Thanks for the Memories

watchLegacy. Heirloom. Heritage. The tradition of passing down an item of significance from one generation to another has long been documented.  In today’s world, though, have we confused this act with handing down keepsakes or mementos? These things have value to a specific person and are usually about a certain place or time.  Are older generations bestowing things to younger generations that weren’t necessarily meant to be part of the historical tradition? If so, what are the younger generations supposed to do with these objects?

If you are considering what to do with your possessions, take into account these few things, and you could avoid some unintentional harm or hurt feelings.

Is your remembrance something that has been in the family for years and has a deep meaning?  Is it something that has a special significance to another family member?  Or is the reason that you want to pass this object on simply that you might feel guilty getting rid of it yourself?  If it is that last one, reassess the meaning of this token. You may realize that it doesn’t have the significance that you thought it did. While some things are painful to get rid of, not all things should be passed on to others.

A friend of mine told that me that when her grandmother was considering what to leave her family, she decided that whatever gifts you had given to her would be what you were bequeathed.  This seems like a strange approach because the keepsake was purchased with the receiver, the grandmother, in mind.  If the only connection is that the family member gave the gift, it might not have as much meaning and will be less likely to be kept.

Family, in the traditional sense, is almost unrecognizable today. With adoption, step-family, grandparents raising their grandchildren, and all kinds of configurations, the passing of treasures is harder.  When thinking about gifting an item to someone, consider how it will affect all parties – including those individuals that will not be getting the memento.  

Some people struggle to make this process fair.  Unless you are talking about cash, it shouldn’t be about being fair, but about the connection.  One person may have a strong connection to a set of books that holds no monetary value while another person may have a strong connection to a piece of jewelry that does have monetary value, but the emotional value is more important. Being fair in this situation isn’t actually possible because everyone values items differently. Another thing to understand about handing down items is that you shouldn’t make someone take it.  If you do, it loses the meaning and any positive feelings associated with it and that item then becomes a shackle. As a matter of fact, a synonym for “things” is “trappings.” Hmm.

Younger generations are moving toward a more minimalist lifestyle.  Older generations come from a time when you kept all of your things because at some point you didn’t have much.  How do we decide what is important and “hand-down-able”? The best heirloom is one in which the value is in the memories that surround it.  The best passing of an item between one generation and another is where the memories tied to the item are equally strong by both the giver and receiver.  Most of the time, a real heirloom has little financial value, but tons of emotional value.  Those are the best things!

What we collect, along with the things we are given, add to the challenge of staying organized.  If you are conscientious, you can have both – meaningful, wonderful things and being organized.