Simplifying: How to Get Your Grown Kids’ Things Out of the House
It can be hard to let go, and often both parent and child might have a sentimental attachment to these relics. But if you are moving to a smaller home or simplifying your existing household, it just may be time. Our guide can help.
Many people have a nostalgic attachment to childhood treasures, and you may get pushback from your children who do not want to remove belongings from their childhood home due to the following reasons.
- Emotional overload. If your child’s possessions have been stored in your home free of charge for years, your son or daughter likely hasn’t given these items much thought. He or she also may live in a smaller space with limited storage, and deciding what to move and what to discard can be emotionally taxing.
- Lack of time and interest. Your kids might lack the time or desire to deal with deciding what to save, donate, toss, sell or recycle.
- Sentimentality. The sale of a family home can be difficult for grown children with tender feelings for the home they grew up in. They may feel sad that you are moving on, closing that chapter.
- Sense of ownership. If you are simplifying rather than moving, your children might resent that your home is no longer their personal storage locker. They also may begrudge your desire to change their beloved bedroom into a guest room, home office or sewing room, despite the fact that the home belongs to you.
Parents may also have emotional ties to their children’s belongings. According to organizer Marie Kondo, “When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”
Attachment to the past. Some parents find it hard to accept that their time actively caring for small children is over. Since none of us has the ability to go back in time, instead consider what you have gained and embrace the freedom from hands-on parenting that allows you to enjoy a more carefree lifestyle.
Fear for the future. Sometimes parents hang on to things because they think their child might need them again — perhaps an old tennis racquet, a neglected saxophone or a chair from their college apartment. But your children are now adults who decide for themselves what their life will look like. Don’t let clutter rule your home because your child might need something again someday.
The first step to overcoming these emotional obstacles is to have a clear picture of your ultimate objective. For example, if you are cleaning out your child’s former bedroom to create a much desired home office, consider saving pictures from Houzz or shelter magazines that help you imagine your ideal room. If you are downsizing, take photos of the new smaller space and find ideas online to help you create your dream home. Be as specific as possible, choosing paint colors, flooring, and furniture. Keep a few of your pictures posted in your kitchen as a frequent reminder of your goal.
As an additional step, imagine your life without clutter or unnecessary possessions. Do your children’s belongings fit into this vision? If you feel comfortable, share your vision for your new space with your children. Your excitement just may be contagious.
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Before you begin, I recommend that you collect boxes, packing supplies, tape and large trash bags. Consider designating a separate staging area for each of your children — their former bedroom or a corner of the garage — where you can temporarily place all of their belongings. Make sure you search for items from the entire home, including all the closets, the garage, the attic and the basement.
Ask your kids if you can toss anything that is soiled, stained or broken. Perhaps they will also allow you to donate unsentimental items like old clothing, unnecessary textbooks and unused household items.
If they live out of the area, take pictures of items and have your children decide what they want to keep. Agree upon a realistic date when they can take these items out of your home. Encourage your offspring to take anything they want to sell, as this chore should not belong to you.
Once your children have decided what they are keeping, donate or toss any remaining items. Consider arranging for a local nonprofit to pick up donations and perhaps also having your waste management company deliver a small dumpster to your property. This service is included as a free, annual benefit from many companies.
With a little bit of luck and planning, sorting may turn into a fun experience of reliving old memories with your child. However, beware of time spent lingering too long over old yearbooks and photos, as this could significantly delay the process!
Children’s books, toys, and games. Some parents of adult children would love to keep beloved children’s books, games and toys for future grandchildren who may or may not materialize. Assess your space. If you have enough room, store one box of favorites, and then donate or sell the rest.
Find storage containers
- Wedding dresses. Wedding dresses are generally hard to part with. I am embarrassed to admit that I still have my wedding dress from over 25 years ago stored in my mother’s attic! Perhaps you are storing your daughter’s wedding dress. If she has no room for it or desire to keep it, suggest she sell it on eBay, PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com or Tradesy.com.
- Donating is also an option. BridesAcrossAmerica.com collects for giveaways to military brides, while AdornedinGrace.org sells donated dresses and gives the proceeds to organizations that help sex trafficking victims.
- Musical instruments. If your child hasn’t played his or her trombone since high school, perhaps it is time to donate or sell. If you suspect that it is valuable, have it appraised. Craigslist or Ebay can help you pocket a few dollars, or you might donate to a local school or church. Be sure to get a receipt for tax purposes.
- Fine dishes and glassware. Perhaps your child has inherited china, silver, crystal or furniture from a grandparent but is not likely to use these treasures. Encourage your child to sell family heirlooms on Craigslist or eBay or at a local home consignment store. If items are hard to part with, take a photo to help you catalog the item before bidding it farewell.