Children may leave, but their stuff doesn’t


Patsy Pridgen


By Patsy Pridgen
Telegram Columnist

Sunday, February 4, 2018

You would think that a house with four walk-in bedroom closets would provide plenty of closet space for two people, right? Not if those two people are parents of three adult daughters who, despite having houses of their own now, still have the remains of their childhood and college years stashed away at the homeplace.

How did this happen? I ask myself this question as I survey the downstairs bedroom closet, full of old musical instruments, equestrian outfits, and swim team trophies. Fancy little-girl smocks that carry special memories are sandwiched next to prom and bridesmaid dresses. It’s been more than 20 years since any child of mine was an M.B. Hubbard Hornet, but there’s the school sweatshirt, a child’s medium size 10. I can’t bring myself to take these items to the Salvation Army, but I can’t seem to interest their owners in claiming them either.

Upstairs, where my husband and I currently have our bedroom, we fare a little better on closet space. We at least have the master bedroom closet all to ourselves. And I’ve cleaned out one of the other upstairs bedroom closets for my husband’s hunting clothes and paraphernalia, which, believe me, don’t need to be crammed next to my nice ladies’ clothing.

But what I took out of that closet to free up space for his hunting stuff went into closet number four. School art projects, American Girl dolls, and R.L. Stine Goosebumps and Baby-sitter Club paperbacks take up most of the shelf space. The floor is stacked with boxes containing yet more trophies – drat that idea that every kid gets a participation trophy – and old framed photographs of daughters with college friends.

I have managed to hang most of my summer clothes in this closet although retrieving something requires either clearing a path or a leaning/balancing act that I’m getting too old to pull off. Again, I would love for my offspring to decide they can no longer live without their high school yearbooks or collection of ceramic masks and these items simply must go home with them. That hasn’t happened.

In fact, when I do suggest they take something to their house, they act offended, as if I’m trying to disown them. If I explain I’m de-cluttering, I’m accused of having too much time on my hands. If I resort to the line, “One day when I’m gone, there will be less for you girls to have to sort through,” I’m told not to be morbid.

Maybe I am being too harsh. A couple of years ago, my brother handed me an old jewelry box of mine he’d found at my parents’ house when we were going through things after my mother’s death. It held a childhood Ten Commandments bracelet and my high school Beta Club pin, along with long-forgotten pieces of costume jewelry. My parents’ attic contained boxes of my high school mini-skirts and bell-bottoms. West Edgecombe School yearbooks, 1958 through 1978, were in a hall closet.

It seems my daughters aren’t the only children who leave their belongings stashed in their parents’ home.