Nurturing My Nest Blog

Routines and Rhythms of Homemaking
Intentional Homebuilding & Custom Built Education
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When Grown Children Use Their Parent’s Home for Long-term Storage

My parent’s belongings as they prepared to move to the West Indies as missionaries in 1967.

(The picture above is my parent’s belongings as they prepared to move to the West Indies as missionaries in 1967.)

Today’s thoughts center around what to do with the stuff that represents life that has been lived, but is no longer being used daily or on any regular basis. Life is a series of transitions. One of the inevitable changes come when moving out of the home where you live with your parents. Consider how many parents continue to live with their children’s things without living with their children. A trap is created when space is held hostage in storing things instead of children.

As spring cleaning begins, think through whether your parents are keeping your things or whether you are stockpiling unnecessary articles for your own children. Dig deep, literally and dig out.

Parent’s homes often become the dumping ground for boxes, odd items, memorabilia, clothing, baby items, etc. If your stuff is at your mom’s home, free her and go get it. Make decisions. Let her live her best life with the space that belongs to her. Don’t let your mom store things that do not belong to her.

If you are the mom, empower yourself. Consider what items are being stored in your home that are not yours. Send pictures to the owners. Ask what they want to do with them. Establish deadlines. Clear out these items so you can live freely in the space you own. Don’t be sad if they don’t want things that hold memories for you, but not them. Take a deep breathe and trash or donate them. Envision the space as you plan to repurpose it. For many, storing their kids’ things is taking over entire bedrooms or portions of the home. Be brave and purge.

This dilemma applies to my season of life. For all practical purposes, three of my five children have moved out. One is still in high school while another one is a college student who is coming and going between semesters. While I am new to this experience, I feel that the purging must be done sooner than later. We are talking about downsizing, but the kids protest as they want to come back to this house. For now, we are staying put. So, I am working on deep cleaning and repurposing the spaces they leave behind. For the rooms that have been deep cleaned and reset, the kids have loved coming back to new bedding and seeming larger bedrooms. Less stuff does create more room.

Storing things that have lived their life with us, but have no practical future is unwise. I practice tried and true patterns as we purge and clean out spaces they leave behind. For example, when cleaning out a dresser or a closet, the space needs to be completely emptied. All items must be taken out so they can be sorted. First, I look for things that are trash. Next, all pieces that need to be donated are boxed. Each time I complete the purging for day, I carry the trash to the outside garbage can and the donations to the back of the truck or my car. The remaining articles that are staying must be sorted into determined categories. Some need to stay close. Some are going to a farther location in the room. Some are going to the child’s new living space.

One of my children cleaned up her room and packed up before she left for college. Sadly, the others left without completing this task. The aftermath resulted in the deep cleaning of the deserted closets, drawers, under bed space, hanging clothes and miscellaneous. I cannot fathom wanting others to decide what is important to me, what to keep and what to throw out.

However, as I worked to completing my last book, Hum of the Home, another room awaited my attention. This new book is full of ideas for organizing, maintaining your space and purging. My fourth child left for Air Force boot camp with a stack up to my knees of dirty clothes piled in his closet. If you knew me well, you would not suspect me of exaggeration.

Once laundry was finally completed, his younger brother and I sorted clothes into keep for later for Josh, donate to the nearby boys’ home or just throw away. Some items are being stored with his name in the attic or his dresser. Yes, I wish that he had made these decisions. He was asked to work through these areas before he left.

The reality is that it had to be done soon to ready this space for its new life. Bunk beds are being sold. Carpets will be cleaned. All spaces cleaned out thoroughly. I just repaired walls and painted the room last year, so it will soon be ready for a new queen bed and fresh bedding. To leave the space as it was meant it would be sitting unused. Repurposing space is so exciting!

When one of my daughters married, my youngest son and I repurposed his sister’s room. As he is the youngest, he benefited from inheriting a choice of desks, a king size bed, a larger closet, a space for all of his instruments and a much bigger room. He stayed with me for three days as we deep cleaned all the spaces, painted and cleaned the carpet. He picked out the color for the wall paint. He learned to clean the walls and baseboards, tape off the space and paint. The end result proved extremely satisfying.

Last night my mother created a conference call and asked several of us about some of my dad’s belongings. My dad went to heaven about a year ago. While we already completed an intense clean out of his office and closet, many decisions loom. Work hard to keep your home from becoming a storage area for your children’s items. Also, don’t consider your mom’s home a place for storage either.

As you might imagine, this is a common problem. Many parents of grown children are burdened with full storage areas, crowded garages and unchanged guest rooms. For all practical purposes, they are not living in their spaces. Their homes are storage. Break free. Clean out the garage. Clean out the attic. Clean out the unoccupied children’s bedrooms. Clean out the outside storage shed. Clean out the overflowing closets. Reclaim space for today’s life.

Additional storage units are big business these days. While you might suspect that they are used for transition, more often they are rented to store overflow. If this idea applies to you, it is time to purge and conquer this burden. Freedom is in your future. Don’t fall into the trap of procrastination which ultimately costs money. You can do it. Move forward in purging.

My mother is moving across town to be closer to my brothers and their young families. Moving forces cleaning out. These decisions are hard work. She is working through with resolve as she envisions her new space where she can live in every area.

Think of it as a new season.

Don’t be sad to make changes.

Focus on the outcome.

Gear up for the thought that cleaning out is work. Many decisions must be made. A sizable mess will be created before the work is done. It will be worse before it is better. In the end, great satisfaction in a fresh, livable space promises to overwhelm you with satisfaction and joy.

Imagine the newly cleaned space transformed into new living space. Dream it. Make it happen.

Join this conversation on Embrace Your Everyday.

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