Families: Empty The Nest? Ha!

Long after your kids have left home, their childhood stuff remains to mark their place

Elaine Williamson's three offspring, all in their 30s, are long gone from the family's New York City apartment. They're settled in homes around the country, married, with children of their own. So, why, Elaine wants to know, is her home still jammed with Ann's childhood books; Elizabeth's bridesmaid's dresses; and Jim's surfboard, bicycle and shoes? Has she ever asked them to take these things? Williamson, a science teacher, laughs: "All the time!"

This tug-of-war between generations over stuff and space is being played out by countless families across the country. Some believe it's merely a nuisance or a practical storage problem,...

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