The Cost of Sentimental Value

cabin in woods

You know what guys? I think I’m going to change the name of this blog to because I just can’t stop sharing all these notes I keep getting!!! They’re so juicy!

And probably since I keep sharing them over and over, I keep getting more and more and thereby extending the circle of email life even further, haha… I LOVE IT! (Unless you guys aren’t anymore? Want me stop? Go back to hogging all the space for myself?? No? Yes? Maybe? WHICH IS IT, PEOPLE?!! ;))

But no stopping today’s post, where our new friend Barbara* from Arkansas stops by to share her experience with an unwanted inheritance, and the predicament it’s now put both her and her marriage/wallet in.

Take a read, and then let us know what ideas you have for Barbara here, as well as for her husband who is also stuck in the middle of it and not enjoying a single part.

After all, that’s what we like to do here at! “You email ’em, we advise on ’em!” And we’ve got a live one today, folks! 😉


Hey J$!

I have been following your blog for a couple of years now and am working extremely hard on my journey to FI. My husband is on the same journey with the exception of one (big) thing… an unwanted inheritance.

A few years ago my husband, Jim, was given a house in a tiny town in Montana from his Aunt. You may think “Wow, He’s lucky!” However it is a small two bedroom house that belonged to his Grandparents who passed away decades ago. The house has remained intact pretty much exactly as it was when they died, furnishings and all.

My husband’s uncle owns a farm near the town, and Jim visits twice a year. He rarely stays at this house that he’s inherited. His hunting buddies stay in the house, and Jim stays on his Uncle’s farm. So far it doesn’t sound too bad…

Except that the house costs us $1,000 a year for taxes and utilities and sits empty 358 days a year. So far costing us a total of $8,000.

It also needs a new roof, the plaster is falling off of a wall in of one of the bedrooms, and just yesterday Jim found that the pipes had frozen because his hunting buddies did not properly winterize it. It is a money pit that has a tax assessed value of $22,000, but would probably sell for $15,000 at the most.

Jim’s family has always had a lot of pride for the family name, and he is worried about letting go of the last Family owned property in this town. He feels guilty because he knows how I feel about it (I want it gone!), and guilty for letting down his relatives if he sells. It is tough for me to bite my tongue because when his Aunt offered him the house, I was against him taking it for all of the reasons I have addressed above.

He talked to his uncle about selling the house yesterday after the plumbing mishap. His uncle seemed disappointed. When he told me how it went with his uncle, I said that he should sign the house over to his uncle. Problem solved. Jim got upset after two frustrating days and didn’t want my input anymore as he already knows exactly how I feel.

Jim restored his grandfather’s 1960 Chevy pickup, which he loves, and I am happy he has that. (Isn’t that sentimental enough?) We also have sons to carry on the family name. I don’t know why we need a house that sits empty and in need of major repair. We have family we stay with when we visit Montana anyways. If we had to stay in a hotel it would still be much cheaper than maintaining the house.

Am I being unreasonable for wanting Jim to let go of this unwise investment? I don’t want to be heartless, but it seems irrational to keep it.

I was wondering if you have heard from anyone who has been in a similar situation and what advice you and your readers would offer me?

His buddies will chip in a little to help with the costs, but I worry about the big expenses that will eventually need to be taken care of. I think he should either:

  1. Sell it (or give it) to his hunting buddies
  2. Put it on the market for anyone else to but it
  3. Give it to someone else in the family


PS: Here are a few more things from Jim’s perspective. The house has history. His Dad and siblings were born in that house. They held the funeral for his Grandma on the porch of the house. When his uncle passes, the farm will be passed along to his step daughter and husband leaving that house as the only Family homestead left in the town. He has been told since birth that he should be proud of the family name. He feels like me wanting to get rid of the property conflicts with the sentiment that was ingrained in him. I don’t want to pressure him. I want it to sit right in his gut. I guess it is worth the $1,000 a year if it means he will not resent me….


Whew – Tough spot to be in, right? Both sides of the equation, really!

To answer the question about how you feel about it all though, Barbara – no, of course it’s not unreasonable to feel that way! I have a feeling most of us reading this right now is shaking our heads in agreement with you!

However, just as it’s okay for you to feel this, the same goes for your husband who I’m sure is even having a *harder* time with juggling all these relationships in the mix, as well as figuring out his own personal feelings towards it. I’m sure he wants it resolved even more than you do, so it’s great y’all are reaching out for some (hopefully) good advice!

(And FYI – Jim is aware of Barbara reaching out today, which I just love instead of doing all this behind his back 🙂 So all your tips/advice will be read by him too!)

All this said – yes, sentimentalism can be a bitch! And while we all have a ratty old college sweatshirt or jeans laying around, *ahem*, I can only imagine the burden of carrying around A HOUSE for solely that reason!

But here’s the thing – as much as we all LOVE our history and the things attached to it, none of it overrides the more important aspect of our lives which is living for TODAY.

We use the past to help guide us further, but the past is now gone and if we don’t harness it to *improve* our future vs detract, we’re doing a big disservice to both our selves and our closest loved ones.

And fortunately, unless you take on a lobotomy or something, you still get to keep all those wonderful memories no matter what future decisions you make in life! So it’s not like giving up a house or sweatshirt erases anything! It’s just not commanding as much of our attention as it once was.

One of my favorite lifestyle bloggers once said the following which I use time and time again in my life:

“When you’re holding stuff you don’t need, you’re keeping them from other people. You’re keeping them from being useful to other people.”- Bea Johnson

To me, it’s time to free up the house to serve it’s next purpose in life, while at the same time carving out new time and energy for the next project in YOUR lives as well. Perhaps another route to carry on the family name?

And with that in mind, I do actually have a few other options to consider 🙂

#1. Selling the house – BUT – using the profits towards creating new ways for the family name to live on!

Perhaps a nice memorial or bench or something? Or Maybe even a scholarship/fund in the grandparents honor? There’s nothing saying the property *has* to be a house for a name to live on, so any of the above would serve the purpose, only without the hassle and future cash infusions needed.

#2. Selling the house, but using the profit towards yearly family reunions or experiences!

$15,000 or so would be more than enough to do a handful of great get togethers as a family, and nothing would bring ME as much joy as a parent as seeing my kids spend good quality time together vs squabbling over my ancient worldly possessions…

Another reason I plan on continuing this minimalism path with each passing year! When it’s time for me to depart, all my family will get is a lifetime of memories and love! The only physical item I’ll be passing on if I can help it is cash money and/or my cherished coin collection, although even that might have to be disseminated if no one cares for them to avoid any potential bickering 😉

#3. Lastly, if Jim DOES still want to still keep the house, perhaps taking on another job to cover the costs associated with it could be a halfway win for everyone?

From what it sounds like it’s really only the money involved that upsets Barbara so much, so taking that out of the equation would allow Jim to still hold onto it, but also put things in better perspective knowing just how much time and energy it entails to keep it in everyone’s lives… I don’t like this option as much as the others because it means *being away from family* to make this extra income happen, but it is an option nonetheless if all others are not favorable.

So yeah, take from it what you will, but I do hope you get it figured out one way or the other so you can get back to your beautiful and happy marriage! 🙂 Don’t let this continue on forever and never make a decision on it!!

Readers – what can you offer up today to help our friends out here? Have you ever been in a similar situation before? How did you overcome it? (Or are you still in the thick of things?)

This stuff isn’t always so black and white, but the more you talk about things the clearer it gets! So please do share all the tips and advice you can muster up today! I’m sure both Barbara and Jim appreciate it!

*Names and locations have been changed to protect the innocent…

**Image up top not the house in question, but if it indeed looked like that I could understand even more why you’d want to keep it around, haha… It’s so cozy, isn’t it?? 🙂


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