DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: Right after my college graduation I moved back home. While I was away at school my parents started using my room as a guestroom when my grandparents and aunt and uncle came to visit. Now that it’s my bedroom again my mom is on me, like always on me, to clean it up. I’ve got all my stuff from my old apartment, plus all the stuff I purposely left behind when I went off to school.
I know it’s messy, but isn’t it my room to keep the way I like? --- Messy in MARYLAND
DEAR MESSY: You may be on the right track, but you’re at the wrong station.
It is your room, but it happens to be located under your parents’ roof, which means it’s subject to their house rules.
You complain about all the stuff you have, to which I say, whose fault is that? The solution is simple: Eliminate, eliminate, eliminate.
Start with the remnants of childhood, but first let Mom and Dad do a little souvenir hunting. If they want to preserve your t-ball participation trophy and your first soccer cleats, let them. Such objects are as much a part of their past as yours.
After they make their picks, pack up those precious mementos and hand them off to your folks to store in the family vault (for us it’s the attic or “memory boxes” in the basement).
This way, when you go to clean out the house in a few decades, you get to enjoy seeing fragments of your earlier days. You can share them with your own kids, giving them a chance to make as much fun of you as you did of your parents when they showed the teenage you their high school yearbooks.
Next, take a good hard look at what you hauled back from college. I’ll bet you’ve already emotionally and physically outgrown at least a fraction of it. Allow yourself a few pieces of memorabilia to entertain future generations. Tidily box up your treasures and shove them to the back of your closet or under your bed, to be reclaimed when you have a place of your own.
Now you’re ready to sort through the rest of your clutter.
If you can’t see yourself using the thing you just shook the dust bunnies off of in the next couple of years, then wash it, bag it, and deliver it to your local thrift store.
Remember to ask for a receipt. Even if you can’t use it for your taxes, your parents might, even under the new tax regulations. Think of it as a small repayment for all the storage fees they never charged for yourself or your stuff.