Let’s look at empty nesting and clutter clearing. I have officially been an empty nester for about three months—a huge life change. Change is hard. Many of us struggle with change. I want to be proactive about it rather than reactive. I am still learning as I look at the new emptiness in bedrooms, closets, laundry baskets, and even the refrigerator! Now I “get” to own that the clutter that remains is just mine! Here are some of my realizations: I can see that life is changing. Priorities are changing. What is clutter in our life is changing too. Here are ideas to process the clutter of an emptying or empty nest:
Weed out the junk now—while you are healthy, able, and not under a time crunch. Don’t wait until you suddenly need to move due to changing health circumstances. If you don’t weed the junk out now, how are others supposed to distinguish between trash and treasure? Only you know what is memorabilia and what is junk in your home. With the stuff of my children basically gone, I don’t have any excuses left. There is a small caveat here: I will hang onto their memory boxes until they are moving less frequently and really ready to have them. This is a maturity issue too and you will know when your children are ready as adults for their childhood items.
Of course, you can choose to let family members weed out later, and if you do there may be arguments about who gets what and disagreements about where things should go (keep/sell/donate/trash). More important, information about family heirlooms could be lost. Good stuff could be lost and bad stuff could be kept because the sorters are not as knowledgeable about your stuff as you are.
Help your family. Label and write down who gets what today while you are healthy! Attach the family stories that belong to items to the items themselves where possible. Give details: Who owned it? When and how was it obtained? What is the story that goes with the item? Who in your family gets what? If you take the time to put that in writing now, you may save your children arguments and hurt feelings that last for years. No one really wants that, but we all have seen it happen to someone in our lives.
Consider passing some things on today to see the smile and hear the “thank you.” Do this before they have had time to run out and buy their own stuff and have no need for your extra stuff, and the bonus is that you will de-clutter at the same time! Think about things like Christmas ornaments, extra serving dishes, extra glassware, and even furniture. If you are planning on downsizing at some point, then now is the time to share. Also, don’t “guilt” them into accepting things they don’t want.
Save the memories. Capture your stories now whether offspring are ready or not. It is nice if a younger person in the family is interested enough to interview you and record your story. If not, take the initiative. You can record it yourself in writing or make a video or audio record. The memories and stories will eventually be appreciated by someone in the family even if they are too busy to hear these stories today.
Make sure you have a current will, a health declaration, and funeral/burial wishes in writing. It sounds grim but death is a reality of life. Hopefully, you can share this information with a trusted family member. Unforeseen circumstances often happen, so choose someone you trust to do their best for you if you aren’t in a position to voice your wishes. Discuss what kind of life prolonging you would want if you were at that point both with or without your mental and/or physical capacities long term. You won’t be able to foresee every contingency, but a loved one will have a better chance of honoring your wishes if you take the time to discuss some of the “what if’s” with them.
Prepare an emergency folder that would direct someone about your finances (banks, assets, debts…) if they had to step in to manage your financial affairs for you for a time. This is not revealing personal information about your assets to someone right now. It is just telling them where the informational folder can be found if you became unable to manage things on your own.
Live life today. No more postponing. The reality of life is that it is limited. As a two-time cancer survivor, I am especially aware of this. We truly don’t know what tomorrow will bring—good or bad. Make a bucket list and work on checking items off of it! Now is the time to do what you enjoy. Enjoy your hobbies. Spend time doing your passion. Travel while you are physically able. Do whatever “it” is now. Go ahead—clear the clutter, enjoy the empty nest and pursue your priorities!
Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life, a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips readers may pick and choose from to fit their personal style. She is also a breast cancer and melanoma survivor who wrote Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We’ll get you through this. Free monthly clutter clearing tips newsletter at http://www.clutterclearingchoices.com.