The children are grown and you’re ready for the next chapter full of adventures. It’s the time of life where your time and your space becomes your own. Embrace the journey with some organizing tips for areas that empty-nesters generally struggle with.
It can be both a blessing and a curse. The process of downsizing can feel overwhelming even for self-described minimalists. Here are some tips for achieving your goals:
- Use a vision board to keep your goals in mind. Just cut out inspiring photos from magazines and paste them on a board as a visual reminder of your goals. Perhaps a cozy reading nook or poker room is your thing. You’re only limited by your imagination. This is the time in your life to dream big and downsize.
- Honor sentimental items. As a professional organizer, I see it time and again — family treasures and priceless pieces stored in dusty and damaged boxes. It’s a crying shame! Decide what is truly precious and what can go. Items that have value should be treated as such, so create a space in your home for each one. Your space limitations will force you to decide what to keep and what needs to go. Remember, if everything is important then nothing is important.
- 7 Questions While Decluttering. If you’re still having trouble deciding what to keep and what goes, ask yourself these questions:
Does it fit?
Do I use it?
Do I have space for it?
Is it sentimental?
Do I love it?
Does it have value?
Does it work?
What to do with your adult children’s items
They’re off to college, live in their own space, or maybe even have a family of their own, yet you still have their childhood toys and 5th-grade school project. It’s time to set some boundaries and let those items go. Offer them to their previous owner, and if they don’t want them, you’ll need to put your sentimentality in check as you revisit the goals for your space. The sad reality is that often those precious mementos provide much more value to parents than children. Keep a few items if space permits, take a photo of the rest, and then let them go.
Lastly, on the notes of boundaries— do NOT allow your children to take advantage of your generosity and use you as free long-term storage. Instead, look at downsizing as a gift to them. I’ve met many families in my profession faced with having to do the downsizing for their parents. It’s an arduous process for all involved. The more you do now will ease tensions, fights, and stress in the future.
I recently had a client whose parents had left her over 15,000 photos. It took us a total of six months to cull through every single one, and the price tag for organizing, digitizing, and copying was in the thousands. She sweetly honored her parents and generously shared the memories with both immediate and extended family members. The process was emotional, and at times, tedious I walked through each step with her. Here’s what we learned:
- Spend the time to physically go through photos to toss blurry and bad images. This is also the time to group pictures together either by year, event, or by person.
- To digitize or not — that is the question! Digitizing can be quite expensive, so you want to seriously consider your options before investing. Companies such a DigMyPics and ScanCafe offer an array of services and pricing. My client chose a local business with a personalized service where they picked up the photos and provided in-person consultations during the span of the project. The hourly rate was $40, and the final bill was in the $5000-$6000 range. So choose wisely.
- Have a photo party! Invite close family and friends over to go through the photos. The purpose of the party can be to ease the stress of one or two people going through them, trying to decide who’s who, which Christmas was that taken, or anyone know whose baby this is? If everyone agrees, invite attendees to take their faves with them to cherish. My client decided to do this at the end of her project. I must admit it was incredibly touching watching this family reminisce together after the loss of their parents/grandparents.
- Give the gift of memories. It was an honor to be part of such a massive project for my client. I learned the names of every niece, nephew, and grandchild, who was a ham in front of the camera and who didn’t like their photo taken. At the end of the massive project, my client gave each family member a copy of every digitized picture as well as a photo book of the best. It was a tremendous hit with the family and a loving way to ensure family memories are shared with generations to come.
Enjoy this time of life and replace your old stuff with new memories, fun, and laughter.