Parents Won't Store My Stuff Any More
August 12, 2012 9:45 PM   Subscribe

Kind of a two-part question: 1) Looking for affordable, secure, climate controlled storage units north of Kansas City, and 2) dealing with the illogical sense of feeling abandoned by my parents as they talk about being unable to store my stuff in the future. (Sorry, a bit long inside)

I’m in the military; anything I have in my bags, I use almost every day. This includes my very small amount of casual clothing, jewelry, computer, camera, hard drive, Kindle, and a few other “I would seriously just buy this again if I left it behind” items, besides the separate bag of uniform items I have to lug around. I don’t even take shampoo, toothpaste, clothing hangers, or such items with me as I tend to just buy them at the military store when I get there.
I don’t have the ability to carry any keepsakes with me. Postcards, china and glass figurines in a curio cabinet gifted to me when I was a child, a few clothing and jewelry items, art I’ve picked up on our family vacations, and quite a few books are the kinds of things I leave at my parent’s house or drop off if I’ve picked up a souvenir in my travels.

But now my parents are talking about downsizing to a condo sometime within the next 3 to 5 years and they’ve noted they won’t have the space to store my stuff.
And I’m kind of….ticked off, as well as feeling abandoned and helpless. It would be different if I had a normal job, an apartment, even a spouse to keep house for me, but I have none of these things. Once they downsize, I’ll be living wherever the government sends me OR sleeping on the couch of a family member or friend when I visit.
What’s more, once I purchase a storage unit, I’m tied to visiting the unit to drop off or pick anything up, no matter where my parents move to. And they’re the only reason I really visit this immediate area, so when they also half tease each other about moving to another state or another country, one of my main thoughts is “what the fuck am I supposed to do then? Use leave just to visit my storage unit? And what happens if the storage unit is in threat of shutting down for some reason, or floods, or some other ridiculous who-the-hell-knows thing? I won’t have anyone in the area to help me deal with it.”

It’s also somewhat frustrating when I know my cousins, who are also in various military branches, don’t have to deal with this sort of thing PLUS my aunts and uncles have been storing things like TVs, major furniture, closet(s) full of clothes, etc for them for years. So I feel ridiculous for saying so but sort of want to bitch that it’s kind of unfair, considering the pretty minor amount of stuff I’m asking my parents to keep for me. They can even sell off the curio cabinet if they want – I’m pretty decent at tossing large, unwieldy keepsake items…but they don’t want to store ANYTHING of mine.

On a side note, I guess the only advantage I can see for storing my things in another place would be keeping them away from my somewhat impulsive mother, who might randomly decide to put such items as childhood books or precious (not Wal*mart) jewelry in a yard sale without consulting me (I’ve been moving some of these books of the “definitely mine” variety to my room over the past few days just in case) and who initiated wanting to clean out _my stuff_ from the closet about a year back when she wanted a family member to stay in what was previously my room (only 1 ½ years after I left). I note that I’ve also been cleaning out a ton of stuff from my room so they won’t have to deal with it in the future. I can’t get across how much I’m trying to be a polite, unassuming, non-resident of their house.

I understand that it’s their home, their lives, their space. At the same time, it seems like holding onto a box of stuff for your kid who doesn’t have the ability to keep any sort of home shouldn’t be such a big deal. Even my brother still has books and things here…but he has an apartment in the area where he attends college a few hours away, so picking up some items before my parents dump, sell, and flee isn’t a big deal.

So I’m looking for recommendations on some decently priced, climate controlled, safe & secure storage units in this area (north of Kansas City, in the Platte County area)….as well as figuring out how to deal with these feelings of abandonment, mild anger, frustration, etc. Sorry if this seems like a long, silly tale of whining and woe, but I hope I’m getting my point across here in that I understand their position, however painful it might be to me at this time, and want to deal with my illogical responses to it.
posted by DisreputableDog to Human Relations (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
On a practical level, I would offer the aunts/uncles who are storing things for your cousins a token amount per month to store your keepsakes for the duration of your hitch, and have your things shipped to them instead of tormenting yourself with a storage unit. It sounds like you only have a few boxes. Ask nicely, offer money, and if they say yes, send wine. It's what family is for, and when your parents aren't able to do it, you call on the aunt with a spare bedroom. My family has so much stuff stored at different people's houses, it's not even funny.

On an emotional level, it might help to remember that a, not everyone has a strong emotional relationship with "stuff" and "home" and b, not everyone has the same emotional relationship with "stuff" and "home." To your mom, the stuff might just be stuff, the way you think about the stuff you rebuy at the PX. Or she might feel that you can't be that attached to the stuff if you don't want it right now because she wants her stuff with her all the time. Or some other thing we can't guess at. It doesn't mean you aren't her child or that she doesn't love you or anything. It just means you have a different emotional relationship with possessions.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:57 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

About to go to sleep, but wanted to note: I'm not really close to said aunts and uncles, and they don't live in the same area of the U.S. as my parents. I really am looking for a storage unit. It's pretty much my only option at this point.
posted by DisreputableDog at 10:01 PM on August 12, 2012

So, yes, at some point you grow up and move out and your parents get eager to get rid of your stuff. And at some point your parents probably downsize their house and say, "Seriously, get your stuff, the dumpster is coming tomorrow." and this is a very stressful thing. It's extra-stressful for you because you don't have a permanent home. So you are not wrong to be upset and stressed.

I think you should start by talking to your parents about it -- it sounds like they've got a pretty long timeline in mind. Are they really thinking of moving elsewhere? Staying in the area? Say, "It's so great that you're moving into the next phase of your life as a couple again" (because it is great! They survived having children and have successfully launched you!) "But I'm a little bit sad and scared about losing my place in our family home, since I don't have a home of my own yet, being with the army. I'm afraid when I come to see you I'll be crashing on a friend's couch, and I'm stressed just thinking about having to put my things in storage."

Just put it out there, that you're happy for them that they're moving on, but you feel a little adrift and want to know you're loved, and that you have these practical concerns. It sounds like they're giving you plenty of warning, and presumably plenty of warning if they move away. Maybe you'd rather get a storage unit near the place they relocate. Maybe they can keep one thing for you -- the display cabinet? If the rest fits in a few boxes, check with friends and family. My parents downsized this year and I was already out, having heeded the repeated threats sacrifice gerbils while burning my boxes if I didn't remove them. But one of my siblings is far away and in job transition and couldn't take a couple of important boxes or a bicycle, so we went up for a holiday and drove home with her spare stuff. I don't mind, it's labeled, it just sits there. If we were to move, it'd probably move with us ('cause we'd only move somewhere with more space and two boxes isn't going to break the bank) and when she's settled and has space, she can come retrieve them. Or some visit us one summer and go, "WTF is all this crap? Sorry I made you keep it." And I'll say, "Oh, that's okay, I made my husband carry it."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:13 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could you perhaps split a storage unit with your brother, somewhat closer to where he is living? That would save you both money, plus he'd be available in case of emergencies.

On the emotional side: as you say, it's their home; you've grown up and moved out, and it's really not fair to your parents to treat that house as a permanent storage dump. Yeah, I get that it's hard, but it doesn't mean they don't care: it just means that they're getting older, and the idea of, say, moving to a small apartment is common (someplace with less area to try to keep clean, less yardwork, less maintenance, and without staircases!). Basically what you're saying is that your parents should stay in their current house simply to provide storage space and security guards for your stuff, rather than you be inconvienced by moving that stuff to a storage unit.
posted by easily confused at 10:17 PM on August 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

What’s more, once I purchase a storage unit, I’m tied to visiting the unit to drop off or pick anything up, no matter where my parents move to.

I just wanted to make sure that you know you don't have to purchase a storage unit. You rent them, and maybe if you're paying for it, someone from your family would be willing to make arrangements to move your stuff to a different one if your parents leave the area. Then you can visit wherever they end up.
posted by Weeping_angel at 10:53 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

On the emotional side: I really REALLY remember this. Oh, yes. I do.

I invite you to see this as a "graduation" of sorts. You're an adult now, yay! Adults are responsible for their stuff. It is not a rejection or a punishment, it is a growth milestone!!


imagine there is a fire or flood, or you are living with roommates and going overseas. or you are getting divorced (and moving overseas, like I once did.)

Have a garage sale for everything non-essential. The rest should fit in a few boxes. I have my culinary equipment (I'm a chef) my books (including a few from childhood, that I am starting to share with my toddler) all of my photos, and vintage clothing (because I used to collect that.) OH! And my Star Wars Monopoly limited edition game set.

I've managed to drag this stuff over 2 decades and all over the world.

You can, too.

Welcome to adulthood. It is a lesson in what is important and close to your heart. You'll get through this.

I rarely feel weird about all of the stuff I "lost" over time, because my life today is so rich.

It's only stuff. The emotional part of becoming fully emancipated and an adult was inevitable. Sorry no one warned you. They did not warn me, either when it was my turn;))

I know this sucks. Hope I helped soften the blow a bit.
posted by jbenben at 10:55 PM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm not really close to said aunts and uncles, and they don't live in the same area of the U.S. as my parents.

Just wanted to pop back in to say a couple things. One is that part of growing up is the opportunity to form relationships with our extended family without the mediation of our parents, and to start thinking about yourself as an adult in a family of adults. One of the ways people become closer to each other is through mutual aid. It might be nice to reach out to your aunts and uncles and, having asked them for a favor, force yourself to get to know them a little better (I am assuming that you are not close to them as part of a normal "grew up, grew apart, they live far away" type thing, not a "they abused me/are criminals/are unsavory in some other way that makes it inappropriate for me to reach out to them" thing).

It doesn't sound like you have that much stuff- maybe 10 boxes? The books and clothes you might have to downsize, but the other stuff sounds pretty minimal. A storage unit might be more solution than you need. Plus, if you store with family, you don't have to worry about connecting your storage unit to somewhere your parents live, when they might want to move in the next few years.

Finally, it sounds like you are getting super anxious about a bunch of scenarios that aren't actually imminent or definite- you're talking about having to use leave in 2017 to visit your flooding storage unit because your parents moved to Panama because they mentioned getting a smaller house three years from now. Or maybe five. You're stressing out, yo! When I catastrophize like that, I have a snack, get some rest, and remind myself that no one ever died of [things no one's ever died of] and that I am probably dealing with some emotions that are related to but not actually the thing I think I'm stressing about, and then do my emotional self-care stuff. I recommend it highly!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:32 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I say the following as someone currently living overseas, and whose parents are kindly and generously storing things for him: storing items for adult children, especially once out of college or past college age, is a gift, not a requirement. They are not abandoning you, they are just moving on to a post-children lifestyle.

If my parents decided tomorrow that they are downsizing and need my stuff out of their household, it would be my responsibility to deal with my things in a timely fashion, or be okay with my parents disposing of my items as they see fit. Advance notice by my parents in such situation would be an appreciated courtesy, as it sounds like your parents are trying to give you.

At the same time, it seems like holding onto a box of stuff for your kid who doesn’t have the ability to keep any sort of home shouldn’t be such a big deal.

As an adult you don't have the inability to keep any sort of home, you've chosen to not keep a home. I have done so as well, prioritizing my career and lifestyle and travel over establishing a more permanent household of my own. Again, this is a choice.

Really, they aren't abandoning you, they just don't want to keep their adult child's possessions indefinitely.
posted by 6550 at 12:04 AM on August 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Just start searching google for 'storage unit kansas city' and find one you like. There are some underground storage units in the KC area if inexpensive climate control is a priority.
posted by flug at 12:33 AM on August 13, 2012

The bill for a storage unit ends up looking kind of large once you figure out what a few years costs.

It sounds like you wouldn't be going by it very often anyhow, it might be cheaper to rent a unit in a low cost area if you think you'll end up having to travel just to get there.

wanting to clean out _my stuff_ from the closet about a year back when she wanted a family member to stay in what was previously my room (only 1 ½ years after I left)

It seems like you still feel like this is "your room" on some level. In some ways you haven't really moved out, not having a place to move to, and it seems natural that the place you think of as home is where it seems like your stuff ought to be kept.

Did you ever talk to your parents about what they would do with your old room, stuff you want to keep, and the like? It might have been very comforting to them that your stuff was still around when you first left, but over time they get used to you not being there and think about what else they could be using that space for -- or realizing that they don't need so much space.

In a way, it is selfish of them to want to move to a smaller (and probably cheaper and easier to maintain) place -- but they should be selfish, and think about their own needs for their own house, what sort of place they want to live, etc. Would you have them live in a place they don't like, in a house that is more expensive than they want, simply to store your things? Especially when it's so easy to pay someone else to store them.
posted by yohko at 12:34 AM on August 13, 2012

Could you box the essential memories up and then ask you parents if they'd be willing to move it to a storage unit (that you would pay for) if they decide to downside. Just seal up the boxes and write "disreputabledog- KEEP" so there's no confusion about which boxes they should put in storage.
posted by HMSSM at 1:32 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

On the practical side, you could perhaps use a service like this: StorageByMail.
posted by jeri at 1:41 AM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Good heavens!

Two points:

1. You are an adult. YOU are responsible for your "stuff" nobody else.

2. They have given you 3-5 years warning??? And you're complaining about having to solve this problem?

As someone who, last year, moved from a 3,000 foot house with a basement, two car garage, and two unused bedrooms, to a 900 square foot house with no garage and no basement, I'm afraid I'm on your parents side on this one.

When we moved we had to deal with the leftovers of five adult kids that literally filled the basement, as each one left for college, careers, or, in one case, the military, it was "please let me leave my stuff here"...sure, of course. One has now been "gone" for over 10 years and still had stuff in the basement.

I spent the summer sorting through their boxes (they live all over the country and were not able (or not willing) to come back and do this, even though we gave them ample warning that we were moving). If it wasn't an identified heirloom, it was donated or trashed, I felt no guilt about that.

Get off your butt, go sort through your stuff (you'll find that a good percentage of it probably isn't even worth saving), find a place to rent to store it, and wish your folks well as they transition to a new aspect of their lives.
posted by HuronBob at 3:53 AM on August 13, 2012 [12 favorites]

My folks moved over a decade ago and I was dismayed to find that they had chucked some boxes I had left behind when I moved out. When I protested, mom countered with "You lived without this stuff for five years, you obviously weren't too attached to it and it was just one more thing to move to the new house." And she was right. These days I don't even remember what was in those boxes anyway.

Your folks are talking about moving in 3-5 years. YEARS. That is plenty of notice. If they're moving to a condo, storage space may very well be at a premium. I have to side with your folks on this, although I do remember that weird feeling that my folks had "moved on" from us. All part of growing up.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:01 AM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

That StorageByMail service looks perfect (I was going to suggest a PODS unit, but you really don't have enough stuff for that.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:16 AM on August 13, 2012

Try to put yourself in their position. Wanting to move, financially benefiting by moving, giving you quite a few years of notice. What would you do if you were them?
posted by J. Wilson at 6:11 AM on August 13, 2012

Guys? I know the "AskMe Patented Tough Love" response is a thing and all, but responding to the OP's question with "gotta grow up" is... not so helpful. And it looks like a bit of a pile-on.

So, I do not have a direct answer to your practical question (I am kind of a "get rid of stuff" kind of guy who feels his modest belongings are getting out of hand), but some possible avenues to explore:

1. Talk to your fellow military personnel -- you can't be the only person to have to deal with this. You might also ask some of the more "administrative" people (I am thinking clerical; when I moved to grad school, they were very helpful with some of the unexpected logistics problems) if they know of others who are/were in this spot and what they did. If nothing else, it might make you feel less alone.

2. If you have any close-ish friends/family who are a) somewhat settled and b) might be willing to store stuff, ask them. It might be easier if you offer to get a small locker somewhere (I agree that this doesn't sound like you are talking about dozens of boxes of things) and ask them to receive boxes occasionally and put them away for you. That way, they are not "dealing" with your stuff all the time.

For your emotional question, I suspect that there is a lot of subsurface stuff going on for you. Talking to a therapist or councilor a few times might help, or you might just process it on your own. It sounds to me like you are dealing with any or all of the following:

1. Growing up. As a culture, we don't really have a dividing line when we are "adults and on our own." Which means that some of the separations happen much later than others, and they can be surprisingly painful. A few years back, my mom had a stroke, and, while she came through it well, she is much frailer than before, and part of me went "WTF!? I am not done with you taking care of me! How can this be happening?" I got over it, but it was briefly jarring and painful (and, in retrospect, kind of funny). Anyway, it is frustrating to have responsibilities dumped on you, even if you rationally know that they are your responsibilities.

2. Losing your childhood home. I know a lot of people who felt very adrift when the place they grew up was sold, making their "home town" not "home" anymore. Even if you wanted to leave, even if you don't love that town, having it "gone" is a break and a separation, and we humans don't always do well with that.

3. Feeling abandoned by your parents. We form our attachment to our parents at a very early age, and negotiating the shifting relationship as we age is pretty difficult. Parents are often not willing to surrender their sense of control over their children, but, on the flip side, children are not always willing to give up having their parents sort out things for them. Sometimes both these things go on at once, over different issues, for added fun!

4. Oh hell, there are probably other things.

Anyway, my point is, that I suspect that some of your strong feelings in this matter is that the problem your parents have posed you is attached to a bunch of underlying feelings that trying to identify and sort out might help you feel a bit more balanced and able to deal with the practical side of the problem. Given that you have a few years to prepare, spending a little time digging around in your feelings might make it easier (and might make other things clear, too).

I have never been in your position, but I have moved fairly frequently, often to places where I don't know many people, so I have a little experience dealing with stuff in awkward situations. There are solutions, and you can find them. Take that long lead-in time to do some research and come up with the best plan you can.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:21 AM on August 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

I can't help with the emotions involved here any more than the rest of the posters already have, but I can point you to a couple of resources for finding a storage unit. My mom has done some freelance editorial work for the Missouri Self-Storage Owners Association - the founder is a friend of hers, and owns a self-storage company in Clay County - AA Northland Stor-All. I can't speak for rates or anything like that, but AFAIK he's an upstanding sort of guy. Even if you don't like his place, the MSSOA page lists a number of other places to check out in the Members->Owners section.
posted by jferg at 6:55 AM on August 13, 2012

I just wanted to chime in to commiserate. My parents and I had been living about 2 miles apart from each other for the last few years. I turn 30 this year, my little sister is in the Peace Corps, and my parents up and moved to Canada (I live in Atlanta). The mass exodus of my shit from their house was INSANE. Every day they brought me more boxes of my old stuff. When I opened them, I was like, "OH so THIS is what I've been saving this whole time?!?" It was New Kids on the Block posters and Sweet Valley books. Stuff that when I was 12 I was sure I'd want forever, and now that I'm old it went directly in the garbage. So maybe once you actually go through your stuff, you'll feel less attached to it.

Also, my parents ended up bringing a bunch of their crap over to my house, so that was a funny little tables-have-turned moment. It could happen to you too, someday!

But mostly, watching my parents clean out a house that had 20 years of child-raising in it made me realize stuff is just stuff and the memories don't go away just because you throw something away. I know it can be sad, but it can also be super freeing. Maybe take photos of the stuff you like and toss the actual stuff?

Good luck! Growing up is tough and I don't actually think we ever finish.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 7:08 AM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe you can cut down the clutter of what you want to save a little. If it's only a box or two it might be easier for them to fit in their new condo or for you to find a new home for it. Next time you're home go through the stuff carefully, you'll be surprised at how the meaning of what you've saved will have changed. If there are items you would like to keep but can't, photograph them. I moved the the US from Australia and had to leave a life time of memories behind I had boxes and boxes of them, what I did was photograph the things that I couldn't bring. An old guitar I hadn't played in years, my first hifi (yes I'm that old), fancy dresses that no longer fit but reminded me of good times etc. I have the photos now to stir the memories when I want to go down memory lane and none of the clutter.

I'd also ask around base or whatever (not a military person so I don't know the correct terms), they might have facilities you can use as I imagine you can't be the only person in this position, if nothing else they might be able to offer more suggestions.
posted by wwax at 11:14 AM on August 13, 2012

« Older La grace que je vous souhaite, c'est de n'etre pas...   |   Here a Turk. There a Turk. Everywhere a Turk... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.