By Shelley Murphy
These past few months, it seems the only consistency in our household is change.
For instance, in one day we went from a full house to an empty nest.
After months of quarantining together, my older son and his girlfriend left our house and drove to his Bay Area apartment.
That same morning, my younger son moved out of our house and took his belongings to a townhome in Newport Beach.
Though my older son and girlfriend went back to Northern California, they returned to San Clemente to celebrate his birthday last weekend.
The pair arrived in time to mark my son’s milestone and, coincidentally, the annual observance of Crowded Nest Awareness Day on June 12.
Crowded Nest Awareness Day recognizes the condition of Crowded Nest Syndrome, which occurs when parents, who adapted to the quiet of their empty nest, grapple with the return of their grown-up kids.
Although the origins of this lesser-known holiday are uncertain, it’s an actual observance with gifting guidelines, including noise-canceling headphones and cleaning-service contributions.
I haven’t contracted Crowded Nest Syndrome, since my nest sits in a constant state of flux, seesawing between deserted and chock-full.
With each home coming and going, I shuffle piles of stuff from one room to the next, clearing space for my rotating roommates.
I can’t recall my “aha” moment, but amidst schlepping my displaced items, it occurred to me that I could dispose of the clutter cramping my quarters.
As soon as I started cleaning and clearing the junk, my serotonin levels soared, and I increased my scope to include repairing, renovating, and revamping my nest.
I attribute my ambition to the hours I spent in quarantine watching fixer-upper programs showcasing inspiring home improvement projects.
It’s a sure sign the times are turbulent when I’m spending more time at Lowe’s than Nordstrom.
By the way, based on the crowds I encounter on my many trips to Lowe’s, I’m not the only one tackling new shopping territory.
My do-it-yourself projects continue moving forward, but adhering to the advice of professionals would’ve streamlined my process.
I tried to follow the techniques of organizing guru Marie Kondo and implement her KonMari Method of cleanup. Kondo believes if you tidy your space, you can transform your life.
But I didn’t take the time to put my items into categories, nor did I follow her steps and save sentimental items for last.
Instead, I followed only one rule: I kept all the items that “spark joy,” which amounts to a surprising stockpile of stuff.
Cleaning the garage reunited me with old friends I’d forgotten. In dusty black trash bags, I discovered the outdoor pillows I bought on clearance last August; an oversized container revealed my favorite dining room curtains I couldn’t find; and a weathered, cardboard box held pretty pots for replanting my frumpy ferns.
The producers of the show Hoarders aren’t about to knock on my door, but I do admit I’m struggling to separate from some of my sentimental stuff.
I saved the yellowed report cards my boys collected throughout school, as well as their collection of Pokemon cards that consumed their childhoods—and my bank account.
I also confess to keeping my older son’s duffel bag from his freshman year on the San Clemente High School cross country team—I don’t know why.
Perhaps it’s the recent months of upheaval causing me to clutch tighter to my treasures; my timeworn keepsakes comfort me, connect me to the ones I love and symbolize the history we share.
Reclaiming my mementos, I had a change of heart. I’m not ready to transform my life; instead, I rather like the thought of time standing still for a moment.
So, for now, I hope Kondo doesn’t care if I continue clinging to my cluttered keepsakes that bring me joy.
For more than 20 years, Shelley Murphy and her husband have lived in San Clemente, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.