Many of our clients have lived for over a half of a century. A good many of them have children who have long left home. These parents a commonly referred to as “empty nesters’. This may be a misnomer. The fledglings have flown away, but the nest is far from empty. Their belongings remain behind in the custody of the parents. Sometimes, a daughter or son’s room is preserved as if its occupant expected home at any moment, even if that adult child lives halfway around the globe, with a young family of his own. This is not an uncommon phenomenon and in some instances not unreasonable, considering the growing population of “boomerang” kids, unable to afford a place of their own. But, the vast majority of adult children are not expected to return as residents. The parents are saving their children’s discarded belongings because they believe their children want these possessions. Experience dictates otherwise.
Many well-meaning parents are shocked to discover that the very items they diligently set aside for safe keeping from toddlerhood to adolescence are not valued by their offspring. Whether its piles of artwork or schoolwork, awards, favorite storybooks, game consoles for bygone video games, old costumes, uniforms or baseball gloves, the story is the same. The kids either don’t have the room or they simply don’t care about these mundane milestones that chronicle their childhood. What are they going to do with a single bed complete with a Little Mermaid comforter and matching sheets, or for that matter a desk with no room for a keyboard? Do they want to be saddled with silver they need to polish, crystal stemware that must be hand washed or gold-rimmed dishes they can’t put in a dishwasher, when they don’t even have time to listen to the voicemails you leave? Where is your daughter going to stash six cartons of photographs of people who they barely remember when a third of her bedroom is devoted to a sleeping cage for the Afghan hound she adores beyond reason?
Saving stuff for your kids that you presume they want can deprive you of your own living space. You could be re-purposing entire rooms to indulge your own hobbies and interests or create an environment to set up a home based business.
This is not as hard as it may seem. First, understand that your children are individuals in their own right with their own needs, desires and esthetic standards. Rejecting the memorabilia you hoped they would come to appreciate, is not a rejection of you. Start by taking an inventory of everything they have left behind. Then call your sons and daughters. Tell them you have your own plans to revitalize these vacated spaces. If they want to keep some things, give them a deadline for pickup. Communicate that you would be more than happy to make arrangements to give away or sell what they can’t use. You still have the right to keep whatever you want for sentimental reasons, although hopefully not more than an trunk’s worth. When the decisions have been made, start enjoying the new spaces you have liberated. No single de-cluttering activity pays back as much as this does.