Passing Down Heirlooms: Why It’s Important To Keep Treasures In The Family

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By Lucille Rosetti from

Passing down heirlooms within the family used to be a common occurrence, but as times have changed, so has the practice. Many people don’t hold onto things the way they used to, and when they do, it’s mostly for financial value rather than sentimental. But that’s not the only problem; young Americans simply don’t want an older generation’s belongings. In fact, USA Today noted in 2016 that it’s become more and more common for parents to try and pass down their expensive furniture and decor only to be rebuffed.

“They want a simpler lifestyle. They don’t want clutter. They don’t want extra stuff,” auctioneer Jack Wootton told the publication.

Yet preserving your family’s legacy is important, especially for those whose loved ones made their place in history by taking a stand, fighting for what they believed in, or let their voices be heard. It’s not necessary to keep and pass down a storage locker full of items; rather, it’s better to hold onto what really matters, the things that have sentimental value, and talk to your family members about what they mean.

Here’s how to get started.

Check the item’s provenance

Just because you ended up with something doesn’t mean it’s yours to give away. According to How Stuff Works, you should always check to make sure the item was meant to be with you, especially if you have a large family. Fortunately, some things can be shared, such as photos and artwork, because you can scan them and make copies.

Take care of it

For some older pieces, it’s extremely important to make sure you’re caring for it properly. Wedding dresses and baby clothing, jewelry and paper can all become easily damaged or deteriorate quickly, and in order to preserve them for future generations, you’ll need to do some research on the best ways to keep them looking brand new. Check out for helpful tips on preserving items.

Find out the story

You may find that you’ve wound up with items from family members without knowing the story behind them, such as the antique silver you received from your grandmother on your wedding day. Talk to your family and find out the history behind these belongings, then write the information down on acid-free archival paper so that future generations will know exactly what they have.

Think about who should take it

Finding the right person for your treasured heirlooms can be tricky, especially if you have a large family. Think about who will benefit the most from your treasures; for instance, larger items such as armoires should go to someone who has room for such things; a bride-to-be might love to have a piece of jewelry for her wedding day. If you have something of value — either monetary or historical– that you can’t find a home for, consider donating it to a museum or auctioning it off.

Remember that everyone’s memories are different

Often, the passing down of heirlooms comes at a time when an individual is downsizing for a move or going through their belongings in order to get rid of clutter, which means sometimes treasures get thrown away or donated due to a lack of significance. But remember, just because an item doesn’t mean something to you, that doesn’t mean it’s not full of memories for someone else in your family. Keep communication open with your loved ones so that everyone will get what they want.

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