I can remember the exact day when I returned home from bringing my youngest to college. If it wasn't tough enough having to give him a big hug and kiss, walk away, and know that I would not be seeing him again until the holidays, I had to then step into what felt to be my very empty house, trying not to trip over his old work boots and all of the things that he had left behind and had no use for anymore; sports equipment, scooter, pile of clothes that did not fit him anymore, and no teenagers roughhousing upstairs and yelling down "what do we have for a snack?"... you get my drift. My house suddenly seemed to feel really big and really empty. I can recall pouring myself a glass of wine, falling into my den sofa, and thinking to myself welcome to the "Empty Nester's Club"
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, I mean there's no more having to run to do all of their errands, needing to make sure that there's always food and snacks in the house and having dinner on the table when the kids come storming through the door at he end of the day. Although, I would give anything to have them back home, I know that this is where they are supposed to be in their lives. Even though the house feels different ... it's still home. This is where my children will come back to for vacations and holidays and swap out their seasonal clothes.
I will share some tips on downsizing that helped me adjust to my new found "empty-nester's status".
The very first thing that works for me personally as well as for my clients, is what I like to call "The Surface Clean-Up"!
The Surface Clean-Up is grabbing a big trash bag going room by room, starting from the door working your way from one end of the room to the other. As you walk through each room, you can toss old crumpled papers, magazines, newspapers, old scribbled notes, water bottles, beverage cans, candy wrappers and anything else that is covering the surfaces of your furniture. We have not yet begun to tackle drawers and closets. Only the surfaces.
DECLUTTER YOUR HOME
You can finally attack some of those projects that you have been avoiding for years ! If you are thinking of possibly downsizing to a smaller home, this is a good time to begin the purging process. I'm quite sure that you are standing in the middle of each room thinking to yourself "I cannot ever move... I have too many things... where would I ever store everything?" If you actually go through everything beginning with one room, one closet and one square foot at a time, I am confident that you will find that you don't even remember owning half of those things.
Clean out your closet which hasn't been sifted through since the 1990's or even maybe since the 1950's. Are knickers, or poodle skirts back in style? Invite your friends over and have a yesteryear fashion show with a bottle of wine. You'll all giggle your way through the past years with sweaters and blazers with big shoulder pads and denims with patches all over them. Anything that you haven't worn in years must go ! Remember those items that you thought about packing for your next trip that you tried on and rejected ? Those must go too ! You can sell some of your name brand articles on sites such as Poshmark, Etsy, Ebay or take to your local consignment shop. Whatever you cannot sell, you can donate to your local thrift shop or to other charities such as Vietnam Vets, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Lupis Foundation or any organizations that you may belong to, and receive tax credit.
When my children were around, I needed the utility of the desks and chest of drawers but now without them home, I had a lot of extra furniture. I hosted a few garage sales with friends and neighbors and even put a few pieces up for sale on Craigslist, Letgo and OfferUp, as well as on my local Facebook Marketplace page. I found that people were so appreciative of being able to purchase very good quality goods for a fair price and I even made some new friends and clients through the process. Keep anchors such as nightstands and beds and get rid of pieces that were more about functionality and form . I no longer needed three desks for homework anymore.
If you're a cook and baker like me, you've accumulated several boxes of cake mixes, bags of flour and sugar, bags of chocolate chips , etc. And even if you don't like to dabble in the kitchen, and just eat to survive, I'm sure that you've gathered up a few extra boxes of mac & cheese, cereals and maybe even a few extra cans of beans, cup of noodle soups, not to mention a fair number of Taco Bell hot sauce packets. Two thirds of this food is most likely expired or stale. If it's still good but you won't eat it, take it over to the food bank. If it's expired, toss it .
We also tend to collect endless gadgets and appliances over the years. Start a Goodwill box for anything that you have not used in a while such as the blender, Kitchen Aid mixing set, that weird banana hanger you received as a gift (you don't even eat bananas) or that avocado slicer (even though a knife works just fine). You may have also accumulated a ridiculous amount of extra silverware, stemware, dishes, small appliances and pots & pans. Though your children may be living in campus housing now, they may be able to use these items when they set up their first apartment. It could be nice to begin to build a "starter kit" for each of them for the near future.
Files and Papers/Receipts
You have everything from your birth certificates and insurance policies to your gas station and supermarket receipts. Some paperwork such as your birth certificates, insurance policies and wills, you will need to save the originals. With other papers such as receipts, statements and medical records, you can scan and shred. Purchase a portable scanner and upload your important files onto an external hard drive. This way you can trash all of those unwanted file boxes in your basement, office and garage to free up space.
If you are like me, you have lots of boxes with printed photos in them. Now would be a great time to create albums. Scan photos into the computer and use Shutterfly, Costco or other sites to create books. If you have any 4 x 6 photos, you can organize and place them into sleeved albums. These are great keepsakes to show to your children's significant others to embarrass them when they come home for a visit or to show your grandchildren.