They say you can never have too much of a good thing…so we decided to tackle a pressing issue among older adults with not just ONE blog…but THREE! Last week, we launched The Etiquette of Heirlooms Part I, in which we addressed the big 3 “P’”: people, possessions & priorities. This week, we bring it to a more personal level by moving beyond who the items go to and why, but how the departure of these items from your care directly impacts YOU.
(Keep in mind that this post is written from the perspective of a senior who is decidedly downsizing or striving for simplicity. These same tips can be used whether you are the original or inherited owner of family heirlooms, and whether you are a relative or executor who is managing an estate.)
Parting with prized possessions can feel much like walking away from a favorite memory – but the benefit of memories versus possessions is that they are virtually impossible to leave behind. One of the key aspects in letting go is separating the mental from the physical; de-cluttering is NOT disrespecting your experiences ~ it’s merely moving them from the physical space to the mental mindset. While much easier said than done, don’t feel like minimizing ‘stuff’ is an abandonment of your life’s achievements. It’s just reaching the realization that you don’t have to hold onto something to hold onto its meaning.
That being said – it would be unrealistic to assume that you can (and want to) part with everything! If you are downsizing, choosing a select few prized possessions is a great way to feel like pieces of your old home are entering your new one. For the rest, you may wish to consider the following strategies for simplifying with ease and honoring for always:
Make it a momentous occasion! Let your friends and family know in advance that you are going to be doing some cleaning; ask them to think of an item or two in your possession that means a great deal to them. Then invite everyone to pick-up the items during a designated window; you may end up with an afternoon of sharing memories along with seeing your most prized possessions enter appreciated hearts!
Give-a-way for good! Think of good causes that may benefit from some of your extraneous furniture, clothing and housewares. Your prized possessions don’t have to go to a known home…to go to a good home where they are wanted and needed. Consider your local churches, community centers, social service facilities and schools as recipients of some of the more practical and purposeful items.
Ask for advice. While more and more frequently, we are choosing to manage our estates upfront and delineate who gets what while we are present to see it, this is also a great opportunity to ask your estate attorney, tax advisor and financial planner about the role of capital gains, estate taxes and will updates. You are not only lightening the burden on the executor of your estate down the road, you are leading the direction of your legacy.
Turn the tables. For just a moment, pretend the possessions don’t belong to you. If a friend or family member offered you the item, what would you tell them to do? Would you advise them to sell it…for a price you would objectively pay? Would you remind them of how much it means to them and encourage them to keep it? Would you suggest putting it away for a month and seeing if they miss it? Try this approach with a few key items and if it works well – use it for everything in that gray 'keep or not-to-keep' area.
For more tips on parting with prized possessions (such as the BIG 12, alternate ways to honor & re-purposing in reality) check out our guide to right-sizing, which poses effective and engaging ideas for helping you handle your heartfelt heirlooms.
Check back next week for The Etiquette of Heirlooms Part III: What To Do With What's Left!
All our best,
Helen & Julie
Now serving the San Francisco Bay Area (California) & Denver/Vail Valley (Colorado)!