No matter what we have accomplished in our lifetime, our legacy is largely dictated by the emotions and feelings brought on by our loss. The memories we leave become the stories of our past interwoven with the emotions stirred by the thoughts of those experiences. The physical items that we possess tell both the tangible aspects of those stories and the sentimental components of our lives. When we think about what items we want to leave for those we love and care about, it is important to consider both aspects of our legacy.
Items that elicit a specific memory:
Some physical possessions that we leave behind will elicit a specific memory (or set of memories). This could be the table saw your dad taught you to use, the Thanksgiving plates your Grandma set the table with every November, or the crocheted blanket your mom gave you on your wedding day. These items bring you back to an exact moment in time, and the desire could certainly be there to hold onto this item because of the memory stirred by the thought of that memento. It is likely when you fix a fence post with the saw you will remember your dad walking you through where to place your hands and how to get a precise cut.
Items that elicit an emotion:
Other items have a sentimental value because of the emotion you think about when you see them. We recently heard from a Nokbox user who kept a set of sheets from her great-aunt. It wasn’t about any specific memory of using the sheets, however, they were a bright joyful flower pattern and that was exactly the kind of personality the aunt had. The user now uses the sheets as a tablecloth as it brings about the happy kind of feeling she always had around her aunt. These types of items can be worth very little from a monetary perspective, but the emotions are understandably priceless.
Items that represent a group:
There are also those physical items we possess that represent more than one person. This could be the family sword that has been passed down from generation to generation, the family crest cross-stitched and framed, or the cabin in the mountains shared amongst a large family tree. Some items in an estate really are representative of the family as a whole, and less about one specific individual. These items share a communal feel and are indicative of our greater family unit.
It is both fun to think about what categories our assorted personal artifacts fall into, but also useful when thinking about what to do with items in our estate. Some items that elicit a specific memory might be memorialized in a photo and then let go of. Some are worth holding onto only for the person with the specific memory, and then permission is given to the next generation to let it go with no guilt. Items that elicit emotion might hold value in one stage of life but perhaps can be parted with as new memories are formed. And communal items often are held onto given the generational nature. As we all look to decide what to keep and what to let go of in an estate, it is helpful to consider what is tying us to that physical object. Understanding this can make the decision-making process of letting things go much easier. What is your favorite family memento, and does it elicit a specific memory or an emotion?