Life Advice



Ask Amy: Empty-nester wants to clear out the nest

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My husband and I have two daughters, ages 24 and 26.

One lives in an apartment and works, and the other also lives in an apartment while she finishes graduate school.

My question concerns their stuff.

I expect them to move around for the next few years, and I don't need them to take all of their stuff now, but I want to have a plan for when I will no longer be the curator of everyone's stuff.

The garage is packed to the gills and this project needs to start there.

I have many struggles, but getting rid of stuff is not one of them. (My husband really struggles with that.)

My sense is that a project like this starts with a conversation with all four of us, where expectations are laid out, followed by mini steps and dates for these tasks to be completed.

Ideally, things like clothes would be removed from closets and then remaining items could be boxed and stored in the garage.

I am also ready to think about how to use these rooms differently, but I still want to have space/beds for them to visit.

Do you have advice or resources for me?

– Not so Empty Nest Mom

Dear Not so Empty Nest: Definitely lay out your expectations and a roadmap for mini-steps and dates for when tasks will be completed.

And then watch as all of your beautifully laid and expressed expectations fall by the wayside. Why? Because this is a priority only for you.

Your husband isn’t bothered by your garage doubling as a storage unit and your adult children have a responsible curator for their possessions – many of which they probably don’t even know about or care about.

Many people your daughters’ age have embraced minimalism. They might completely understand your desire, but would benefit from a nudge.

Put the word out now that you’re getting antsy to deal with these things. Ask both women to come home for a few days this summer. Dive in, start sorting, and plan a yard, eBay or Etsy sale. Anything that doesn’t get sold will get donated to your local Goodwill. I predict that you will be able to reduce these possessions by at least half.

In my opinion, you should offer to hold onto treasures: report cards, prom corsages, yearbooks, and heirloom items – until your daughters are settled. But store their low-rise jeans from 10 th grade? No.

Dear Amy: I’m a widow in my 60s. A couple of years ago I reconnected with a former boyfriend from my teen years. Even though he's separated from his wife he is still married and not planning on divorcing her.

We went on vacation trips three times, along with my brother and sister-in-law, who are also friends with him.

Six months ago, he sent me a text saying that he was flying to visit me for the weekend. I told him I had other plans and that I wasn’t available, and he went silent, stopped texting or calling, and didn’t answer my – or even my brother’s – calls.


This made me realize a few things: He is immature, he wants to be a priority, and there is no point in seeing each other.

Then, months later, I got an email from him, asking how I’m doing.

I don’t even want to reply.

Am I right in stopping this friendship?

– Wondering

Dear Wondering: An email asking, “How are you doing?” without any preamble, statement or narrative of any kind doesn’t inspire a response.

My instinct is that this dude gets bored and restless and basically trolls through his contacts to see what interest he can tease forth.

You have pointedly never been to his home (all of your time spent together has been on vacation trips), and so I think it’s likely that he cohabits with his wife and is playing the field with people who live remotely.

Dear Amy: I’m responding to “Dad in a Jam” who labeled his 4-year-old a "klutz" because he wasn't athletic.

I was last in my class to learn how to read and last to understand multiplication.

Then, in fourth grade everything clicked.

I started to get straight A's and this lasted all the way through college.

I got my Ph.D. and have been a college professor for 20 years.

Thankfully, I had the complete support of my parents throughout childhood and they never labeled me as "slow."

– Late Bloomer

Dear Late Bloomer: I was also a very late reader. And look what happened!


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2024 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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