It meant so much to them but it compounds every generation? Most 80-90 year olds are children of the depression era and saved LOTS of stuff. My mother died 3 years ago and my dad recently moved to assisted living. Because of his wishes, I have no intention of clearing or selling the house while he is alive, but I wanted to get a head start.
OH MY! Just mom's stuff alone..boxes, drawers, old cedar chests full of letters and photos and cards....my mom was widowed in WWII after a brief marriage...while no members of that man's (not my dad) surviving family are known to me, there is his purple heart, letters from him, and letters from family members of other crew members when the plane went down and they were MIA for months. History, valuable and heart breaking. Letters from my grandfather who was a funny and articulate writer and letters from Mom's friends and relatives who shared deeply personal pieces of their souls with her. And now she's gone, anyone who knew her are mostly gone, and now what happens?
Many of the pIctures are most likely of historical value even though I don't know who they are. Scrapbooks my dad made of their past trips. Add this to the furniture, clothing, jewelry, kitchen stuff, a bazillion books, sewing stuff, garden stuff, etc etc etc. The task for just the general detritus of life is overwhelming. And I'm an only child. And I have my own crap...way too much. But it is that personal stuff that mom that just breaks my heart.
Picking just a few things? Donating? My kids live in tiny NY apartments. All the relatives and friends who would recognize these things are gone, and their kids..well, the chain gets too long. Cataloging, scrapbooks, publishing...maybe,but is that what I want to occupy my time with? Or maybe I can just read it all for a glimpse of my parents that I never knew and toss it? I even feel funny reading such personal stuff sometimes, but it draws me in every time. :-)
Not looking for solutions, just your own philosophy.