Last year my kids each gave me five hours of labor for Christmas. I used it to clean the attic and designate the four corners: one for each of the three children and one for camping equipment. This revolutionized my life.
As an empty-nester I want to maintain my kids’ rooms so that they feel at home when they return from college for breaks and holidays. Yet I also crave living lean, clean, and clutter-free. By designating an attic corner for each child, I was able to put the things they didn’t want or need right now but might someday in their corner. There it waits, out of sight, until they feel inclined to retrieve it. Their rooms are still decorated with some of their stuff. They’re just not stuffed with all of their stuff. And we’re all happy with the result.
But attics are catch-alls. Things seldom used tend to retire there. I was determined this great deed once done would not be undone. Those four corners would remain dedicated to their purposes. So how did I ensure the attic would not become a jumbled catchall?
It was surprisingly easy.
There is a shady bit of space in my backyard across a shallow dry creek bed. It once hosted the kids’ sandbox. College kids don’t need sandboxes so my husband and kids (more of those 5 gift hours!) built me a storage barn there next to the playhouse. They even installed a bridge and motion activated lamp post.
(Sorry the picture is fuzzy. That blur on the bridge is my dog, Flash.)
Inside heavy steel racks, the sort bakers use to cool large baking sheets, line the walls. The shelves are adjusted to the proper height to hold large lidded Rubbermaid tubs that contain all the holiday decorations and other useful miscellaneous that used to be thrown in a gallimaufry in the attic. It’s now easy to see what I have, and simple and pleasant to retrieve it when needed.
As a bonus I left a couple of shelves empty. When the kids came home this past year for summer break or dropped their stuff off on their way to study-abroad sessions, it went neatly onto these shelves rather than cluttering up the house. When they returned to college, they simply fetched it again. They didn’t have to hunt for anything and I didn’t have to deal with it while they were away. We were all happy.
So those five hours of labor gifts for Christmas 2012 continue to be wonderful.
But if the kids gave me FIVE hours of labor last year and ended up cleaning an attic and building a barn, what did they give me for Christmas 2013? THREE hours of labor. That’s what happens when you send them to college. They get smarter. Darn!
What was your best present ever?