Saturday, June 5, 2010

keepsakes and family heirlooms

I recently worked with an elderly client who had enough “stuff” in her basement to furnish a second home or cottage. She was very depressed that her basement was basically unusable and was frustrated that some of the things had been ruined due to water damage and mold. When I asked her why she was keeping it she said, “I’m saving it for my kids”.

This might sound like a loving gesture…but her children are now all 40’s or older; and they have their own homes, families…and stuff! Most of them live over an hour away, and none of them have appropriate vehicles to cart the stuff back to their homes.

I have seen this situation several times before… and in most cases, the kids don’t want any of their parents “stuff”. They may want one or two keepsake items, but that is it. Unfortunately, my client felt that her adult children should be delighted to have these treasures.

As I sat there thinking of what I could say to help her “get a grip”, I reminded myself that I am one of the most unemotional people I know, and that many people have strong emotional ties to their stuff. If you can relate to my client, here are a few things to think about:

1. Remember that it is just stuff, and it is not the physical objects that you are attached to, it is the memory associated with the objects. There are many ways to preserve those memories even after you get rid of the stuff. You might try taking pictures of it all and creating a scrap book, or you can take scraps of old clothes and make a small quilt.

2. Respect and accept your children’s wishes. Your children are more important than your stuff and you don’t want to strain your relationships over a basement of stuff. Accept that they might not want to keep anything at all.

3. Offer the items to extended family or friends. If your immediate family doesn’t want it, there might be others who will. However, make it casual and don’t pressure them!

4. Sell the items via Craig’s List or Ebay. If you feel your items have real value, you could try selling them and donating your profits to a worthy cause; or split the money with your children. They certainly will appreciate that.

5. Donate the rest of your items to your favorite charity and take your tax deduction. Think of all the people who will benefit from your treasures and create new homes for them.

Handling family heirlooms and keepsakes can be an emotional project, but it is important move the stuff out of your home before your children have to do it for you. I have seen too many situations where the kids just come in with a dumpster and trash everything because any other option is too much work. You certainly don’t want to leave your children with the burden of cleaning out all your stuff.

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