When I worked for the county extension office, our Family and Consumer Science Agent (that would be Home Ec for us golden oldies) offered a workshop titled: Who Gets Gramma's Yellow Pie Plate? It was not a financial workshop for retirees, but a practical workshop about relationships and how to divide up items that have meanings when a household breaks up.
When my mother passed away, my father wanted all of her personal items removed immediately. I had taken two days prior to the funeral and the day of the funeral off from work. The day following the funeral I received a phone call from him at my office stating he needed me to bring boxes home with me and pack up her things. I enlisted my youngest daughter and niece to fill their cars with everything from her impressive closet and layer in on their back seats, depositing it in my family room in relays. I dumped dresser drawers in boxes, along with all her "personal stuff" like letters, jewelry, magazines, books, memento's, etc. and several pick up loads of boxes from the attic.
I am guessing that you have all seen "Hoarders". I prefer to think of my mother as a collector. From a long line of collectors.
I started to go through the clothes, but it was impossible. We ended up taking load after load to Goodwill.
I find, as I have been going through these boxes (and there must be 50) (or more) (maybe 100?) that everyone in my mother's family was a collector. I don't just have several rubbermaid tubs of fabric purchased by my mother; I have unfinished projects and extra fabric from my grandmother. Digging deeper through the stash I have found fabric and unfinished projects from my great-grandmother.
I can usually only sort 2-3 boxes at a time. And that usually takes me an hour per box. I have to read each letter, examine each movie ticket stub, carefully study each snapshot. Usually out of three boxes, I end up saving 1-2 boxes to go through again at another time. My husband was thrilled when one of the boxes ended up being grocery inserts and coupons that had expired ten years ago. I still had to go through each page, but I did end up disposing of the whole box. One day I found a treasure. A letter written by my aunt (who passed away much to young) home to her parents when she was a sophomore at Kent State University in the 1940's. She was discussing travel arrangements for Thanksgiving (by train, of course), "the curse", and how to package and mail cookies to her boyfriend (who later became her husband). I was able to forward the letter to her daughter who I have re-connected with on facebook.
I have two file boxes of aprons that my grandmother made and never wore. And one box of the everyday - very worn- aprons. I have become the keeper.
The more valuable items (to others) are the problem.
My grandfather did not have an easy life. His alchoholic father was injured on the job and later died and it was left to him, as the oldest son, to help out the family. He left school at age 14 (I believe) and apprenticed to a local jeweler who had space in the large department store on the corner of Main Street in my hometown. He worked there many years until an explosion removed several stories from the building in the 1920's. The jeweler decided to retire at that point and my grandfather opened his own store further down the block. In his showroom were three crystal chandeliers. When he passed away in 1970, the chandeliers came to the family. One hung in my grandmother's dining room. Somehow when the house was listed for sale, family members neglected to exempt the chandelier and it sold with the house. You would think this would have been a lesson learned, but the second chandelier ended up in another house sale. The remaining chandelier hung in my parent's dining rooms; my long-suffering husband rehanging it every time they moved (and they liked to move!)
I can remember helping my grandmother clean the crystals in her dining room from the time I was about 6. Each of the over 100 crystals has to be individually and cautiously removed, soaked in water scented with ammonia, carefully dried, air dried and re-hung. She always promised me that the chandelier would be mine in return for all the hours I helped her. This same promise was made to my brother in following years and to each of my own children (by then by my mother) as they helped in the ritual of cleaning (or packing for a move). My youngest daughter remembers standing on a dining room table and handing each one down to my mother.
As I ready the condo for sale, the first thing I did was start the chandelier removal process. I am not letting the last one go out of the family on my account! I stocked up on tissue paper and bubble wrap and purchased ammonia. And talked my youngest daughter into helping me. It was almost three hours for us to remove and wash the crystals. And almost an hour and a half tonight for me to wrap and pack the crystals.
And now, where will it go? My house is not chandelier friendly (ceilings too low). My oldest daughter has sky high ceilings, but a modern, sophisticated style that would clash. My brother (who lives half a country away) mentions it often. I am thinking that my youngest daughter, the last helper, the latest helper, should have first dibs. She is living at home, but I am willing to provide storage as long as necessary. Unless someone else pitches a fit first . . . . .