Tips For Decluttering Inherited Items Or An Inherited Home


A pile of old photos and letters

After living in a home for a few years or even a decade or more, it's normal to have stuff start to pile up without you necessarily noticing it. People tend to attach strong, even sentimental feelings to their belongings, and this is especially true if you have a lot of inherited items in your home, or if you have inherited a home that isn't vacant. If it's your own home, sometimes holding onto these things can get out of hand if you don’t declutter once in a while, and if it's a home you've inherited it can often be overwhelming to know where to start.


Some of the things in your home or the home you've inherited may remind you of family members, former periods of your life, or places where your family had lived or traveled to. However, in reality, you (or the person who's home it used to be) might be holding on to things that you have no real reason to keep. Below are a few helpful tips on how to declutter a home by deciding which of your family legacy, gifts, souvenirs, and other inherited items you should keep, and what you should get rid of.


1) Start by deciding what the item actually means to you

While you are deliberating whether to keep an item or not, be sure to ask yourself the following: What makes me hold on to this? Which feelings or memories do I attach to this? Why am I sentimental about this? It may surprise you that, in most cases, you actually cannot think of a good, realistic reason to keep the item.


Even if there is a clear association with a person, time, or place, this still may not be reason enough to keep it. So, even if you can link something like a tea set to your great-grandmother, you might not even really need it if it is chipped or if you don’t drink tea. And since your goal is to reduce the amount of clutter, whether you want to sell your home or just live more comfortably, you need to think realistically. Yes, it is touching that the given tea set or crochet reminds you of your grandma. However, you can keep your grandma in your heart without holding on to all of her belongings you have no use for.


2) Don't let holding onto gifts become a burden

Sometimes people may be inclined to keep everything they and their family members receive as a gift. It feels sacrilegious to throw away a present that has been passed on through generations. These items can sometimes take on the feeling that they are part of your family’s legacy. However, this impression can be misleading and, in some respect, even cumbersome to you if they start to pile up.


It is entirely understandable to be in some way loyal to items that your family members have received over the years. Even people who declutter regularly tend to leave aside presents as they usually evoke deep and sentimental emotions. However, your home can become unnecessarily overwhelmed with things if you do not start being realistic about which gifts deserve to be kept and which do not.


Of course, if you cannot bear the thought of throwing away gifts for which you cannot find a place in your household but which have been in your family for so long, you do not have to. Instead of labeling them as clutter, you can store them in an inexpensive storage unit. There are several clever ways to use space in a storage unit, so, this is an opportunity to take things that you cannot part with and keep them in your life. In this way, you will be able to free up space in your home without committing an ‘emotional crime’ against the inherited items.


3) Don't let guilt get the better of you

Most people build up clutter not only because of love or nostalgia but also a feeling of guilt. Their ‘reasoning’ is usually that they are wasteful if they throw away something they might use at an unspecified time in the future. It is easy to fall into that trap and keep your throw-away pile too small because you keep thinking, "Well, who knows? I might use this some day." A good strategy is to delineate a strict list of criteria that an inherited item needs to ‘pass’ to stay in your house.


For instance, if you have not used that item in three years, you should put it in the throw-away or yard-sale pile. If the item is damaged or irreparable, it’s out. If the item is just too outdated or bizarre to fit into the interior style of your home, force yourself to get rid of it. These are just ideas, of course. See what works for you, but make sure you are consistent. Try not to make too many exceptions. If you are inclined to make an exception, try to think of a compelling reason to keep the item in your home.


4) Make a digital memory before you start decluttering inherited items

Another way to calm your sense of guilt for throwing away an inherited item is to make a digital memory of it. So, if you have letters, documents, presents, posters, postcards, or similar items that you cannot hold on to, you can always scan or photograph them so that you can look at them and reminisce. You can even start a family digital archive that could become the ultimate family legacy, especially if your home and belongings get damaged in a natural disaster.



A messy or cluttered living space tends to become a significant stressor without you even noticing it. Apart from making your home less frantic and disorderly, decluttering also has other benefits. If you plan to sell your home soon, you need to think about the interior of your home as well as its curb appeal will affect the opinions of potential buyers. By being mindful of the first impression your home leaves, it will help you more successfully sell your home, or just feel more at peace with the space you live in.


If you are considering selling a home you have inherited or selling your own home and would like a complimentary consultation about the cost effective and impactful things you can do to get your home ready for sale, please contact me today so we can schedule a time to chat.

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