Quiet. Calm. Clean.
These are just a few of the adjectives that may come to mind when you return home after your youngest child leaves the nest. It’s the beginning of a new stage in life and your home may feel completely different.
No longer are you constantly kicking aside stray sneakers and picking up a trail of school papers. No longer are you sharing your living space with soccer gear and your freezer with boxes of frozen pizza and ice pops. You may even get the TV remote to yourself!
Now that the house has emptied out, it’s a great time to sift through the “stuff” that has piled up over the years. Maybe you’ve even decided to move to a new and smaller home. Whether you’re decluttering because your home has grown emptier or you need to get rid of half your belongings before you relocate, downsizing can be a daunting task.
Here are some tips to help you downsize as an empty nester.
Allow yourself to grieve, but stay positive
It isn’t easy to let go of precious mementos, give away the adorable baby outfits your oldest wore as an infant or say goodbye to the home that watched your family grow. Make these goodbyes a little easier by acknowledging your grief but putting a positive spin on your new stage. Yes, you are saying goodbye to playdates and PTA meetings, but you are entering a phase in life that will open up new vistas and opportunities you’ve never had before.
Clear out your closets
If your closets have not been purged since AOL CDs cluttered mailboxes, you might be looking at a mountain of outdated clothing to sort through and organize. Here’s how to make this job easy.
Set up four boxes near your closet. Mark one “giveaways,” one “keepers,” one “sell” and the last “dump.” As you sort through grunge tops from the ‘90s and neon jeans from the ‘80s, consider each item: Can you donate this, keep it, sell it or is it destined for the dump? Place each item in its designated box until you’ve gone through the entire pile.
When you’ve finished sorting through all your clothing, return the items in the “keepers” box to the closet, toss the junk, bring the giveaways to a clothing donation drop-off spot and sell what’s left on Poshmark.
Sell your spare furniture
Whether you’re relocating or staying put for now, your furniture needs will change when the kids have left home. Create space and earn some extra pocket money by hosting a garage sale for your unused furniture pieces. You can also sell spare drawer chests, desks and more on OfferUp or Craigslist.
Sift through your files
In the world before everything was digitized, important papers in a household could pile up like snow in a blizzard. The good news is you likely don’t need most of the papers you’ve been saving all these years. It’s time to clear out the pile!
Each of your files will likely fall into one of three categories.
The important paperwork includes personally identifying info and sensitive documents, such as birth certificates and Social Security cards for each child. Of course, you’ll need to save the original copies of these documents in a safe place.
On the other end of the spectrum are saved files that serve no purpose now, such as electricity bills from 1995 and pay stubs from your first post-college job. These can go straight into the shredder.
Finally, you’ll have documents that fall somewhere in between these two categories, such as medical records, tax returns and your children’s report cards. You can choose to keep some of these, or, if you’re short on space, scan each document and upload it to cloud storage.
Rethink your bedrooms
With all the kids out of the house, you can rethink the way you use your bedrooms. Have you always dreamed of a designated sewing room? How about using the space to indulge in your model train hobby? You can finally have that hobby room you’ve always wanted when the kids were growing up!
If you need to save some sleeping room for the kids when they come home to visit, you can keep a daybed in any converted bedroom for that purpose.
It’s a new stage in life, and it’s time to sift through the piles of junk that have accumulated over the years.
Your Turn: What are your best downsizing tips? Share them with us in the comments.