What to Do With Family Heirlooms
When it’s time to sell a home, cleaning out the attic, basement, cabinets, and bedrooms you rarely visit becomes a top priority. This is when the question of what to do with family heirlooms arises.
How many times have you moved and shipped Grandpa’s trunk full of stuff you haven’t looked at in years? Or what about Grandma’s tea set or beaver fur coat? Parents or grandparents often become collectors of family items passed down from generation to generation. When it’s time to downsize, decisions have to be made about prized possessions.
You might be tempted to ship a box of grandma’s glasses to a cousin without asking. In the case of what to do with family heirlooms, it’s best to ask before giving. You might be surprised to learn that family members have little interest in receiving or passing along family heirlooms.
On the other hand, if you have friends with similar interests, they may welcome antique furniture or other collectibles. Start with family and friends and then consider other options for what to do with family heirlooms.
If the idea of cleaning out your home and giving away items sounds stressful, these tips may offer ideas to clean out your home and move to your next home without feeling guilty.
1 Local historical societies or museums
If the items you have are truly unique or of historical significance, a local historical society or museum may have an interest in displaying the items. Museums need items to display and often create special exhibits to create news.
Depending on the items grandparents or parents collected a variety of museums might be interested in the items. Contact local art, history, geological, natural science, children’s, or themed museums. That 200 piece collection of unusual rocks or the elephant collection of Great Aunt Jenny’s may be perfect for a new display.
2 Antique dealers or auction houses
If you have attended weekend antique auctions out in the country or at a local auction house, you know that some of the items auctioned away are boxed collections. Boxes or crates of old books, craft items like yarn, thread, and sewing items are popular.
While some of the items you have may have little or no value, offering them to an auction house for little or next to nothing gives the auction house items to sell. If the auction house will pick up the items for free you’ve saved yourself haul away charges.
Best case scenario, you clean your home out of family heirlooms that no one wants and someone else is happy to have them.
3 Temporary storage space
If you’re pressed for time and don’t have time to go through items before you move to your next home, a storage unit can be a stop-gap measure to store items. The best plan is a short-term commitment of one or two months with a date on the calendar to clean out the storage location.
Otherwise, you’ll end up paying hundreds of dollars each month to keep items you no longer want or need. Storage fees accumulate and the items in storage unless in a temperature-controlled location, become damaged.
4 Donation centers, thrift shops, or online marketplaces
Donating items can be the least complicated way to pass forward items in your home that are still usable or of sentimental value. Being emotionally attached to an item may mean that it is difficult to donate to a thrift center that may not appreciate or have the clientele interested in a set of china or a collector’s plate series.
In this case, consider a local online marketplace. Many communities have free online Facebook pages or other groups where individuals post items for sale for free or at a low price. Selling or giving items away to an interested or appreciative individual may be the transition that rids feelings of guilt about giving items away to a nameless or faceless person.
5 Family or neighborhood garage or estate sale
If you have time and friends or neighbors are interested, join forces to create a family or neighborhood garage sale. A group event can be fun to organize.
Tasks can be divided up between cleaning items to show their best, pricing, and grouping by area of the home, for example:
- living room items
- kitchen tools or dishes
- dining room sets
- home decorating or interior design
- gardening tools
- baby items
6 Junk collectors, recycling centers, or a haul-off
In the end, it’s true that one man’s treasures are another man’s junk. The value that we place on family heirlooms can be sentimental or truly of value. If after considering or working through the list of options above, items still remain, contact a junk collector or a company that provides haul-off containers.
While throwing away family items can feel wasteful, if items are soiled, unusable, or broken, it’s best to throw them away rather than burden a donation center or thrift shop with doing the same.
7 What to do if you are the Agent Under Power of Attorney or have legal authority
Thinking about all of the above, if you have legal authority for an estate, you may be required to create and value an estate inventory. If you are working with an estate planning attorney, your attorney can give you the best advice about creating and valuing an inventory.
While items may often be of low value if you find items that appear to be antiques or jewelry that might have value, hire an appraiser so that you can confirm the value. Appraisors of antiques and other specialty items usually are aware of potential buyers or know companies who specialize in selling estate jewelry, vehicles, airplanes, and other unusual items.
Planning ahead is the best way to avoid the stress of selling a home
If you are considering selling your home, it’s best to plan as far ahead as possible to get your home ready to sell if you have sentimental items. Begin by taking photos and contacting family and friends to see if anyone has an interest. If items remain, review this checklist to see which of the options might be the most fitting for your situation.
Preparing to sell your home can involve a long list of items to check off, In addition to deciding what to do with family heirlooms. Sam Wilson and the Sam Wilson Home Selling Team can walk you through all of the steps of preparing a home to sell that include home inspections, pricing strategies, cash offers, buy before you sell programs, home staging, and more.
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