RECLAIMING SPACE AFTER CHILDREN LEAVE HOME

Even the most organized of us will get to a point after years in the same home where we find ourselves somewhat overwhelmed by the things we’ve collected. Raising children will attract items that represent memories that make us smile, and some that will send us screaming from the attic and basement. Now that you’ve saved all those art projects, sports trophies, posters and various collections of Beanie Babies, Polly Pocket paraphernalia, Matchbox cars, baseball cards, etc. over the years, it’s time to reclaim your space and do some purging. One word of caution here: Don’t purge the baseball cards. You’ll never live it down – believe me!

Funny thing about kids, even after they’ve gone to college or married and moved to another city, they still often feel like your home should serve as a storage locker for the items they no longer need and don’t want to sort through. As a result, 18 years multiplied by the number of children you’ve raised results in – well, you do the math on the clutter.

Sooner or later when you can no longer get into your attic or basement because it’s become a warehouse of memorabilia, it’s time to take control. You might want to use the space to create an office, craft room, exercise room or an organized storage room for other items that are sure to arrive at your doorstep in the coming years. At some point you’ll probably inherit your parents’ furniture and important files and begin to start saving all those photographs, art projects, and hand-made gifts from your grandchildren. Having gone through this transition, I have some things to share in the way of processing what to keep, purge and move along to someone else.

ALLOW TIME

Be sure to allow plenty of time to complete this project. After all, it took many years to amass these things, so it’s probably going to take more than an afternoon.

SERVE NOTICE

A good way to start is to alert your family that you are taking on this project and ask if there’s anything in the storage area that they would like you to pack up and send to them. They may have a short list of things they want you to hold onto for them. You’ll probably find that they can’t remember what’s in the attic and aren’t interested in most of what’s stored up there. If, however, they want to do the sorting and purging themselves, you can agree to use part of the room to be organized as a staging area where you’ll hold the items up to an agreed upon date.

GET HELP

This is not for the faint-hearted, so instead of trying to take this on yourself, ask a friend to work with you who is emotionally detached from your possessions. This is where it’s prudent to engage a professional organizer who is trained in what questions to ask so that you can make good decisions on what to keep and what to do with those things that need to be moved out.

PREPARING THE ATTACK

Before you start, gather some materials to help you work more efficiently.

  • trash bags – dark green for trash, so once something is placed in there you won’t need to see it again.
  • trash bags – white for donations, whether to friends and family members, or charities.
  • permanent black marker – for labeling the white donation bags.
  • boxes/bins – one for each of your family members for items they want to keep.
  • plenty of water and some snacks.

There’s some value in creating a place for items that you want to decide on later, but try to refrain from delaying decision and having to pick up the same item(s) multiple times.

THE PAYOFF

Completing a project like this will give you great satisfaction and probably inspire you to continue your organizing throughout your house. One additional benefit of this exercise is that it helps you to better identify what items are really of value and should be stored for posterity and what is probably not worth keeping as you move forward. That knowledge will help you to better maintain the area that just opened up for your craft room, or whatever purpose you decide for this reclaimed space.

Kathy Luskus

About Kathy Luskus

Kathy Luskus is a Greater Philadelphia professional organizer with Orderly Manor Organizing in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.
Visit Kathy Luskus's website
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