I'm a professional declutterer and help my clients get rid of things they don't need.
Heirlooms can be a big source of clutter and stress for people.
It's hard to get rid of things people you loved loved.
If your family is typical, there's a lot of inherited stuff lingering in cupboards and closets. It may be fine china, silver tea sets, childhood toys, ancient correspondence, favorite mixing bowls, or janky wooden spoons.
It's hard to get rid of things that were special to the people you loved. It's also hard to keep a lot of moldering old junk that takes up space and never sees the light of day. Sadly, there are no easy answers; this is an individual journey. But there are strategies for making decisions you can live with.
Use the things you love
First, choose the things you adore. Don't worry about whether they're valuable; take them home and use them. Serve hot dogs on the family Wedgewood, which used to come out only on special occasions. Drink orange juice from the Waterford crystal.
The saddest thing about heirlooms is that we often put them away and take them out only once a year for special occasions.
If there are family letters or photos you love to look at, put them in an album or otherwise make them accessible — using archival materials to keep them safe. Hang that watercolor of palm trees in the desert painted by your great uncle, put your grandmother's wedding dress in a shadow box, and hang it in your bedroom. Revel in these inherited treasures.
But don't keep everything
Don't keep everything in the name of history. We live in such a disposable society that wooden clothespins can seem like rare antiquities. They're not.
Resist the temptation to keep every item your ancestors touched. Save the ones that are important to you, the ones you will use, and the ones that really do have historical significance, but please don't keep it all.
When decision fatigue sets in, as it's bound to, use an incremental strategy. Set aside a few boxes and revisit them over the next several months. As time goes by, you will realize that the antique train that seemed so special has lost its magic, and it will be easier to let it go. Same with the chipped mirror, the too-floral china, and other supposed treasures.
You will get things you just don't want
Inevitably, you will inherit stuff you have no use for and is not interesting to you. This is challenging, but take heart; you can work your way through it. First, determine whether the items are valuable or have historical significance.
Letters, pictures, and artifacts might be of interest to a museum or library, depending on the writer or owner and the contents. But remember that they also have limited storage space and can't take everything. Offer things to institutions that specialize in what you've got. For example, a first edition of Betty Crocker won't be of interest to most universities; find a museum of culinary arts instead.
If you've inherited items that might be worth something, get a real valuation. For some things, this is as easy as checking online. If you use eBay, make sure to look at the listings that have already sold to get an idea of what things really go for, rather than the for sale section, which lists the prices people are hoping for.
If your stuff seems valuable, hire an appraiser, especially if there is a lot of it. You want someone who is certified.
Sadly, many fine antiques have lost value over the years. Just because they're nice does not mean they are worth money. Use what you like, sell what you can, and release the rest with love and gratitude.
There will be junk
Realistically, there is going to be a lot of stuff that is old but not valuable. Maybe it had sentimental value to the deceased but not to anyone living. It's hard to toss things that were important to your loved one but be strong. Donate and recycle what you can, but recognize that some old things are just trash.
And remember, you get to decide what lives in your home. Don't keep things because you think you "should."
Read the original article on Business Insider