I received the following email from Jeff a week or so ago which is really what inspired me to focus on obligation clutter again this week. It is amazing the desperation we sometimes feel when faced with the dilemma of “I don’t want this thing but it’s family history so I really can’t declutter it. What am I to do?” Anyway read Jeff’s comment, where you will hear that desperation, and we will go from there.
I really appreciate your wonderful posts. They, as well as other sites and books, have spurred me on to GET RID OF STUFF! I (we) have been successful in a lot of areas, but the one that gives me the most problems is inherited stuff. I’m an only child, and both my parents are gone now. I have in my garage a trunkful (and other containers) of sentimental and historical stuff that I seem paralyzed to dispose of. Diaries, WWI, WWII memorabilia*, PICTURES!!!! (even one of Lindbergh standing on the wing of his plane), and family stuff for over one hundred years. Nobody in my family ever threw anything away! I have no other extended family remotely interested in the items, and my own children are thoroughly modern and don’t care (yet.) I find myself almost wishing for a tornado (I’m in Oklahoma) to come and take away the stuff so I don’t have to worry about it anymore! To top it off, my wife will have the same situation when her parents pass on.
Being an only child makes this situation both easier and more difficult for Jeff at the same time. At least he knows the items are his alone and it is his decision as to what to do with them. But if he had a sibling who cared to have the items it would be so much easier to pass them on. Then there is the complication of whether Jeff’s children will change their minds in the future and want the stuff themselves. As I see it there are many things Jeff should consider…
- If his children are old enough to make rational decisions about the items ~ that is not to young to realise the significance of what they are being offered ~ then he is free to let them go. I would suggest that anyone over the age of 25 has enough of their own individual personality to make this decision. It doesn’t guarantee that they still won’t change their mind but they will however be old enough to remember they were given the choice.
- If the items are from beyond Jeffs parents generation ~ that is his grandparnents, great grandparents… ~ then it is fair, and maybe even a legal requirement, to offer them to any existing family members ~ uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews… ~ before making the decision to hand them on any other way. If someone else in the family wants to carry on the tradition of handing these items down then that is a good thing. Should Jeff choose this option perhaps he could give them with the proviso that they come back to his children should they wish it in the future.
- Should there be no other family members to take the items then another method of keeping possession of them while having them enjoyed by others is to loan them to a local preservation society or museum. By loaning items they remain your property to be retrieved when desired. In Jeffs case military museums would be a good choice to loan his WW1 and WW2 items to.
- If Jeff is happy to hand them on permanently he could outright donate them to the local preservation society or museum of his choice.
- Should all these other options be exhausted then Jeff might just choose to sell the items.
*I will say that I personally think that military medals should remain within the family if possible. For personal reasons I do have a rather bias opinion on this though.
Multi generational family heirlooms deserve special consideration when decluttering. I am not talking about a few fancy tea cups your mother once owned that have no real story attached except that they are pretty, made by Royal Dalton and might be worth a few bucks but real family history~ items of great personal value and possible even great monetary value. While thinking about this post I began doing a little research and found a web post that I though covered the subject of handing on heirlooms quite well and I implore you to read if as just a start to researching this subject. Here is the link
TLC .howstuffworks.com ~ 5 Things to do before passing down heirlooms
From a financial point of view I would always investigate the monetary value of any heirloom item before making the decision to sell or donate. The more information you are armed with the better decision you stand to make. How many stories have your heard where someone has picked up a half million dollar item for $50 at a garage sales. I know I have.
Today’s Mini Mission
Declutter some grown children clutter ~ This is something long ago left behind by your grown child. Your home is not a storage unit, ask them to collect it and let them know you are going to get rid of it otherwise. With a little diplomacy this is possible without alienating them.
Today’s Declutter Item
It would be a lie to say I have no grown children clutter to get rid of because I have three boxes of it in the garage and that is only the start. One of the children is still at home while the other isn’t settled enough to expect her to collect her stuff yet. So I have no examples to declutter today but I do however have these two little bits to clutter from my own teen years. One is an elastic ankle support from my days of several sprains playing softball while the other is a leather bat grip. I am at a loss to explain how these things have stayed in my possession for so long especially since they were in our first aid kit that has been decluttered several times already. I don’t know what I was thinking.
Something I Am Grateful For Today
Aborting my continually interrupted attempts to get the house work done and going instead to a friends place for coffee and cake. Gotta love resorting to plan B.
“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast