Note:  A real story shared with me by one of my millennial followers.

“My grandma loved that table! Why didn’t I accept it when she offered it to me last year while she was still alive?

~ Zach

It breaks my heart that I was too preoccupied with my own life to listen to her stories… Not just stories about her kitchen table, but many of the other things she cherished and hoped to pass down to me, her only grandson and her last living heir.

When she passed away suddenly last winter, I was too busy with my career to be bothered with cleaning out her big house and dealing with all the things she had collected over 50 years. So, I hired an estate sales manager to disperse all of her belongings. They were efficient and organized with the process, so within 60 days, her house was cleaned out, put on the market, and quickly sold.

All of my grandmother’s stuff was gone…GONE!

While visiting her last year before she got sick, she told me I could have anything I wanted. But I said no. I told her I had a very small apartment in the city, so I didn’t have any room for it. I think she understood, but I know she was hurt.

But as I stood there, looking at her beloved kitchen table gathering dust in an old, smelly thrift store, I was suddenly flooded with memories of our family sitting around that table, talking, laughing, and enjoying her homemade peach ice cream and hot peach pie!

The table had many years of use, with scratches and dings, but suddenly that didn’t matter to me anymore.

In that moment, I came to a profound realization about the role that family heirlooms play in our lives. That table represented memories of my grandma and my family history that I never wanted to forget. With tears in my eyes, I decided to buy it. I wanted it to have a proper home, a loving home… Even if it would overwhelm the space in my tiny apartment.

It was now too important to me to let it sit there gathering dust. I hope that one day my own family will sit around grandma’s kitchen table just like I did as a young boy.

I was committed to letting her memory live on through this old piece of furniture. I would cherish it just as she did. I was so grateful that I found it before it was lost forever.”

Zach D., Age 29, Philadelphia

Have you ever regretted a decision you made that involved your family heirlooms?   If so, watch this video to the end because I’m going to explain how you can let go of the guilt, regret, and conflict you might be facing when it comes to dealing with inherited family heirlooms.  

What Can We Learn from Zach’s Experience and Heartfelt Story?

It’s no fun living with guilt and regret, wondering if you made the right or wrong decision and if you should have responded differently at the time. It’s perfectly normal to question your decision and have second thoughts when it comes to handling inherited items from loved ones.

On one hand, you might be saying:

  • I did the right thing.
  • I don’t have room for any more stuff.
  • Why would I accept something I don’t like and won’t use?
  • My mobile and transitory lifestyle doesn’t warrant being burdened with more stuff.

On the other hand, you might be reconsidering your decision for the following reasons:

  • Sentimental reasons: The heirlooms carry fond memories of the deceased and stories about your family history.
  • Sense of obligation: You might want to keep an heirloom out of love and respect.
  • Perceived value: The heirloom might have monetary value.

So, if you are feeling conflicted about whether you should or shouldn’t accept inherited items, or if you have already said no to a loved one and are having some second thoughts about your decision, and if you are still above ground, you still have time. It’s not too late.

Lessons We Can Learn from Zach’s Heartfelt Story

  1. Take time right now. Reach out to your parents, your grandparents before it’s too late. Let them share their stories, the meaning behind their most treasured belongings. Take time to listen before it’s too late.
  2. Ask questions. Ask about the memories those items hold. Ask why they’ve held onto them, where they came from, why it was hard for them to part with them. If interested in any of those items, ask them if they would consider giving it to you to hold onto.
  3. Learn about your ancestors and family history. Discover how they influenced and shaped your loved ones and their lives.
  4. Try to understand. They have deep emotional connections and attachment to certain pieces.
  5. Appreciate the rich family history and stories that their stuff can tell.

Our stuff tells stories

Generational stories make our things come alive when we hear them. We can then start to understand and appreciate that many of their belongings are far more than just things. These heartfelt conversations with our loved ones open our eyes and ears to the importance of family memories, and the real value of our family treasures.

Because of this newfound connection and understanding, there’s no reason to feel guilty or regretful or just say, “I wish I had…”

If you take time now to listen to your mom and dad’s stories or your grandparents’ stories, the stuff doesn’t matter nearly that much, but the memories of their stories do.

Also, even if you don’t have space in your home or apartment, you might consider accepting a few small cherished items that will serve as a constant reminder. They will always live in your heart.

The most important thing, though, is to do it now. Don’t wait. If your mom and dad or your grandparents call or text asking you to come for a visit, just say yes. You’ll never regret that decision!

How to Let Go of Guilt, Regret, and the Inner Conflict You Might Be Facing When It Comes to Family Heirlooms

Here’s how:

Honor your family memories and heirlooms without compromising your commitment to a simpler life, owning less, and not cluttering your own home.

  1. Be highly selective. Take only a few very special pieces that are especially meaningful to you.
  • Select small items. One of the most popular heirlooms is jewelry, like a watch that is also useful, or other small mementos of a special time with your loved one, like a photo of a trip together.
  • Digitize them. Take good photos, make video recordings of the stories. Create a Shutterfly album about them.
  • Get creative by making space for them.
  • Repurpose a large item. Make it multifunctional in your small space. For example, a dining room table can function as your primary desk, dining table, and work area.
  • Lend it temporarily to a family member or friend. Someone you know and trust who has a larger home will use it, care for it, and return it to you when you have a larger home.
  • Put it on loan to a museum. If the piece is particularly unique or valuable, put it on loan to a museum, like museum-quality furniture.

These simple tips will help you navigate this emotional process with honor, grace, and respect for your loved one… and more importantly, for yourself.

Share your story!

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