How to de-clutter gifts and family heirlooms

There are a lot of reasons why we hold on to our things, our clutter. A few I’ve used or heard include:

  • I might need it one day
  • but it cost a lot
  • what else would I put there, it would be empty
  • I just don’t have the time to go through all this
  • But…it is pretty
  • I’m saving this for my children
  • it’s a family heirloom

And the biggest reason: It was a gift, if I got rid of it and so-and-so found out their feelings would be hurt.

Working through the excuses

On the list above I finally found my way, pretty easily, through the first seven.  If I had needed it, it wouldn’t have been buried so far into what ever closet, cabinet it was hiding.

It cost a lot,  it doesn’t make my life better today.  I realized filling spaces was only telling me that this living arrangement wasn’t working for me, eliminating the item let me see how else to use that space.

It’s pretty, really? Well then someone else will enjoy it because I don’t any more. The next two were a little harder.

I’m saving them for my children.  My grandmother saved a lot of my things from when I was small. Some were appreciated others well, they weren’t needed. Things like the high chair, rocking chair, child’s wooden table and chairs, these my children loved, and I appreciated having them.The baby dolls, with all the clothes she made for them, well I had two boys they quickly out grew dolls and never cared about the clothes she made and saved.

So thinking about this I purchased a plastic tub and saved one tub per child. If they loved it, or was special gift it went in there. Everything else was passed on.  Inside the tubs were things such as the outfit their great-grandfather purchased for each boy to wear home from the hospital when they were born, the favorite dinosaurs,  hand-made blanket given to my son on the day of his Christening.

When they moved out and were settling into their own homes I gave them their tub. They were free to do with it what they wanted, it was none of my business what they decided to do with it. I do know that my grandchildren are thoroughly enjoying the dinosaurs!

The family heirlooms, these were harder. I grew up being told which itewere being left for me in my grandmothers will. She made it clear these were things she treasured and wanted me to have. The problem was that they weren’t me. Yes, when she passed awayI took them into my home because they were hers and this was what she wanted. I made them work, but never felt they belonged to me. One day when trying to decide how to refinish the end tables, that drove me nuts, I realized that her home had been filled with things she loved, not things that people gave her.  I wanted that too and hoped she would understand.

When I finally got to these heirlooms I realized that I wasn’t the only family member who might want to hold on to something. I started with my children, then my siblings, offering a piece at a time as I was ready to part with them.  Since it was my grandparents who raised me, I had a lot of antiques.Things like milk glass vases, silver china and the like.

My one daughter-in-law loves to decorate with white, she said her style is shabby chic, she quickly accepted the offer of the milk glass vases and bowls.  My sister took a few things as well.  After family went through the pieces, large and small, the rest went to consignment and thrift shops.

Gifts, the hardest to go through. I was holding on to these because they were from friends or family who are important to me. They choose each gift with love and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by getting rid of them.  Then I realized when I give gifts to those I love I do it with no strings attached.

The giving of a gift shows I love then and wanted to express that love. Once received they are free to do what they want with the item. If it doesn’t suit them or their needs they are free to give it away, or return it.  I wanted this freedom as well.

Always, always baby steps when you consider others feeling

I took baby steps in this situation. First, I put the items on display away. You know the saying “out of sight, out of mind”. I hoped this was true. Once packed away, or simply  hidden in a closet or cabinet I waited to see if anyone asked where the item went. No i didn’t put everything away I wanted to get rid of, just a few things at a time. Most importantly, if I knew I was having a guest, I would put away an item that person gave me just to start the process with them.

When months went by and no one asked where the item was, I knew I could get rid of it.  One person I know does look for items she gives as gifts when she visits, so for this person I told her an item broke and couldn’t be repaired, or it was on loan at the time; but I had actually gotten rid of them. After a couple of visits, she forgot to ask if the item had come back from whom ever I had loaned it too.

For a few items, I offered them back to the person who originally gave them too me. I explained that while I loved them and had enjoyed them, I was making changes and would not be able to keep them. Be sure to you know the person well before you do this as some people will still be hurt.  Some took me up on the offer, others felt that they had chosen the item for me and it didn’t fit them so gave me their blessing to pass the item on.

Feeling free

This is a process. I thought I had gotten rid of everything I didn’t use, I packed up all the things I had decided to keep and made my move. While unpacking I found one item that I had received recently that was never me. I couldn’t find a way to hide it so I held on to it. I have lived here eight months now, and it sits in a corner. I’ve never used it in the 2 years I’ve had it.  I’m  going to pass it on this week. I know just the person who will enjoy it, and when I see her this Friday I will gift it to  her, with the admonition that she is free to do whatever she wants with it, just in case I am wrong and it’s not really something she wants.

So you see, there are ways to part with those items that while previously loved now feel out-of-place, or worse are simply clutter. When it comes to gifts, you will know what option will work for you based on the giver’s personality.

I would love to hear how you parted with items that didn’t serve you any more, or never did.  What is/was it? Was it a gift or family heirloom? Are you still holding on to it, or how did you find a way to part with it?

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