You can't take it with you
A few weeks after my father died, my mother tackled his closet. She told me it was one of the hardest parts of losing him. As she gathered his clothing for donation, she said, “I felt like I was just throwing him away.”
That’s some heavy stuff.
It’s easy to say that the item is not the person, but it sure represents the person. It sure is imbued with that person’s energy, not to mention their scent. It sure can feel like you’re rejecting them by discarding their stuff.
But you aren’t.
You can’t take it with you, but you sure can leave it behind.
Here’s a thought experiment: look around your house right now. If you were to leave your body tomorrow, how much of your stuff would you expect your heirs to hold onto?
All the pots and pans? Your collection of fountain pens? The dining room table your father built?
I’m guessing you’d only want them to keep the things that were either meaningful or useful to them.
Not to you, to them.
Which means they might keep the pots and pans but ditch the fountain pens, even though you spent many happy hours collecting and polishing them.
It’s not about you.
Once you’re gone, the people still living get to do whatever they want to with your things. Because you will be GONE. To expect otherwise is not just silly, it’s exhibiting an unattractive level of hubris.
So you have some choices to make, inheritor of the family heirlooms.
You don’t have to keep anything that isn’t meaningful or useful. I don’t care how long that christening dress has been in the family. I don’t care that it was your mother’s favorite chair.
If you don't want it, you don't have to keep it.
The apron your mother wore IS NOT HER. You are welcome to keep it if it makes you happy, but folding it up and tucking it into a drawer where it will remain unnoticed for the next 15 years isn’t exactly honoring her memory.
Choose a few things – your favorites, which you will use frequently or look at daily. Then let the rest go. With love and gratitude.
p.s. But what if you love all the things your parents and aunts and uncles and grand-parents and neighbors have left you? More advice here.