How to clear up your adult children's clutter

With spring cleaning upon us, perhaps it's time for a fresh start

Children generate a lot of mess, and that doesn’t get any better as they grow older. It doesn’t help that we are a nation of hoarders, either. According to online lender MYJAR, Brits are hoarding £81.6 billion worth of unwanted possessions.

Because it’s harder to get on the property ladder, many young people renting in their 20s and 30s simply don’t have the space to store a lot of their cherished possessions. Some go travelling for a while and so need to move their stuff to a place ‘temporarily.’

Leaving it at Mum and Dad's house has increasingly become the default option.

Clearing out the empty nest

But with children departed, “empty nesters” deserve to enjoy their space too, and if you were thinking of turning a former children’s bedroom into a study or gym, you might find your efforts hampered by teetering stacks of old CDs or school exercise books.

With spring cleaning in the air, it’s time to take action.

1. Broach the subject with them

If your children are coming to visit, make sure decluttering is part of the conversation. Whether it’s their careers or bringing up their own children, they will bebusy themselves – so you’ll have to prod to get any action out of them.

2. Use technology to get things moving 

Just because your son or daughter isn't in the house, it doesn't mean you can't do a clear up with their input. Get them on a video call and go through what they want to keep and what they could do without. Alternatively, take photos of different items and get them to reply to each via text or Whatsapp.

3. Air tight storage tubs

  • By putting away their stuff in larger air tight tubs, you can kill two birds with one stone
  • These tubs are waterproof and durable, meaning that you can then move the boxs to a loft or garden shed. This frees up more valuable room space.
  • Since your children's possessions are now packed up in an easily moveable box, it means they can take one or two back with them on their next visit!

4. Separate everything by type

When people think about 'their' stuff they naturally feel too attached to everything. But if you separate things out, i.e magazines, clothes, CD's etc you can start to make headway with what gets kept, recycled, sold or given to charity.

5. Put things into storage

If their amount of stuff is overwhelming, put it into a storage facility. Then, at some point, you can suggest to your grown-up children that if they want to hold onto their stuff, they have to keep paying the storage unit fees. Once in their possession, you might be amazed how quickly they realise they don't need their clutter.

6. Keep only the best

While it might be touching to hold onto a good school report or art project, there's no need to keep all of it. Choose a few keep sakes which you might like to have for yourself or pass to them. But that stack of year 9 history books? They can probably go.

Is downsizing the answer?

The truth is that it’s not just the practical business of decluttering which can cause problems. While your children may be loath to get rid of sentimental possessions, it’s no easier for the adults. When you’re by yourself in a large family home, it can be difficult to move onto the next exciting chapter of your life.

There are other practical reasons why moving to a more suitable property may be a positive step forward:

  • Property is too large
    Your property may require lots of cleaning, gardening and general upkeep. While you may be perfectly capable of continuing this workload, surely your retirement should be a time to take things more easily and enjoy life?
  • Reduce living costs
    A smaller property for fewer people means much smaller utility bills.
  • Funding retirement
    By selling that large family home, you could free up money for retirement, travel and other interests.
  • Buying a property abroad 
    Say goodbye to dreary British winters and hello to a richer experience, split between home and away.

Sound interesting? For more useful advice, why not have a look at Audley’s downsizing guide.

Property owners at Audley, Mr & Mrs Rowley enjoyed Audley Village's Downsizing support to help them move smoothly. Find out what might have attrached them to Audley Villages.

With just the right blend of community, independence and luxury, why not find out if there’s an Audley retirement property right for you?