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The 3 questions to ask yourself when it comes to keeping or tossing family heirlooms

Family heirlooms can be delightful things in small quantities and beasts of burden in multiples.
/ Source: TODAY

Clearing the clutter never gets more complicated than when it comes to family heirlooms. In her book "Simple Matters," writer Erin Boyle shares her tips for deciding when it's fine to keep a personal memento — and when it's OK to toss.

"Reading My Tea Leaves" blogger Erin Boyle in her home
Stephania Stanley

Family heirlooms can be delightful things in small quantities and beasts of burden in multiples.

When it comes to family heirlooms, I like to ask myself these questions:

  • Is it useful?
  • Is it lovely?
  • Does it fill a void?

If the answer to all three of those questions is yes, then I keep the item and put it to good use.

If I don’t like something, can’t imagine using it, or simply don’t need it, I store up the memory and story, but part with the physical object.

Difficult? Yes.

Necessary to keeping my home free of clutter? Yes.

One more note about value: Most of us are not material culture experts or antiques appraisers. And as a result, more often than not we assign imaginary value to things that are not terribly valuable.

Shows like “Antiques Roadshow”instill the fear — or excitement — that we might all be sitting on a rare and valuable antique, when the opposite is more likely true.

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If you own something that you think might be of considerable value, by all means get it appraised. But if you’re keeping something in your house based on the belief that it might be valuable, that’s probably not reason enough to keep it.

Stephania Stanley

In my brother-in-law’s family, for instance, it was believed that a certain set of 1940s rattan porch furniture was purchased by his great-grandparents while in Australia on a spectacular around-the-world voyage and shipped home to the American Midwest as a souvenir of the adventure.

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On further investigation, however, it turned out that the set had been purchased at a Sears in Iowa. Suddenly, holding onto the furniture felt less imperative.

The story itself became the keepsake.

Excerpted from "Simple Matters."