Life Advice



Ask Amy: Parents offer advice about emptying the nest

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Readers: A recent question from “Not So Empty Nest Mom” sought solutions on how to deal with her two adult daughters’ stuff, which was currently filling the family garage after the daughters had left home.

I asked readers to offer their own solutions, and this column is devoted to these suggestions.

Dear Amy: I have two sons. Getting them to retrieve their treasures was a challenge. They were simply not interested.

My solution ... I have been giving them their own “treasures” for Christmas gifts and birthday gifts!

Yes, the old impressions for braces, awards from elementary school, and many other “treasures” have inspired lots of laughs! Problem solved.

– Empty Nest

Dear Amy: We went through all of our kids’ stuff by ourselves and made a (small) stack of what we wanted to keep, a stack of what we thought they’d want to keep, a pile of likely to donate, and a pile of trash.

Our kids came home to go through each pile. They took what they wanted to keep (and their father jokingly offered to contact the Smithsonian to see what treasures to donate to the museum).

The most emotional group of items to deal with seemed to be the very, very dusty Mormon Tabernacle Choir of stuffed animals arrayed on shelves in our basement.

– No More Beanie Babies

Dear Amy: I have three daughters and I was storing many items for them.

For a few months, I would take out a couple of things each day, photograph them and text the photo to the owner, asking what they wanted done with it.

Most of these items went to the charity pickup van. The few remaining items they wanted were boxed and given or mailed to them. I'm now down to just a few boxes of their stuff.

– Mostly Empty Nest

Dear Amy: “Not So Empty Nest Mom” should see if her community has a local “Buy Nothing” group. If so, she can list items on the group’s social media page and members can claim things for “porch pickup” – which is to say, people will come and take your stuff!

– Buying Less, Sharing More

Dear Amy: Here's one thing we did to "help" our sons take possession of their things: They live locally and visit regularly so, in addition to leaving the house with leftovers and their mother's fresh-baked goods, they would also return home with a box of their stuff from the basement.

Eventually, we held a final "love it or leave it day" and whatever didn't go home with them hit the trash or the Salvation Army store.

Of course, that's only half the battle, as we still have much of our own stuff to deal with, but, well – baby steps.

– Slowly Emptying Nest


Dear Amy: I was in my late 20’s and, like the daughters of the “Not So Empty Nest Mom,” I continued to store my childhood possessions at home while living across the country.

Once when visiting home my mother came into my room, looked me straight in the eye, smiled, and said with deep concern: “You know your father and I love you very much. But whatever you leave behind on your next trip here will go into the trash. You should start looking into shipping what you want now.”

She then left the room.

Problem solved. I knew I had a deadline, and responded appropriately.

– Son of No Drama Mama

Dear Amy: We've been working on this with our kids for years.

Each time they visit us I make them take something back with them.

When we go to visit, I take something with me.

We’re whittling down the pile, a little at a time.

– Bob, in Racine Wisconsin

Dear Amy: You should have suggested the tried-and-true method of dealing with this dilemma that moms have been using for years: “Come and get your stuff or I’m throwing it all away.”

– Going Through the Trash

Dear Amy: “Not So Empty Nest Mom” should take all of her daughters’ stuff to a storage unit. The monthly rental is quite inexpensive.

– Been There

Dear Been There: Many readers suggested offloading their kids’ stuff into storage units. This is a logical and good solution for freeing up space in their own garage, but it really just transfers the original problem to another location.

If people do choose to do this, I suggest that they make sure the rental eventually transfers to the adult children’s names, so they’ll be responsible for the rent.


(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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