Decluttering Solutions for Family Heirlooms

Is your attic or basement full because you are storing family heirlooms from multiple generations? Are they really keepsakes or just clutter causing you much stress?

Here’s where I put on my psychology hat (you’d be surprised how often a decorator needs one!) When it comes to family heirlooms, consider these questions:

  • Do you feel these treasures are entrusted to you as keeper of the family history?
  • Are you using and honoring them or are they just gathering dust and taking up space in your home?
  • Are you holding onto them for sentimental value or you think they are worth a lot of money?

First, begin with the end in mind. In your case, your desired end state might be a clean attic. Perhaps more importantly, less clutter brings less stress (and, in some cases, the end to embarrassment) and can bring improved peace of mind, health, and personal relationships. 

Second, live in the present, not your family’s past or even future – thinking someone else could use the china or furniture someday. 

Third, realize that when you let them go, you do not relinquish the memories. Instead, value experiences over things. Take photos of special items, then allow yourself to begin the clean sweep.

As you begin the process of letting go, start small, get a decluttering buddy, and recite this quip: “If it isn’t paying rent, evict it.” There are lots of ways to purge:

Discard broken and out of style items. 

Take inventory and ask other family members and friends if they want anything and give them a short window for pick up. 

Donate household items and furniture for a tax deduction. 

Have a yard sale or sell or give things away free online.

Contact an estate professional who would buy the items from you. 

There are many rewards to decluttering. You can live the life you imagine and, believe me, it will be happier and richer with less “stuff.”  

Do you have a decorating problem needing a professional solution? Send your questions to Secretary of the Interior at

Barbara Graceffa owns and operates Secretary of the Interior, an interior decorating company in Quincy, MA offering creative solutions at reasonable rates. For more information on her decorating, donsizing and decluttering, and home decor sewing services, visit And don’t miss her beautiful and creative art quilts on Instagram @secretaryinteriordecorating.

You can reach Secretary of the Interior Barbara Graceffa at 617.921.6033.

By Barbara Graceffa

Barbara Graceffa, CEO of Secretary of the Interior, serves decorating clients; assists with professional organizing, home staging and moving assistance; teaches on these subjects; and delivers quilt lectures and trunk shows.

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