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What do you save as you move into adulthood?

by Kristin Sullivan

My dad joined the U.S. Navy after graduating from high school in the early 1980s. When he came home, he was horrified to find that his mother had thrown away his baseball card, comic book, and record collections.

“Why would you want that kid stuff?” she asked.

Bad news, grandma — that kid stuff could have paid for my college education. Well, at least my books. For a couple semesters.

The larger message here, though, is addressing a real source of potential conflict: what to do with the stuff from your childhood that you don’t want thrown away, but may not have enough storage space in your current living situation.

 


We asked an expert — Anna Sicalides, a Pennsylvania-based professional organizer and owner of The Organizing Consultant. According to Anna, parents should not feel responsible for every item their children leave behind.

“As soon as the children have their own homes — whether they own them or rent them — it’s time. When my mother sold the house we grew up in, she said, ‘Come get your stuff,’ and I went, took a couple things, and she got rid of the rest. Once in a while, I wish I had something I didn’t take, but I have not been emotionally scarred by not having the item, and it would be another thing I would have to deal with now.”

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Communication is key (heard that before?)

It all goes back to the old parent-child hangup: communication.

Young adults — when you leave your parents’ home, you need to clearly communicate what you want saved and what can be donated or discarded (PRO TIP - Do it yourself. You’re an adult now).

Parents — talk to your children and understand what they want saved. Let them know, in turn, how long you are willing to hold onto your child’s possessions. Be firm (your house is not a free self storage unit for your grown kids) but be fair (understand they’re moving gingerly into adulthood).

Self storage is made for these kinds of situations

Discuss options like a storage rental. Young adults are often pinched for cash, and have limited options in terms of housing (in fact, there’s a strong chance that adult children are living with their parents).

If there is no space in the new place — or mom and dad’s house — a storage unit is a reasonable and affordable way to declutter a childhood bedroom without keeping EVERYTHING or tossing ALL OF IT. Search online for self storage rates and storage unit sizes and come to an agreement that makes financial sense for all involved. Heck, it’s a binding experience.

Five things that parents should never throw away

There are some items, though, that should NEVER be donated or discarded without the green light.

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1. The ‘Best of the Best.’ Championship trophies. Scouting badges. A wedding dress. These items embody memories from the most important, character-shaping days of your life. Your parents need to respect this.

The Halloween costume from your sophomore year in high school? Not so much.

“It is important to keep some things of your children’s possessions once they leave the home,” says Trish Hilliard, the owner of Simplicity Please in Houston, “but don’t dilute the value of the really special things by keeping everything. Keep the highlights.”

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2. Photographs, yearbooks, and scrapbooks. The digital age is making these items obsolete, but for those of us who came of age in that ancient era of the 1990s, hard copies of our memories are sometimes still important.

That said, cull for quality.  Out-of-focus, over- or underexposed photos and legitimately useless nostalgia like a birthday card from the kid who sat two seats to your left in seventh grade science can probably get recycled.

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3. A beloved childhood toy. In all seriousness, the bond you have with a favorite stuffed animal or a special holiday gift can never be replicated. You may want to share these items with your own children. Take care to store these items safely so they do not get sucked up in one of your parents’ decluttering sessions.

Also in this category: collectibles like trading cards, comic books, etc. These items can have real emotional and physical value. Hands off, mom.

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4. Select artwork, music, or awards. Again — only “the best of the best.” If you were a valedictorian, consider saving your medal. Every academic certificate you earned in high school? No.

“There are a lot of options for how you keep memorabilia,” Sicalides says. “You can photograph the (items) and make a book with the photos so that all of that stuff is contained, and you don’t need all of the paper and objects…I love the idea of doing a book for each school year.”

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5. The baby book. First steps, first words, growth charts, and more are contained in these pages. You’ll want this for the rest of your life.

A final piece of advice from Sicalides

“Remember that everything that parents save for their children becomes a responsibility for the children. We want our children to live in the future, not the past.”

 

Save some treasures, but don’t be afraid to move on. There are still a lot of great memories to come. You’ll need the space.

Kristin Sullivan

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