Empty Nest Moms, This One’s For You.

When Is the right time to clean out an adult son’s boyhood bedroom? (And I say “son” ‘cos I had one child, a boy, and never experienced what it’s like being the mom of a girl.)

This was the week I did it. Cleaned my son’s room, I mean. Fifteen years after he moved out, or as I like to refer to it, when my darling Angel Boy abandoned his mommy.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m the antithesis —  the total opposite — of a “free range” mom.

Need an example?

I carried Angel Boy until he was about seven-years-old, when his legs dangled to the ground, and he was ALMOST my size.

In this photo, he’s probably thirteen-years-old or so, my little Harry Potter look alike, already taller than me. See that MOMjoy? All it takes is being next to him to bring out that kind of a smile. (And that swishy track suit was all the rage in the 90s, I promise you.)


So, don’t make me say the dreaded words; “moved out”.

That’s bittersweet and rife with sadjoy (my new word all moms should immediately start using in our daily conversations.)

Sad he’s gone, but joy and pride in his accomplishments and goals. Mostly sad, though.

The purge. Well, more accurately; the relocation.
jasonroomclean1From the first grade, a diorama of the Carlsbad sea wall that his dad built — dinosaur books, academic awards, handwritten spelling tests, report cards, a writing prompt about what the future might hold (potential editor of National Lampoon)…one of the last Valentine’s Day cards made for me before that tragic discovery of the wonderful world of females who are NOT Mom–jasonroomclean2

And so many books: Chaucer to Mann to Goethe to Faulkner, Welty, Shakespeare, all the books from fifteen years of college and graduate school.

In a bookish family like ours, it’s a tough Sophie’s choice kind of dilemma: how does one determine which book might not have value? It’s pretty much impossible.

But here’s the real question…

Is there ever a right time to clean out an adult son’s boyhood bedroom?

The answer to that — for me– has always and will forever be a resounding NO! NEVER! — until I came up with the brilliant idea of simply moving things to another area, saved and protected, organized into plastic tubs to be stored in the garage, thus not purging nor destroying parts of him which is really part of me, but preserving forever and forever my Angel Boy’s childhood which means he hasn’t really grown up and gotten married and moved away and doesn’t need his mommy anymore…SIGH.

Wait a sec, let me wipe away dust-streaked tears. SIGH.


Buck up, Princess Rosebud, there’s still hope, he might be back, adult children DO return home, sometimes they DO need to fly back INTO the nest, so all is not completely lost.

Something to cling to, to be prepared for. Happily.

Every picture, every single scrap of scribbled upon paper, every college application, all art projects from the age of two, baby books, envelopes of baby curls, baby teeth the Tooth Fairy saved, that fallen off shred of shriveled umbilical cord (yes, Angel Boy, I told you we were forever connected, how could you doubt me?)

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like his room hasn’t been cleaned properly in the thirty years we’ve lived in this house, because it has, but we had stored everything that belonged to him in his closet — just in case he needed that one specific item for any reason.

Or in case he decides to start collecting baseball cards again–of which there are THOUSANDS.

I’m a hoarder, not a tosser;  he and I share this attribute. Although the one and only item we’ve ever tossed out will forever haunt tugboat man and I…his favorite skateboard.

Angel Boy hadn’t sk8d in years, the half pipe ramp in our backyard disintegrated and had been torn down; who would have known that it meant so much to him? Apparently, MOM should have known, but one summery day, tugboat man and I were cleaning out the garage, and did the horrible-est thing EVER — we put the sk8board out in the street instead of framing and hanging on the wall. This was about ten years ago, and my son won’t let us forget how we failed him.

Guilt and shame compels us to regularly offer to replace the board; however, no new board could possibly subsume the sweet memories of that fave —  but we learned our lesson and promised to NEVER again summarily throw away any item that might contain a shred of sentiment without prior authorization. In writing.

Now that his room is so pristine. So vacant. So unoccupied.

I wonder.

What if…

For Rent: One room. Three meals, snacks, and yes, one very sadjoy empty nest MOTHER included…


40 thoughts on “Empty Nest Moms, This One’s For You.

  1. I loved this. It’s like an excavation, isn’t it? My oldest is 17, so this isn’t far off. I have so little left of my childhood, some baseball cards and Star Wars figures, and I’ll cling to those. Maybe my kids will want it someday.


  2. It’s quite an event going through the boxes of the past. I just finished a short session out in the garage. I thought that I knew exactly where that box with my childhood Chicago Cubs newspaper clippings and other memorabilia was. As it goes, I had that wrong, so a more diligent effort is required if I am going to use for my memorial for Ernie Banks.

    I did come across many other amazing artifacts from my sons’ youth. Baseball cards, report cards, school papers and yes, some of those early scribbles.. That was quite easy to do; we have boxes of those wonderful masterpieces.

    Wipe those tears. Shine today. You have done well with your Angel Boy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh dear, I am so there with you in your emotions. Not brave enough to tackle that here, yet. I have two that I would have to dismantle. They are still regularly here so I will wait. Thanks for sharing your heart..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have three sons and a daughter. I still have tiny little bits and pieces of the boys. The girl took everything, I’m pretty sure. The moving out process was gradual, and maybe softened by the fact that after Number One moved out, I still had Two, Three, and Four. The only time I really broke down was the day after my daughter’s wedding, when the bridesmaids had left and the house was empty of all the fun and folderol. I went to her room to strip the sheets, and it was BARE! Walls, closet, dresser, desk all BARE! Yup. Lost it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sadjoy just about sums it up. In September, I watched my eldest son head off for his first year of university – 5000 miles away! Like you I was equally sad to see him go and delighted to see him embarking on a program that is exactly right for him.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The right time? I’m not sure, but my parents waited until they moved to finally clean up all that junk, er, um, I mean, memories. Yeah, memories. They’d held onto lovingly for 32+ years… and then decided I should have it when they moved houses… wasn’t that nice of them?
    I’m sure there will be regret at some point, but I tossed 95% of it. I don’t have the space or inclination to store it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mine has been gone for three months. Came home last night for a two-week visit, his first question in the car was “what have you done with my room?” He’s way ahead of me! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I cleaned out my boys’ rooms ONLY after they married. And even then, I put almost everything in those storage tubs in the attic. And ….. one of my ‘boys’ (age 37) was here for a few days last week, and we pulled some of those tubs out of the attic to look through. We had a WONDERFUL time, and then put everything back for another trip down memory lane in another decade or so.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love that he read so extensively!! I agree with some of the other commentors that I’ll probably clean out their rooms only after they get married and then, I’ll just be handing over everything to the couple!

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. We have 3 boys and the youngest married & left home about 4 years ago. I still haven’t cleaned out the older boys rooms, let alone the youngest. My husband & I recently got the bright idea of finally building the home we’ve always wanted, but could never afford because we had those 3 boys that always needed or wanted something. Sadly, not only will I have to clean out their rooms, but I’ll be walking away from their childhood home! I actually suggested to my husband that we not sell our current home, just leave it as it is and move into our new one. That way not only will I not have to clean out their rooms, but I will have preserved their childhood home. My husband was not amused and not at all open to that idea. Heartless, right? So within the next 4 months I will be faced with the task of doing what I’m so dreading. Having said that, reading your post and all the people responding to it has made me feel so much better. Maybe I can actually do this. Or maybe I’ll let my husband move into the new one & I’ll just stay here. I’ll let you know in about 4 months. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for responding! I enjoyed reading about your own particular empty nest situation. I learned some wisdom from the birds nesting in our yard and it might help you (and ME and all of us) put this whole not wanting to disturb our childrens’ things when they leave the nest thing. Sometimes the mom destroys the old nest when the babies fledge and builds a new one! I’ve watched them sometimes dismantle and nest and start over in the same spot or they just go somewhere else. So as much as your hub is heartless (I agree!!) maybe it’s nature’s way??? I dunno, my tugboat man keeps wanting to move and sell this house and I keep saying no, so you and I are in the same boat, so to speak! He says just pack it up and let’s go, but that is overwhelming to me. I’ve lived here for THIRTY years and I don’t like change anyway haha. Keep in touch!!! And happy thanksgiving. Hope your birdies are coming home-my son and my now preggy DIL are coming, but hub’s stuck out to sea 😦 …glass half full, right?


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