I'm not sure how this post is going to go over with y'all, but I have yet to find anything that speaks to the rollercoaster of dealing with inheriting objects that have been left or given to you by the people you love, either intentionally or not. Clearly, I'm continuing with my mid-life *wisdom era* reflections this week (if you missed last week and you haven't shopped for Thanksgiving prep yet, read this first).
If you're in a season of having to work through a house or storage unit full of things after the loss of someone you love, know that you're not alone, and I feel you 100%. I know all too well, especially having lost both of my parents within the past year and both of my husband's parents in the preceding decade, that it isn't for the faint of heart.
I recently watched a video on Instagram of a lovely young woman that was reflecting on this all. It stopped me in my scroll. She was saying,
As you're sitting in your house now, looking at all the things that you've worked so hard for - just imagine that in 100 years. Everything in your house will probably be destroyed. Clothes will be donated, or out of style. Furniture you sit on will be in a landfill. Your house may even be demolished. With very few exceptions, everything will be gone.
Think about that. And think about what is really important to you, and do you really need to bring more things into your space?
I know my most important legacy are my kids, and that is absolutely enough.
But what will they do with all of our stuff?
Reflections on Inheriting Objects
Although it's painful to think about the time after we're gone, my husband and I have become more intentional about what we keep in all categories in the house, because our boys will eventually have to go through all of it as we've had to do for our parents, and possibly be frozen in indecision to discard or keep a lot of things.
We don't expect our kids to love the stuff that we love. I'd hope that they'd like to keep a few of the art pieces we both have collected over the course of our lives together, but it is by no means a requirement. All we can do is tell them why certain things mean so much to us, and then they decide what they'd like to keep when the time comes.
You never know what your kids will find important - I literally got stopped at TSA last month because I refused to check the carry on bag I had filled with smalls from my parents' house, including a beat up rolling pin from my parents kitchen. All the smalls were fragile and even though they were bubble wrapped, I was ready to die on that hill, y'all - I was getting on that plane with my bag and the aforementioned rolling pin that the TSA was telling me they considered to be a weapon, come hell or high water. Luckily, I made it through after a couple of conversations with a supervisor and a promise to not open my bag until I made it home.
It wasn't until I read through a book of notes from my mom after I got back to Houston, that I found out it was actually was my grandmother's rolling pin! The history of that piece makes me treasure that rolling pin all the more, as silly as that might seem to some. I'll definitely be telling the boys what it means in terms of the history of our family and it makes me happy knowing that it will get passed on to the next generation, most likely to our son that loves to bake.
Here's the bottom line in my humble opinion when it comes to inherited objects, both large and small: if you love it, keep it. In the words of the late great designer Billy Baldwin, "Be faithful to your own taste, because nothing you really like is ever out of style." It doesn't matter if anyone else loves it, if it speaks to you, keep it. When your cherished items eventually go to someone else, it's up to them whether to keep it or pass it on.
If you find yourself with many things to go through, take a page out of a friend's book - he held an estate sale of sorts, but invited people who meant something to his folks, and asked them to take whatever reminded them of his parents before everything made its way to Goodwill, the recycling center or the landfill. I love that idea so much - taking something that purposefully reminds you of someone you love and will think about every time you see it or use it, while helping a grieving family get through the logistical (and/or literal) mess post-death that no one really ever talks about.
As for me, the smalls like books and tchotchkes I've been lucky enough to bring home, will be displayed lovingly and meaningfully in our home when I can bring myself to take on that task. It's hard for me to look at anything of theirs right now without getting incredibly sad. I am happy to report though that the rolling pin now sits in our baking tool drawer in a place of honor. I may not use it every day, but it will always be a reminder of the people that have come before me and shaped me in so many ways.