8 Things I Learned Through Empty Nest Decluttering

Once your kids grow up and leave the house, you have to deal with an entirely different type of decluttering that I like to call empty nest decluttering. My youngest child moved out of the house a few years ago and I’m still decluttering from the time everyone lived at home.

I realized that people aren’t coming back for what they left here and we realized that we have too much stuff. I wanted to talk through the process of how to declutter your home after the kids have left.

1. Mismatched towels

I’ve realized some things in just the past few months. For example, even with all the kids gone, I was still using mismatched towels and keeping towels in my linen closet for a family of eight! I realized I had not yet used the new towel sets that were gifted to me. But we do things out of habit.

I now understand we need to think about doing things in a different way because our lives have changed as empty nesters. This is no longer a home with a family of eight. It’s a home for a family of two.

2. Extra beds and dressers

We had lots of extra beds and dressers in this old farmhouse. Each kid took their full bed with them when they moved out but I still had twin beds in the house that I had stored when they outgrew them. We stored the twin beds, forgot about them, and never thought about them again!

3. Forgetting about stored items

I think a lot of people go through this. They switch things out as their kids get older and forget to deal with them by selling, donating, or trashing the items. I do remember thinking, “Oh, well they will come home to visit so I need to keep these things.”

But they won’t all come home to visit at the same time and we don’t have the kind of house that can accommodate six kids plus spouses and grandkids. One kid usually comes to visit at a time and they may or may not stay overnight. I never had a full household at the same time.

Feeling free after decluttering

4. Feeling free

So I decluttered the towels and kept just a few extras. I had so many towels in this one cabinet that the door didn’t shut. When I decluttered, it was such a freeing feeling. And the door shuts now!

The same thing goes for sheets, blankets, pillows, and everything else that came with a family of eight. But out of habit, I just kept all of those things.

5. Unstuffing closets and drawers

I also started to realize that we as humans tend to fill space whenever we find it. If there’s a space to fill, we fill it! People with closets fill up every inch. People like me with extra dressers fill up every drawer. And we rarely go back into these closets or dressers.

So I had to go back into all those hidden areas to find things we just didn’t need anymore. So what did I find? Mismatched socks and mittens! I did make use of some of the things–I made draft stoppers by stuffing these items and sewing them together.

Upcycling house items

6. Upcycling

I realized I had to make use of all this stuff in a different way in order to declutter. For example, we had so many balls and bikes and all of them were flat! Flat tires and flat balls! I kept the softballs but tossed the rest.

7. Feeling the emotions of letting go

Sometimes realizing that those days are over–when we played with all those balls–can be very emotional. It’s a process to go through. But it’s okay to let things go if those days are over because there are other happy days ahead.

There are happy days ahead with grandkids, spouses, traveling, and other celebrations–they just aren’t the same type of days you had when you were raising a family and you don’t need those same things to move forward. Those items are just weighing you down.

8. Games, games, games

Then I took a look at the game shelf. As you can imagine we had a humongous amount of games though the kids did take some with them.

When the kids visit they bring newer games they want to play. I started giving those games away or giving them to the grandkids if they ask for them.

Empty nest decluttering

7. Expectations

It’s crazy for empty nesters to think that we need to keep all of this stuff. Kids don’t visit nearly as often as we think they will because they have their own lives to live and families to raise. It’s almost an unhealthy idea that we need to keep everything from their childhoods for the sporadic times they visit.

8. Mismatched dishware

I also just realized, my goodness, I still have mismatched and chipped bowls, plates, and dinnerware. I still have plastic cups and souvenir mugs–all these things I used when the kids were growing up!

It never dawned on me until recently that I don’t have to live with mismatched dishes that crowd my cabinets for a family of eight. I can have a nice matched set for every day that I don’t have to worry about breaking all the time.

Empty nest decluttering

I hope my decluttering process has helped you feel better about getting rid of things if you are an empty nester. I am still thinking about what else in this house “feels” like there are still eight people living here.

If you’ve gone through this, could you please share that in the comments? It could help everyone else out there going through this empty nest syndrome.

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2 of 7 comments
  • Bet48904432 Bet48904432 on Jul 17, 2023

    We were a family of six and have started the decluttering process. It is nice to open a closet or cabinet and find an empty shelf. Good luck!

  • A beautiful sight! I find myself looking in the cabinet everytime I walk through the room!