I recently wrote about what happened when my empty nest got filled up again after my daughter finished college. This time I want to tell you how we made sure, before she even went to college, that her stuff wouldn’t live here longer than she would.
When my daughter was packing up to go to college, I acknowledged that she might never live with us again. Like so many who experience a taste of life away from parents, she might (as I did) decide to spend her summers on campus. She might even decide to live permanently in that area after graduating, as many of my college friends did.
So I asked her to go through every storage space in her room and make sure that she got rid of anything that she wasn’t expecting to need in the future. As it turns out, she did return home every summer, much to our delight. However, we repeated this exercise at the end of every summer.
This was not a new exercise for my daughter. Since she was small, I have urged her to review her books and toys in advance of her birthday and the December holidays so that she could make room for the new ones that would shortly be coming her way. She was always happy to oblige!
Getting rid of unwanted stuff at the end of every summer wasn’t nearly as fun as anticipating new toys, but she was always willing. It was also helpful to ensure that she wasn’t forgetting something that she wanted to take back with her to college.
When I got my first apartment after finishing graduate school, I was very proud of the fact that nothing of mine remained in my parents’ home, even though I was living in a small studio apartment. Anything that wasn’t worth having with me in my new life was clearly not worth saving.
I have had many clients whose grown children leave bedrooms full of stuff behind. They may be living in another city, even married with children, yet their childhood rooms have never been completely cleaned out. Now that they have busy grown-up lives, it’s harder for them to take the time to go through boxes and closets and drawers full of stuff.
Some clients ask me for advice on how to get their adult children to come get their stuff. I suggest that they give their children a deadline. Anything that hasn’t been picked up by that date will be donated or tossed.
If you have children living at home, teach them how to downsize. It’s a skill they will find very useful as a grownup.