Maybe it’s out of a sense of personal obligation, or maybe it’s all those “polite reminders” from your parents … but you have finally come to the realization that it’s time to clear your stuff out of your parent’s house.
It’s a big project — so many years of memories have been stored there, possibly in the place where you grew up. How do you tackle all those boxes and bags so that you leave your mom and dad with some extra space?
We talked to some organizational experts to get their tips for making the process as quick and painless as possible.
Collaborate with your kin
If you have a good relationship with your folks, this might be a good time to work together on getting rid of the detritus that you left behind when you skipped town for college or your tiny studio apartment in the city. Whatever you do, don’t leave the burden up to your parents.
“I firmly believe that if parents are willing to play the role of storage host, then the kids need to participate in the decision making process,” says Kelly Jayne McCann of The Organizing Maven in Essex, VT.
Schedule some time with your parents to sort through your old stuff together. If you’re throwing some things out, maybe give them a heads’ up to make sure you’re not jettisoning anything they really wanted to keep. If anything is going to be sticking around at their house, make sure it’s packed and labeled.
“It’s also a good idea to set a date to revisit the storage situation and see how it’s working out,” McCann says. “By that, I mean the [adult] kids should have a plan for taking possession at some point.”
Look at your stuff with new eyes
One benefit of being away from your possessions for so long is that you will gain a new, detached perspective, making it easier to part with some of those items.
“The operative consideration here is that you kept it in the first place,” says Nancy Castelli, organizer, productivity consultant and CEO of BALANCE Organizing Service Co. in San Francisco.
“Does it still have value to you now? Your priorities have likely changed. I tell my clients to ask, ‘Is it serving me? Is it useful or beautiful?’ If not, let the stuff go.”
Repurpose your memories
One of the reasons it can be hard to let go of your old items is that they hold sentimental value, like your childhood teddy bear or your grade school artwork that Mom dutifully held onto.
Castelli challenges people not to mindlessly store these items away. “I find it a fascinating concept of packing your ‘memories’ away in a box where they are soon forgotten,” she says. “If it’s a memory, will taking a picture be enough? (Consider taking a selfie with those trophies you earned in high school — and pull Mom or Dad into the pic, too.) Can it be turned into a pillow? The point is, even memories can be useful … but not when they are packed away.”
Keep an eye on your parents
Truth be told, some organizers get a little bristly when you ask them about adult children leaving their items behind at their parents’ house.
“Don’t treat your mom’s house as your own personal storage facility,” says Sonya Joseph, a Los Angeles professional organizer. “You have to sort through your stuff. It is not fair to use someone else’s real estate for this purpose.” She’s not alone in that sentiment.
However, since you’re going to be spending some time at your parents’ house anyway, it’s a good time to keep an eye toward the future and think about how your parents’ house might need a few tweaks to accommodate them as they age.
“Use this opportunity to also evaluate how the house is working for your parents who might be getting a little older,” Joseph says. “By making the focus about you and your stuff, you could perhaps get rid of some other things that are causing a safety hazard, such as slippery throw rugs, piles of paperwork, newspapers and magazines, broken items that need fixing.”