The age of decluttering is at hand, and the up-and-coming generations are much less likely to want the material goods of their relatives. Nevertheless, for many families, heirlooms remain a vital facet of a healthy family structure. So how to balance these two competing ideas? Of course, every family is different, but this article will outline what makes heirlooms valuable and how to create ones that are more likely to be cherished by future generations.
Almost Anything Can Be an Heirloom
Heirlooms are items handed down from generation to generation and include a tale about a significant element of family history. However, not all heirlooms are equally valuable outside the immediate family. This is because everyone places a different value on their heirlooms, making them priceless in their eyes.
There are several forms of family heirlooms. Engagement rings and jewels, real estate, a watch, books, antique or handmade furniture, records, and clothes are some of the more popular goods. An heirloom can be whatever you want it to be, but the most significant aspect of an heirloom is the value you place on this piece of your family's history.
We Place Different Types of Value on Heirlooms
While everyone (even serial declutterers!) can recognize that heirlooms have value, understanding what type of value they bring can help decide whether to keep or discard one. Moreover, it can inform your decision when you try to create a new one to pass on.
We can divide the value we attach to heirlooms into four types –
Monetary: Some heirlooms, like jewelry and real estate, can be worth a lot of money. Sometimes, they even grow in value as the years roll by. The advantage of expensive heirlooms is that they can potentially help the family out of a severe financial downturn.
Social: Heirlooms that come with a well-known brand name, like Rolex or Bulgari, can deliver social cache to the family. These items can be reminders of past achievements, standing in the community, or a family's proud history.
Functional: Many heirlooms are objects of excellent craftsmanship that still outperform modern examples. A cast-iron pan, a solid wrench, and even a bomber jacket can still find a place in our daily routines.
Sentimental: When people think of heirlooms, they usually think of sentimental value first. Objects like jewelry, quilts, clothes, art, and other personal effects remind us of loved ones and keep old memories alive.
The Best Heirlooms to Keep or Create
Whether you are decluttering and want to know what you should keep or are thinking of making a new heirloom to pass on to others, there are some things you should consider. First, and most importantly, less functional heirlooms are becoming less popular. Second, space is at a premium for many people, especially those pursuing a minimalist lifestyle. Keeping those considerations in mind, here are some suggestions for heirlooms to either keep or create.
Whether you're the cook or it's an aging relative, consider putting together a collection of the recipes everyone loves. Generally, a small box of index cards is unobtrusive enough to fit in a decluttered home. If not, you can digitize the collection! Recipes are an eminently functional heirloom.
Family Photo Album
Scrapbooking has seen a resurgence in the past decade, and digital scrapbooking is a convenient alternative. Putting together an album of memories, complete with captions, is a great way to capitalize on sentimental value for everyone in the family, and digital versions take up no physical space.
Families have used quilts and tapestries for generations to pass down memories. You can go into it as a team effort or by yourself. You can even fashion a piece of furniture if you have carpentry skills. The right piece can become a functional part of someone's life for many decades.
Write a Book
It could be a memoir, a collection of family stories, or the next great American novel. In every case, dedicating the book (or books!) to your family members is a classic move. Of course, you can write with only the family in mind. Or, if you have the chops, you can write for a wider audience. The book then becomes an asset to be handed down, potentially earning an income for the family.
Clothing or Art
This option requires some care, as styles change with time. Nevertheless, some classics never go out of style, and well-maintained clothes or snappy artwork can find use in many modern homes. When chosen well, clothing or art can tie together all four types of value we commonly associate with heirlooms.
The Best Heirlooms Blend Function and Sentiment
Deciding whether to keep an heirloom you've inherited can be tricky, as can choosing what to pass down to the next generation. With so many people choosing to get rid of impractical and space-intensive possessions, we want neither to burden nor to be burdened with material objects or the guilt of throwing them away. Therefore, it's best to focus on preserving the heirlooms that offer function in addition to sentimental, financial, or social value. By doing so, we can keep things simple, conserving space and preserving the most impactful reminders of where we've come from.
Be Charitable – Some heirlooms may have a lot of potential to do good, just not in your home. Consider donating things that could substantially improve the life of someone in need of life's necessities.
It Belongs in a Museum – It may sound odd, but where else would you keep your great grandfather's WWI uniform? Museums and universities often gratefully accept period artifacts in good condition. So share your family history with the public.
Recycle/Upcycle – This is great for jewelry. Maybe a valuable piece is too gaudy to wear? No problem! Have the precious stones put in settings that are more appropriate to your style.