There are right ways and wrong ways of moving out of your parents’ house for the first time. The one thing you shouldn’t do is leave all your childhood stuff behind without a conversation and a plan.
If you’re wondering why it’s so important to sort through childhood belongings before the move out of your parents’, consider the following likely scenario.
So just realized that my mom threw away all my old pokémon cards. As foolish as that sounds one of the cards that i had is now worth $2000
— Grant Goodman (@GGoodman1995) October 15, 2013
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 to be thrown away, but may not have enough storage space for 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.”
Moving Out of Your Parents’ Checklist
To avoid any potential conflict about belongings down the road, review this checklist of items to sort through before moving out of your parents’ house.
There are some items that should NEVER be donated or discarded without the green light. Consider the following:
✓ 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 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.”
✓ 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.
✓ 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 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 (as was proven in our recent study). Hands off, mom.
✓ 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.”
✓ 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.
How to Move Out of Your Parents’ Without Conflict
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 to be 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 to be 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 regarding 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.
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.