When your kids fly off to start a life of their own and leave you with an empty nest, it can bring up a lot of difficult emotions — but also a lot of opportunities.
If you’re currently or about to experience this milestone, chances are that you are dreading it. The reality is that becoming an empty nester can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, after a brief period of adjustment, many empty nesters go on to discover a new purpose in their lives and enjoy their new chapter of life.
In this guide, we plan to explore the psychology and feelings of empty nesters, different strategies for handling an empty nest, tips for decluttering and downsizing your house, and the importance of estate planning.
Empty nesters are parents who are left with an empty nest so to speak when their children leave the home. According to Statistics Canada data from the 2016 census, the rate of growth since 2011 among couples living without children has been greater than among those couples living with children, at 7.2 per cent compared to 2.3 per cent, respectively. This can be attributed to the increase of baby boomers becoming empty nesters.
After years of managing schedules, checking homework, making lunches, and shuttling them to lessons, it can be difficult for empty nesters to know what to do with themselves when they’re not busy with the hustle and bustle of raising children.
Dealing with an empty nest can lead to empty nest syndrome, which refers to when parents have feelings of loss, sadness, depression, or loneliness when their last child leaves home. This syndrome is something all parents can be affected by, but some more so than others. Even for parents who actively encourage their kids to become independent and go out into the world, it can be a painful experience to let go of them.
Over the years, there may have been times that you couldn’t wait for the days when you would have an empty nest. You may have dreamed about everything you’d do once you had the freedom of an empty nest and are now surprised to find the new challenges you’re facing, including an abundance of time to spend and empty space to fill.
There are many different strategies to help parents cope with transitioning to an empty nest.
If you’ve become accustomed to having a jam-packed schedule attending your kids’ lessons, practices, or chauffeuring them around, suddenly having an abundance of time can amplify feelings of loss.
If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do or learn, now is a great time to invest some time in it. If you don’t have an activity or skill in mind, now is an excellent time to sit down and think about what kind of hobby you might like to pick up.
Whether it’s a weekly exercise class or challenge, cooking lessons, a new craft you can pick up watching YouTube videos, or a new sport, embrace the opportunity to commit to activities that you will enjoy and help provide you with a new sense of identity.
Consider auditing a university class about something you’ve always wanted to learn more about or starting a new business. Perhaps you’ll find purpose in volunteering in your community or maybe it’s time to travel more. For those with partners, take time to reconnect with your spouse, and for single empty nesters, maybe it’s time to meet someone new.
That being said, if you find yourself savouring the peace and quiet after years of the hustle and bustle, enjoy it. Spend time catching up on your reading list, doing puzzles or finding a new show to love.
Pretending everything’s fine won’t help avoid the inevitable feelings of loss, only delay them. Allow yourself to experience your feelings and all the highs and lows of this transitional period. Understand that everyone’s versions of coping will look different, and don’t compare yourself to how other people have handled the process or have appeared to handle it.
When you’re dealing with so many major transitions, the last thing you should be doing is making major life decisions in the immediate aftermath. While the rush of your newfound freedom may make you want to make some impulsive decisions, it’s important to remember this is just another phase of life.
Avoid making permanent decisions based on temporary situations. Just as with making significant life and financial decisions when grieving the loss of a loved one, experts suggest holding off until you’ve adapted and a sense of normalcy prevails.
Taking time to declutter can be an excellent way to relieve stress and process the emotions of dealing with an empty nest. You might be surprised at all the belongings that have been collected in your home after spending a couple of decades raising kids. You might still have their old toys, school assignments, clothes they’ve long since grown out of, and more.
Going through these items also allows you to go through belongings once more, feel connected to the past, rediscover emotional keepsakes, and decide to pass on particular items to family members.
It can actually be a fun process to redesign and organize spaces for new purposes and actually make your home more conducive to your needs. There’s no need to get rid of all your children’s belongings, but depending on what stage of life they’ve moved onto, you may want to pack away their old belongings to make space for new activities.
Think about what your needs are and repurpose these spaces into a home office, set up a home gym, or create a personal sitting room. NEATSPACES’ home organization services are always available to help declutter and organize your spaces for any purpose.
Empty nesters downsize for many different reasons. When you have an empty nest, you may find that you don’t need as much space as you once did. Downsizing your nest can make it feel less empty and help you better transition to this new stage of life.
As with any significant event, if you’ve decided to downsize, there are many things to consider. Figure out what you need in your new home to match the lifestyle you’re after and get the help you need to facilitate this transition.
- Take photos of your home before you begin
- Decide what you want to do with the belongings you choose to get rid of
- Know that you don’t need to do it all at once
- Prepare for a range of emotions
- Get professional assistance
If you are overwhelmed by the idea of decluttering and downsizing your home, consider using NEATSPACES to help you. We strive to make the process easier for our clients and always build trust when helping seniors downsize.
If your will no longer applies to your current situation, or you never actually made one, now is the time to create an up-to-date will and estate plan. You may need to make updates or add addendums, appoint your adult children as executors, or you realized that one child has trouble handling money and need to insert a special clause that can help protect their wellbeing. Here are the areas to pay particular attention to:
- Powers of Attorney: Naming a person who will be in charge of your financial or medical needs if you become incapacitated or unable to make these decisions yourself.
- Inheritances: Naming who the beneficiaries of your estate will be.
- Life insurance and retirement accounts: Review all of these policies and accounts to ensure the beneficiaries you’ve named are still who you want to receive them.
- Health care directives:- Expressing your wishes should you develop a disability or terminal illness.
Without estate planning, you risk your wishes not being known or followed in the event of illness or injury. Another reason to make a plan is to ensure your family members know what you want to happen with your possessions when you’re gone.
NEATSPACES provides estate clearing in Toronto and surrounding areas, to help alleviate some of the pressures that can come in these situations. Ensuring your estate plan is up-to-date will allow you to enjoy your empty nest years with peace of mind knowing your loved ones will be taken care of.