Writing about art
Britney Spears still hangs on the bedroom wall of my boyfriend’s childhood bedroom.  Even after the boys finally and permanently moved out of the house, it took their mom until her retirement to strip down football posters, empty the shelves of t-ball trophies, and dress the faded walls with a coat of new paint.  Legos and board games went into the closet for fingers-crossed future grandchildren, and the only concession that remained was that Britney stayed on the wall.

Lest we throw stones whilst living in glass houses, my own parents’ home hasn’t had a real update in over twenty years.  Mini renovations and purges have speckled the last few decades - when I moved back to Dallas and systematically emptied each room, when they updated the counter tops in the kitchen days before Thanksgiving.  With my mom’s heart surgery a few years ago, even the annual airing of out-of-season clothes ground to a halt.

Particularly in our old bedrooms, there is a stillness in the air, like someone took a breath and held it.  There isn’t a hamster, faintly scrabbling away in the corner, anymore and the air smells neutral and dead, free of the unguents and sprays that we used as teenage girls.  The doors are now flung wide open, rarely closed, and creak when they swing.  A warren of dust bunnies live under my sister’s old twin bed, as do faded college syllabuses, shoe boxes of old ticket stubs, and spare change carefully squirreled away.  Foxtrot comic books and stuffed toys line her bookshelves, and the room sits vacant except for her visits home twice a year.

Instead of using the extra bedrooms for storage, stuff - because there’s no better word for it - encroaches on my parents’ bedroom.  Filing cabinets, my old desk, dusty yoga mats, and at one time three vacuums.  I’m afraid that my parents will eventually disappear between the piles of linens - towels, bed sheets, extra pillows, and comforters.  If you’re not careful grabbing a hand towel out of the linen closet, you could be buried under an avalanche of them.

Ashamedly, the idea of re-purposing and reorganizing the house for my parents was not mine but B’s.  There’s no reason they should live in a museum, half of the things belonging to those of us who no longer live there.  We are like the children of Christmas past, and you must hold on to our Lisa Frank sticker collections and moldy retainers.

So we collectively put our heads together.  We diagrammed, discussed, and debated.  A home office for dad, not just a bedroom with a folding table in the corner.  Another real guest bedroom with an adult-sized bed for adult-sized visitors.  New flooring of some sort, the maroon carpet is over 30 years old and fraying at the edges.  They’ll keep the upright piano, god knows why, as they don’t play.  It’s a glorified shelf for Alexa and greeting cards.

We are starting small, emptying out boxes of tangled electronic cables and floppy disks that are useless, even as coasters.  I sit for an hour and shred five years worth of old credit card and bank statements.  The paper shredder quits on me after 15 minutes so I sit on the floor and tear with my fingers.  Dad and I sort, shred, and listen to the Selected Shorts podcast.  Two hours later, there are three black garbage bags full of things to be tossed.  We’re pecking away at the shrine to the two children who used to live in this house to make it work for the two parents left in it.


  1. Hah my mom was the opposite, she had my room changed my first quarter away from home.

  2. This reminded me of when I was helping my mom move. She literally kept everything! It was so overwhelming to go over the stuff, but it eventually got done. I think it's cool you guys are helping your parents change things around their house:)

  3. Sounds a little bit like my parents' house! My brother and I have been out for six and seven years but my mom still calls our rooms Laura's room and Phil's room! And now when I stop by she gives me a bag or box to take home. It's funny how now that I have a home of my own, they want my stuff out of their house! :)

  4. We need to do that with our house now - while the kids are still here. My other half is the worst serial hoarder I have ever known - and the worst at starting something and not finishing it that I have ever known too...

  5. I think it's wonderful to do this for and with your parents. So many things yet so many memories! My best friend's parents were like this - they had and kept everything. My mom was the type to throw out everything (I think I take after her..) and then we moved around more often and my mom hated to move what she called "useless things" around with us all the time and so more things got thrown away and eventually nothing was really kept. She did keep a few memorable things but childhood drawings and awards and such are all gone. Yangkyu's mom though kept everything and when she passed we looked through all the things she kept and found old love letters she got from her husband written so many years ago. They were so sweet to see.

  6. This is so nice of you to do. My parents are moving out of my childhood home and are digging up years and years of sentimental trash. Good luck with the redecorating!

    7% Solution

  7. Aw, that's super nice of you to do! I'm sure your parents appreciate it. I've been told I have to remove my things the next time I move....I don't have too much there but I'm not moving until I have a house. :)

  8. That's wonderful. It would be a great treat for them. My parents-in-law, prior to selling their old family home had to endure letting go of memories carried by old notebooks, school cards, test papers, cassette tapes and lots of old stuff that took refuge in their home for decades. It was the hardest thing my mother-in-law had to deal with but was really grateful for the change when they moved to their new house. Goodbye clutter and madness. :)

  9. oh this makes me so happy.
    I, like my mother save and hoard nothing. My mother has no baby clothes, no old dolls, no childhood treasures hiding in her drawers. My children are still children and I still have no baby clothes hiding away anywhere and I am on a constant mission to donate and sell any toys the boys no longer play with.
    Good for your parents. this is going to be a wonderful experience.

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