Is Your Clutter Putting a Burden On Your Parents?

Is Your Clutter Putting a Burden On Your Parents?

I had an incredibly fortunate upbringing.

My parents weren’t wealthy by any means, but we weren’t poor either. I never had to worry about food, shelter, love, stability.

Beyond that, I basically lived in one house from 5 years old till I left home at 22. That’s 17 years in the same house, same suburb, same friends, same local shops, same basketball hoops.

I know every corner of our family home. And it feels like I have a lifetime of experiences and memories associated with that place. It’s where I had first birthday parties, sleepovers, where I learned to rollerblade, scooter, it’s where I played UNO with my late father. It’s where we argued as a family, fought over who was going to use the shower, Christmas lunches, introduced Maša to the family, you get the picture.

My siblings and I, while we didn’t pay for the family home, collectively started to feel like we owned the property.

The home becomes part of you, as you are part of the home.

From an adolescent to a teenager, to adult, you naturally build an extensive portfolio of things in your family home.

For me, it was toys, collectable sports cards, trophies, video games, stuffed toys, study desks, books, DVDs, old assignments, photo albums, technology.

So when it was time for me to leave the nest, you’d think that I’d take all of my stuff with me.

But it’s interesting. When you move out, you have a different perspective on your possessions. It’s like when you get your first paycheck from your first job, and you buy your own shoes.

Despite all of the times, your parents have told you to look after your belongings; it’s only when you pay for something with your own hard-earned money that you start to care for your things. At least that was the case for me.

So when moving out for the first time, you’re proving to yourself (and your parents) that you’re an independent adult. You strategically only take what you need from the family home, and start fresh in your new life.

The problem here is that you realise you don’t have as much storage as you’re used to. Or you simply don’t want things that trigger old memories in your fresh new start into adulthood.

Furthermore, we’re somewhat attached to the old memories from our family home, so we leave some of our things in the house that represent those old memories.

Heck, some of us even dare to reserve our bedrooms from our family home, even though we’re no longer living there.

And if you’re a parent reading this, and you’re honest with yourself, you have some doubts about your child surviving on their own, and you condone the idea of keeping their room free just in case they need to come back home.

So we end up with this dynamic of parent and child (who is an adult), who are holding onto old memories created over a lifetime.

The result. More clutter.

And not just any clutter. It’s the most ambiguous kind. See, when a child leaves the family home, there’s so much uncertainty of their future, which leaves all parties in limbo.

Parents are processing what just happened and are often focused on helping their child make a successful move. Sure there may be some plans of what you could potentially do with the extra space in the house, or perhaps consider selling. But these ideas are generally put on the back burner because they’re emotionally taxing decisions.

Then for the child, you’re SO focused on what’s next, that you can’t think about dealing with every last thing you own in your family home.

For some of us, this transition is smooth. The kid is switched on, takes all of their stuff and deals with it. The parent is switched on and is happily and confidently planning their next season of life with the child out of the house. But this situation is a rarity.

For most of us, and in my case, years go by, and your stuff stays in the house. Sometimes your stuff gets moved from your bedroom to the garage or attic. But it’s still there.

Then when you come back home to stay for a couple of nights, you might take some of your old things with you.

So here’s the hard truth about this situation. And I’m talking to the kids who still have their stuff in the family home.

It’s selfish.

And especially if you’re trying to live a minimalist life. It’s not fair for you to live clutter-free in your own environment, but continue to contribute clutter to your family home. Consciously and unconsciously you’re creating a burden for your parents.

I’ve said this before, but I used to work in Real Estate. I saw first hand; the burden children’s clutter had on parents trying to move on with their lives, whether they were downsizing or moving out of town. It creates more decisions for your parents to make, which are not their decisions to make.

It also hinders their ability to work with the space on their own, which they’ve worked so hard to pay for financially.

Yes, some parents like having their children’s things at home, as they’re holding onto those family memories. And while your parents may not be minimalists, it’s still not fair to put your stuff on them.

I had this realisation when I was in the garage of my family home. First of all, I was shocked that my mum couldn’t park her car in the garage because of all the stuff that had been stored in there.

I asked her why the garage was so full. And she said that some of it was her stuff, but the majority of the things belonged to children and grandchildren.

I instantly felt guilty about the situation—I couldn’t stand the thought of adding the weight of clutter to my mum. So I audited the garage for the rest of my things, which were mainly books. I then checked the whole family home, to grab everything that was mine. Thankfully there wasn’t much.

But I still walked away feeling stressed, just thinking about how much clutter we create for our parents as kids.

I see it all the time, with friends, clients, family. So I know this to be at least partly true in your life.

So hopefully after reading this post, you feel guilty. That’s the feeling I’m going for. Because with that guilt, you should be motivated to go back home and deal with your stuff.

Minimalism is not some tactic. It’s a mindset, and it spreads beyond your own environment. Lead by example and reduce clutter in all aspects of your life, and most of all, remove the weight of clutter from those closest in your life.

Other posts you’ll love:

  1. Getting Rid of Clutter On The Go
  2. The Problem With Storage
  3. Minimalist Living: Breaking Down The What, Why & How
  4. How To Finally Overcome Your Resistance To Declutter
  5. 5 Amazing Benefits of Minimalism You Need To Know About

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  • Jenni 14/04/2019 Reply

    Oh such a great post! I am the parent in this scenario and I really want a minimal house, two of my four children have moved out and left all their childhood stuff (and there is a LOT), every time I see them I try and get them to sort through some of it but they are VERY resistant. It’s so hard! I’m so sentimental as it is so I feel that I can’t just toss their stuff. When I left home I made sure I took all of my stuff.

    • Hi Jenni! Glad this post resonated with you. Your experience is exactly what triggered me to write it. Maybe share this article with your four children to see if that triggers some motivation?

  • penny 16/04/2019 Reply

    You have absolutely nailed it Michael, made it so clear from both the parent and child’s point of view. I too am in this situation and its hard because you understand your child not wanting to get rid of old memories and I feel a bit mean asking them to come up and go through their stuff! Will def share this with them.

    • Thanks, Penny, it can certainly be a difficult situation. But hopefully, they understand the impact of their clutter.

  • Cari 30/04/2019 Reply

    Hi!
    I can definitely relate to this post after returning from a study year in Finland. When I moved to Finland, I was limited to 20kg of luggage and I could only take the essentials which meant I had to learn to live minimalistic in my new environment. But I just left the rest of my things in my family home. Its became clear to me now that all the things I have been able to live without in Finland, I clearly do not need to keep…Especially now I realise that my mum would also benefit from all the extra space I can make from a good clear out!
    Thanks for the motivation!

    • Hi Cari! I’m so glad this post has given you the extra motivation to remove the rest of your things from your family home. I love your reflection from your study year as it relates to what you actually use and need. What a valuable exercise!

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