The junk the kids left behind that you can't throw away

You know the stuff – the things you don’t want in your house but you don’t want to throw out either. Source: Getty

Ever felt like you really want to downsize but there is a house full of crap, memories and “special things” holding you back? And even worse, it’s not yours to throw out.

Perhaps your kids left home 10 years or more ago but there’s boxes piled up in the garage of their “special stuff”. Maybe your husband has collected things 30 years ago that he doesn’t care much about now except for the nostalgia.

You know the stuff – the things you don’t want in your house but you don’t want to throw out either. And there’s a point when all that stuff that isn’t yours becomes hard to look at, deal with and remove from your life but its holding you back. Have you had this experience?

Perhaps it’s your daughter’s old school diaries, full of teenage angst, her yearbooks and her little collectables from her teenage Disneyland or London trip before she moved into a share house and declared she was only taking the stuff she needed with her.

It could be a box of stuffed toys from when the kids were little that has gone musty and no one wants, except that they were given to them by their grandparents so they are full of “special” memories.

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Maybe your daughter started collecting a glory box when she was 16. With no sign of getting married it’s now a box in your garage with a few mismatching plates and dreams, and all of you hope they get a home one day.

Your son, on the other had went through an awesome phase of collecting model cars which used to line the walls of his bedroom. He left them when he moved in with his mates of course. Frankly they’re more special to you because you bought them for him than they are to him, who is reminded of his awkward teenage years whenever you talk about them.

Your husband has a great collection of matchboxes from travelling the world when you were 35. You don’t smoke, don’t display them and don’t use them. So why are you keeping them? Ahhh it’s the memories again.

Kids are a terrific part of our memories, so are the finer years of our youth and at our age we know memories are special, even get nostalgic about things to the point where we can’t get rid of them.

So what should you do? There’s two schools of thought and we want to hear about your experience today.

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My mum recently “called it”… that is, she said “enough is enough, I’m not storing any of my five children’s stuff in my garage anymore. You all have houses come and take it away or I’m taking it to the tip.”

I’m pretty sure each of us shrugged, nodded and smiled. We didn’t come and get that stuff, and she didn’t have the guts to throw it out. Yet she wants to downsize desperately and struggles with this. Should she just toss it?

On the other side of my family, when my in-laws downsized a couple of years ago. They turned up on my doorstep with all the things in their house that they didn’t want any more but they didn’t want to throw out. We called it “reverse teenaging”, that is, they dumped three boxes of things they didn’t want and said, “you must want these important things from our life don’t you?”. They brough porcelain dolls, doilies, even an electric typewriter that they thought my kids would like to look after because they didn’t want to throw them out. We weeded out a few things quickly, and gave them to charity, but three years on I now have a box in my garage with their stuff in and they live in a nice, crisply furnished unit without crap everywhere.

The big message is, you really have three paths to take when dealing with your kids stuff, your memories and the next steps in your life.

  1. Throw it out
  2. Pass it on
  3. Declare you’re never going to downsize

Which type of person are you? Tell us your story today.