It’s tempting to save a bunch of stuff for children and grandchildren but the truth is that most of it is quickly tossed or is stored in an attic never to be seen again. When you’re deciding what to save, ask yourself whether you’re having difficulty letting go or if this is really an item your grandchild will treasure. When I went through items I had saved for my daughter with her, it was quickly apparent that most of the items weren’t important to her. I simply didn’t have the heart to let go of the figurines that had decorated her nursery or the t-shirts she had in high school. Now my first rule is: ASK. If your child or grandchild indicates they don’t want the item but you’re still convinced it needs to be saved, keep it and try again in a few years. After two “no’s,” it’s time to dump it no matter how sentimental you think it should be.
There are some items that are universally appealing so consider offering or setting aside the following for your grandchildren:
- Family History. If you haven’t already done your family’s history, what are you waiting for? There are so many online resources to get you started and even if you just go back a few generations, it will be valuable to your grandchildren to know where they came from. If you have the time and interest, writing out or recording family stories and history is a special gift that can’t be replicated by anyone but you. If you can work together with the grandparents on the other side, so much the better! If you’re ambitious, you can bind the history together with photos and copies of family papers (birth, death, marriage certificates) and make copies for each child and grandchild.
- A few items of baby clothing. Pick out your favorite dress or onesie, a blanket, and maybe a hat and hold onto those. If you have a photo of your child wearing the item, so much the better. Once you gift it to your child, take a photo of the baby wearing the item and the two photos can be framed side by sure for a special keepsake for both of you.
- If you’ve already saved boxes of clothing, make a quilt. If you’ve hung onto a bunch of your child’s clothing, consider making a patchwork quilt from it. A simple, small quilt is easy to piece together if you aren’t a seamstress. If you really want to go for it, make a bed-sized quilt.
- A journal. Start when your grandchild is born to write down memories including family stories, holiday celebrations, and traditions. Your granddaughter will be delighted to hear you read about the first time you held her or your grandson will delight in funny stories about his parents. Keep the journal at your home and make it a fun tradition to go through and read new entries when the child visits. Once they turn 18 or 21, gift them with the book.
- A personal item. Almost every child will have a memory of their grandparent that is unique to them. Do a little sleuthing and find out what it is for your grandchild. You may be surprised. My daughter wanted her grandmother’s eyeglasses when my mother passed—I would never have considered them a keepsake. I have my grandmother’s old enameled colander and use it each time I make pasta—just as she did. I also have my Aunt Peg’s metal measuring cup that she used for laundry detergent. I have no idea why it always evoked such a strong memory of her but it did and still does.
Whatever items you decide to save, be sure your family knows what you have decided if you won’t be gifting them right away. Inconsequential items like a colander wouldn’t get listed in a will but if you know it’s important to your child or grandchild, make sure it is included in a list of items to be distributed. And, most importantly, talk to your child and grandchildren so you are gifting them with the things they really want.