When Adult Children Clutter Your Life

A lot of our clients that are trying to downsize have stuff in their homes that belong to their adult children.  The stuff has been kept for various reasons. Sometimes the offspring have asked for it to be kept for them, and other times the parent has chosen to keep them to pass on one day.

The first category is the most difficult one to deal with because it’s not often voluntary on the part of the parent. I find that my clients have a conundrum – do they store the stuff for their child even though it impacts on their life, or do they risk upsetting or inconveniencing their child by asking for it to be removed?

A lot of parents will feel guilty for requesting that the stuff be taken away. I hear things like “they don’t have much space” or “it will cost a lot to ship it”. They are still looking after their kids, and I can understand that. It’s not helpful though!

I notice that the parents assume responsibility for the items rather than assigning responsibility to the owners of the items. They forget that they are grown-ups who are quite capable of looking after themselves. I love it when the children are helpful and immediately help by removing the items, but I do get disappointed when others unhelpfully drag their feet, refuse to act and make their parents feel guilty. I want to say “They have sacrificed so much for you! Help them live a clutter-free retirement, please!”.

My advice is always pretty consistent – ship it out! If the adult children can’t afford to transport it, they need to choose to de-own it. If they can’t fit it in their homes, they choose to de-own it or pay for storage. They are the ones that need to be making the decisions but either way, it needs to leave their parent’s house.



Like it? Share it!


  1. I read your article with enthusiasm. I couldn’t agree with you more about decluttering your house of your adult children’s stuff. Here’s my story.

    Three daughters: 32, 30 & 28. The top and bottom got married in the last few years and took their stuff with them. I chucked out what they didn’t want. The middle daughter moved overseas years ago and has made her life in LA. Her room was like a museum. I used to keep the door closed because I felt so sad going in there. I would sometimes mention to her about the stuff she’d left and she’d show no interest in it at all. I was disappointed with that reaction because it meant so much more to me than her. There were many memories of her childhood etc.

    In September my eldest daughter is visiting her sister in LA and she and her husband offered to take two suitcases (as they have a huge baggage allowance) of the middle daughter’s stuff to her. At first I thought it would be too much to expect them to do that but they insisted. I haven’t told my LA daughter that they’re bringing the bags. Sadly I don’t care if she wants the stuff anymore. If she doesn’t she can chuck it away.

    I’ve just spend days going through what I thought was worth sending…old journals, photographs, clothes and much more. The suitcases were each 20kg. At times I became very emotional feeling guilty as if I was ‘dumping the stuff’ on her. One of my friends mentioned that of the two choices 1) throwing it all away and 2) sending it to her – the latter was more loving. Today I gave the suitcases to my oldest and her strong husband took them to their car. How do I feel? Liberated. The sorting, packing and throwing away old stuff that wasn’t mine, wasn’t valuable or wasn’t sentimental to anyone was totally therapeutic.

    • I agree, that was a very loving act. And it was loving to yourself as well as to her. You have said goodbye to the stuff so that it’s not a burden on you, and you have given her both the opportunity and the responsibility of dealing with her belongings. I’m so glad you feel liberated!

Speak Your Mind