How One Family Dealt with this Type of Transition
There are all types of transitions in life, and this article is focused on adult children moving back in with their parents. Janet Garraty, owner of Go Jane News, gave me the opportunity to interview her as her son, Paul, moved back in with her, her husband, and her daughter, who is 1 year younger than her son. No matter what the circumstances are, there are challenges to overcome.
In 2009, Paul left home and joined the Marine Corps, on active duty, not as a reservist. Paul was 18 years old, right out of high school. He knew the day after 9/11, when he was 10 years old, that he wanted to join the Marines. He returned home 4 years later as a young adult at the age of 22. During those 4 years, Paul had been deployed twice – once on a ship for 9 months near Iraq and Afghanistan and the second time for 7 months in Afghanistan. Needless to say, Paul saw more in those 4 years than some of us see in a lifetime.
The following is the conversation I had with Janet. I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing her, and it is truly amazing what we all can learn from experiences such as these.
BB: What was the goal for this project?
JG: To de-clutter and organize Paul’s bedroom. He left as an 18 year-old high school graduate and came back as a 22 year-old young adult man.
BB: Besides getting Paul’s bedroom organized, were there any other organizing goals that you wanted to accomplish?
JG: Once we started working on Paul’s room, we discovered that other areas in the house were impacted. His room had become a dumping ground during those 4 years. For instance, I had an ironing board set up in his room. In order to find a new home for the ironing board, we ended up getting rid of a student desk, moving a larger desk from an alcove in the hallway into his room, and putting the ironing board in this alcove.
We also got rid of a chest of drawers, which meant using the drawer space that was left in the room and also reorganizing Paul’s closet. He had a bin full of GI Joe toys that he wanted to keep. We were able to store that in the attic, in order to make more room for the things he is using now. He also had 2 giant duffle bags of things he wanted to keep – one had his uniforms and the other had things such as his sleeping bag. There was room in his closet to keep the duffle bag with his uniforms, and we were able to find room in a closet in the hall for the other duffle bag.
BB: I call that using prime real estate in the most efficient way possible.
BB: What did you do with the student desk and the chest of drawers?
JG: We put both pieces of furniture at the curb, and within 5 minutes, they were picked up.
BB: How long did this project take?
JG: Several days, including the other areas with which we had to deal.
BB: What were your biggest challenges in getting the bedroom organized?
JG: What to get rid of and where to put what we decided to keep. The biggest overall challenge was learning to respect Paul’s needs as an adult.
BB: When I saw the before and after pictures, it looked like you moved some furniture around? If so, does the room function better for you? How so?
JG: We didn’t really move any furniture around. We made sure Paul had easy access to everything. We were going to position the bed differently, but when we tried it, it cut off the room. Now, there is space in the middle, giving Paul lots of energy and ownership. Before Paul joined the Marine Corps, he had issues with organization. The Marines taught him organization skills, and this is one skill that has helped make his transition to civilian life easier.
BB: Did you have enough storage in the room – dresser drawers, closet space, bins – or did you need to go buy something?
JG: We didn’t have to spend a dime on any new products. We reused and repurposed anything we already had.
BB: That’s great. This is one of the first things I talk about in my workshops. Don’t buy anything until you determine what you already have and what you are going to need.
BB: Do you have a maintenance plan to keep the room organized? If so, what is it?
JG: No, we don’t have a maintenance plan. So far the room has been kept immaculate. The “beauty of simplicity” is the maintenance plan, meaning keeping the room organized is easy because we didn’t put complicated systems in place.
BB: Is there anything else you would like to add?
JG: There are 2 byproducts of this. The first is that the bond between my son and daughter has grown stronger. They have always been close, but Paul kept a green lounge chair in his bedroom, and my daughter sits in that chair every morning while the 2 of them have coffee together. This is their space without anyone around. They are relating to each other as young adults now, not as children, and this is very emotional for me to see.
The second byproduct is that my daughter has been inspired to organize her room. She is deciding on her own what she really needs to keep. So far, she has filled up 3 trash bags.
I was so inspired to write this article, and it gave me a lot of insight into this type of transition. My 3 biggest take-aways are these. What are yours?
- Respect the adult child’s needs. The transition of him or her moving back in will then be much easier to handle.
- Guide the adult child in making decisions as to what to keep and not to keep and in arranging the room, but don’t make the decisions for him or her.
- Abide by the KISS principle – keep it simple, silly.
I ended the conversation with Janet saying that eventually the ironing board may end up back in Paul’s room, but for now, it has a new home. 🙂
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BB’s Clutter Solutions is located in Cherry Hill, NJ and serves New Jersey (north and south), Philadelphia and its Pennsylvania suburbs, and New York City.