If you’re facing the daunting task of cleaning out a home filled with family memories and treasures, the work can be overwhelming. However, if you take the project one step at a time rather than focusing on the entire endeavor, you will find it less of a chore and perhaps more of a “treasure hunt.”
Remember, a family treasure doesn’t necessarily have monetary value — but oh, how those sentimental values warm the heart when discovered!
Set yourself up a staging area for opening and unboxing items. It’s recommended to transfer what you plan to keep into storage bins and, depending on the condition or value, even specialized archive containers. No one wants any hijackers (i.e., creepy, crawly things) to make a home with family heirlooms, so getting rid of boxes that may have been stored for years in attics, storage buildings, etc. is a good idea.
While on the subject of storage, you’re likely planning to store most or all of what you’re going through. While you may be using a garage bay as the staging area, long-term storage space in a heated/air-conditioned area is recommended. Ideally, that space would be somewhere in your home where the air and humidity are fairly constant. Closets, file cabinets, drawers, and such are ideal.
Are there boxes full of old documents that you’re tempted just to dispose of? Stop! You never know what you might find if you take the time to slow down and look through old documents. For those interested in family history, finding something like a grandparent’s birth certificate, marriage license, or even death certificate is worth the effort of looking through all those papers. Or, how about finding a deed for property that was once the family home or farm? Tax bills from the turn of the century are quite eye-opening (imagine taxes less than $10 for property)!
Before cleaning old coins or jewelry, consult a professional jeweler or coin expert. Most will advise that coins be left as-is. For jewelry, if you plan on wearing pieces, have a jeweler check and make any repairs so that you can enjoy wearing them with comfort.
For photos, clothing, or any delicate fabrics or papers, be sure to use acid-free papers, as well as acid-free storage containers to protect them.
Most importantly, take time to document the history behind that piece of jewelry, dress, or furniture item as much as possible so that future generations know the family history that goes along with the item. Knowing where something came from and who owned it in past years creates a “family treasure” worth holding on to.
Families are special. Holding something that a long-ago relative once held is like stepping back in history and makes the work of going through all those boxes worthwhile.