Days 365+128 Heidi's stuffBefore you think I’ve gone over to the dark side and given up Living Lightly by acquiring 11 new items and letting go of none, I must again clarify. Our daughter will soon move back from Kenya to the USA – not to our home but certainly closer than Africa. She has a fellowship in Boston for a year but is not sure where she will go after that. She asked to store some of her stuff until her plans are clearer. So…I’m breaking one of my rules about not storing adult children’s stuff, lest I enable a son or daughter to avoid making those hard decisions about letting go of their own collection of stuff.

Conveniently for her, the family had just gathered for a family reunion near Erie, PA, so Heidi brought 2 large suitcases for transfer back to our house. She then repacked one of the suitcases into 9 colorful blue plastic bags and one satchel.

This brings up the ongoing question of how much should parents allow their homes to be free storage units for their adult children? Here’s my thinking:

  1. General rule of thumb: Once a child has moved out and has their own place, the parent announces a time that said child can transfer all their clothes, sports equipment, school memorabilia, etc. to their own place. It will probably force them to prune their own stuff. Anything left is fair game for the parent to dispose of as they please.
  2. Exceptions: If the child temporarily lives far away (like a gap year or volunteer work in a foreign country) parents may store stuff until they have a permanent place. If a child has a very tiny apartment, parents again may temporarily offer storage space. The challenge is to define “temporary.”
  3. Tough Love Approach: If the parent doesn’t have the heart to implement #1 or has downsized to not need as much space, then a solution is to just move to a smaller home. Announce that all offspring’s belongings will be left on the porch for 1 week. It’s nice to leave a forwarding address for visiting, but not for storage.

But, what about people who still live in your home but are “clutter-bugs” – at least by your definition? I have ideas on this too which can be summed up as “Deal with your own clutter first. They may be inspired to follow.” If not, there are some strategies to encourage other family members to follow your lead but I’ll leave that for a future post.

The Other Side
The other side of parents acting as storage units for their adult kids, is sometimes it works the other way around. Parents sometimes hang on to stuff in the hope of handing it down to their offspring. Think baby clothes for a hoped for grandchild, heirloom dishes or furniture for when they have a place of their own. Consider this – Memo to parents: Your adult kids don’t want your stuff – and take pause. Enjoy!

What’s your experience and tips for dealing with other people’s stuff or stuff you want to hand down?

UPDATE: In fairness to our daughter, I misunderstood and thought we were to store the items in the photo indefinitely. I later learned that actually our house was just a temporary 6 week layover. We stuffed our car and took all the bags and suitcases in the photo plus 1 bike and numerous mementos she had stored with us to her new place in Boston. I stand corrected.