After I’m Gone, Will Someone Keep and Treasure This Piece?

Recently when I shared a new lamp I had purchased, you may have noticed a large, colorful bowl that was sitting nearby.

Orange and White Lamp


I collected that bowl several years ago during a trip to Morocco when we visited Poterie de Fes, a place where they hand-make and paint tiles that they create from their local clay. The tiles are then used to make beautiful pottery and lovely fountains for gardens. I spotted this cute guy snoozing away in one of the fountains during our tour.

Sleeping Kitty in Fountain, Fes


I wanted a special piece to remember that trip and the tour, so I purchased this bowl after agonizing over many beautiful pieces they had available to buy. Not to get morbid on you, but one day as I was at admiring its beauty, I started thinking about how when I’m no longer here, my son and daughter-in-law will see this bowl and have no idea where it came from or anything about it. Without knowing its history, they may think it’s just a cute bowl I picked up in Old Time Pottery. Pieces that I have collected during my trips may not have meaning for my son, but who knows–if he knew this piece was collected and brought all the way back from Morocco, maybe he would want to keep it. If not, I’m totally okay with that, too.


It would probably be a good idea to create a journal where we jot down information about those special pieces that we have collected during our travels, especially the ones that may have real monetary value, but one thing I have done with some of my larger pieces is I have placed a label on the back stating where it’s from and the year it was purchased. This is also super helpful for me because I have a terrible memory for dates/places!


On that same trip to Morocco, we visited Manar Marble, a factory/shop in Erfoud where they create furniture and stone products for the home and garden. The marble they use is sourced locally and dates back to the Devonian Period of the Paleozoic era which is around 360-410 million years ago, so it naturally contains a lot of well-preserved fossils. You can see a lot of fossils in the pieces they’ve created in the photo below. Fossils are everywhere in Morocco, you can even see them during walks in some areas. Amazing!


I purchased this pretty heart-shaped, lidded bowl during that tour.


I’ve labeled it on back, as well.


During a trip to Egypt in 2018, after touring the incredible tombs in The Valley of the Kings, we visited a local shop where artisans hand-carve into limestone slabs many of the scenes we saw inside the tombs. It was so amazing to watch them work! I purchased two of the limestone slabs/carvings but only one survived the trip back.


This is definitely one of my favorite treasures that I’ve ever brought back from a trip!

Egyptian Hand Carved Tablet


I labeled it on the back, as well. This labeling is so helpful when you’re trying to remember what month/year you traveled to that particular place/country. You could add even more details if you wish. I’ve kept it simple with just the place and date.


This is the label maker I use. It’s super easy to use so though I don’t pull it out that often, when I do need to use it, it only takes me a few seconds to remember how it works and to produce a new label. I love that about it! It’s really handy for labeling anything, including containers in a pantry or closet. If you need a great label maker, you’ll find this one available here: Label Maker.

Great Label Maker


If you have done a fair amount of traveling over the years and you’ve collected some beautiful treasures during those trips, if possible, consider adding a small label to the bottom so others will know it’s a special piece and not just an inexpensive whatnot mass-produced in China. They may appreciate it a lot more and who knows, it may become a special piece that gets passed down through the generations.

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  1. I cherish the things my Grandparents labeled for me. I even have a cherry chest of drawers that my Gram wrote “Linda gets this” on the back. I especially like things when I know their stories.

  2. Gayle Kesinger says

    What a great idea to label special pieces. I am going to do that right now with some pieces that I treasure so my daughter will have some idea what has value either sentimental or financial. Many thanks!

  3. franki Parde says

    Has my daughter been talking to you… She has been “after me” for SO long to “document, document, document”…for the very reason you indicated. She even bought a beautiful notebook…my bad… franki

  4. I started a little scrapbook with pictures of things that are sentimental to me, and the stories of how they came to be mine. I need to work on it some more!

  5. Such a brilliant idea Susan – I love the labeling, and especially keeping a little log of the special items. I just finished going through my mom’s art and jewelry, and knowing what was particularly special to her would have been really nice. I’ve been a little MIA this summer, but so good to catch up with your wonderful tips and all your inspiration!

  6. Your bowl is beautiful. I have taken photos of special items and made a book with captions beside each picture that explains what the item is, the origin, who it originally belonged to (like a grandparent), etc. I have a friend who did a really terrific job of this, and her photo book with captions turned out to be like a family history.

  7. Love this so much!! I often look at the beautiful blankets my grandmothers knitted or crocheted and think, nobody will care about these blankets when I’m gone.

    So I talk them up a lot to my teens. 🙂 I love your labels on the bottom idea!

    Wendy in Suwanee

  8. When my mother in law died she left so many mementos whose stories we were unable to remember. That inspired me to take photos of the family heirlooms we have, along with items that are meaningful to my husband and I. Under each photo I tell the story of the item with as much detail as I can recall, as well as the person I’d like to leave it to. I’ve put all this info in a folder, as well as on a USB Flash Drive. It has taken a while to get it all put together and I still run across things I need to add, but it has been a worthwhile project as well as fun.

  9. Thank you for the wonderful idea to label special items. My kids thank you, as do I!

  10. Creating a journal of special items had been on my “to do” list for quite a while, and I finally got a very good start on it a few months ago. It’s on my computer right now with photos and stories to go with each item. I think of it as an addition to my genealogy research. I plan to put a copy of it in the same notebook with our estate planning documents.

  11. I have been labeling the backs of my picture frames (date, activity, or person)
    using my label-maker as well. This way, I don’t have to take the frame apart to read the info on the backs of the actual photos that are in the frames.
    Now, I will expand my labels to other objects after reading your article.
    Thanks for the idea. I enjoy seeing your travel treasures.

  12. Susan a great idea to use the label machine! I am going to start doing that to some of my pieces! It is also good to take a picture of your item and write a short note about it along with the price you paid. We can only hope our children, grandchildren keep some of our treasures as remembrances.

  13. I have so many beautiful things that belonged to my mother and grandmother. My daughter isn’t much interested but I keep showing things to my granddaughter and telling her how special they are. Hopefully, she is listening!

  14. Wanda F Bradey says

    My parents too traveled the world and have unique pieces. My mom has labeled each and put one of our names on it for that “time”. She has done the same with the nicer furniture they have purchased. It sure helps to make sure everyone has a treasure. Great idea!

  15. Sondra Bricker says

    Loved the bowl and your idea for labeling! I don’t get to travel as much as I’d like but have been lucky to have been to Germany, Austria, & latest trip was to Israel in February 2020, got home JUST BEFORE COVID HIT THE USA!
    I do a a few items I was able purchase during these trips and now I will take your advice and label them!

  16. When my mom passed on, she was the last of that generation on my dad’s side. As we were cleaning out her house to sell it, we came upon picture after picture that we had NO idea who it was or where it had been taken. A journal would have been wonderful!! My grandmother was a terrific cook. I have two of her BIG stainless steel mixing bowls that have her last name etched in the bottom – to be sure she got it back from a function. I cherish those bowls. I got them because I had the biggest family! HA!

  17. I live in a museum (not really)! Remembering where all these beautiful, unique and in some cases very rare things that I was lucky enough to inherited is not really my situation..all of it has been documented. My “problem” is that my two wonderful, intelligent and world traveling daughters have absolutely NO desire to have any of it. One daughter is married with ONE SON the other is divorce with no children. My situation is not unique and I have had this very same conversation with like minded women that are having the same concerns. In reading the comments, I am almost jealous that everyone here have it all figured out…but not me. It may not be a dilemma, since I won’t be able to do anything about it when I’m gone. “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” comes to mind…

  18. Susan,

    For many years, my grandfather (born in 1892) put his name and date on everything he owned in yellow paint. We often joked about this but now every time we use one of his garden tools, plumber’s tool, etc. it reminds me of him with great memories. And, most of those tools are still being used by my husband and grown sons.

    A few years back, I sat down and wrote the history of my family antique pieces and items my husband and I have collected in our many travels around the world. I put the list in with our wills.

    The label maker is a great idea!!

  19. This is such a great idea because one might be more tempted to keep something if they know it came from another country a loved one visited. I really love this idea, plus it lets one know that these pieces are more special and not just bought at a common store. You are so smart Susan! Hugs, Brenda

  20. Sandra Sweeney says

    I had a bit of a scare with my third DVT last fall, so I prepared all those “end-of-life” documents. I also asked my children to let me know what items in the house they were interested in for themselves. Two responded with the exact same request – my 1978 Betty Crocker cookbook, torn cover, well-loved pages and all! They also told me what items they’d like and I’ve sent some of these for gifts for birthdays and just-because-days. I really love that they want to cherish these items as I have and still do.
    Like you, I have the Lenox Holiday china. I received my first piece on my 16th birthday (I’m now 63). I’ve found that green Depression glass complements the light green in the holly leaves nicely and thought you might want to try that, too. I’m thinking of trying some clear Depression glass with gold as well. I just love that china! In downsizing, I gave 8 place settings to one daughter who asked for it and she insisted I keep 4 for me. That is a perfect amount!
    I’m looking forward to reading more of your ideas! (Family Dollar has gold charger imprinted with leaf “skeletons” for fall. You know how leaves lose the colorful part but keep the harder veins – the skeletons? I bought four of these at $1.00 each to use with my antique Blue Willow china in the fall and they are great!)

  21. I love your idea. I need to put my label maker to work. When we closed my folks house we were lucky that most things were remembered by one of the 7 kids and 1 close cousin. Still there were unknown things. Someone said they were the folks memories but some of those can carry down through the generations. I love it when pieces can land where they continue to be loved.

  22. Set up a book with photos and stories about each special piece. You could also include who specifically it is for and why. I think it would mean a lot to the recopients

  23. When we downsized to a temp townhouse I catalogued in a journal every item in every box. Now, I’ve started finding my items online & I print a dated copy. Then these pages go into a binder with the year & price that I purchased. This way our children know the asking price on a particular date & the price & date that I found our item (& story). I will add binder tabs to categorize the pages. My mom is in her late 80’s & I’ve begged her for decades to do this for me. Alas, I’m going to inherit her stuff that probably has a story that I don’t know. It will be an arduous research project when the time comes. 🙁

  24. Brenda Smith says

    In pre-scam days, my mom used to put her SS# on everything!
    There was this one large framed sepia/brown tones print of a windswept bluff and shore..It was always in her house, and after she passed on, I thought I’d keep it, and had someone hang it on a nail in our little country cabin. Later, I moved it for some reason and found several long strips of masking tape on the back, where she had written to me by name, saying that I should keep this….that this was a picture she had loved when she and my dad picked out their first furniture, but they couldn’t afford it then. He remembered, and went back and bought it for her for their first anniversary. I took it down from the cabin wall and now it hangs over my fireplace, a reminder of my sweet parents and their early days together. I’m sure it didn’t cost a lot, but it’s priceless to me.

  25. I made a chart with items I wanted to go to certain people. The columns are labeled: name of item, picture number, where the item came from/who bought or gave it, and the person who gets it. This is for jewelry, framed needle work, dishes, furniture, etc. This is printed out in color, saved on flash drives and attached to wills. My husband was married and had 2 children, I had no children and we have no children. I do have 2 nephews that are like my children. Things I got from my parents will go to my nephews and their children. Sometimes are from my grandparents and they will know where things came from or who gave them to me. My stepson wanted this done so there would be no question about who got what when something happens to me and my husband. One of the best things I ever done.

  26. After cleaning out a relative’s home, here’s the conclusion I’ve reached: the kids don’t want our stuff. Just because you loved something doesn’t mean that your kids will place the same value on it. What the kids will cherish is photos of relatives with names, places and dates. 20 years ago, I asked my in-laws to write down their memories each day for a year. Not only did we learn about their childhoods, we have something tangible that we can pass on to the next generation.

  27. Before my mom passed we labeled things too. I do it now for my kids if they’re interested and genealogy so the names have some context. I do a snapfish book for our travels so the pictures are saved easily. Another idea is for artwork download the artist and info on the piece/price and attach to back .

  28. Warren Giering says

    Ah, Susan, so many times Kathie and I have had the conversation about what will happen to the treasures we have collected when we pass. Our kids seem to have no interest in family heirlooms or fine table decorations or classic furniture or antique furniture. So, I guess they will have a yard sale or auction in place of a wake or memorial service. Sigh.

  29. We have the same situation, Susan — in creating a “red file” for end-of-life, which will have details about finances, passwords, safe deposit boxes, etc., we’re including photos with details about china, jewelry, and all those special pieces, so that family or the executor has the information and can at least deal knowingly in an estate sale (e.g. the Hummel from 1950’s Germany, etc.). It’s a chore but worth the time. Young people seem less interested in collectibles, classic heirlooms and beautiful tableware, as Warren said, but there’s always that one exception, and things might circle back around, who knows…
    I love your label maker — my Dymo is similar and it’s great!
    Hope you’re doing well.


    When it took me 2 weeks to respectfully get to the back of my mothers closet, and go thru her things. I found that I wanted to keep things I’d played with instead of the big stuff. There was that rain bonnet that unfolded from a tiny oval container. You stretched it out to use, then pulled the ties to make it fold back up and fit perfectly back into the little container. My kids don’t seem interested in family heirlooms either. Mainly pictures.

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