




Or the Decluttering From A to Z series from last October!




If you'd like more decluttering ideas, you can check out my Decluttering/Purging Tips & Ideas board on Pinterest.



Your turn!


What inherited items do you have a hard time letting go of? What makes it easier to let them go? What tips can you share with those who are decluttering inherited items?

As you declutter your inherited items, take pictures and share them on social media using the hashtag #declutteringsentimentalitems so you can inspire all of us to declutter our sentimental items!

If you've got a picture of how you displayed or re-purposed your inherited items, please share it in the comments or on one of the series' social media posts.   I'd love to see how you are giving honour and respect to your sentimental items!



Happy organizing decluttering!



Here are all the posts in this challenge in case you missed any or want to share some with your friends or family!





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4 comments:

  1. This can be one of the toughest, because we move into emotion and out of function. A very nice discussion of what to consider. The skates in the box are really cute. A few very special items are worth making space for! It's those boxes in the attic that you never touch that need a plan, right?

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    1. Good point about emotion vs. function Seana. Definitely worth making space for some really special items and tackling the boxes in the attic :)

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  2. I see my mom —who is the world's best declutterer—having trouble getting rid of her parents' things. I get it, though. Sometimes once people are gone it really feels difficult to get rid of the things that remain behind. I think you have some really great ideas and advice here. I only have a few things of my grandmother's and a painting that my husband's grandmother painted.

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    1. It's so interesting to see what people struggle to let go of... and the reasons they do Lara! I think age factors in as well...especially for inherited items... people want to hang onto things with history and memories. For your mom, maybe the fact that she was so good at decluttering other things gives her the freedom and space to hold onto more of her parents' things.

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I love hearing from my readers! This is a great place to ask questions, answer questions, and share your organizing tips. Thank you so much for commenting! I look forward to getting to know you better :)