Thursday, February 7, 2008

Gift or Burden: Passing down family heirlooms

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I would put down some thoughts about love. What does love have to do with organizing, you ask? Let me explain….

Have you ever heard the old saying, “If you love someone, set them free”? Well, the same applies to stuff. I hear so many people talk about their cherished possessions that they can’t bare to part with. Granted, these items are in the garage or in storage under a pile of other stuff and a layer of dust, but it is “important.”

If it is truly valuable/important/sentimental, it should be in an important place, well cared for and utilized. Your grandmother’s hope chest is not being valued if it is under boxes, dust and possibly be chewed on by field mice in your garage. It should have an important place in your home. If you don’t have an important spot for it, then set it free. Ask other family members if they have an important spot for it. If no one has a good place for it and it is a historical piece, contact the local historical society to see if they are interested. It will be well cared for and preserved rather than become lunch for hungry termites. In other words, set it free.

Something else I hear often is that people are saving these invaluable pieces for their kids. I want you to take a moment here to think about whether this is a loving gesture or a future burden for your children. What are the odds that your child will someday have room for or even want Grandpa’s fishing pole collection? And will your child someday take that collection because they want it or because they feel obligated? After all, you have been saving it for them for all these years. Are you giving your child a gift or placing burden on them?

If your children are adults, please talk to them. Ask them what they want with an open mind. You might be surprised at what they think is valuable or worth keeping. And remember that if they don’t want it, that isn’t wrong. It just means that they don’t see the same value in it that you do.

Don’t get me wrong – some things are worth saving and passing on. But think long and hard about what you save. Especially if that which you are saving for *someday* is getting in the way of enjoying today.

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at Check out her blog at

1 comment:

Leslie said...

My mom and I always joke that when our mothers (my grandmother and her) feel they are on their last breath, they should walk out the front door, turn around and throw a lighted match back into the house. It may sound morbid (and maybe we are), but she nor I want to deal with all the "stuff" that our mothers have accumulated. My mom and I just have such different taste; I don't think she shouldn't have the things that she obviously loves, but it does not mean that I will want and cherish them like she does. I cherish all the memories we have more than any "thing" that might be at her house.