Using Flickr to get rid of your adult child’s clutter in your home

My mother took a week off from work recently and spent some of this free time cleaning out the closet in her home’s guest bedroom. The guest room used to be my childhood bedroom, and so I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that some of my stuff was still cluttering up the closet. After a phone conversation with her about the best way to get rid of my forgotten items, we’re both fairly certain that all of my stuff is now out of the house.

What is awful about this situation, though, is that I haven’t lived with my parents since I went off to college 16 years ago. My unwanted stuff has been taking up space in someone else’s home for almost half of my life! Ack! Are you in the situation where you’re storing your child’s clutter when he or she hasn’t lived at home in 10, 15, or 20+ years?

The best case scenario for handling your adult child’s clutter in your home is to have her come in and clear the clutter herself. You should set a specific date and time for this project that takes you and your adult child’s schedules into consideration. Packing up the stuff and tossing it without any input from your daughter will likely create animosity, so it really is a good idea to have her be a part of the process.

If your child now lives half-way across the country and can’t clear the clutter himself or on a convenient schedule, I suggest a virtual clutter clearing. To take on this project, you’ll need a digital camera, a computer, a Flickr account, and some boxes. Photograph all of your child’s items as you place them into boxes. Then, upload all of the images to a Flickr account and send your child the URL. Your child can go through the pictures online and decide the fate of the stuff. I suggest that there only be two options for the stuff: “Send to me” and “Don’t send to me.” Let your child know that you will make the decision to donate, sell, or trash the things in the “don’t send to me” pile. I think that you’ll be surprised how few things your child chooses to have sent his way now that he has photographic images of all of the things he left. And, over the course of a few days, you’ll finally be free of the clutter.

18 Comments for “Using Flickr to get rid of your adult child’s clutter in your home”

  1. posted by Melissa A. on

    I went home for Easter one year and my mom was like “Yeah, clean out that junk from your old room”. So I did, but there’s still some stuff left. I moved away for gradschool, and every time I came back I’d take some things back with me. Most of it is gone now, and now it’s time to to ask my parents if I can have some old stuff that belonged to my grandparents. They never use it and it’s cluttering MY room :P

  2. posted by Sarah on

    We did this exact thing a few years ago! My mother managed to clean out a huge storage shed full of 4 children’s childhood junk and we all weighed in on what we wanted from 4 different states. It was an efficient way to relieve all of us of a burden

  3. posted by ottan on

    I’m going to home to visit my parents in a few weeks, and one of my agenda items is to clear out all of my childhood things. Strangely though, my mother doesn’t think this is important — she says there is space for the things, so she’s happy to store them (which is true; her house is quite large). I think I will get rid of most of my memorabilia and clean out the closets, but I’ll leave my books and a few choice mementos from traveling. That way her shelves won’t be bare, and I would like to have those things someday for a bigger apartment.

  4. posted by Amanda Jayne on

    I guess I’m the exception, because when I moved out, I took EVERYTHING. Sure, there are some of my kiddie art projects left at home, but those belong to my mother, not to me. I took everything with me, although I threw a lot of stuff out as well.

  5. posted by Amanda on

    this is a good idea, but (although less ubiquitous) the free service KABOODLE is an even better tool for this purpose than flickr. although normally used for “clipping” products seen on the internet (such as for a wishlist) it’s possible to manually add pictures and descriptions to a list. from there you can share the list by invite, rate the items, create a poll for a friend to help you decide, etc.

  6. posted by DJ on

    My mother called me a few years after college and said, “We still have lots of boxes that belong to you in the garage. If you don’t come home this weekend and get them, I’m throwing them out.”

    I replied, “Thank you! Yes, please throw them out.”

    Then she was flabbergasted and wanted me to go through them, lest she toss some precious memory.

    But I couldn’t remember even ONE thing in them, and was more than happy to just have them go.

    I think that’s where my high school yearbooks all went, but I don’t care a bit. ; ) I still can’t remember for certain a single thing that was in those boxes nearly 20 years later.

    It might not be the solution for everyone, but it sure had the advantage of being simple.

  7. posted by Heather on

    Knowing my mother, whatever I left was long tossed out. But this post gave me an idea: I have lots of paper-based memory clutter, like high school academic awards, a fabulous term paper, love notes from old boyfriends, etc. Why haven’t I just scanned this stuff and stored it digitally? A flickr memory page would totally maintain the memory need and free up some shelf and filing space!

  8. posted by Michele on

    I admit to stashing stuff at my dad’s when I sold my condo and traveled across the country at age 30. It took several years to get rid of all of it because my road trip turned into a cross-country move. Every time I went back to visit, I would ship and/or hand carry some things. I am glad to now be completely moved out of his house and I’m sure it bothered me more than him – it felt like a weight on me for years.

  9. posted by Meg from All About Appearances on

    Great idea — but what do you do if your parents don’t want the clutter, but can’t stand the though of you getting rid of it, either? You know, just in case your kids (future, hypothetical kids) want to play with the same toys or might appreciate seeing their mom’s first bib.

  10. posted by erica on

    This all assumes that the parent WANTS the stuff gone. My in-laws are hoarders so, after listening to my mother in-law complain at every family gathering about my husband’s childhood stuff, my mother in-law refused to throw out or donate items my husband explictly said he did not want and would not use.

  11. posted by Elaine on

    My sister lives with my mother, and they’ve been doing this every time mom goes through one of her cleaning fits. :) Most of it isn’t stuff of mine — everything except my dollhouse came with me when I left or shortly thereafter. But it’s things she’s owned for years, or that belonged to dad, etc. Sis photographs everything, posts it to Flickr, and then she and I and our other sister take a look & send in our preferences.

    To be honest, Mom’s so inclined to toss things that it’s a relief to have sis intervene on our behalf. She almost got rid of a set of Dad’s books that I really wanted…only an off-hand conversation saved them!

  12. posted by Harris on

    As a mom, I don’t mind having my sons childhood stuff. It is all in Rubbermaid boxes in my attic. They enjoy going through it every once in a while and it’s fun to hear them laugh!

  13. posted by Journeyer on

    Excellent idea. Like Ottan, my mum is happy (wants) to keep EVERYTHING. I have tossed what I know is there, but I’m sure she still has other stuff stashed away :-)

    On a related note, I do something similar with my kids artwork. Instead of feeling guilty tossing the mountains of stuff they bring home from kinder and school, I only keep the really precious things (first Mothers’ Day gift, etc). For the rest, I take a photo and then into the recycle pile it goes (albeit rather discreetly).

  14. posted by Meghan on

    When my mom moved 10 years ago she asked my sister and I to go through our stuff. My sister didn’t want to save anything, so I saved it for her! How crazy is that? Now I still have my sister’s old crap that she doesn’t even want! I’m trying to change and am embracing the “unclutterer” way of life. Now what to do with all our old toys and books from the 70′s?

  15. posted by Joan on

    I think it’s telling that no one seems to have a success story of their mom actually taking the pictures and posting them to a service like Flickr. My mom is 75, and while quite intelligent, this kind of process is WAY beyond her. It would take me an hour on the phone to get her to understand what Flickr is. (The good news is we already dealt with all of my stuff.)

  16. posted by Andrew on

    Using Flickr or other web photo album service is the 21st century way to approach this. But if you parent isn’t too keen on the internet and doesn’t mind the process taking a little longer there is another way. The parent could snap photos on 35mm, get the film developed, and send you the shots. You can write on the back of them whether you want the stuff or not, then send the photos back to your parent.

  17. posted by Erin on

    You are kidding, right? If my child leaves stuff in my house for a decade or more after moving out, he or she doesn’t need/want it anymore and I’m throwing it out. If he can’t remember a item that he wants without a picture, he doesn’t really want it. I’m not going to waste a weekend taking pictures of everything. Call the adult child and ask what he/she would like you to send. Then throw everything else out.

  18. posted by Earth Girl on

    When my son was a baby I started a “time capsule” for him — a medium-sized plastic bin with a snap-on lid. Those time capsules have grown in number, but that’s ok. Now that he’s a teenager we’re not saving nearly as much stuff. On his 21st birthday we’re going to open all of them, have lots of laughs and share memories, then he can decide to keep or toss items. The time capsule is especially important for him because he is adopted and had a very tough first few years. When he finally came to live with me (he’s my nephew) he had very little of anything and most of his life experiences were negative. I saved positive and sweet things that I knew he loved from that time in his life. I look forward to going thru these things with him and reinforcing the positives in his life.

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