A photograph of the backs of four older teenagers walking away from the camera through a park

Empty nester with your kids’ clutter still around?

So the time has come and your kids are leaving home - being an empty nester is a bittersweet feeling. The problem is that as your kids grow up, they’ll amass what seems a lifetime of junk in just a few years. So when they leave the family home it can be doubly emotional: you feel like you’ve lost your child, but kept all their clutter.

So do I follow my head or my heart?

Time it right

You may be chomping at the bit to get into their room and start throwing things out. But just remember that these things defined your child’s life. They may not be ready to come back from university for their first visit to see all their precious belongings gone (and you may not be ready to see a room stripped of your child’s personality). Take things one step at a time and include them in deciding what’s special or useful – and what’s not.

Get started

Putting in a four to five hour shift will give you the momentum to continue and finish the job. Use different coloured bin bags for charity donations, things to sell and stuff for the tip – and boxes, marker pens and labels to categorise what you want to keep.

Ask yourself do they use it? Do they need it? Do they love it? If your child is becoming resistant, delve deeper: would they take it to their own home? Be prepared for your child to object, but they may surprise you with their ruthlessness. You might be a clutter free empty nester sooner than you think.

Manage emotions

Decluttering your house when you're an empty nester evokes a range of emotions. You and your child may feel guilty about things you’ve never used or about throwing away gifts, sentimental about special memories or wasteful for discarding things that may still be useful.

Try to only keep what is truly beneficial for the future. For sentimental items, it’s all about editing the highlights of our lives. Keep only those items that give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Display or store special collections carefully if they have monetary value. And with clothing – if it’s not already in their new homes, it’s time to say goodbye.

Stay focused

Focus on what you want the room to look like. Be practical and think about how often your child is going to stay. Only an occasional guest? Store the remainder of their stuff in the loft, and you may be able to repurpose the room for the home office, craft room or gym you’ve always dreamed of. If they will be regular visitors, you may need to think about new storage solutions that will allow the room to be multipurpose.

Don't dump

Don’t ignore the clutter: it has a nasty habit of expanding. It’s all too easy to overlook clutter in a room that’s not used every day. If you start to gradually put your own clutter into your child’s room, before you know it you have another dumping ground. Your empty nest will be full of all the wrong things!

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