Family Heirlooms

By Chris and Laurie Kemp, CSAs

Elderly Senior Citizens Cleaning Clutter Family Heirlooms Twin Cities MNWe have been sorting through the rooms of our house over the last year. We decided it was time to reduce some of the clutter and organize things. We know that someday our kids will have to go through this house when we are gone and decide what to do with things. We did this for Laurie’s parents and it is a big job.

We (okay mostly Laurie) tackled this in small bites. For instance, emptying one desk or closet or box from the basement. That one location would get sorted into piles: trash (recycling), donate for reuse, identify and save. The identify and save process was often broken down into smaller piles generally related to the era of our lives (elementary, HS, College, etc.). There was often a pile for ancestors. This method worked well for the smaller things and what remains is now sorted, identified and stored away for the next viewing or final disposition.

But what about larger items like pieces of furniture, family knick-knacks, china, silver and jewelry? Many of these items have great sentimental value to you. Here are some questions worth figuring out the answer to:

  • Do any of your items have a significant financial value?
  • Will family (or extended family) desire any of these items when you are gone?

The question of financial value can be figured out in a couple of ways. The cheapest is to look up an item online and see if the item is being offered for sale anywhere. We have used sites like for silverware, china and glassware.  A site like eBay can be used to find almost anything for sale.  There are many other sites you can use to estimate the value of something. Another more formal way is to have things that you think have a value appraised.  You need to find the right person for the items you have, such as an AGS Certified jeweler to appraise your jewelry. For furniture and other items you should look for advice from the Minnesota Antiques Dealers Association.  They can be found online at They can explain how to find the right appraiser for the types of things that you have. It may take more than one appraiser if you have a wide variety of things.

The reality is that unless you have specifically been a collector of antiques, most of the things that we have are primarily of sentimental value even though the may be 100-200 years old. It is always worth checking to see if you have that hidden gem like the one you saw on Antiques Road Show, but do not be disappointed if it is not. It IS valuable to you. So take a picture of the item and write down as much of the family history around it as you can remember. Then start sharing that story around with family. Even if they do not want the item, they will likely enjoy the story.




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