Mom's Attic and the Cost of Downsizing
The Bryants aren't the only family in the U.S. whose kids' stuff is keeping them from moving forward. According to the University of Michigan study, three-quarters of responding homeowner parents said the sheer volume of the possessions left behind has made them "somewhat" or "very" reluctant to move. This comes as the National Association of Realtors shows the price of existing homes across the U.S. rising and mortgage rates starting to rise right along with them. In the portions of the country fortunate enough to see their housing markets recover, home-owning empty nesters are finally seeing their window to sell open.
Even with the kids' stuff gone, however, downsizing doesn't come easy. As much as we'd love to paint this as a strictly economic decision or just a step in financial or retirement, there's a whole lot more weight to it than that. The old superstition says that if you know you'll want to return to a specific place one day, you'll leave something behind as an excuse to go back. If a grown child's memories of home are fond ones that they want to keep fresh, why wouldn't they try to cling to them as long as possible by tacking them down with some well-placed boxes of nostalgia. For parents who still want to see their kids come back every now and then, isn't holding some of their stuff for safe keeping the best way to do that?
No, to all of it. In both cases, people are being held as emotional hostages and aren't moving on to that next stage in life. Every moment parents are making repairs to that big house and keeping it up is a moment that they aren't out seeing people, doing other things or exploring their world. Every layer of stuff a grown adult leaves behind is just a safety net preventing them from taking any real leap or risk. As long as that stuff is there, they have somewhere to go back to.
The hours spent cleaning out childhood belongings aren't the greatest anyone will spend at their parents' house, but it's a sound investment. If you have things worth holding on to, take them to the place you now call home or take the adult step of paying to store them yourself. Don't make your parents chase you down: They have enough to occupy their thoughts now that you're gone.-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.
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