As you grow older, you may find yourself thinking more about the end of your life. You may start end-of-life planning by choosing a cemetery plot, ordering a custom urn from a store like Foreverence, or picking the music you want to have at your funeral.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Family Heirloom Jewelry Ideas
- Family Heirloom Clothing and Accessory Ideas
- Family Heirloom Recipe Ideas
You might also be looking at the stuff you’ve accumulated throughout your life and may even want to start Swedish death cleaning.
Consider keeping certain items as legacy heirlooms and sell or donate others. Before you make any decisions, talk with your family members to see which items may be important to them. The answers may surprise you and there are some items you may want to keep.
Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, it's tough to handle both the emotional and technical aspects of their unfinished business without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.
Family Heirloom Jewelry Ideas
You may scoff at the idea of heirloom jewels. The phrase may conjure visions of Queen Elizabeth II’s tiaras or long strands of pearls, emerald earrings, and loads of diamonds. While expensive jewels are certainly heirlooms, your everyday pieces of jewelry are worth passing down as well.
Here are some ideas of items to set aside for the next generation.
Tip: A memorial diamond made from ashes can be a unique heirloom to keep someone's legacy alive for future generations. Some companies, like Eterneva, create lab-grown diamonds and allow you to pick from several cuts and colors for your gemstone.
1. Engagement ring
Have you decided what will happen to your engagement ring after you die? This may be a difficult decision.
Some choose to be buried with their rings. But keeping your ring for eternity is not an option if you wish to be cremated. All metal is removed from the body before cremation begins.
If you have more than one engagement ring, make sure that the rings can be easily located and identified.
2. Wedding bands
Some choose to be buried in their wedding bands, but they decide to pass the engagement ring down as a family heirloom.
If you aren’t going to spend eternity with your wedding band, leave clear instructions on who it should go to after you pass.
3. Mother’s rings, brooches, necklaces, or pins
Did you receive a piece of motherhood jewelry as a gift at one point in your life? This is an item that you may want to pass down to someone in your immediate family.
Although the article is undoubtedly unique to you, someone in your family will want to own it. Looking at the piece will remind your children of their childhood and how lucky they were to have you as their mom.
4. Pieces that have monetary value
The top three items on our list have more sentimental value than monetary value.
If you own pieces of jewelry that are worth a lot because of the materials they are made of or because of the designer, you may consider passing these down as family heirlooms. Quality pieces of jewelry rarely go down in value.
5. Historical pieces of jewelry
Sometimes jewelry is valuable because of its age. If you have jewelry from your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents, keep the pieces to pass on to your family.
You must document the history of these items as best as you can.
6. Other pieces that have emotional value
Perhaps you have pieces of jewelry that are important to you, but they don’t easily fall into one of the previous categories.
Maybe you still have the cross necklace that your father bought for you when you were confirmed. Perhaps you have a tie pin that your wife gave you on your first anniversary. These pieces may not have any monetary or historical value, but one of your kids, grandkids, or great-grandkids may proudly wear the pieces in memory of you.
Family Heirloom Clothing and Accessory Ideas
As you look through your clothing in your closet and your attic, you may think about what items your loved ones may appreciate having one day. Here’s what you might want to keep.
7. Wedding dresses
You may look at your wedding dress and think, “No one would want to wear that old thing again.” You may be surprised. People pay a lot of money for vintage wedding dresses, and styles tend to repeat themselves.
Keep the wedding dress, even if it was not produced under a designer label. There are plenty of ways wedding dresses can be repurposed. Some day your granddaughter may use a bit of the lace from your dress on her veil.
8. Fur coats
Fur coats were symbols of style and luxury a few decades ago. What do you do with furs that haven’t seen the light of day in ages?
Talk with your family members. They may agree with the philosophy that vintage fur coats are fine to wear because the “damage” has already been done.
If no one wants the items, you could consider selling them and donating the proceeds as a part of a memorial gift to an animal charity.
9. Vintage clothing
Do you have clothing from the past several decades? Whether the labels are designer, your children may love to have a pair of your bell-bottoms from the 1960s or your leather jacket from the 1950s.
10. Clothing with emotional value
You may have clothing items from your parents, such as your dad’s fedora or your mom’s apron. Maybe you have photos of your parents wearing these often-used articles. Set the photos and the clothing aside for your family to treasure after you are gone
Do you have any baby clothes from when your children first came into the world? Nobody probably wants a massive tub of 60-year-old baby clothes to sort through, but one or two unique pieces may be lovely to pass on to your family.
Keep your family’s quilts. Someone (maybe you!) spent hours lovingly cutting and sewing scrap pieces of fabric together to create something beautiful and useful.
Even if the colors and style do not coincide with today’s trends, keep the quilt anyway.
Family Heirloom Recipe Ideas
Recipes are often valued as much as family photographs. Your family’s recipes may have been passed down for generations. Cooking some of your family’s favorite dishes may be reserved for special occasions.
Here are some ideas for food-related items you may want to set aside for your children.
12. Handwritten recipes
Keep all of your handwritten recipes. There’s something special about making a dish that your grandmother made before you.
13. Notated recipe books
Before the internet, families would cook from well-used recipe books — books that were so loved that the pages fell out and the spines split. Many cooks would make their own handwritten edits to the recipes, adding or altering some of the suggestions to suit their tastes.
Now that most people cook from recipes found online, those old recipe books will be more valuable. Keep those well-loved recipe books for your kids and grandkids.
14. Vintage cooking items
Do you still use your grandmother’s rolling pin? Pass that item on to your family. Maybe you have older pieces, such as butter molds, candy dishes, platters, and china.
Perhaps you used the same angel food cake pan for decades to make your husband’s birthday cake. Keep that item as well.
There’s an art to distinguishing which items may have meaning to your family and what has no emotional or financial value. If you are struggling to decide on what to keep and what to get rid of, talk with your family members.
Other Family Heirloom Keepsake Ideas
As you look through the items in your home, there are other things you should consider setting aside as keepsakes.
15. Antique or vintage furniture
Do you have pieces of furniture that have been passed down for generations? Maybe you have a handmade end table or rocking chair.
Do you have a grandfather clock or an old wardrobe? These items make great family heirlooms.
Vintage toys make great heirlooms. Rocking horses, blocks, tops, dolls, and other non-battery-operated toys are exceptional items to pass down to the next generation.
17. Letters, diaries, and other documents
It may be challenging to know what to do with personal items such as letters and diaries. You may have disclosed deep, personal feelings in the pages of your journal. Do you want your kids or grandkids to read those private thoughts?
Only you can make those decisions.
Create Your Family's Legacy
Are you looking at the personal belongings you leave behind for your family with disdain? Maybe you’re frustrated because many of the items have no economic value and you feel as if you just have a pile of “stuff” to pass on to your children.
There’s more to life than belongings. You may leave behind a great work ethic for your children to emulate. Or you leave behind family traditions that live on for years to come. You definitely can’t put a price tag on the love that you gave to your family through the years.