As I prepare to pack up my middle son and send him on his way to college 250 miles away, I am reminded by some advice a friend of mine gave me when I did this two years ago, if I was to cry, it could only be tears of pride and joy. I am trying my hardest but it is not working as well this time around. The tears are being shed in greater frequency and I have taken to wearing my sunglasses in the house so nobody sees my tear stained face. I have warned my son that I will be crying, but it is only because I am happy for him. Please don’t get me wrong, I am so happy for the adventure that he has lying before him. I am so proud of the young man that he has become. However I am grieving the change of our family dynamic. I remind myself that when I moved from home I moved 370 miles away, 250 miles is nothing! But sometimes I wish he was going to school over a bridge and only 5 miles away.
I get that my son is alive and healthy and not going off to war and that I am lucky and that this is what we raise our children for. But it is still not easy. There still is a grieving process that we need to go through. Nobody explains this to you. Nobody has written the book, “What to Expect When Your Child Moves Away.” Nobody prepared me for this. When I sent my oldest away, I was blissfully naïve. I was excited for him and his new adventure. But when I got home I had to close his bedroom door as each time I passed his room it reminded me of his absence.
But you may wonder what this all has to do with organizing? You see, I not only pack them up for college but I also pack up their rooms. I know, I am probably a crazy person. But what I have learned from my clients is that if I don’t do it now, I may never get around to it. It is like ripping a band aid off. I just want to do it and be done. So we are going through every drawer and every nook and cranny and cleaning his room and packing everything up. We vacuum and wash walls. Everything goes into four different piles.
1. Take to college: This contains all of his clothes he wears or intends to wear again. He has books that he wants to keep as reference. Small mementos and decorations like his mini zen garden and his toilet coffee cup.
2. Donate: Clothing that no longer fits or interests him. He was able to purge most of his graphic t-shirts with logos on it. A belt that no longer fits is going to be taken to the consignment clothing place.
3. Garbage: Sometimes there is no salvaging something and it needs to go. When we moved his bed from one area of the room to the other we found a pack of gum under his bed from our dog that we put to sleep in March. He would sneak in my purse and grab my gum and snack on it. We all paused for a moment of silence as we saw that pack of chewed up gum.
4. Save for your future life: This is a large rubber maid tote that I will store for him for when he lands in a permanent place. He has placed in here the t-shirts of his high school that mean something to him. His graduation party guest book. I have limited this to one large tote. I am hopeful that we don’t need to expand this.
It is important to sort this stuff now before they leave home. Why you may ask? Well we come to resent the room and the clutter. Most teenagers have messy rooms. I am not wanting to go in and clean and organize once they are gone. I don’t want to close the door and ignore the space. This is a project for us to do together. If I wait for some school break it will be a chore and not exciting. He will want to hang with his friends not clean his room. And I do not want to be that mom who nags. I have been that organizer who has helped parents organize the young adult’s room who has left home. It is very difficult. Most of the room is in a pile called “ask the young adult” and we don’t get much done. By doing it now, they are excited for their new adventure and this is not seen as a chore.
Added to my anxiety is the fact that he has a chronic disease that he needs to give himself an injection every two weeks. He has to line up the delivery of this drug and make sure that it is stored properly. He has all the numbers to call and line this up, but part of me wants to visit every two weeks and hand him the drug to inject.
His bedroom is now our first guest room. I will not paint the walls and I will leave the guitars hanging up but he has sold his drum set. The dresser is empty. The closet is void of his clothes. The room is more spacious now that the drums are gone. The sheets will be washed and clean for our first guest to arrive. Extra bedding will be placed in the closet as well as a guest basket with towels and toiletries.
My kids all know that when they move out there is no coming back. They are more than prepared for life and I am proud of them. I keep on chanting, “only tears of pride and joy….only tears of pride and joy.” So if you pass me in the grocery store in the next few weeks, I will probably still be wearing my sunglasses, but please don’t judge as I am a work in progress.
To Joyful, Organized Living,
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