How to interact with an unfamiliar new resident in my parents home?
December 17, 2013 3:45 PM   Subscribe

A lovely, college-aged young woman who has had a very rough year is coming to live with my parents, whom I visit several times a year, often for extended periods of time (I live 900 miles away, but I'm a student with long vacations). I think this is great. However, I feel a little at sea for how to interact with her, and to prepare for this change, especially given the giant elephant in the room: the horrible event that happened which has caused her to need a new home.

To explain that elephant in the room: Let's call this young woman "Lucy." Lucy grew up in my hometown. Her parents were well known in the community; pillars, even. Just as she graduated high school, they moved to a different town. Not long after the move, on an occasion when Lucy was home, one of her parents killed the other parent, in Lucy's presence. Lucy has effectively lost both parents: one is dead, and she has no contact with the other, who is incarcerated. She has no other close relatives, and has been living with family friends.

Since that event, Lucy and my mother have become quite close, and all parties involved have agreed that it might be best for Lucy to transition to living with my parents instead of with the family friends she has lived with till now. This is undeniably good. I am pleased for her, and proud of my parents. (I'm proud of her, too; she is back to attending college as a commuting student, and is working when she has time. By all accounts, she is very resilient.)

So, with that preface, here is where I'm feeling a bit lost. I have several questions:

1) How should one interact with someone who has undergone this type of trauma, in general? I do not know Lucy well. (The last time I spent any amount of time with her was when she was about 8, and I was about to head off to college, and that interaction was minimal.) I neither want to pretend it never happened, nor pour salt on open wounds. She's going to be spending weekends with my parents starting next month, transitioning to full time later in the spring. There will be times during some of my visits when my parents will be away on work-related trips when Lucy and I will be the only ones living in the house for 3 or 4 days.

2) How should I prepare my space in my parents' home to become her space? If you were in such a situation, moving into someone else's room with someone else's (preteen) stuff, what would help make you feel at home? (And make you feel like the person who had lived there wanted you to be there, and not just like they were tolerating your presence?) Because of the practicalities of how the house is laid out, she will be living in my childhood bedroom, which is still full of childhood things, while I will be staying in the guest room when I visit (it just makes way more sense for my childhood bedroom to be the one someone is living in full time—for example, among other things, it has a closet, and an armchair to read in, while the guest room has no closet, and no place to sit down other than the bed).

In a few weeks (after the holidays), I will be going down for one of my extended visits, and one of my tasks will be to prepare the room for her. (This is nice: I'll get to be the one who decides what happens with my stuff.) I know I should clear out the bedside table and the chest of drawers (and this is all my mother expects me to do; she said it was up to me whether I did anything further), but what about the art on the walls? Or the books on the bookcase, and the art supplies on their shelves? What would you want if you were in her situation, moving into someone else's childhood bedroom that was becoming your room for the next year or so?

3) Finally, how do I deal with my own feelings of upendedness that this transition is causing? My parents have been confirmed empty nesters for over a decade now, but when I come home, my room has always been my room; it never turned into an office or a project room, as many childhood bedrooms often do. And when I go home, I have really treasured the time I spend just with my parents. Now, when I go home, someone else will be living in my room, and I won't be alone with my folks—there will be someone I don't know very well there, too. I think this transition is a good one, but I also feel weird. It's definitely the end of an era, and it's an end I didn't get much time to prepare for. The decision to make this change only happened this past weekend, and Lucy will start living with my parents part-time in just a few weeks. Have any of you experienced such a thing? How did you get used to the idea?

(Possibly relevant to the above questions: I am a woman in my late 20s.)

In sum: I want to be decent and generous to Lucy as she begins living with my parents. I also want to take care of my own feelings, too; what's the best way to do both?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe you could clear out everything you want to save, pack it up and put it in storage at your folks' or at yours. Leave anything useful you would like to donate to Lucy with a note gifting it to her, to use, donate, recycle or discard as suits her convenience, and include your contact info (including free chat programs such as WhatsApp; all the rage with the kids these days ;)) on the note.

It's a delight to see the delicacy, warmth and honesty with which you are approaching this situation.
posted by Mistress at 3:55 PM on December 17, 2013 [25 favorites]

As far as moving into your room goes, I would move as much stuff out as I could. What about putting it in the guestroom as a sort of homage to your childhood room? Or what about getting a large storage bin or wardrobe or something where Lucy CAN put your childhood things, if she wants some shelf space of her own? If I were her, I think I'd be a little weirded out being moved into a completely cleaned-out room. So you might leave the art and many nonessential items in the room, saying something to her like, "if you want to put different art on the wall/need more shelf space, please put my things in this designated storage unit/trunk."
posted by daisystomper at 4:00 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

It may just be me, but a fresh coat of paint has often been the difference between feeling that I was in someone else's space and in a space I could call my own. Maybe have your mom ask Lucy what color she'd like her room to be, and throw up a fresh coat for her. Might help you separate from the space, too.
posted by bfranklin at 4:06 PM on December 17, 2013 [62 favorites]

You could match the generosity that your parents are showing Lucy by effectively donating your room and give it away in your mind to her, as her room. I mean, you are an adult, with a nice life, a pursuit of your own, and what sounds like an amazing family. I think that if you could give her such a little thing as a space you only stay in a few times a year (and look back fondly, from your adult life, at the great room you've had), then you would be giving back something so little to someone who has lost everything.

You may want to put your childhood things away in some big tupperware containers in the closet, and decorating with a few comfy, warm, new things for Lucy that will be all of her own, and a few new things for your new space. You could even go out shopping with her! I bet she would feel really welcomed.

I think the contrast over the trauma that this girl has gone through with the relatively normal and minor event like having your childroom bedroom be redecorated is interesting. You might also want to talk to a therapist over why this is such a big deal and what else is going on your life that is making you feel this way.
posted by cakebatter at 4:09 PM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

If she was eight when you were eighteen, and now she's in college, that means you're old enough not to have a "childhood bedroom" full of your toys, anymore.

While you're home, you should take all that stuff down. Keep what you want and either put it in your parents' attic, bring it home with you after your visit, or get a storage unit.

The room is now adamantly HER ROOM. Not "Anonymous' Room".

The especially nice thing to do would be, after you've cleaned out all your childhood things, help her make the space her own in some way. Even if it's just scrubbing the walls to remove evidence of your old Tiger Beat posters.

On the off chance she's on your Christmas shopping list, something for her room would be a nice gift.
posted by Sara C. at 4:13 PM on December 17, 2013 [25 favorites]

First of all, I admire you enormously for the generosity and warmth you are showing this young person in her time of need. With that said, I want to encourage you to honor your feelings and to balance supporting the very real needs of Lucy with your own needs.

My parents had a very close relationship with someone else's child once I left the nest, and one of the things that was very hard for me was feeling completely replaced. I think that if they had made an effort to make time to spend just with me even occasionally, that would made a huge difference in how I felt.

The situation with my parents was much less enormous than that you are facing, but I would still think that you should be able to have some time with your parents. I don't know a way for you to say this right now, but you should make sure that you have time with your parents one on one when you visit them. Even if it's running to the store to pick something up, or sitting together early in the morning before the house is awake, you need to ask for that time from your parents. You're not attempting to exclude Lucy - I don't think from your question you have any intention of doing that - you are attempting to maintain your feeling of connectedness to your parents.

Be gentle with yourself. This will be a transition that will evolve over time. Give yourself permission to feel whatever feelings you have when you have them, and don't allow the situation to make you feel that you can't experience whatever emotions arise.
posted by winna at 4:17 PM on December 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

In contrast to daisystomper: If I were her, I'd be super wierded out by moving into someone's childhood room with their art paintings, etc, still on the walls. I would feel it was a reminder that I was a visitor, and it was only temporarily my room. I'd much rather move into a completely empty room. Maybe leave a pile of the taken down posters/little kid drawings on the bed or a shelf and tell her/leave a note saying that you didn't want to decorate for her, but if she likes any of these they're hers.

Exceptions can be made for less 'personal' art, like a regular painting. Not a band poster from when you were a teenager.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:19 PM on December 17, 2013 [14 favorites]

Removing all trace of you except for a warm, welcoming note, might be the nicest thing you could do for Lucy. She would have a fresh start, away from memories of the past. Huge admiration for your parents and you as you go to quite a bit of trouble to help Lucy.
posted by Cranberry at 4:20 PM on December 17, 2013 [21 favorites]

A week after my beloved, wonderful and just plain lovely daughter moved out, I cleared her room, and started to convert it into my new study. She was a little offended (or a lot, ask her). But in my view, while I love having my daughter back as much as possible, she is now an adult, and she resides here as an adult, not in "her room". And this doesn't change that I LOVE her. I LOVE having her here. My love has nothing at all to do with that room. Actually, I am very proud that she is now an adult with her own home. We talk almost every day. I help her decorate her new home. I boast of her merits to my friends and siblings. And I store a lot of her stuff in my attic.
In your case, there is an empty room which would be immensely valuable for someone, and the fact that you once occupied it is not relevant. Let it go. And do what you can to help her in her terrible tragedy
posted by mumimor at 4:24 PM on December 17, 2013 [9 favorites]

Yeah, I'd get as much of the stuff that might remind her of being a kid out of there as I could and try to give her a blank room for her to re-invent herself in. If she's arty, maybe leave some of the art stuff- better yet, that is a good lead in to talking to her: "hey, all my art stuff is in the basement, do you paint? draw? sculpt? make macaroni ducks?"

As far as how to interact with her/manage your feelings, lead with courage. That this is happening speaks to the goodness and trustworthyness (sic) of your family. Giving up your old space, perhaps even for a year or two at most, might be the best gift Lucy can get this year. Also she's a bit younger than you it seems, that gives you a good way to set boundaries if you need to, and provide casual, hey-I'm-nearly-as-young-as-you companionship if you want to. Just play it cool, listen well and be an adult about things.
posted by vrakatar at 4:26 PM on December 17, 2013

Even if this young woman wasn't coming to stay with your parents, I think that by the time you reach your late 20's your childhood room should be cleared of your belongings. They're yours and you should take what you want and get rid of the rest. Having a room act as a frozen-in-time shrine of your youth isn't a benefit to your parents. If you can't take all of your items home with you, store them somewhere other than her new room.

The best way to make this young woman welcome is to make the room her's by taking out everything that's yours. Let her make the space her own without having to navigate how to work around your old items. She may feel too bashful to ask to move or rearrange your things. Make it easy for her by leaving the room totally clean and empty. A fresh coat of paint and general freshening (new bedding, a plant, and other small updates) can make it seem like it's a place that's her's rather than a place where she's a temporary guest.

In terms of how to interact with her, let her take the lead when it comes to discussing her emotional trauma, but let her know that you're very happy that she's there. Let your relationship grown naturally and let your Mom, who is close with Lucy, help you two get acquainted. She's obviously a lovely young woman if your Mom has become so close to her. Trust your Mom's judgement and you'll likely gain a wonderful new friend.

As for private time with your parents, carve out time when Lucy is not around. Otherwise, there's plenty of special visiting that can happen even if Lucy is around. Your relationship with your parents is the same. I think that you'll find that the actual transition will be much easier than what you're anticipating. You're an adult who has been living 900 miles away - you and your parents have already transitioned your relationship. I think once you're in the midst of it, the upendedness won't feel nearly as strong as it feels now.

When I was no longer living at home, my parents took in various young people who needed a transitional home for various reasons. Although the thought of having strangers in the house seemed slightly disconcerting to me, when I actually went home to visit, I found that these strangers were delightful people and I'm still friends with many of them today.
posted by quince at 4:33 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Firstly, echoing Mistress, it sounds like you are handling this with a lot of grace.

Here's what I would do.
Firstly, I would essentially claim the guest room as your new room, if your parents are ok with that. Ask if you can put your artwork up, if you want to, move a bookcase in if possible, maybe chose some soft furnishings etc so that when you go home you can still stay in "your" room, but your adult bedroom in your parents' house, rather than your childhood one. Whatever you want to keep maybe store in the attic or bring back to your current home. Throw/recycle the rest. It's an abrupt transition but its one that we all have to make some day. My childhood room became a guest room when my mum ran a b&b from her home for a while. One compromise was for me to keep one wardrobe which I kept an edited selection of childhood stuff in, which is locked, with the other one for guest use. Is this an option for you? Clear out as much of the room as you can, and try to view it as starting a new chapter - it's leaving your childhood behind and that is sad, but it's moving into a new phase of adulthood or however you prefer to phrase it.

What I would then do is leave her a "welcome" basket of some kind. Could you and your mum go shopping, maybe pick out some new towels, or new bedclothes, or some things you think you might like or need if you were moving into a new place? Maybe just something inexpensive like a little package of fancy soaps. It could be a fun experience and a way to spend some time together. If you could handle it and your parents don't mind, if its affordable, what about picking up a colour chart and leaving it for her and inviting her to pick a new colour for the room?

I would also get or make a card for her, and I'd think about writing in it some of what you said here. That you don't know her very well, you're sorry for what she's been through, that you're pleased for how well she seems to be doing, and that you're glad she will be coming to live eith your parents. Admit that you are not sure how things will be, and there may be some adapting to do all round, but that she is welcome, and that you are happy for her to approach you and talk or not as she'd like. Maybe suggest a girls night in for the first time you'll be together, so you can end on a light note.

Finally, in terms of your own feelings, the main thing is to be aware of them and own them. It's an upheaval. You will likely feel some jealousy, so don't think this makes you a bad person just because she has been through something traumatic. When mum ran the guesthouse she had some exchange students stay for a few months, and I used to get songs of jealousy when she talked about them. You might get a little "oh it's Lucy this and Lucy that..." That's ok, you're only human, and we're territorial. What helped me was to remember that at the end of the day you are their daughter and you come first, but like you said, they are doing a wonderful thing, and she will help them not to feel lonely and give them someone to fuss over.

You are also doing a wonderful thing, being so accepting and supportive. Just relax, allow the next few months to unfold, and be patient with yourself as you navigate a new part of your life. She's very lucky to have all of you. Take care.
posted by billiebee at 4:34 PM on December 17, 2013 [10 favorites]

I agree that if you can get the room cleared out as much as possible, that would be ideal. (Will you have a chance to meet with her while you're there? You could ask for her input, too, though she'll likely err on the side of politeness and tell you to do as little as possible, so keep that in mind.)

As for the elephant in the room, I'd probably say something like, "I'm really glad you're here," with all the sincerity that's evident in your post. Depending on how involved you plan on being, you could follow it with, "Please let me know if you need anything," or -- ONLY IF YOU'RE PREPARED TO DISCUSS IT WITH HER -- "Please let me know if you ever want to talk about what happened."

(It's totally ok to be not ok with talking to her about it, in which case don't offer. People dealing with trauma generally get fairly good at figuring out who's open to discussing it and who's not, and a lot of times those two groups don't actually map very well onto the closeness of the previous relationships. Some people are just better at talking about difficult things than others.)

Basically, because you know what happened, and because she knows you know what happened, I think just a brief reference to your shared knowledge will help alleviate the feeling that either of you is walking on eggshells, without it being pushy or intrusive.
posted by jaguar at 4:35 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Clear your stuff out of the room and let go of that room -- it's not yours anymore. Before my mom moved out of my childhood home, she repainted my bedroom a couple of times. So while it was a familiar space, it wasn't mine. But that was cool. I had my own place and my own room. I didn't need it anymore.

(One of the last times I stayed at my mom's house, I was relegated to room she used to rent out -- my brother and his wife were in "my" room. But I felt OK with that. It wasn't my room. It hadn't been in a while. And it's someone else's room now -- someone I don't even know.)

If painting/decorating is at all possible -- it would be cool to ask what she wanted. If there's money to do so, even just telling her to go to Target or such and pick out sheets and a comforter for her bed can be really powerful. It's her room now. I wouldn't do it in a condescending way, like you're giving her permission to have your room, but it might be fun to go with her.

As far as interacting with her goes, even with her circumstances, she's still a person with thoughts and emotions and opinions and likes and dislikes. Even with the age difference, you're both young women. I imagine she may need a friend who's older (but still closer to her age), given what she's going through. Even as an introvert, I'm amazed at how easy it is to find a common topic to discuss with people.

Good luck to you. I'm glad you're thinking about all of this but I don't think you need to worry too much.
posted by darksong at 4:38 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree with all the comments about making "your" room completely neutral before she moves in, so it can be "her" room. My parents moved so often, I never had the shock of "my room" no longer being mine when I returned home from college or as an adult, so let me just say, your parents love you and you are still their child, even without your room still there. I know, it's obvious, but say it out loud, think about it and own it. You know it's okay to let that physical space go--like winna says, be kind to yourself, but you know you're okay.

I recently saw this cartoon about the difference between sympathy and empathy, which stressed that sympathy is about creating distance and offering a fix and empathy is about creating a connection and offering humanity (there's a link to the longer talk, too).

I think in your interaction, you should try to be comfortable with the fact that nothing you say or do will offer a solution or a fix, but that you can offer her a safe place. Make no demands on her, just tell her you're glad she's here and you hope she's comfortable and that you are sorry for her losses.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:41 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, in terms of "pouring salt on open wounds," it's really, really hard to do so in the case of a tragedy this big. She's not really going to forget that a parent killed her other parent; bringing it up in a sympathetic way is not going to "remind her" of it, because she's unlikely not to have it present at some level in her consciousness pretty much constantly. The weird thing for trauma survivors is almost always when other people don't mention it, rather than when they do.

The exception would be bringing it up in some sort of passive-aggressive way ("Gosh, looks like you're having a good time! I bet your parents would be upset to see how happy you are right now!"), which I somehow, given the tone of your post, doubt you'd even consider doing.
posted by jaguar at 4:43 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

[This is a followup from the asker.]
Thanks so much for all the excellent advice so far. I'd like to address one misconception that has come up in the thread. My childhood bedroom has not been kept as an inactive shrine to me— far from it. I have small cousins who live in my hometown who, up to now, have used that bedroom regularly for sleepovers at my parents', and part of the appeal for them is that they get to play with all my things and read my books, etc. While it has always been available for me when I return home, and while it contains my childhood things, it has been the designated "kids' room" since that time. I realize that my question may have made it seem frozen in amber, but my parents have had quite a lot of use for it over the past decade as a bedroom for my cousins' frequent visits. My parents kept my things in it because that's the way they wanted it until now. I'm sorry if my question made it sound otherwise. Pardon my intrusion; please carry on.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:56 PM on December 17, 2013

I'll just address the last part of your question, with all the authority vested in me by virtue of being a parent:

Your parents love you and couldn't replace you with Lucy even if they wanted to. You are you, their child that they've loved since you were conceived, the thing that's kept them going in their darkest moments, the thing they're proudest of and love the very most.

As to how to make your peace with having another person in the house, I think that if you let your folks see that you embrace your own role in welcoming Lucy, you will find that they are even prouder of you, and that your bond grows even stronger. Now you will be one of the grown ups, on the team that works to protect and help the kids.

Good luck and thank you for doing this for this girl.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:11 PM on December 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

I have some experience with the situations you are facing. A childhood friend of mine experienced the death of one parent at the hands of another. She didn't come to live with my family afterwards, but I was close to her during the aftermath of the event. In addition to that, my mother has a roommate who is younger than her and who moved into my childhood home shortly after I moved out. So I can address both of your issues from my own perspective.

My friend whose parent was killed by her other parent didn't want to talk about it with even her closest friends in the years following the event. She could talk in general ways about missing her mom or facing the grief but she was not comfortable talking about the murder or about the parent who committed the murder. I helped her by just being with her and relating to her about everyday things and about the emotions of grief and anger as they arose. Following her lead, I never addressed the issue of the murder or the second parent's incarceration. I did offer both her and her younger brother rides to and from therapy and meetings with their lawyer. She never took me up on this offer. So, in relation to my own experience, I don't know if I'd address the specifics of the murder in relating to her. I might, just kind of generally, say something like, "I'm sorry for your loss."

With regard to preparing your room and yourself for this person's new place in your parents' home: Absolutely clean all your stuff out of your childhood bedroom. Move it all out. Take what you can back with you when you return to wherever you live now and store the rest at your parents' home. It's her room now. It might be sad to lose your childhood room but it happens to every adult at some point. I think the fiction of the adult whose parents maintain their childhood room forever only really happens in the movies.

Emotionally, be prepared for some bittersweet or melancholy feelings and remember to do something nice for yourself. Maybe plan some extra time while you're home to get a massage, or spend time with old friends. Maybe take your mom out on a "mom and me" date. Do something for yourself that feels good to counteract any sadness you might have to face.

Good luck. I hope this new situation works out and benefits both your parents and the young woman they are welcoming into their home.
posted by dchrssyr at 5:15 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you have younger relatives who like to play with the old toys, maybe see if there's somewhere else in your parents' house that stuff can be kept, so that it's there when the young cousins come to visit, but not physically in Lucy's space.

It's exactly things like "but we can't move these toys because once a year, some distant relatives visit and play with them" that make a place not feel like home at all.
posted by Sara C. at 5:17 PM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

After your update - definitely get all your stuff out. I assume that your cousins will no longer be using that bedroom when they stay, and they should not be encouraged to feel like it's still the room they always played in and the stuff they have 'rights' to. Move the stuff they like to use or play with out into the guest room or some other location they can access it, and if possible do this and let them know about it before she is in your old room, so there's no awkward moment where they come to stay for the first time with her there and say 'but that's OUR room with OUR stuff!'
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:17 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you should get her a really nice, cozy blanket as a welcome gift, something both pretty and warm, which both acknowledges she is taking over your old bed and gives her a hug to wrap herself in.

Extra points if she loved care bears when she was 8 or whatever and you can find a care bears blanket.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:36 PM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

I wonder if you could ceremonially "say goodbye" to your room, your past, and the part of your life where respected members of your childhood town hadn't done something so dreadful. Like a candle or smudging or prayer or a little poem or something.

As to how to treat her, i'd say- let her guide you. I would personally be as unintrusive as possible- not bringing up the incident unless she did, but saying something like "I want you to feel welcome here. Let me know if you need anything from me. I'm sorry you're going through this", and let her response be your guide.
posted by windykites at 6:13 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

1) How should one interact with someone who has undergone this type of trauma, in general?

Demonstrate -- without fanfare or fuss, through action not words -- how one goes about living a life of quiet daily routines, small subtle kindnesses, and simple easy comforts.

Violent traumas can make these things seem far, far away and impossible for a long, long time. It can be a comfort just to see them and to interact with them.

Maybe this answer can be then applied to your other questions in some ways that seem right to you?

You and your family are obviously very kind and full of grace already. It will be appreciated for her lifetime.
posted by beanie at 7:38 PM on December 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

You seem to be a very kind person and your family sounds lovely. This situation is such a generous mix of feelings that have to be felt by all of you from different positions. As your parents are going to be standing in loco parentis, you are also being promoted to a kind of honorary 'big sister' if only by association. It's an awesome role and you get to be admired and even adored if you do it well. I think you will do well and I hope you can embrace the honor. This role is not about what you say but who you are and what you do.

I wonder if you might make a time, set it up with your mother, perhaps, and offer a few hours to help her paint her room--this could be an introduction as the two of you settle on a color she wants, texting paint chips or whatever, as well as a therapeutic way of handing over the space and even bonding a bit as you work together. It also could serve you as rite of passage because we all feel a little territorial and nostalgic about our childhood space; I think the child in us wants our world to be there always in case we need its comfort and it's easier to give something away than to have it taken.

I remember traveling (at age forty-something) back to the place I grew up and crying when I saw the pasture and woodland I had roamed as if it were my kingdom had been built over, and my grandfather's garden had disappeared under a noisy interstate highway. I never even found the little house. We grieve for every loss, a little or a lot. I'm surprised we aren't kinder because we all know this about each other: living and letting go just hurts and we have to be kind and find a way to laugh a little just to get by.
posted by Anitanola at 12:00 AM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

This is a tough situation and it's beautiful to read you and your parents are doing this.
I have lived in other's people houses/rooms, so I'll just advise on that.

I found that the more stuff there is of the previous or actual "owner" of the room, the tougher it got, because I'd get stressed out about moving or modifying things.

Because of this, I'd suggest taking out as much personal stuff out of there as possible, which could also include furniture.

At the same time, getting into a furnished room that has a history can also feel quite cosy and less of a transition than settling into a completely bare room. Maybe it's best to do this with her? Ask her if she'd like to keep any of the things, etc.
posted by ahtlast93 at 2:29 AM on December 18, 2013

After I moved away from home, I 'swapped bedrooms' with my younger sister because my old room had more windows and it just seemed fair. Her old room became the guest room, and it's where I sleep when I stay over.

I can say honestly that, although it was weird at first, I completely got over it, and now I don't even think of my old room as 'mine'. I don't have a room at my parents' house, and that's ok! I'm a grownup now! Someday they will move to a smaller place and neither of us kids will have a room, and that is also ok.

All the books I did not take with me when I left live in the guest room now, along with some of my other things, like a lamp, and my old toys are mostly in the attic, awaiting grandchildren. I'd move the things you or your young cousins would actually want into the guest room, but perhaps more 'tucked away' than they were in your room.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:59 AM on December 18, 2013

As for your update. I imagine the little cousins will need to use the same guest room you'll be using for sleepovers going forward. So discuss with your parents what, if anything, of your old stuff should be moved into the guest room to facilitate these sleepovers. Everything else gets put into storage/discarded/goes to your home. Give Lucy a chance to put her stamp on an empty room. If you are thinking about putting up different curtains or a new coat of paint involve Lucy.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:34 AM on December 18, 2013

The kindest thing you can do is to clear EVERYTHING out of there so that she can have the room for herself. A coat of paint and some new curtains would be excellent if that can be arranged.

As for your stuff, find a new place for it, either in your parent's house or in your own home. If you think your cousins would want some of the things, box them up and send them.

This is an excellent time to give your parents back the room they gave you as a child. You aren't a kid anymore, and you don't need to keep a room in your parents house.

If you feel that a little ritual is in order, you can probably sort that out. Perhaps do a sage smudge and a nice candle burning for good luck for the new resident in the room.

As much as you value your old things, to others, they're just clutter.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:13 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I find it difficult to say "no" directly to people if they ask me to my face if I want to keep their stuff. The last time it happened was when the previous owners of the house we bought asked if we wanted them to leave the "Enter a guest, remain a friend" motto on the front door and as our opinion of phrases as decorations is that we do not need written reminders, we turned it down, and it was sort of awkward all around.

If you want to make the offer, just putting everything in a box and letting her know that she can go through it later and take stuff or not at her leisure might be a better option.
posted by telophase at 8:19 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thank god there are people like you and your family in the world :)
One of the big things Lucy has not had is any control. Involve her as much as you can.. how would she like it to be? Or maybe you could find this out indirectly? Especially with decorating etc... perhaps.. making her actual mark. I'd take a guess if you could talk to the 'right' person who works in a fostering agency they could be useful???

You sound so kind-hearted but don't give everything away... I still have crap at my foges in my late 30's.. I somehow hesitate to sort.. we all crave some kind of secure base. Striking the balance between self care and hospitality could be tricky here.. go gentle on yourself if it takes a while to figure out. Doesn't everything?!
posted by tanktop at 2:08 PM on December 18, 2013

« Older How to share Google spreadsheet without...   |   Rap song on bandcamp with Vanilla Ice sample -... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.