A few weeks ago I did a talk on downsizing for a women’s group. One of the questions that came up at the end was, “What should we do about stuff that our grown kids have left behind?” The first thing I would recommend is talking to your kids and letting them know that you’re trying to downsize and what your goals are for going through this process. I think you’ll find that in most cases they will be supportive (it may be worth mentioning that you’re doing this for their benefit too – should you ever move or pass on, the work of sorting through the odds and ends of your home will be significantly reduced for them). See if they would be willing to set aside some time to come over to your house and go through any boxes of theirs so they can decide what is important enough to keep – this means what they are willing to take and keep in their own homes. If it’s not important enough for them to store in their own homes, then maybe it’s not important enough for you to store in your house.
My mom a few years ago went through and sorted my sister and my stuff into different colored translucent bins (purple for me, orange for my sister). Sometimes she’s brought one of the bins when she’s come to visit and left it at my house. I have also sorted through a few of the bins at their house and let many items go. Just yesterday I took another bin from their house, to be sorted (very soon!) at my own house. Only four more of my bins to go – and I hope to have them done for her by the end of the year.
What if your kids live on the other side of the country? One idea is to go through and photograph the items that belong to the children. With the technology of email and digital images, you may be able to have your kids sort through their stuff remotely. They still get to decide what’s important to them and be a part of the process. Depending on what they decide to keep, some items may be able to be shipped to their location. The U.S. Postal Service now offers flat rate shipping (some restrictions apply).
I believe it is important to set a deadline with your kids. Some may be resistant, for whatever reasons, to sorting through their old stuff. If they know that you are going to decide what stays and what goes by a certain date, they may be more likely to get involved and help if that stuff really is important to them.
One of the gals in the group brought up another idea that really hit home with many in the group. One mom had kids who were spread out over the country, and one of them was currently in the military and re-stationed with some frequency. This mom chose to send an item or two to her kids for birthdays, Christmas or any other special occasion, wrapped up like it was a “new” present. This allowed her kids to experience their special items all over again in a very positive way. This became a family tradition that their children sincerely looked forward to.
How have you handled sorting through and getting rid of your grown children’s stuff?
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