If you are like me, and your mom or dad passed away, you may be wondering what to do with all those family items you have inherited. Some things can easily be given away. But, when it comes to those keepsakes (memorabilia), you may find it more challenging to get rid of them. To help you, this post will give you guidance on what memorabilia to keep to honor your loved ones (a mother, father, or relative) who has died.
First, there are questions you need to ask yourself about these memorabilia items. Let's begin.
- Questions to ask to determine what memorabilia to keep
- Questions To Ask Yourself When Deciding to Keep a Loved One's Item After They Died
- Keep Home Movies to Honor Your Loved One
- Recreate and streamline their craft projects
- Limit the Items From a Collection
- Frame, Scrapbook, or Digitize Photos from Old Albums
- Create a bound book with their inspiring quotes
- Turn their clothing into another object you can use.
- Replace existing furniture pieces with ones they had in their home
- Keep only the best pieces of your loved one's jewelry
- Update 2022: Repurpose Fine China Pieces
Questions to ask to determine what memorabilia to keep
Pick an item that you think would represent your loved one. A thing that gives you happy memories is always a good first step.
Then, ask yourself these questions:
Questions To Ask Yourself When Deciding to Keep a Loved One's Item After They Died
What is it about this keepsake that you picked? Do you have any emotional attachment to this item?
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Will this item be treasured by other family members, like your kids and grandkids as well?
Was this item precious to your loved one and why?
Does this item represent the person's life?
Does this item represent a value the person had or a value that you want to have that the person also had while they were alive?
Is this item one you love to look at each day? Are you willing to sacrifice your time and take care of this item?
Are you keeping this item because it is expensive?
Does the scent of the item remind you of happy times or sad times? Read more about why objects and memories are forever connected.
Did these questions give you some direction on what to do next? Does it still make you want to keep the item? If not, it's OK to let it go.
There are many items you can keep to remind you of a loved one's life. Remember, a keepsake should be an item that leaves you with happy memories and reminds you of who that person was, and maybe even help you move forward.
To give you some directions on what to do with those items that are usually kept, I put together these additional tips for those memorabilia items.
Keep Home Movies to Honor Your Loved One
If you like to watch recorded loved ones, a video is the best keepsake. It helps you recall the memories and circumstances of a particular event. It also helps you see the interaction others have with the loved one. Making a home movie collection is great for adult children who didn't have the luxury of truly knowing their loved ones. I talked about home movie organizing in this post. 7 EASY HOME MOVIE ORGANIZING TIPS
I created a video through Adobe Premiere Elements that was given to my family to share my mom's recorded moments.
Recreate and streamline their craft projects
If your loved one enjoyed making things, cooking meals, or drawing, Streamlining the amount of these craft items would help reduce the amount of space these items take.
My mother was an excellent cook, and she had many recipes, written and in cookbooks, that she enjoyed making. So, to honor her ability to cook, I rewrote the recipes and made a cookbook for my family members who loved to cook. I also added some of those delicious recipes to my Yummy recipe section on the blog, if you want to visit them.
Limit the Items From a Collection
If your loved one was a collector of small things, keeping too many of these items may overwhelm you and add to your cleaning chores. So, limit yourself to no more than five of these items. Sell the rest and consider buying one different thing, or donate the money that will honor the other person's life. Another option is to distribute the collection to relatives or friends. Check out my Charitable Donations page that lists many charities.
Other memorabilia to keep could be frames and albums.
Frame, Scrapbook, or Digitize Photos from Old Albums
If you like photos and look at them often, keep the images that you love the most. Get rid of any blurry ones and duplications. To truly honor your loved ones, place them in an album that honors their life. You can even call it "The book of _______ wonderful Life." And, get rid of the rest.
I created a scrapbook for the grandkids that stored photos and sayings from my father's life. They truly appreciated it.
With the photos from our ancestors, I also created an ancestor's scrapbook with photo names and years included from old pictures of my mother's and father's family. Every relative that comes over wants to see this scrapbook. It's a great conversation piece.
Create a bound book with their inspiring quotes
If your loved one was an eloquent writer, and he or she wrote stories. Feel free to keep the best ones and get them professionally bound. I found this site called Wert Bookbinding (not an affiliate). They have a "Short Run On Demand Hardcover Casebinding."
If your loved one had a private journal, you might not want to share it, and that's OK. Shred these items before discarding them out of respect for your loved one's privacy.
But if it was just a daily writing journal or workshop notes, you can pick their quotes out of the papers and make it into a unique picture frame with your loved one's photo included in it. Then, hang it on the wall so everyone can see the lovely quotes.
Turn their clothing into another object you can use.
If your loved one wore lots of t-shirts that you treasure, transform them into a variety of items to use. Campus Quilt Company is one site that can help you. (not an affiliate)
Replace existing furniture pieces with ones they had in their home
Try not to keep every piece of furniture unless you are moving into a new larger home and you have nothing. But, if there are a few pieces that you can use and will fit in your home, feel free to keep them. We usually don't have the same style as our parents regarding furniture, so instead, donate it to a charity or sell it on Craig's List or Facebook Marketplace (not an affiliate). Remember the one in one out rule. One item comes into the house; another thing must go. This rule will keep your home from getting cluttered.
Keep only the best pieces of your loved one's jewelry
Keeping gold and other pieces of jewelry can be tricky. If you don't like the gold piece of jewelry, take it to a jewelry store and get it redesigned into something you love that will honor the loved one. I did this with an unmatched earring my mother had from my grandmother. I took it to be turned into a ring. It looks beautiful, and when I look at it, it reminds me of my mom and my grandma.
Also, for the mismatched gold pieces, go to cash for gold places, and get cash. Why keep something that you can't even wear? I went to the jewelry store and traded in the pieces, and then, with the cash, I paid for the ring I mentioned above. No money out of my pocket. =)
If you need help getting rid of costume jewelry, check out the link above. I wrote a post about places to donate jewelry.
Update 2022: Repurpose Fine China Pieces
You can easily turn inherited fine china pieces like plates and bowls into something amazing like bird feeders, 3-tier trays, candles, and candy dishes. Check out The Brooklyn Teacup for pricing and ideas.
I hope this post helps you decide what memorabilia to keep that will remind you of your loved ones.
Let's continue the conversation: How did you honor your loved ones when they passed? Please share it below. I would like to hear from you.
Please note these are affiliate links through Amazon, and at no additional cost, I will earn affiliate fees if you decide to make a purchase.
It’s not easy going through our loved one’s belongings that become memorabilia. You look at the item, it’s your loved one’s signature but that person isn’t there anymore at least not in person. That’s why having an item that tells a story keeps a person close in spirit and in memory and in our love.
Wow, this is just a tough one, isn't it? I think objects from someone who has passed away carry an additional emotional load, making it particularly hard to let them go. I really love this list of questions to help people navigate through this potentially heart-wrenching process. Definitely sharing!
Thanks, Seana! It is a complicated topic, which is why I wanted to give guidance by sharing these questions. Emotions get the best of us when going through these things, so stopping ourselves and looking at the item for what it is, not the feeling or event that happened to get the thing is essential. We will still love the person who passed even if we don't have the item any longer. The items that we do want should be the best of the best. The wanted things should have a place in the home and not boxed up and never used. To make it even easier for the beneficiary, a discussion on the items that are most valued by the person before they pass is essential.
My aunt made a lovely shadowbox of special keepsakes after my uncle died. It makes her smile whenever she looks at it! She also donated his musical instruments to a local school. They even put up a thank you plaque in his honor in the music room! So much better than giving them to family members who would never use them.
That's a great idea. I love to hear it when people find places to donate their precious items and the place/people actually appreciate it. Thanks for sharing.
The idea of being selective and creative about what objects you choose to keep is so helpful. We can't keep everything or we'll become overwhelmed and overloaded with the stuff of someone else's life. You've given some great parameters about how to make those choices. Recently, I had to empty my family's home of almost 60 years. It was helpful that other family members wanted some of the things. I kept some things, but not too much. To me, it's more the memories, and less the stuff, that are the true treasures.
These are great tips on only keeping things that give you happy memories. After my mother passed, I donated many things that held sad memories, or had no sentimental meaning at all. For me, the most important memorabilia were some favorite photographs, which I now have on display in my home. Great tips!
I think people often overlook the fact that (as you said) yes, they can break up a collection. Depends on what it is, of course, but whoever's collection it was probably didn't even like ALL the individual pieces! Speaking of which, just because they owned it doesn't make it worth keeping. I tell clients that if they actually knew the person (let's say a parent) but they don't recognize the object (it was not something they used all the time, or displayed, or talked about, or, apparently, loved) they don't have to keep it. There are other reasons, too, for getting rid of things, but some folks seem to feel like they're obligatory custodians of loved ones' stuff. There isn't a law.
I agree, Hazel. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.
We kept my husband's grandparents' bedroom furniture and have been using it for 20 years. Now that we've decided to update the house, we hired someone to refurbish and modernize the dresser and transform it into a dining room buffet. We are so excited to have such a special keepsake, but also happy that we have been able to make it work in our home, rather than have it be a burden. Excellent advice.
Sabrina, you just may have inspired my next project! My mom passed away 20 years ago this coming December, and though we have lots of photos and many of them are in albums, I think I'd like to choose a collection of highlights and have a photo book made for my dad and my siblings. Thank you!
I'm glad it inspired you, Janet. All my relative truly loved the gift. =)
Well, I haven't done that. Yet. But reading your post again made me wonder why I didn't tell you about my special ring. My mother lost the diamond from her engagement ring when I was very small, or maybe even before I was born, I have no idea. She never wore it, but always kept it. When she passed, my sister wanted her wedding ring (which she's still wearing over 20 years later) so I got her engagement ring. I told my husband I'd like to get it set with a sapphire, which was my mother's birthstone. It was just one of those things you say in passing and never think about again, so I was totally surprised when he had it done without telling me. It's one of my cherished possessions, and I now have a daughter-in-law who was also born in September, so I know it will stay in the family when I'm gone.
I still haven't done it, and my Dad has now passed away too, so I think a book about their life together would be nice for my siblings to have!