My 24-year-old son moved back home about a month ago. He quit a lucrative job in Silicon Valley as a software engineer, and decided that he needs to work for himself. You can read more about his story by reading his blog. This blog entry is about MY experience having my adult son's re-entry into my empty-nester life. So far, it's been amazing.
A few months before, Daniel had asked tentatively if we would "mind" if he stayed with us for a few months as he incubates a software app that he hopes will deliver enough recurring revenue to support a meager lifestyle. His plan is to move abroad, and live cheaply in a city that has great Internet infrastructure. But before doing so, he needed a place where he can minimize his expenses.
He sat me and my husband down and proposed some ground rules:
- He will pay for his own food, and keep his groceries separate from ours. (He is also following a strict meat-eater's diet counting macros, while we are mostly vegan.)
- He will clean up after himself, and not create a burden on us.
- He wants to develop a "roommate" peer relationship, rather than slip into a parent-child relationship.
Week 1: He moved in while my husband and I were on summer vacation in Hawaii with his sister. We returned to find the kitchen counters cleaner than when I left; and the refrigerator filled with his meal plan. Almost every glass food storage container was used, and we had little space to restock our vegan ingredients.
Week 2: He scrutinized our home and determined that we had too much clutter and junk, and he began a campaign to purge, clean, and tidy up. "If I'm going to live here," he said, "i need to feel comfortable." He began with the room he was staying in -- not the basement room where he spent his teen years, which we had already rented out, but his grandmother's room, which contained boxes of half-purged items. He spent a day moving her items out of the room, landing them in the hallway. It now became my job to deal with this pile, which I had been putting off for years.
Week 3: He proposes reorganizing our kitchen. Daniel has a growing interest in cooking, and he lusted after my huge gourmet kitchen, but grissed that it was so cluttered and disorganized that it was not functional. While I was at work, he unloaded every drawer, and placed everything onto the counters and dining tables, with post-its for me, such as: "why do you need six pairs of scissors?" To which I replied, "Ask your dad."
That weekend, we went to Bed, Bath & Beyond with a large stack of 20% off coupons, and bought new organizers for my kitchen drawers. $300 and a couple of hours later, we marveled at how much we loved opening our drawers. Everything had its own place. It was sparse, and we could find every item. I gave him a hug, and went to bed happy.
The next morning, my husband came downstairs and couldn't find anything. Daniel and I looked at each other, knowing that we need a training program for Dad to adapt to the new system. That training program consists of Daniel requesting to "talk" whenever the system broke down. I had successfully outsourced my longstanding frustrations, and could now sit back and watch a reformation effort that I had not succeeded at.
Week 4: Sometime between Week 3 and 4, Daniel asked if it would be okay for his friends from Stanford to visit over Labor Day Weekend. I happily agreed. With Labor Day being about 10 days away, this sent Daniel into overdrive. He purged closets, to make room for kitchen appliances. He tackled the family room drawers. He willed his dad to clean up his chaotic work-at-home desk, which sat in the open for all visitors to see.
We spent an entire weekend purging the items that were already in our garage, and made countless trips to Goodwill. But by the end of Day 1, I could access space in my garage that I hadn't seen for over a year, since my husband hurriedly moved everything in our basement room rental to the garage, so that our tenant could move in.
Of course, once we cleared that pile, a second generation of boxes came down from the main house, which I still must confront.
Week 5: We had successfully moved out of each room in our common living space and moved back in -- every drawer, every cupboard, every shelf. I knew this was the only way, but I did not have the energy or drive to start and see it through by myself. Daniel became the catalyst for this, often the motivator.
Week 6: We have more friends over to the house. Now, we're planning dinner parties.
If you have a millennial who might boomerang home, don't wince. It just might turn out to be positively life-changing!