Downsizing Tips for Empty Nesters

The kids are grown. Moved out of the house. It’s your time, now. A new chapter. Time to figure out your next step. Maybe retire? Maybe move to a new city? At least a smaller house. Who needs all that room and upkeep anymore, anyway! Right?

As alluring as these possibilities are, starting over can be … well … daunting, to say the least! Here’s some tips to help you explore first steps to your new life, even if you don’t yet know what that new life looks like!  

Empty Nesters

Attitude is everything!

Sorting through allllll the stuff that make for lifetime memories can cause any self-respecting Empty Nester to break a sweat! Think in increments: “one step at a time.” Decluttering is best seen as creating space for new ideas and next steps to reveal themselves. It’s an adventure. A step into your future self! You don’t need to know where you’re going to begin the journey. All you have to do is be willing to make room for new possibilities.

This process, like anything in life, is much easier when you’re not under the gun to get it done. Don’t push. Go at a leisurely pace. It’s also much better to do it when you can, not when you have to.

Buried treasure is neither buried nor is it treasure.

OK. Here’s the hard truth: Nobody values or wants your stuff as much as you do! Memories of a life well lived understandably make it hard to part with mementos that mean something to you. But that was then. This is now! Kids’ Halloween costumes. Boxes of old travel brochures. File cabinets stuffed with resumes and meeting agendas since 1992. Prom dresses! Soccer uniforms! Let. Them. Go!

Decluttering is actually a cathartic process. Those who do it feel free and less burdened when it’s done.

Once you clear out your physical space, staying where you are may be the right next step. Maybe you add a private entrance and turn the playroom into a granny flat. Maybe you install an elevator to the second floor. Maybe you set up a guest room.

Gunther Bedroom Set

Or a hobby room.

Angelica Desk

Or a home office.

Felicity Desk

Or rent a room to a college student or a visiting professor at your local university. Renting a room on a short-term basis on Airbnb can be more profitable than renting it full-time.   

Who knows? But you won’t begin to know what you can do now with your family home until you sort through what was, give it it’s just due, and let it go.

Stop Saying the “D” Word!

To some people, “downsizing” implies a sense of “less than,” an intimation of loss. Buck up! The trick to staying motivated through this process is to focus on what you’re gaining not on what you’re losing. Reframe this process by calling it what it really is, “rightsizing.” (1)

Think of what’s next as what’s coming, what’s now “right” for you. More affordable? More convenient? More comfortable? “More” suggests better; it evokes abundance. “More consciousness” opens your mind to everything you need to create the right next step.

Commit to a reasonable timeline and a system that works for you.

Give yourself at least six months, start to finish, to decide what stays and what goes. Your mission isn’t to empty your house at any cost or in one fell swoop, but to get rid of what won’t help you create the lifestyle you need to go forward. (2)

Some people declutter room by room; some declutter by categories or in layers. If you’re feeling stuck, get rid of the obvious: things you haven’t used in years, like skateboards, mismatched silverware, clothes that don’t fit, or furniture that’s outlived its usefulness.  

If letting go is too hard to manage by yourself, hire a professional organizer who can bring a detached perspective to the sorting and help you laugh your way through your collection of Hawaiian shirts and blazers with shoulder pads. Start a Goodwill box. Host an estate sale. Post specialty items on Craigslist. Create albums of family photos for the kids at Shutterfly. Give desks or sports equipment your kids used to the young family who moved across the street. It’s a great feeling to know your stuff will be loved by others as it was loved by you.

And sure enough, over time, little by little, your future will be revealed.



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