When to Keep and When to Sell – Stuff You Inherit

Wherever you are in life, you’ve got family and friends who are entering stages of life unfamiliar to you. This is a beautiful part of life. But one of the sad sides of things is that there is always an older generation nearing the end of life. Most of us have lost parents and grandparents who we have loved and who have loved us. And we’ve also inherited some of their stuff. This is an interesting conundrum for many. Sometimes we inherit money, which is convenient. But more frequently we inherit things: heirlooms, memory pieces, and sundry items. Some pieces find themselves welcomed into our lives, cherished for many years to come. But others start to clutter our lives, leaving us looking for a way out. But then, there’s often an element of guilt. Should we sell something that was precious to a parent or grandparent? What about sentimental value; can I forgive myself if I let this thing go? There are a lot of ways to think about this, but here is how I make these decisions in my own life.


  • Is the Item Worth More Monetarily Than it is in Terms of Sentimental Value? When I received a rare coin from my father, I had to ask myself, “Did he love this thing?” “Do I have any associated memories with him and this coin?” “Does this coin in any way represent him to me as a person?” The answers were No, No, No. So I sold the coin. This decision process often goes this way when considering valuable items like this. Very often, the item wasn’t cherished or its own sake by the relative who passed it on. It was a place holder for wealth, and they wouldn’t mind you selling it at all. If you can make a buck and you won’t miss the item, by all means let it go.
  • Is the Item Meant to Be Used Practically or as an Investment? Some family heirlooms have practical significance. That 200 year old armoire is still a stately and useful piece of furniture. But Uncle Jeff’s gold bullion is just sitting around waiting for the price of gold to go through the roof. Some items are kind of in the middle, like grandma’s silver serving tray. You decide where to draw the line. In my case, I decide that which is practical based on how much use I am going to get out of it. If I’m never going to use the silver serving tray or grandma’s old engagement ring, I email my online diamond buyer.


There are plenty of other considerations to make when deciding whether to keep or sell an inherited item. But this should give you a good place to start. I find that the items that mean the most to me are of no value to an outside buyer: photographs, gifts received in my childhood, handwritten notes from the person I’m missing. These things can be meaningfully cherished in honor of the person who left them. The most valuable items may also function in this capacity, but I have found better purpose for them sold and the money reinvested.

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