memory box

Two of my clients provide a great example of why it pays to rethink old storage habits. John and Millie had lived in the same house for twenty years. They started off as two and soon became a family of five. After their kids went off to college, they decided to downsize into a smaller home and nicer neighborhood.

They went from a 5-bedroom home to a three bedroom. The second bedroom became a home office. They now had an extra bedroom that could serve as a guest/crafts/TV room. Although their kids were in college and soon to graduate, they still had all of their childhood memories and extra clothes. Sound familiar?

Instead of moving all of their college kids items into the spare bedroom or garage, they hired me to meet with each student to help them determine what they wanted to keep as they transitioned into young adults living on their own. This process was helpful for both the kids and the parents.

John and Millie agreed to store 4-5 bins for each child until they settled down with their own homes. The remaining items were either taken by the children to be used at school or donated. The reality is this: when young adults are faced with the reality of lugging around memories and extra clothes, they find it fairly easy to downsize. If they don’t have to make that choice, they will always resort to keeping everything form their childhood because, after all, mom and dad have enough space!

Without questioning what they were storing, John and Mille might have been stuck warehousing 20-30 boxes for each child for the next 10-15 years. Or until they died! This is not an exaggeration. I have seen this happen more times than you can imagine.

The most common comments I hear from kids as they sort through their old possessions are “Why did mom keep this for so long? Or even more tragic, “Where did this come from?” Realize that you are not doing your kids any favors by storing their keepsakes and cast-off clothing and toys after they leave the nest.

The same principal applies to your old items. If you do not take the time to purge, your children are left with that task after you are gone. It is much harder for them to decide about what to release because your possessions come loaded emotional charge. There is also a lot of guilt associated with getting rid of the items that you lovingly stored for years. After all, they feel that maybe they should keep these things because you did for years. If they get rid of it, does that mean they are dishonoring you? These are just a few of the thoughts I hear as children sort through their parent’s memory items. Please do not make your children go through this process on a large scale. It is very difficult and emotionally draining.

It is wise to set aside time at least once a year to work with your children and downsize their possessions, be it memories, books, games or clothes. Do not hang onto possessions forever simply because they represent good times and happy memories.

If your children are young, you can start a new routine for their childhood memories. Keep an under-the-bed bin for each child. Throughout the year, place memories into this bin. Every summer, go through the bin with your child and toss what they no longer wish to keep. The goal will be to have only one box of memories by the time they move off to college or out of the house. When they leave and begin their new life as adults, send the bin with them!

*addSpace Quick Tip Trophies do not stand the test of time in storage. Arms and heads are frequently missing years later. Keep this memory intact by peeling off the placquard and paste it into a photo album beside the photo of your child receiving the trophy. After all, it is really about the achievement, not the trophy itself. Discard the trophy. Or better yet, give it to your school rummage sale; kid’s imaginations make trophies a top selling item, believe it or not!

Children have huge hearts. Keep a donation bin in each child’s room by their door. As they outgrow or lose interest in toys, games or books, they can place these items into this bin. Take these items to charity. Make sure your kids realize how their items will be used to help others. Take your kids on a tour of your local Salvation Army training center or other local charitable facility. Children are natural-born philanthropists. Once they know what happens to their castoffs, they love to send their extra possessions on to others in need!

Recycle and repurpose. Your life will become rich as you spread your good fortune. Send your possessions back into the world so that they can circulate and make more great memories for others to enjoy. Adding space always brings more joy and satisfaction to your life!

by Kathi Burns – addSpace To Your Life!TM,
a Professional Organizing and Image Consulting Agency
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Kathi Burns
AddSpace To Your Life!TM
259 B Hillcrest Drive
Encinitas, CA 92024