Reclaiming your House from your Grown Up Children

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Is your basement, attic or garage filled with items that are not yours??

Do you dream of creating a den, a craft room, home office or even a peaceful sanctuary room?

Could it be that your grown up children left behind mounds of stuff but you don’t know how to get them to remove it?

You’ve worked hard and have a vision of happiness that includes getting your house just how you want it.  You just need a plan.

Never fear!  We have tips on how to get it cleared out.


First step  Get rid of your own guilt.  Reason with yourself.  


The Emotional Excuse  The biggest block to get rid of these things is purely sentimental- both for you and your child.

Your child feels emotionally connected to the happy memories these items represent and you don’t want to throw away  your child’s happy childhood!   


The Rational Solution  Many of these left behind items will never have a place in your grown up child’s grown up home.  

Your child is now grown up.  THESE ITEMS ARE THEIRS TO MANAGE.


Second step   It’s time to have The Talk.

This is when you explain that the clutter is draining and negatively affecting you.  Perhaps you want to use the space for something that brings you joy.  Perhaps you are planning to move.  

You may want to write a letter or send an email to soften the delivery and allow time for reflection.


Third step  Make a plan for decluttering.

Of course there are many things that you want to and should keep!  Knowing what those are makes this process so much easier.   


What to keep                                                                  What NOT to keep                                       

Early scribblings                                                             Ticket Stubs
Childhood artwork                                                          College Textbooks  
A few pieces of baby clothing                                        School Banners
A first beloved stuffed animal or toy                               Posters
Handmade blanket from Grandma                                 Trophies
Awards                                                                            Notebooks
Photos                                                                             Old Clothes
Letters from family members                                           Old sports equipment
Early writings (stories, poems)                                         Prom dresses
Treasured books                                                             Toddler or teen bed linens



Now that you have paired down to what is precious to keep, honor your child and create Memory Boxes.  

These memory boxes can be simple plastic medium sized storage bins or something lovelier like a cedar chest or trunk.  Make two categories or boxes.  One is for childhood mementos and another for possible future use or gifting for grandchildren.

Invite your grown up child over for an afternoon and share the guidelines for what to keep and what should go. Provide the boxes.

Of course, the best scenario is that your child will do this themselves or with you.  However, many of my clients tell me that their children are ignoring their plea to clean up!

Is your child protesting?

Are they procrastinating?

Excuses we have heard from parents...

"They are not settled yet."    

"They are in a life transition."  

"They do not have the space in their own home."

Well, call upon your rational self. Your home is not a dumping ground or a storage facility and you have a right to use your rooms for whatever you want.  When it’s time to take action…..


Give them solutions, a game plan and…..a deadline.

Still no result?

Feel free to take charge and purge on your own.  Go through their things yourself and you decide what to keep- lamby, Goodnight Moon and their high school diploma.

If it was not important enough for them to take it- it’s fair game to remove.

You can be both firm and positive.  Explain...   "I know that you are very busy so I've lovingly selected these mementos and have made these special boxes for you for safe keeping and posterity!"

Still feeling badly about this and not sure how your child will react?  

Pull a “Dear Abby”.

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You may remember the newspaper advice column answered by Abigail VanBuren. Many frustrated readers who could relate to the problem and solution of the week would cut out the article and present it to their loved one hoping they would understand.  

My mother posted a few of these on the refrigerator hoping our family would take a hint or two.

With that in mind, please feel free to pass this post along to a loved one.  

If you need help to get you or your child started, feel free to contact me here.