Family heirlooms – why do we hang onto “stuff”?
Anyone who has ever sold their home will be familiar with the agents’ advice to remove “personal clutter” and create an open and neutral space into which viewers can project their imaginations.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
A couple of years ago a book by Japanese author, Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising, became an international best seller.
It is based on the principle that we should keep only those possessions that we truly love and will use and should be ruthlessly disciplined about getting rid of everything else. Her suggested methods, if you follow them, would have much the same effect as the advice from the estate agent.
But does this mean that we are collectively moving away from our habit of collecting “stuff”?
It is unlikely for a number of reasons.
According to research by psychologists, our possessions say so much about and to us. As teenagers, they “act as a crutch for the self” and increasingly reflect who we are.
As we move into adulthood, first the car and then the home become reflections of our sense of self and in later life they may become a source of comfort and of memories, before they pass to the next generation as a reminder of a loved one.
Clearly possessions have a significant emotional meaning to us, whether we actually like a particular object or not.
The transmission of family heirlooms to succeeding generations is a custom that shows no signs of disappearing.
These include the family bible, which may contain genealogical information written in the hand of your ancestors, jewellery, pocket watches and clocks, family recipe books, letters and diaries, photograph albums, china and silverware.
Furniture and military memorabilia are among the bulkier of the favourite heirlooms. In many parts of the USA, hope chests and hand-made quilts are particular favourites.
Among the more unusual items have been a 1941 Meyers light aircraft (USA) and a 1930 Gipsy Moth housed in England. Classic cars are another favourite.
But perhaps the oddest of all was a mummified baby, which had died of natural causes and been passed through the generations of a family for 100 years until 2006, when a judge ordered it to be buried.
But, as homes have become smaller and furniture and style tastes change it may be that there is no room for antique pieces of furniture, book collections or “period-piece” clothes and ornaments even though you may want to hang onto them.
Whatever the cherished heirloom, you can’t store them in a shed or garage if you want to preserve them and make sure they don’t deteriorate so what can you do?
Renting self-storage space can be a useful and affordable solution.