I Wish
I Knew

I Wish I Knew: Ask about family heirloom stories.

July 15, 2016 by Ellen Abramson


Your house is filled with a lifetime of possessions. Some of these items have meaning and others do not. Some were passed down from a previous generation, some were purchased on a memorable vacation, some were bought on the spur of the moment, some were handmade, some were given as presents and some may carry a hidden secret. Many of these items also have monetary value as well. The one thing these items have in common is that only you and possibly some of your family members (if you are lucky) know the stories behind them. This information may reside in your head, it may be written down or it may be stored on a computer in cyberspace.

If something were to happen to you would your loved ones know the stories behind your sentimental possessions, would they know the monetary value, would they know which items can be donated and which ones should be saved for posterity? Would they know the glass dining room table is worth a lot of money, would they know the mismatched tea set was your grandmothers, would they know the porcelain doll in your childhood bedroom was a treasured gift, would they know the wooden boomerang was purchased on your honeymoon? If you don’t share this information with your loved ones you risk losing the history of these treasured possessions, you risk giving away an item that has family memories attached to it, you risk donating items that may be worth more money than you thought.

Don’t let your precious treasures leave the family forever. Talk about them with your family and write down the history. Record and discuss all of the who, what, when, where, why and how; the more detail the better. Don’t forget to talk about your wedding dress or religious items. Don’t forget to discuss the handmade tablecloth that was used to celebrate many family holidays. Consider taking your family on a “story walk” of your home where you talk about your possessions. The walk may take a day, a month or even a year. You will find it rewarding, freeing and your family will be appreciative forever.

Whatever you do let your stories be told and live on while you are able to do so. When loved ones need to clear out the contents of your house, they don’t want to be left wondering what to do with all of the possessions. Share your stories, share your history whether it be sentimental or monetary. Your possessions need a voice, only you have the power to give them that voice. Don’t let these memories walk out the front door.

Give your family the gift of knowing about the items that are dear to you. You acquired them for a reason, they deserve to travel on in time and become a cherished part of your family history. Preserve your memories, tell your own family heirloom stories. Your loved ones will thank you and your special possessions will find a new home. And one day they will continue to move on throughout your family tree – to the next lucky generation.