It can be hard for family historians to let go of anything that might carry a family story, no matter how old or broken that keepsake might be. One keepsake isn't much to save, but it doesn't take long for family treasures to become a mountain of memorabilia that threatens to come down on our present life like an avalanche.
Should I keep the silverplate coffee service that no one likes and will use?
Should I keep grandpa’s Army uniform?
Should I keep these old address books? Christmas cards? Bank books?
So, how do we choose, what to save, what to toss, and what to give away? I've sifted, sorted, and organized dozens of family collections, and discovered that it sometimes "less" is truly "more," even when it comes to family archives. Yes, we could probably find a family story in every single item set aside and saved, but is that the story we want to preserve? Or, knowing the story, can we let the item go?
When deciding what to save and what to toss, ask yourself –
Do I have the resources to care for this?
Is this the only keepsake from my ancestor?
What is my relationship to the owner?
Was this item saved as a family heirloom?
How old is it?
Is it valuable?
Is it priceless to me or to our family?
Three "Yes" answers should be a clue that the item is worth preserving, or at least holding for further consideration.
Take a digital photo if you need a visual reminder of the artifact. Write a short note if it holds a special story. If in doubt whether or not you should let something go, ask yourself if you've ever saved a similar memento from your own life experience, and what you expect your children to do with it. Sometimes, it's ok to give yourself permission to hold on to the memory and let go of the clutter.