Taming the clutter. It’s a never ending battle.
Kids grow up and move away, but their stuff lives on forever. I should know; I still have stuff at my parents’ house. Not a lot. Probably just enough to drive my parents batty. Not an entire closet full, but at least a few shelves worth.
I have four kids, one of whom still lives at home and three of whom use our house for storage. That’s a LOT of “special specials”. Mostly I have their multitude of possessions packed away into their respective closets. But when they come home for any reason there’s a stuff explosion to rival any volcano.
Find the Balance
How does one find the balance between beating children’s material goods into submission and having a fire sale?
Here’s how I’ve learned to somewhat control taming the clutter while incurring the least possible wrath:
1) Never throw anything away. Even that old crumpled piece of wrapping tissue came from a gift someone gave him back in 2017. If you never throw anything out, you can maintain complete innocence and serenely believe that whatever it is will “turn up”, so matter how long the item has been missing.
2) If you don’t recognize an item and its owner is off premises, find it a neutral home. The bathroom cabinets work well for this and are a great place to keep lipsticks, mud masks and other beauty paraphernalia abandoned by its owners. I believe that expired beauty products may constitute an exception to guideline number two, but I remain wary enough of misstep not to take any chances.
3) Label, label, label. It’s fine if the labels say things like, “Garbage My Teenager Refused to Throw Away Even Though it Lived Under His Bed for Six Years Growing Dust Bunnies”. The labels will help at least a little on that inevitable day when he says, “Mom, remember that adaptor wire that came with my electronic gidget that grandpa got me that day we played frisbee back in 2013?”
4) Don’t even try and “sort”. The logical idea that, “If they had wanted a certain item so very badly, they would have taken it with them.” does not apply. I used to operate under this delusion myself, but then I remembered that my own parents were responsible for my high school photo album for decades after I left home, and suddenly that theory didn’t seem as workable anymore. I believe my high school yearbooks still live at my parents’ house, and it doesn’t get much more sentimental than that.
5) Gain permission to use their abandoned items as hand-me-downs. If you have another child that could use the ever proliferating possessions after older children have long since flown the coop, keeping the objects in circulation has many benefits. Not only will you have that whole, “Reduce, reuse, recycle” thing going on, but also the items tend to stay in sight while they are in use by the younger child making it that much more likely that you can answer the dreaded, “Have you seen my…?” question in the affirmative.
6) Move to a smaller place. My own parents are trying this method as we speak, and suddenly my high school yearbooks will be looking for a new home. I plan on trying this method. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
It’s Up to You
That’s the best I have to offer, and it almost somewhat works for us when it comes to taming the clutter. Now if only I could find that handheld video game that my son is sure I threw away while he was at summer camp back in 2018…
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