First things first: Make sure an heirloom is really yours to pass down. You don't want to give a valuable or sentimental item to your grown child or best girlfriend, only to discover it wasn't yours to give away.
As with many families, you may have generational items in your home that actually belong to someone else. (Hey, we remember living out of boxes until grad school, so we've stored our fair share of treasures in borrowed attics and basements.) We've also been guilty of hoarding grandma's snapshot collection, even though it was never meant to be ours. Luckily, we came to our senses and decided to share. We quickly learned that artwork, photographs and handwritten letters can all be scanned, stored electronically or printed for display. The same goes for big-ticket items, like toys or handmade furniture. Sometimes it's the memory you want to hang on to, rather than the tangible proof; so, taking a few photos can spread the love among the masses. That way, even if an item isn't yours to hand down, you can still share the memories attached to it.
If you take the time to attach a written description to your heirlooms, they'll be even more valuable to future recipients. Get your pencil ready. We've got storytelling tips on the next page.