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I don’t want your s–t: Spring cleaning with young adults

March 28, 2011

Young adults will not hang on to stuff, no matter what we tell them.

Many young adults – those just beginning to establish their own households – don’t want the drama of having to maintain the suburban homes their parents bought and struggled to keep up. They want quick and easy lifestyles. Their homes will be smaller and outfitted with the features that help support their busy, on-the-run lifestyles, including being energy-efficient, multi functional, versatile, affordable, accessible, close to transportation centers and, yet, hip and friendly.

You can keep your five acre property in the burbs. They don’t see themselves there anytime in the next 10 years, if ever.  They’d rather travel. When they want to get away from the rat-race, they’ll go away for a mini vacation. In the meantime they don’t want to live 40 minutes from everything. The last thing in the world they want is property that is too big to mow with a push lawn mower and too small to plow. They will not spend all weekend doing yard work, like we did.

This philosophy has been debated for 10 years.

I am not alone in feeling slightly resentful – very slightly – that young adults, including my children, don’t vocalize their appreciation for how hard we have worked to give them that lifestyle of stuff and space. They don’t care. They don’t want it. I never fully realized how this easy-spirited belief transmuted into how they handled possessions until it was time for one to move out and the other to do some major spring cleaning at home.

When I see three garbage bags of items in the front hall that are to be donated and two more in the trash I am immediately suspicious that the bags include everything I just bought them for Christmas and during the winter shopping trips: meaning that stuff is less than three months old.

In true fashion, I had to take a peak.

The kids-versus-parents debate sounds like this: “You’ll never learn.”

What we say: What?! How could you not want all of this? We’ve got space, closets, a two car garage, a shed and a yard. We’ve given you everything, including a room of your own filled with electronics. We were raised by children of the depression. We grew up during an emerging period in this country when what we own now wasn’t necessarily affordable or available back then. We know what it means to have nothing and to appreciate everything we’ve worked hard to acquire. We’re proud of our stuff. We worked hard for it and it want you to appreciate it, too.  Why are you getting rid of this stuff?

What they say: Look at all this crap! It’s an energy vampire. When you die I’m filling up just one carload of stuff – probably the handmade quilts, a few photo albums and great grandma’s cameo pin – and I’m tossing the rest (or donating it). I don’t even want to deal with it.

What we say: You’re wasteful.

What they say: Look at all this shit I haven’t used in 6 months. Get rid of it.

What we say: Hey, I spent $15 on that. It’s still good.

What they say: Bad touch, Mom. Let it go.

What we say: You’ll never understand. Respect my money.

What they say: Packrat! Keep this up you will be a candidate for the show on hoarding. Do we really need three snow shovels and 14 pots in the kitchen? Let it go.

What we say: You throw everything out. I’m not buying you another thing.

What they say: Good.  I will not hang on to every little thing that you, grandma, or my great, great grandparents ever touched. Use it, enjoy it, and wear it out. Don’t save it for me.

What I see: Hmmmm. Maybe I could sell enough on E-bay to afford a trip to Europe or all the U.S. National Parks. The only thing I will leave behind will be my memories and a series of neatly written travel journals. That might fit in the car.

The lesson learned: We are probably both right, a little. Reduce, reuse, recycle can definitely be instituted into spring cleaning on every level.  Of course, if we just acquired less then we won’t leave our children and grand children with an entire household of  too much stuff  that has to be sorted through. Less is more, my kids say: It’s the experience that matters.

Writer’s note: My frustration over my daughter’s spring cleansing forced me to take a good long look in my own closest. Three more bags of donations are leaving the house. I’m not sure how I feel about the artwork she left me below…but I get the point. Nice bird.

This was my daughter's way of saying, "Mom, this stuff is leaving the house. Don't touch it."

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