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Redecorating My Daughter’s Childhood Bedroom

Years ago, there was a commercial for the office store, Staples. It portrayed two parents waving sadly as their child drove off to college. Then they dried their tears and started converting their child’s bedroom to a home office. I never had any intention of doing that. I always wanted my kids to know that they had a place in our home whenever they returned.

And yet, three years into my daughter’s college education, we decided it was time to do just that—convert her room into something else. It’s not that we didn’t want her to have a place to come home to; it’s that we realized she had changed from the girl that once lived there and the room was no longer the right space for her to feel at home in our home.

When my oldest daughter was away for her first year of college, I would get sad when I walked past her bedroom. It was hard to see the space that had once been piled high with books on the desk and clothes on the floor so perfectly organized. Which is kind of ironic since many of our arguments while she was in high school were about the chaos of her room. The room that was once filled with life and movement was now so painfully empty that I mostly kept the door closed to avoid looking in.

The room also made me melancholy because I knew it wasn’t a space my daughter ever loved. We moved to that house right before my daughter entered high school and it never felt like home to her. We tried to recreate what she had in the old house, using the same furniture and same paint color as before, but it never felt the same to her. I thought it would just be a matter of getting used to the new space. But it wasn’t only the move that made her unhappy; it was also the transition from one stage in her life to another.

My daughter lived her childhood in our old home. In the new house, she was a teenager with all the drama, insecurities, and disagreements that go along with those years. I realized that the sadness I felt when I walked past her room wasn’t just caused by the fact that she no longer lived there. It also stemmed from the tense years that had led up to her leaving. The teen years had been rough for her, and for our relationship.

Fortunately, college is a time of growth and she did just that. She wasn’t the same teenager when she came home to visit us now. And we weren’t the same parents. We treated her as the adult she had become and we wanted her space in our home to reflect that.

We decided to give away her furniture and repaint her room. Her trundle bed, dresser, bookcase, and desk were all bought when she was in elementary school. Many of the books on those shelves hadn’t been read in years and the earmarked pages were collecting dust. Her bed was a twin, perfect for her as a little girl who was finally big enough to move out of her crib, but tiny for the woman she was now.

Awards and photos from high school still hung on the walls.

It was time to pack up this chapter of her life and embrace the next one.

I thought that giving away her furniture would make me sad, but it had the opposite effect. We found an organization a few towns away that helps families in need. A family who had lost everything in a fire was able to use our donations to furnish their daughter’s new room. It was time to pass all of it on.

When my daughter visits, usually once a month now that she’s graduated from college, she stays in what was previously the guest room. She has a double bed and new pillows and, without realizing it, she followed Marie Kondo’s rule of only keeping what brought her joy. The Harry Potter books, the Playbills from shows she has seen, and two beloved stuffed animals have helped personalize her new room. Updating her room made her feel comfortable in our home.

Other ways to help your teen coming home:

My daughter doesn’t live here anymore, and she doesn’t think of this as her home. Her home is the apartment she chose and pays for herself. Instead, she is our special guest—treasured, loved, and appreciated. She is always welcome here and her new space says just that.

Randi Mazzella

Randi Mazzella is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, midlife issues, and family life. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including The Washington Post, The Fine Line and The Girlfriend. She is a frequent contributor to Your Teen for Parents. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.