If you’ve ever received an item from a family member that’s been passed down through generations, you know how special this is. “42% of Americans have a family heirloom that’s over 50 years old,” according to recent research.
Family heirlooms can be anything from jewelry, furniture, dishware, coins, books, or anything else deemed sacred to your family. Whatever your heirlooms are, it’s essential to keep them safe so they can continue being handed down for generations.
These tips will help ensure your family heirlooms stay protected.
Guest post by Katie Brenneman
Digitize Important Documents
Many family heirlooms are important documents, such as marriage licenses, pictures, birth certificates, educational records, newspaper clippings, and so forth. In addition to the physical copies of these documents, you should digitize them.
You can use your computer scanner or scan your meaningful documents with a mobile scanner. Then, filter them into a central cloud storage system with top-tier cybersecurity and only give access to those that need it.
Invest in a Safe or Firebox
25% of fires last year happened in home properties (multi-family homes, apartments, and single or two-family homes). Imagine how many family heirlooms were lost in these fires. Investing in a firebox or fire-proof safe could help you avoid the feeling of losing things that are incredibly important to you and your family.
It doesn’t even have to be about fires. Safes and fireproof boxes are excellent for securing family heirlooms in general, whether the physical copies of the important documents above, jewelry, coins, or another tangible heirloom.
Safes can cost hundreds of dollars or thousands. It depends on the kind, the brand you buy, and the features and functions you want. Fireboxes are the same way. So, determine your budget and search online for the best fit. Seeing your top choices in person before making a purchase is even better.
Fireboxes and safes better preserve the condition of your heirlooms and ensure only you and your family have access to them.
Instill the Importance of Family Heirlooms in Your Children
One of the best ways to keep your family heirlooms safe is to ensure everyone in your house deeply appreciates and respects them, especially your children.
Often, kids don’t value and care for old things like adults do. For example, they might play with an antique because it looks like a toy, and they don’t understand its value. Or they may play around your heirloom and accidentally damage it.
The above is less likely to happen if you educate your children about family heirlooms and show them why they’re so important. Here are a couple of pointers for instilling the importance of family heirlooms in your children.
Talk about your family history often
Regular conversations about your family history and that of the family heirloom can help your kids value both more.
Talk to them about the family heirloom, where it came from, and how it’s passed down from generation to generation. Speak about your family’s history and how your children will continue the legacy.
Also, let your kids touch, wear, or otherwise experience your family heirlooms. The more they see their beauty and value, the more likely they’ll be to take great care of them.
Create events or traditions around your family heirlooms
Creating events or traditions around your family heirlooms can further instill their importance in your kids. It makes the education process fun too.
Your events or traditions can be as detailed or simple as you want them. For example, you may light a candle around your family heirloom each night. Or you could host a big party when it’s time to hand the family heirloom to the next person. You could also do specific things with your heirlooms on special holidays.
Keep Your Family Heirlooms Private
As wonderful as your family heirlooms are, it isn’t a good idea to brag about them to anyone that will listen. If the wrong person knows how valuable your family heirloom is and where you’re keeping it, they may steal it or otherwise damage it.
So, be cautious about who you let know about your family heirlooms.
Plan Ahead If You Move
People lose a lot of family heirlooms during a move. This is because moves can be chaotic if you don’t take the time to plan them. If something is to get left behind, be sure it isn’t your family heirlooms by preparing for every move.
Pack your family heirlooms ahead of time and label the boxes. Also, instead of putting these boxes in the moving truck, keep them with you in your vehicle. And walk them into your new home yourself so that you know where they are.
Store and Maintain Your Family Heirlooms Appropriately
One of the most critical parts of keeping your family heirlooms safe is storing and maintaining them. You want to ensure they remain in pristine condition and that they’re kept in a safe place. The following tips can help you do this.
Keep it in a safe place
When you aren’t showing your family heirloom, keeping it in a secure area is essential. Somewhere out of your kid’s reach, it can’t be bumped into, dropped, or handled by anyone. Also, ensure it’s in a protective case, bag, or container to preserve its condition.
Abide by care and cleaning instructions
It’s essential to keep your family heirloom in good condition to ensure it can be handed down in the future. So, if the heirloom came with care instructions, stick to them religiously. If it didn’t, talk with older family members to see what you can learn about how to best care for and keep the heirloom clean.
Otherwise, do your own research about your heirloom and pick up care and cleaning instructions that way.
Consult an expert
Consult an expert if you really want to ensure you store and maintain your family heirlooms appropriately. A historian, conservator, or antique restoration expert can advise you on maintaining each specific heirloom you have.
This option may cost you some money. So, only pursue it when you have the budget for it.
Write a Will
It may not seem like it initially, but writing a will is critical in keeping family heirlooms safe.
If anything happens to you, you want to ensure that your family heirlooms will go to the people most capable of caring for and appreciating them as they deserve. You also want to ensure they go to the people most likely to keep the tradition of passing them down.
It might be a bit uncomfortable writing a will, especially if you’re young. So, do your best to power through those emotions and create a detailed will. Allocate each family heirloom to a specific person and discuss why you’re giving it to them and your expectations with the heirloom.
Your will doesn’t have to be notarized to be valid. However, you want to ensure it’s created and witnessed correctly.
Keep Memories Top of Mind
Even if you lost your family heirlooms, no one could take away the memories you have around them. These memories are just as special as the actual heirloom and should be treated as such.
Keep memories attached to your family heirlooms top of mind. Reflect on them often and share these stories with your children and spouse. Your mind might be the safest place for your family heirlooms, as no one has access to it but you.
Family heirlooms are so important. There’s something special about handing down something treasured by the whole family. So, do all the above to protect your family heirlooms and ensure they’re around for generations.