by Audrey Cupo
Clutter is always frustrating, but when it’s not yours, it takes on a life of its own.
Here’s the scenario:
You were always relatively organized; then, you had kids. Every day you struggled to keep pace with their toys, electronics, paperwork, clothing and the like. Their stuff invaded your home from the moment they were born, starting with diapers and multiplying exponentially as they grew.
And, finally, after all those years, they grew up and moved out. Okay, you had to deal with “Empty Nest Syndrome” but, admittedly, a piece of you was thrilled! Yahoo! You finally had your space back and could again control the environment in which you lived. Right? Wrong.
It is said that when kids move out, they never really leave. And it’s oh, so true.
Two things could have happened. One, the kids left, but it was temporary and now they’ve moved back home again, after chanting “There’s no place like home; there’s no place like home”, clicking their heels together three times and arriving with a U-Haul full of belongings. Or, their stuff moved back home again, taking over your house even though they aren’t there to manage it. How did this happen? You were just getting used to having your own space and the serenity that comes with it.
In the first scenario, your kids were eager to get out in the world and be in charge of their own destiny. (The grass is always greener on the other side, right?) Instead, what happens is they find out they can’t afford to make it on their own. And since you “can always go home again,” guess what? They return, bringing not only what they left with but whatever else they acquired since.
The second scenario is that your kids do move out but cannot afford a large enough space to hold all their stuff, at which point they turn to you and say, “Mom, can you hold onto a few things for me? I have no place to put them.” How do you say, “No”?
Now what do you do? You want to help out our kids but still want to maintain the balance in your lives that finally seemed within reach.
One, very effective word of advice – “BOUNDARIES.”
You need to set limits on the space that your returning kids and the stuff that comes with them can occupy. They cannot bring it all back and then some. As before, your home is a shared space, but this time, they are adults and need to respect your boundaries.
You also need to set boundaries on the amount of stuff you are holding onto for kids who now reside in their own homes. They need to learn to live within the space that they have and make choices, part of truly growing up. Remember, your home is not a storage unit!
Whether your kids are returning home to live or using your home to store their items, you need to sit down and talk with them about those boundaries and have them understand that they must be respected.
In both cases, consider setting aside a portion of a basement, garage or attic and allocating it to your kids’ belongings. Be firm that this is the only space their extraneous stuff can occupy. If their things start to spill out of the assigned space, tell them they’ll have to purge some items. Otherwise, you’ll soon have a blob-like mass of stuff creeping through your home.
Regularly inspect the space to insure that your conditions are being met and don’t hesitate to remind your kids of your agreement. Old habits die hard and everyone needs to be aware of the family’s changing needs.
Spring is a great time of year to evaluate your current living situation. To me, it represents growth and change. So make a change set some boundaries to reclaim you home and your life.
Audrey Cupo is a full-time Professional Organizer and sole proprietor of A BETTER SPACE based in Bucks County, PA. She specializes in residential organizing and focuses her business on helping busy moms and women entrepreneurs get organized with her in-home services and her own U Can Do It information product line. Audrey also enjoys writing and public speaking on the topic of residential organizing. As of January 2012, Audrey is also an independent consultant for Clever Container, an organizing product company. Get your FREE “U Can Do It Room By Room Organizing Checklist” by visiting www.4abetterspace.com.
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