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Reclaiming space when your child moves out

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“What will you do with my room when I go off to college?” my daughter Jacey asked me recently. While visions of a sewing room danced through my head, I teased her with “We’ll keep it as a shrine to you.”

Back-in-the-day when my sister Jeannie left for Sonoma State, my parents had no time to question what to do with her old room.

Before my mother returned from taking her to college, I had staked my claim to Jeannie’s bedroom.

While smaller than the bedroom I had shared with my sister Terri, it would be exclusively mine. No matter that whenever my dad went to the backyard to barbeque or my mom went to garden, they had to walk through my room.

This would be my semi-private turf, one I could decorate with my stuff.

Okay, I admit, I liked the idea of an organized bedroom without Terri’s clutter.

Whatever feelings you have about your child moving out of the family home, the matter of reclaiming space for new uses is a bonus.

But the practical question of how to use the room and still have a room for your kid to return to arises. Most students do come home for vacations at the least, and more often if they attend college nearby.

Consult with family members as to their use preferences for the room.

  • How does your departing child feel about the change? One kid may need the comfort of knowing his room will be waiting for him; another will be so ready for her new digs that her old bedroom is a thing of the past.
  • Is another child chomping at the bit to have her own bedroom? Make a game plan for how the household will accommodate your child when she returns for vacations.
  • Do you need a private office at home?
  • Do you need a hobby room where you can spread out, allowing for work in progress, and shut the door as needed?
  • Do you need extra cash? One mom I know was able to afford college tuition by renting out the extra rooms in her home.
  • Whatever use you decide on, do keep a bed (futon, daybed, trundle, twin bed) in the room; your student will be home for the holidays before you know it. Everyone in the house will sleep better if your young adult has a private place to sleep.
  • Make changes that are easily adjusted. For example, if you want to get away from your son’s masculine décor, just switch accessories. Change the bed cover, lamp, etc., storing his comforter and autographed baseball collection in the closet. If you are changing the room to accommodate your hobbies, use folding tables that can be moved for the summer when he comes home.

What to do with all the stuff that your child can’t take or doesn’t want?

  • Containerize important belongings in sturdy plastic bins and label. (What we love we preserve)
  • If it’s not useful or meaningful to you or our child, consider having a “college bound” garage sale. Draw more traffic and have more fun by having a group sale with friends. Money earned can be used to outfit her dorm room or first apartment.
  • Don’t rent storage! Most of the time, if you put it in storage, you don’t need it. Instead, practice the art of letting go, a useful life skill for all ages and seasons of life.

Convertible Closet

If you don’t have one yet, install a modular closet system that you can change around at will. For example, you may need more drawers (for your hobby or office) than hanging space in the closet, but may want to convert your system to accommodate short hanging garments when your daughter–the clothes horse–comes home.