It’s a bit of a guilty secret: adults who move out of their parent’s home, but leave their childhood possessions behind for Mom and Dad to keep storing.
This topic was brought up in a comment thread on our Facebook feed recently and it garnered a lot of interest and input. “If you haven’t taken all of your possessions out of your parents’ house, do so,” was the one that started the discussion.
The Danger of Stuff
Before getting in to the various responses that this led to, you might be asking, who cares? The fact is, too much clutter can be a hazard—especially in the home of an elderly person. Reducing clutter can also reduce the risks of:
- The ability for safety or emergency services to reach someone in need
Back to Reality
The initial Facebook comment was met with humor (oh, those Legos!) and snark (“Why?”) and gratitude (“Great comment!”). Here was the rationale given for the first comment:
“Why take your childhood possessions out of your parents’ house? Because leaving your stuff validates that your parents can’t move because of you. As long as your parents are a storage unit for their children, there is a denial about downsizing.”
Maybe there is something in this list of things left behind that you can relate to: “I'm saying this as a parent who has an attic, basement, and a storage unit full of the possessions of two children who don't want their "stuff" in their apartments, and don't want to deal with the sentimental attachment to things like art projects from 10th grade, chemistry notes from college, or kitchen appliances from their Midwest apartment that were too good to get rid of but too costly to ship to NYC and drag around to 7 apartments in 4 years. It's easy for me to rationalize that as long as their stuff is in my house we are still a nuclear family.”
The advice to those with belongings still at Mom and Dad’s place was across the board, “Get your stuff out!” while the comments from those providing this free storage varied.
Of course, it’s not that simple. Instead, start a conversation. An adult child might think Mom is the one hanging on to their childhood “treasures” whereas Mom might be waiting for junior to pull the moving truck up for their old junk.
- Step 1: Someone needs to bring it up. An adult child might say, “Mom/Dad, when is a good time for you to have me get my things out of your attic/basement/garage?” A parent who is providing free storage space might say, “Dear, on your next visit, let’s plan some time to go through your keepsakes so you can take what you truly want.”
- Step 2: Create a deadline with consequences that might include donating items they do not use or claim in time. Compromise. One woman paid for moving her son’s things to a storage unit and he pays the monthly fee to store his own stuff now. “I love him dearly, but 11 years of asking him to deal with his stuff was enough. All smiles now!” Others took a more drastic approach with threats to make a little extra money selling things on Ebay (it worked though).
While the impulse to provide endless storage may have started out with good intentions as a child was in college, traveling the globe, or it simply was a way to maintain connection, there can be benefits to letting go and reclaiming your own nest.