Years ago, whenever a relative moved, it seemed as if they deposited the things they didn’t want at my parents’ house. Most of these things: curtains, blankets, end tables, pots and pans, ended up in my parents’ attic or basement because they didn’t really want these items but they felt oddly compelled to keep them. Why? And do you feel yourself in the same situation?
You might inherit someone’s stuff because they’ve moved or passed away. You might feel as if you’ve become the steward or guardian of these items and that it is now your responsibility to keep and care for these items.
If you have the choice, you can politely thank someone for thinking of you and then you can turn down their offer. One, they may believe that you need an item you don’t need. “Oh, thank you for offering me those blankets but my linen closet is full with all the blankets I already own.” Two, they may feel guilty getting rid of their stuff and giving it to someone they know will ease their guilt. “I know the local Salvation Army is looking for clothing donations. I’ve been cleaning my closet and bringing stuff there.”
If you are receiving items from a relative who has died, you may question if it is wrong to get rid of the objects.
When my parents passed away and I started cleaning the house, I found boxes and bags filled with items that I didn’t even know were in the house. A lot of stuff got tossed or donated without a second thought. Items that I thought I could place on consignment or sell sat around the house for months because no one was interested in them.
When I mentioned being overwhelmed by all of this stuff, someone told me to box it up and put it in my basement. However, all this stuff already had lived in boxes for 40 years. I realized that I had no sentimental attachment to these items. Maybe that bowl had belonged to my grandmother, but no one could tell me that. If the items had a sentimental attachment for my parents I had no clue since the items had been hidden beneath boxes of old blankets and curtains.
If I liked an item or could use it, I kept it. The rest was given away. If you don’t know what to do with inherited items, put them in a box and label it with a date 6-to-12 months in the future. If after that time you realize that you have no personal attachment to the items, then, to you, they would be clutter. Ask other family members if they would appreciate the objects.
Display It, Use It, Pass It Along
Clutter is in the eye of the beholder. If you adore an item, of course you should keep it. If you can make good use of the item, it’s a keeper. Remember that you don’t have to display an item year round. Just as you pull out and then pack away holiday decorations or seasonal items, you can do the same with the items you’ve inherited. Bring out the lamp with the floral design during the spring. Set grandma’s animal figurines in with your Christmas decorations.
Although you may feel guilty giving away objects that you’ve inherited, would you really feel better about them if they sat in boxes in your attic for the next 30 years?