What to do with old family photos/heirlooms?


Long story short, we have moved from our big old house with lots of nooks and crannies to store things into the home of my childhood, which is a 1960’s ranch style with next to nothing for storage. My mom passed away almost a year ago and my dad is living in a nearby Veteran’s Home, so we still all of his stuff, in addition to some of Mom’s stuff. To make it worse, I come from a small family, so I “inherited” all kinds of stuff from my grandma and great-aunt. I’ve lot boxes and boxes of old photos and other memorabilia. I’M OVERWHELMED BY STUFF!! There are things I’ve kept for years, but never used or even looked at. I simply don’t have the room for them anymore.

I’d like to pass them on to someone who would enjoy/appreciate them, but I’ve come up empty handed. It seems kind of weird to sell stuff at a garage sale or on ebay, but I’ve got to do something. Any ideas?



For the “stuff,” put out the word in the family that you will be selling/giving away the “stuff” by X date. They have “first dibs” and anything they do not take will go to charity or be sold.

For the photos, I suggest digitizing the photos and/or the negatives and then putting together photobooks or digital scrapbooks. There are several photobook sites like Photoworks, MyPulbisher, etc. People can order their own copy of the books.

And, you can also tell anyone who wants copies of the digital files to send you a USB jump drive and you will load the files onto it for them and send it back.

I would store the originals that you want to keep in acid free photo boxes available at better scrapbooking stores and online. Don’t be tempted to throw out old photos-- hand them down.

You could also call a local historical society to see if they would be interested in old photos, documents, etc.


Pick out what you really, really, really want. Set it aside. It is not for consideration for the rest of the plans.

Surely you have a couple cousins, and the cousins have children, or even adult grandchildren? I would “gift” them with the stuff, but use a pick up date as 1ke suggested. Get their addresses or email from parents. The letter goes something like, “Dear Hortense, Great-Grandma always cared for your mother/ father, and knew she would also care for you. Although she never met you, as she tragically died before you were born (even if Great-Gradma would have been 125 when Hortense was born), I know you were meant to have her china (bedroom set/ shawl/ tin water glasses). While I have been the keeper of the family heirlooms, I no longer have the room to do so. So please- Come and pick up your china (bedroom set/ shawl/ tin water glasses) by July 5, 2008. I am at home on Saturday afternoons from 1:00-4:00 PM. I would hate to think you wanted them and didn’t get them. After July 5, I’m afraid I’ll have to dispose of them in some fashion. My best to your mother/ father/ children/ dog. Love, your cousin, KathyA.” Lay in a supply of light snacks and beverages, and prepare to have your kin come tromping through town on Saturday afternoons for a couple months.

When they come, after they’ve loaded up their stuff and you’ve had some conversation and light snacks (ignore any hints that they stay for supper), give them a small box of the already digitized photos and other memoribilia as a “surprise” for showing up. Even better- If they bring their kids, hand it to the kids! Be sure to place emphasis on their value, and how you know Grandma would want such lovely children to have them and treasure them.

Have your purse and car keys at the ready at 4 PM, to induce people to leave. Even if you just drive to McDonald’s or the store, GO WHEN THEY GO! You have an “urgent appointment” at 4:30, and you simply must dash!


Or you can do what my mom – keeper of the “stuff” – is doing. Hang on to it until it eventually becomes someone else’s problem (read that, “my problem”). Sigh.



Thanks for the suggestions…and the humor!

I WISH I had some cousins on that side of the family. My mom was an only child and I have just one sibling (not married and not really established in a place-at least that’s his excuse). My great-aunt didn’t have any children, so I’ve ended up not only with her stuff, but her husband’s as well! Of course, these people really WERE important to me, so I’m probably overly sentimental. I’d really like to think that my own children will be interested in a few years, so I’ll probably keep more than I should.

Keep the ideas coming!



I have a difficult time getting rid of sentimental stuff. I recently went through some major de-cluttering, much of it things I inherited after my parents died. You don’t have to do it all at once.

Start by getting rid of the stuff you definatly don’t like. If you have the room, then you can store things and address this task in stages. I left the photos for last and still have barely touched them. Most are in a couple of large boxes still. I displayed a few old heirloom photos–a Victorian looking ancestor gazes upon me as I type. If anything matches with your taste, then use it. I also placed an old display case in our basement, dedicated it to memorabilia that belonged to my parent’s and elderly relatives. Much of that doesn’t match my taste or decor, so I stuck that case out of sight, yet it has an eclectic charm and it’s look better than boxes. My own children may want some of those things in years to come.

If you have too much to tackle, take it in stages and store the rest until you are ready. If you want to, display some of it. If you want to get rid of things, that’s okay too. Your parents and aunt did not leave you these things to turn your house into a museum; it is your home. You honor your parents by caring for their grandchildren, not by caring for their stuff.


GREAT words of wisdom! Thank you! :thumbsup:


Talk to your local historical society.
Many times, things like pix of (generally unidentified) relatives, also contain a view of local landmarks…some of which have ceased to exist.
The one in my own hometown recently became the proud owners of a smallish mountain of pix of the town, taken before a devastating fire that changed the face of Main Street forever–before World War 1!!
They put together a lot of old photos from various donors, & there is now documentation of what the town looked like at the turn of the century. (19th to 20th, I mean!!)

Seriously, I would ask. Some things may have meaning only to friends & family, but even a pic of, say, the barn on the family farm, may show what the world around you looked like, fifty or a hundred years ago…
(I have the town historian salivating after my album of every card & letter that Daddy sent & received while he was in the South Pacific in WW2…).


a lot of stuff that i was gifted as family heirlooms, that was just junk i pretended got lost in a flood so that my mom wouldnt be mad at me for throwing it out.


Give them away as Christmas and Birthday presents. :smiley:

You may have to make up a story for each as to why it is so important that this person get it and why you wouldn’t consider giving to anyone else. :thumbsup:


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