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  • Writer's picturecathy king

Are you dealing with Empty Nest Syndrome?

The Meaning of Empty Nest

The empty nest can mean something different to everyone. I personally don’t think of myself as being in a fully empty nest scenario, although it certainly felt that way on August 29th when I dropped my youngest son off to college for his junior year.

I came home to find my house very quiet and a bit lonely. It was odd transitioning from a house where my son attended college remotely for over 18 months, due to the pandemic, to just me and my husband and our very old dog, Cinnamon. Although college drop-off is not new to me, it was like going through the same separation anxiety that I experienced two years ago when I dropped him off as a freshman. Somehow, I did not expect it to feel that way this time, but having him home for 18 months made it feel like high school to college all over again. This brings me back to a question, is this really an empty nest, or is it a temporary empty nest, and what should I be doing?

Is now the time to downsize?

I believe now is the time to assess what my plans are for this next period leading to retirement. I know that I plan to downsize since I do not have two children at home filling up the extra space. My home suddenly feels very big and empty and more work than I want to have on my hands.

My oldest son got married this year and lives with his wife in Florida in their new house. Therefore he is home only on rare occasions and there is very little left here that is his. He did a good job taking what he wanted with him and did not leave much behind for me to process. His old room is now his brother’s and I have converted one of the open bedrooms to my office. While it is important to not make your children feel like you are kicking them out, it is important that you are preparing for what your next stage of life will be. Remember that the memories are in your heart, not in your “stuff”.

The Next Chapter

Our family plan has always been that we will indeed sell our home in the future, and downsize to a smaller footprint with less maintenance while preserving the “stuff” that matters to us. So, as I deal with this empty nest syndrome, I am putting my energy to good use by taking the time to refinish my college son’s room, while maintaining a space for him to come home to. There is a good chance that when he finishes college he may land where it is warmer, and not necessarily home here in New England, as he has told us repeatedly. Every change that I make in my home now is with the forward-thinking of, “sell my home,” since my boys have clearly indicated that they do not see themselves making the Northeast a permanent location for them.

If you are like me and are planning to downsize, take the time now, before you are forced to do something quickly and maybe with less control. It can be a real eye-opener for people to suddenly be faced with emptying their home or trying to sell it, only to realize how much “stuff” they actually have. If you have time now, utilize it and be intentional about making the hard decisions about whether your “stuff” is really serving you, and if you really see it in use in your future. NOTE: meaning of “stuff” – Familial collection of material possessions that cannot be parted with for sentimental or personal reasons, that may or may not be serving your personal well-being. These items can include a random collection of large and small items that don’t necessarily make visual logical sense to anyone other than you, after all, it is your “stuff”.

Rome - You are not alone

Remember that Rome was not built in a day, and neither was your accumulation of “stuff”.

You can begin the process wherever you feel comfortable. Maybe no change is necessary, or you just need to talk about it. For anyone that is facing empty nest syndrome and wondering about what to do, you need to consider what you really want your future to look and feel like. The good news is that you are not alone, and you most likely have time on your hands. The following are a sample of questions that can help you find your way through the process.

  1. Do you plan to stay in your current house forever, or short term?

  2. Do you see your children wanting your home and all of your “stuff”?

  3. Do you see yourself retiring somewhere else?

  4. Do you really need all the “stuff”?

Do not for a minute think that your children want to deal with all of your “stuff”. They have their own collection of “stuff” starting and many do not have room for more “stuff” All of the answers to the above questions will help you define what you should do with your empty nest. I am here to help in this process and have some experience to even lend a sympathetic ear to your empty nest heart. Take the time now to build your new nest sized to meet your current needs. What does your next chapter look like?


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