Throughout our lives, we collect quite a few things possessions: furniture, clothing, knickknacks, books, and more. When a family member dies, they leave their belongings behind along with the question, “What should you do with all of this stuff?” It’s no surprise this is a highly sensitive issue, as these items serve as a visible reminder of someone who meant so much to so many.

At Sunset View Cemetery, we have years of experience offering advice as Pinole, El Sobrante, Oakland, Berkeley, El Cerrito, and Richmond families figure out how to manage their loved one’s belongings. The first step is to make categories: decide what you can throw out, what you can donate, and what you should keep. Once you have your “keep” pile, don’t just toss it all in a box and hide it away in a closet. Your loved one was special to you, and their belongings are too. Here are some of our staff’s favorite ideas for displaying family heirlooms:


  1. Turn handkerchiefs into a wreath

If your loved one always had a hankie handy, use these linens to create a homemade wreath. All you need are handkerchiefs, an embroidery hoop (or another circular object), rubber bands, and ribbon. Head to this website for further directions. Once completed, you’ll have a piece of artwork that is not only beautiful but also reminds you of your loved one.

  1. Frame recipe cards

Many people have favorite family recipes, sometimes passed down from one generation to the next. There are all sorts of ways to display handwritten recipe cards creatively. For example, you can put them into individual frames to showcase your favorites. Or you can make a collage to create a unique and visually engaging piece of art.

  1. Use cooking utensils as wall art

Beyond recipe cards, you can display your loved one’s old cooking utensils as wall décor – spoons, spatulas, you name it. Use your creative license to place them on the wall in a way that is appealing to you or look up pictures for inspiration.

  1. Stretch a quilt onto a frame

Another beloved family heirloom is a homemade quilt. If the quilt is stained, torn, or you don’t need another blanket, you can still display it in this way: Cut the quilt into sections and stretch over a canvas frame, stapling the edges to keep it in place. If your quilt is large enough, you could make a vignette of different-sized frames with multiple pieces.

  1. Re-paint, re-finish, or reupholster furniture

Inheriting furniture can become problematic. Your loved one might have had a very different style than you or you may have a limited amount of space. There are plenty of ways to repurpose furniture allowing you to incorporate pieces into your home in a way that fits your style.

  1. Put old pictures onto a family tree

Do you have an abundance of old photographs from your loved one – perhaps even some from the generations who came before them? While creating a scrapbook is a great way to collect pictures in one place, there are other creative ways to display them. One of our favorite ideas is a family tree. Print a copy of a blank family tree or make your own. Rather than writing names, use photographs to designate each person’s spot on the family tree. Find an appropriate frame, then display the final product so friends and family can see your family history when they come into your home.

  1. Use a shadowbox to display odds and ends

You might inherit an item you want to keep but aren’t sure what to do with. These items are the perfect candidates for a shadowbox. A shadowbox has a clear front, allowing you to display possessions that otherwise could not be framed due to their size or material. You can find a shadowbox at most home goods stores, or you can even make your own.


During a time of grief, it can be a real challenge to know what to do with everything left behind. We hope this list provides you with some ideas to help you memorialize and celebrate your loved one. It is our honor to serve families in the Pinole, El Sobrante, Oakland, Berkeley, El Cerrito, and Richmond community, and we are always here to support you in your time of need. Don’t hesitate to reach out on our website or in person.