After World War II, the ability to own material goods was part of the American Dream. Today’s younger generation feels just the opposite.
In the age of declutter, what happens when a minimalist inherits 10 boxes of their grandfather’s photos? Or when a great aunt passes down her Edwardian curio to a millennial living in a 450-square foot apartment?
Thankfully, there are new methods for memorializing our loved ones, and here are six unique ones.
This is a term for memorializing the non-physical things that are important to us, like family stories, cultural knowledge and experiences — and your loved one’s voice and mannerisms.
Thanks to smartphones, nearly anyone can record these meaningful experiences. You can use audio to capture your loved one’s favorite stories or use a camera to record them preparing a special meal only they know how to make. Your family’s strong cultural heritage can also be shared through songs, dance or other expressions that can be passed down through video.
You can also save your favorite memories and give them as gifts to family, all on a USB. Apps like Immortalia even allow you to organize your loved one’s stories in a simple, elegant way that you can revisit anytime on the cloud.
Sew a Memorial Quilt
While a quilt isn’t high-tech, it is an innovative way to repurpose your loved one’s belongings. Rather than taking old clothes to Goodwill or stuffing them in your spare closet, you can use old clothes for a memorial quilt that can make you feel a little closer to your family member. There are many companies online that specialize in crafting memorial quilts, but if you’re handy with a sewing machine, quilts can be relatively easy to make on your own. They can also be a meaningful activity to share with children and other family members.
Use an Innovative Urn
You can even create a vinyl record using your loved one’s ashes. UK-based company And Vinyly specializes in pressing cremated remains into real, playable records of your loved one’s voice or favorite songs. These records can be beautifully displayed while not being used and make very special gifts for other family members.
Grow New Life
If your loved one felt most at home in nature, a biodegradable urn can grow new life from their ashes. These urns allow you to grow a tree or plant from cremated remains. The Bios Incube even lets you grow a tree indoors in a high-tech, minimalist urn that self-waters and monitors your tree’s growth.
For those with a passion for the environment, Recompose provides a way to return to the earth while giving back to the planet. The company uses a process to gently transform remains into soil that improves the earth’s health. In fact, the company estimates this process reduces the carbon footprint of each person by over a metric ton.
If you’ve inherited furniture you don’t have room for, there are many inventive ways to turn old pieces into new ones. The Internet is full of tips and tricks for repurposing old furniture, from wardrobes to stepladders and more.
To make a piece of furniture into a special tribute to your loved one, you can use a technique called decoupage to decorate coffee tables, wall décor or whatever furniture you please with memorabilia. You can use any paper material to decoupage, including copies of old family photos, letters or pages of your loved one’s favorite books. Not only will you end up with beautiful repurposed furniture, scanning the old photos and letters can help you digitalize your memories and thin out your collection of storage containers.
Whether through new, unique ways or the tried and true, the ability to preserve the memories and moments you hold most dear transcends generations.
Keep What Makes You Truly Happy
This tip is by no means a new innovation, but it is something that many people struggle with after a loved one passes away. It’s common to feel guilty about donating or throwing away a loved one’s belongings, and it’s easy to end up keeping more than you truly need or want. But most likely, your loved one wouldn’t want you to feel overwhelmed by material things. Instead, they would probably want you to keep only the things that give you true joy.
Having a few special objects on display is much more meaningful than having many objects stuffed into storage. So take Marie Kondo’s advice: touch each object, thank it for helping to give your loved one a full life, and then decide whether it makes you happy. If it does, then keep it. If not, it’s okay to donate so that your loved one’s belongings can make another person’s life a little happier.
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