It never ends....

Frankie_in_zone_7August 20, 2008

I think some of the best advice about organizing--or more specifically, de-cluttering-- is how it is never "finished". That helps keep the focus on developing ongoing systems of dealing with stuff rather than on just a one-time change, and not feeling bad if at times you look around and DO need to make some major changes. Life changes can kind of sneak up on you, or happen when you really don't have time to do anything other than deal with that issue, so you have to catch up a bit later.

Now, the systems can have improved and evolved to include all kinds of elements such being so organized as to only need a smaller yearly "purge", not bringing more stuff in, daily or weekly spruce-ups--any and all such things. But realizing that you don't just have a personality transplant that makes it all go away forever.

We just took my youngest (of 2 ) daughter off to college. Our home looks kind of like a tornado hit it. Not so much the large mass, but just stuff everywhere that is not "of the room" it is in and also stuff that turns out to be just trash-- as things were opened and packed; bits of school supplies; broken pencils.

Partly I never developed in this child a really good put-away strategy. But in addition, many of you know the "stuff-ness" that occurs in the summer between high-school graduation and moving into a dorm. One thing is that my daughter herself is still in transition and doesn't know just what she wants to save, or not--especially this summer, when she was no longer in high school, but not yet a "college student. " I guess none of us felt like spending the last few weeks of this phase of life arguing about picking up.

So anyway, we are entering a new phase, again, just as we had done at various other life events. There are things that can be tossed, things that must be put away, and the dreaded I'm-afraid-to-toss-it-yet category--some things she might yet need and I don't want to be the one to have pitched them, and some I myself am not sure whether we still need.

Still, what is great about life-phase organizing crossroads, is that all of a sudden there ARE a lot of things that you can just look at and say, we don't need this anymore. There may have been a thingey or whatsit sitting on the counter for a YEAR that I could not for the life of me move or get moved, and now, poof! It no longer belongs.

The good thing about that concept is that for some of the in-between transition stuff, I can see that eventually my daughter will also find it easy (or easier) to decide--after she gets more fully into HER new phase, too; so that I don't need to try to make her focus on that now. I can box up some stuff and let her deal with it later. No one wants to be forced to say, stay or toss, when you're not in that mood and when you are still figuring out who you are.

Now some of this is kind of bittersweet--no more this or that, no more school-aged children, remember this dress, and all of that. But I'm also trying to have a very positive focus on this new phase in our home.

Part is new husband/wife adventures--we both want to exercise more and take back the refrigerator(between holidays) for very healthy eating; plan some cool trips; enjoy the fact that maybe a home surface will stay clear for a whole week, or more, so that we can relax and have a glass of wine and enjoy!

But part also is to make it easier to do the different parent things we will need to do--organize and pack for trips to and from college (it's about a 10-hr drive); make it easier to have family gatherings and handle a sudden influx of "home from college" stuff; help organize increasing amounts of young-adult business (banking, etc;) and be caught up enough to just chill out when one or both of our kids come home and not fret about the house.

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What a poignant yet useful post. My first will be going off to college a year from now, so you gave me a glimpse of what is yet to come.

My second (and baby) is starting HS this year -- and so our focus has been decluttering and organizing his room, making it more user-friendly for a HS student. Of course this meant saying good bye to childhood treasures. We are not quite there yet because of "life changes that need to be dealt with in the moment" to which you referred in your first paragraph.

Thanks for this insightful post, one that I will "clip" and read again over the course of the next year.


PS I'll be looking to you (and others who have been through the college phase of life) next summer for pre-college "organizing" tips - must-haves, can do-without, etc.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 2:14PM
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Ahhh.... Frankie and Maura, I remember it well! When our youngest went off to college we began a new phase, and came to love The Empty Nest, except the only thing missing was the kids! Their bedrooms were trashed. We spent a week or so eating like college kids ourselves, in the living room in front of the TV, eating ice cream and pizza for dinner! Then reality set in.

Seriously, it took me 5 years to learn how to shop for 2! Having gone through a gallon of milk per day for years, I was still over-buying and the waste drove me nuts! I had to understand that I didn't have to buy tons of food because (a) I was feeding only 2, and (b) I wasn't attending school functions and had a lot more time to shop and cook healthy.

But I filled my time. I went to college at night and got a BA! Then in another fit of total insanity (DD moved 500 miles away for a job, so I must have been reacting) I went ahead and got a master's. DH learned how to cook, and we hired a cleaning person.

We are enjoying this second phase of life immensely. We travel, relax and just plain enjoy.

Reality check: For Labor Day weekend DD is flying home and she has been told that I am giving her 2 large trash bags and that high school crappola has to go. But there's more.

She graduated from college 5 years ago! Yes, for 9 years her empty room has still not been de-crapified. Next weekend, it goes out one way or another. She can do the dirty deed, or I will. And it will be a labor of love.

Truly, though, I love them even more now that they're on their own, if that's possible. Fine human beings, self-supporting, responsible jobs and joys to be around. I love visiting them and go nuts when they come home, cooking their favorite meals and hosting family reunions.

We done good!

You did, too. Enjoy this next phase.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 3:41PM
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Mine are younger--DD enters high school, DS is in 5th grade.

But I have found that transition times are just full of crapola. End of summer camp; start of school; etc.

All that stuff they don't want to let go of, bcs they're poignant about the experience,a nd they think they want an heirloom. Plus all sort of stuff comes home with them, or bursts out of the bookbag.

And the process of setting up for a new year--buying stuff (I think I will kick my DH in the shins, though, if he buys another pencil or pen), rounding stuff up out of the closet, all that.

Decluttering, and organizing, do go in waves, don't they.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 6:59PM
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PLEASE don't do what my mom did to me - when I left for my first quarter of college, she gave away ALL my toys and books to charities. I came home to a room full of empty shelves. To this day I feel a sense of loss - crazy I know - but I felt so devistated. A kid in college still needs a "home" and part of that is their stuff.

My mother in law did even worse to my husband. His first quarter of college, she boxed up everything that was in his room and put it in the basement (I guess at least she didn't give it away!). She got rid of all his furniture, painted his room & got new carpet, and turned his room into a TV room for the family. He came home at Xmas to not having a room at all! For 4 years he switched between sleeping on the pull out couch in his parents basement on breaks, or staying at his grandmother's house a few miles away. Talk about feeling abandonded!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 8:25PM
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Those are all great comments! It is great to hear both the been-there and the going-there remarks.

Yes, mommabird, our oldest is now 8 mos or so out of college, but I haven't asked her to clear out and haven't taken over her room. I did ask her to see if she had any clothes she wanted to send to Goodwill as I was "making a trip" ( her closet contains a lot of clothes I know for sure she is never going to wear again). She didn't respond, and I didn't persist. I have a few out of my own out-of season things in her closet now, so I can't complain.

Instead, I'm taking the time now to get all MY stuff under control and cleared out. This includes paring down so I don't even use any of her closet! (That's almost more because out of sight, out of mind clothes tend to just go unused. But stuff like all the family luggage or extra bedding--that's the type of thing I intend to store there.)

When I'm feeling over-stuffed, I always feel initially like attacking my family's clutter, not my own, so I have to step back and say, take responsibility for my own areas first, all my own problems, before hounding someone else.

So maybe down the road the time will seem right, and we may wish to re-purpose or update her room, but I'm okay with where we are now.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2008 at 10:57AM
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I was more fortunate. When I went away to college, I was the oldest in my family, and it was quite an adjustment for everyone. My parents left my room intact. The only problem is, my two younger sisters came in my room and took clothing, shoes, jewelry, records, anything I hadn't taken to the dorm. I still miss my silver ID bracelet and my Beatles 45's.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2008 at 1:27PM
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Thinking back to my college years, my Mom helped herself and helped me transition in a really healthy way.

My first 2 years of college, my room at home was still my room. I lived in the dorms and as a student you cannot take all your "stuff" with you. Part of you wants your stuff, and part of you doesn't want it. Plus, the student needs a place to call home and though I loved college and dorm home was still at home.

The last 2 years I lived in an apartment. Those were the years my mom started asking me about what things in my room I knew I wanted to keep & what things she could get rid of or make me take...because she was going to turn my room into a guest bedroom. It was done slowly over those couple years and I made the decisions.

The key here was she TOLD me I had to make some decisions...and that she WAS going to re-purpose the room. It was not a negotiable thing on my end. It was what was going to happen. She would hang on to bigger items for me (if I wanted them) until I was done with school, but then I had to take them when I was out of college and on my own.

With my mom telling me I had to decide whether I wanted to keep something or it was getting tossed/sold/given away was also a reality check for me. It made me aware that I had no choice to move ahead into my own adult life and know that home is there...but not in the same capacity as when I was the child. And, I had to take possession of my stuff sooner than later.

I think if she would have told me she was repurposing my room in the first couple years of college, I would have freaked & felt a sense of them kicking me out. The 3rd & 4th years of college, I was comfortable with not being home, and excited about being on my own. Knowing my parents were changing my room was not that big of a deal by that time.

Anyway, that's how it worked with my parents and I think that was a good way to do it. My mom says she didn't really plan the transition in that way, it's just the way it played out.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 9:59AM
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Gayle, that's a really great story--thanks for sharing. I agree w/ you, it was a good way to do it.

I especially like that you recognize, that an important component was that your mom didn't give you a choice, she WAS going to take that room back to be hers. Almost like, the message was;
-the room is mine
-the stuff is yours
-the right to USE my room has been given to you, but it will be slowly taken away, and you are going to need to get a place that is all YOURS.
-I will help you transition by holding onto your stuff for a while and not tossing you out right away.

So some great boundaries setting, some really practical encouragement and "vote of confidence" and logistical support.

(I also like that you knew "home" WOULD be there, sort of--you'd get to sleep in the guest room, which would you were an anticipated and welcome guest)

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 11:02AM
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Our son, the oldest, choose to join the Army reserves. Which meant he'd be back home once basic and advanced training was over in a little over four months. The plan was he'd live at home and go to college locally. As was the plan for our daughter in three years from then.
At the time we lived in the city and there were three major universities and many other smaller colleges to choose from. We decided if our grown children were going to be living at home while going to college it was time to build the home in the country my hubby had awlays wanted in the Victorian style I'd always wanted. Each of them having their own bathroom and walk in closet. They helped us build it too. We'd always done things as a family so this too was enjoyable.

Before our home was finished, our son was deployed to Iraq and our daughter felt the need to serve our country and joined the Air Force leaving two months after we moved in.

So we never really went through the part of what to do with the kids rooms since the rooms they grew up in no longer existed. Well they did, but we no longer lived there. I felt awful that they didn't have their rooms, let alone their home, to come home to.

When our son came home on leave just three weeks after his sister left for basic, I told him how sorry I was how this all turned out. He said any place that we (his Dad and I) were "was home". Our daughter said exactly the same thing when we went down to see her graduate from basic training. Neither of them even cared if they had a room filled with their stuff as long and we were there.

I guess that makes sense. Concidering our pastor used to tell us how he'd never seen a family of four take up so little space on a pew as we did. I sure do miss those family hugs each night though. Our son is now married and has a son of his own living about a half an hour or so away. Our daughter has a little more than a year to go of the six years she signed up for. If she doesn't re-inlist. She's stationed in Cali and calls me every morning when she gets back to her apartment after she works her night shift and often on her three days off a week.

Our son keeps bringing things home to store where our daughter says to throw her stuff all away. "If I haven't missed it by now, I don't need it." Mom however can't part with it yet. It's in rubbermaid containers in the basement so not causing any problem and I really don't have time to go through it anyway. When we really take over the basement for our wood work shop then I'll have to go through it and see what to keep, what to pass on to family members that could use it and donate the rest.


    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 4:49PM
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