Senior Living


Health & Spirit

Family Heirlooms

Doug Mayberry on

Q: I have many old, family heirlooms in my home and am excited to pass them along to a new generation. These old family pictures, china and silver all require special care and attention, and I've done my best to preserve them.

Although these objects are precious to me, I know all too well about how families lose things over time.

How can I make sure these items stay in the family for generations to come?

A: Give items to family members according to whom you think will care most for them.

Family heirlooms are our special treasures that we envision staying in the family for many generations to come. While they are fantastic items, they are only worth as much as the owner believes them to be. Their value goes beyond the monetary, and they can't be reacquired once lost.

Teaching the proper way to store and clean these items can be a bonding activity for you and the family member who will inherit the items. You can simultaneously teach your loved ones about the history of the item and its care requirements.

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Our family histories are special to us and inform us of where we come from. Having physical objects connects us directly to the past and can help us place ourselves in the shoes of our ancestors.

However, these family histories are as vulnerable to the passage of time as the objects themselves. Although one of the best parts of our own histories is the storytelling process, the story itself changes over time. While we engage in the story while hearing it, it should be expected that details will be lost.

The best way to preserve family histories is to write them down and pass them along. For each item you intend to pass on, write the related story down and keep it with the item. That way, future generations will preserve the details.

As anybody who has a great storyteller in their life knows, written and oral stories capture different elements of our personal mythologies -- the facts and personalities! Your heirs will benefit from having as much information as you can pass along. -- Doug


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