UnFeathering the Nest

Some of this stuff in our storage building are boxes of childhood momentos

Living Large Readers: This is hopefully, the first guest post from  a Living Large at Our Little House community member on moving to or living in a small space, or on green living.Today’s post is from Kathleen Winn.

I will be posting these on Mondays and they could be as short as a paragraph. Please send them along to me at fivecoat@ozarkmountains.com C’mon, LL community, I know you have plenty of tips!

Like many people our age, my husband and I said goodbye to grown kids a few years ago- but not to their stuff. Swimming trophies, spelling bee awards, a few blank diaries and other childhood paraphernalia ended up in the corners of basements and splilling out of boxes in our attic.

When our daughters come home for a visit, we now try to always set aside a night for dinner at home and to go through at least a box or two of their stuff. This started out as just a way to clean up our basement and attic in anticipation of moving someday, but it’s become a tradition. Going through the items from their past gives us a chance to look at the history of our family, the dance recitals and horse shows, volleyball camp, souvenirs from vacations. I actually sometimes find myself more attached to the remnants of their childhood than they are: “Are you sure you want to give away Gray Bunny? Gray Bunny was there for you when you had strep and when you sprained your wrist. He saw you through the chicken pox…”

The payoff for starting this tradition a couple years ago? Now that my husband and I are moving to a new house, we have much less to take. I also like it that my daughters made decisions themselves about what to keep and what to let go of. I think the exercise in itself is beneficial. Kids don’t always have the time or inclination to sort through the entire history of their childhood when they first move away from home. This tradition gives them the opportunity to do that and for all of us to share in the memories.

Thanks, Kathleen! What a great way to create new memories while delving into the old with the kids.

Have you any other ideas on decluttering your kids’ things from your home?

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19 Responses

  1. This article was a awesome read. Thank you for the post. Thumbs up!!!!!

  2. Diane says:

    My husband and I are mid fifties, with our youngest just starting college and our next oldest starting a 5 year pharmD program in the fall. We want to downsize NOW to save while paying for college – but feel like it’s unfair to dispose of kids stuff before they even get out of college and “in their own place”. Are we nuts?? Anyone have any suggestions? We want to go from 2200 sq ft to about 1000 sq ft, and we dont want to pay to store things -the things they have are expensive drums, guitars and piano – they really can’t take them to college. I feel stuck.

    • Kathleen Winn says:

      Diane- I really sympathize with your position. Especially since you’re dealing with musical instruments that are not junk and not small enough to pack away in a container. I wonder if your kids have friends who are also musicians that might store some of their instruments for them, and also use them instead of letting them sit in a basement untouched. My husband had a very nice drum set that he had to find a place for when his mother moved into a condo. He ended up “loaning” them to a friend who was a drummer. Occasionally (before we bought our own house) he would go to his friend’s house to play his drums. Once we had a house with a big basement, he was able to take back his drum set. Of course, this type of arrangement depends on a friend who is honest and reliable and who can be counted on to return the instruments when your kids have a place for them (as well as make sure they’re taken good care of during their stay.) I also feel as you, that giving away all of a child’s possessions while they’re away at school is unfair and a recipe for resentment. But- it’s always amazing to me that when we sit down with our girls to go through boxes, they find so much stuff that they have no interest in keeping forever. Sometimes in the haste of clearing stuff out of a bedroom and boxing it up, things that really have little or no sentimental value or are of limited usefulness, are boxed up and just sit collecting dust. Maybe you could utilize the “going through boxes tradition” when your kids come home on break or vacation. You might have to accelerate it and dig through more than one box or two at a time, but once my kids were distanced from their stuff for awhile, they had a better perspective on what was junk and what was truly worth keeping. Good luck!

      • Good advice, Kathleen! I was thinking the same thing about the friends. Or, if they have cousins or maybe you have some good friends who have kids that could use the instruments while they’re in school. I was also wondering if they could sell their instruments and use the money for some of their college expenses. Is it possible they will never use the instruments again? Unless they are really rare pieces or something, I was thinking it might be possible they could replace them later if they take up playing again. I played the guitar when I was in school, but really, had no interest in playing after I graduated. I sold my guitar and amp (granted, it wasn’t a high priced guitar) and used the money, I think, when I got my first apartment. The money came in more handy than that old Fender. 🙂 Just some thoughts to toss around. Thanks for posting, Diane!

  3. Alexandra says:

    Keep a few special things to show your kids’ kids later on.

    I have a box of my kids’ clothes up in the attic and intend to get them out soon to send them off to CA where my son lives.

  4. Very timely post; have you seen Toy Story 3? It’s about this very thing. My daughter leaves for college in a month and we are sorting and getting ready for a big garage sale; I think it’s hard for both of us! We just keep reminding ourselves (a la Toy Story) that toys should be played with, and it will be nice to see all these great things go to some little girl who will love them all over again.

    • No, I haven’t seen any of the Toy Story movies, Melanie, but it’s a great concept! 🙂 I agree that toys are meant to be played with, so hopefully, they will make another child happy!

  5. Sandy says:

    Holy Toledo!

    I’ve been paring down for the last 2 yrs, I’ve made a lot of progress, but still have far to go. The childhood toys are especially hard, and I identify with Kathleen and the “gray bunny story”, been there-done that…lol. I’ve started a rubbermaid for each of the kids, what fits-gets kept. We are currently on the garage(28×36)which is full of hand me down tools, furniture, more kids stuff, wood pile stocks, cabinets and the like. Some of course I want to keep for our little house, but let’s face it–gotta pare it down! I have realized something though, I have a small box of things from my childhood – a doll, some awards,etc. They only really mean something to me, my children identify with things of mine that they’ve grown up with. Like my favorite earrings, a book, Christmas ornaments I’ve made. I think it would mean more to them to have those things passed down, than my old baggage.

  6. Frugal Kiwi says:

    I love the idea of having pictures of childhood items. Smart!

  7. Mary Brown says:

    I have three adult daughters that had things stored in my basement. There were three piles one for each until a week ago. After my oldest was married with 2 kids I gave her all her belongs and her idea of what was important was much different than mine. The middle one has her things and is sharing them with her daughter, it’s nice to see the same jewerly and toys being used by my granddaughter. The youngest took all her things a week ago. I’m not sure what the rest of that stuff is in the basement….LOL

    We have our house for sale and I refuse to move it if we are not going to use it. We are taking a hard look at the items we have and will either give the kids items they want, sell it or freecycle it.

  8. olivia says:

    Some people take photos of all the artwork, trophies, precious toys, etc. and put the pix in an album, then get rid of most of the actual stuff. I was never that organised. I kept a few (VERY FEW) drawings, cards, etc. then told the kids that it was their “stuff” and they could deal with it. It seems to lose a lot of its appeal when Mum and Dad won’t store it. I did make the mistake of throwing a clay “dinosaur” in the garbage where my youngest – horrified – rescued it and asked sadly why I had pitched it. I lied and said that I had tossed it by accident. It now sits proudly in my china cabinet.

    • I just read about this in “Dear Abby” recently, Olivia. A woman had her cousin take photos of every part of her grandmother’s house before it was dismantled and sold (stuff and house). She then could “walk” through the house forever by going through the photo album. I wish I had been that smart with my mother’s things!

  9. MarthaandMe says:

    I think this is a great idea. My kids are growing up and we are just stuffed to the gills here with all of their stuff. A few years ago we went through all the early childhood toys and sold, doanted and tossed a lot of it, but we’re still overflowing. I’ll keep this idea in mind for when my kids move out!

    • I think it’s also a really good idea to go through the stuff as they are growing up, Brette. Thanks for making that suggestion too. Perhaps it’s a good idea to limit the items to keeping only xx boxes each time the child’s room is culled.

  10. Yikes, Mary! I don’t know what to do to make room for kids returning to the nest! Anyone else have any ideas?

  11. slowly, over the years I believe my kids have everything that was theirs. What I am having a problem with, is, how do I store items in my guest room that I had turned into my art room and items in the guest bathroom to make room for my son who is moving in with us in about three weeks?