Honoring the Legacy of Your Loved Ones

 Posted by Kendra MacLeod on March 8, 2016 at 5:28 PM
“Memorabilia gives us a sense of self and allows us to reminisce about events good or bad, happy or sad,” said Kendra MacLeod, President of Caring Transitions of Berkshires and Hudson Valley. “These items truly define us.”
When the time comes to move or clean out a family home, this emotional connection to certain things presents a downsizing challenge for many. The following suggestions are designed to help honor family memories while reducing some of the clutter created by objects saved for sentimental reasons.

Documenting: Major events in family history should be documented to give future generations a sense of place and reference. Today, many online options, such as www.ancestry.com, allow you to track genealogy, places or historical events. Some websites even allow you to upload pictures of items, providing visual proof and permanent records so physical mementos may then be dispersed.

Digitizing: Important family documents and pictures of special items can be quickly and economically organized into files or custom family “books” with the help of online photo libraries such as Snapfish, Shutterfly and Kodak. If you are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of pictures, videos and slides that loved ones have saved over the years, services such as ScanDigital will electronically upload, preserve and organize all of your family records for immediate and future access.

Gifting: Once a memento is permanently recorded, ask yourself, “Do I know anyone else who would appreciate this item?” Young families who are just starting out may truly appreciate the gift of a treasured christening gown, crocheted blanket or copper tea pot. An avid fisherman would love to display great-grandpa’s hand-tied lures, just as the family chef will appreciate antique stoneware, ceramic pots or an original copy of “The Joy of Cooking.”

Honoring: Of course, some of these items have monetary value. Historical items may even have great value. Appraisers, auctioneers and estate sale experts, such as Caring Transitions, can help when you are ready to discover what your mementos are worth in today’s marketplace. Yet, because the investment in sentimental possessions is often more emotional than financial, it may be most rewarding to find friends and family who will honor and cherish the items, as opposed to locating a source to buy them.

Possessions belonging to the recently deceased are usually the most difficult with which to part. The value of objects becomes tied to the value of the personal relationship. When you dismiss a loved one’s things, you may feel you are diminishing their memory; however, it can be helpful to remember your late loved ones are defined by much more than their possessions.

Getting creative: You may be surprised by how many people share a common history or similar interests. Local historical societies are often happy to take old blueprints, community plans, street signs or other neighborhood memorabilia. Museums, clubs and organizations have a great interest in trades, hobbies and collectibles.

Items of lesser value, but high sentimental significance, such as dried flowers, costume jewelry, shells, or even news clippings may be preserved through decorative application to photo albums, book covers, picture frames, garden paths, recipe boxes or any number of timeless, practical places. The key is to set a completion date for any project that will make use of your mementos, rather than to once again store them away for “someday.”

Storing: If personal mementos have taken over your living space or filled your basements and garages, it is time to consider downsizing and organizing. First, prioritize the importance of each object by evaluating your emotional attachment. Typically, items that evoke intensely happy memories or very sad memories are the most valued. It is easier to give, donate or sell items that fall somewhere in the middle.

It can be helpful to place limits on your storage space in advance. For smaller homes, you may create storage spaces such as a “Memory Box” made from a plastic container, a table with storage, a decorative trunk or a specific amount of wall space. Organizing and downsizing experts, such as Caring Transitions, can help you sort through the clutter and manage some of the difficult emotional choices you are facing.

Moving forward: When it comes to downsizing and organizing highly personal items, the first step is often the most difficult to take. Instead, many people would rather live with the stress of too much clutter and conflicting emotion for days, weeks or even years before finally acknowledging there is simply not enough space and time to manage all the objects associated with treasured memories.

Yet, once we take a good look around, consider options, look at our mementos in a new way and consult with professionals who can help us preserve and honor memories, we can make choices that help us manage our treasured objects without regret.

“Pulling our possessions out of the closet and dusting them off gives us a special opportunity to pause, reminisce and then create new memories,” said MacLeod. “It helps if we realize physical objects are more than place holders; these same objects can generate new experiences and hold new meaning for new people. When we share our memories or release possessions for the enjoyment or fulfillment of others, we truly discover the meaning of the word ‘legacy.’”