top of page
  • Writer's pictureTwo Women Chatting

Decluttering the Empty Nest

by Michelle Ford

When adult ‘kids’ leave the nest, it’s often a time to take a look at the space you live in and consider some reorganisation.  You might even think about downsizing or, at some point, moving to independent living within an older community. If you’re not doing it for yourself, you might well be handling the transition of older parents to residential care or dealing with their belongings when they pass.

Whatever the reason, decluttering can seem overwhelming at first but, there are lots of things you can do to make it easier and you may find it’s incredibly good for your mental wealth - and wallet too!

Dilly Carter, professional organiser and one quarter of the BBC ‘Sort Your Life Out’ team with Stacey Solomon, was my guest on Two Women Chatting recently and she had an important tip when dealing with parents, “The most important thing about dealing with our parents is actually having those hard conversations, having them now rather than when it's too late. Unfortunately, at some point there will be a date when we have to go through your house. Tell me what means something to you. Tell me where you would like this furniture to go. Would you rather I sell this furniture or would you rather I donate it?

So always make it sound like you're doing something in a positive way that's going to bring them joy. Rather than it being, right, mum, we need to sort out this stuff, right, let's go through this stuff on Sunday because we need to get rid of it.”

Tips for Decluttering Empty Nest Spaces

1. Start Small, Focus on One Area at a Time

Begin decluttering by focusing on one area or room at a time. Tackling small sections can make the process less overwhelming and more manageable. Start with spaces that are less emotionally charged, such as storage rooms or closets, before moving on to more sentimental areas.

2. Sort Items into Keep, Donate, and Discard Piles

As you go through your belongings, categorize items into three distinct piles: keep, donate/sell, and discard. Consider whether you have used or valued an item within the past year. If not, it may be time to let it go and create space for things that truly matter to you.

3. Embrace the KonMari Method or 4-Box Technique

Consider employing popular decluttering methods such as the KonMari Method (organizing by category) or the 4-Box Technique (labeling boxes as trash, donate, keep, relocate) to streamline your decision-making process and effectively declutter your home.

4. Digitize Sentimental Items

To preserve cherished memories without cluttering your space, consider digitizing sentimental items such as photos, letters, artwork, and keepsakes. Digital copies can help you reduce physical clutter while still allowing you to cherish special moments and mementos.

5. Repurpose Unused Spaces

With your children out of the house, you have the opportunity to repurpose their rooms or play areas into functional spaces that better suit your current needs and interests. Transform these rooms into home offices, hobby rooms, guest quarters, or relaxation spaces tailored to your lifestyle.

6. Minimalism and Multifunctional Furniture

Adopting a minimalist approach to decorating can help create a more serene and spacious environment. Invest in multifunctional furniture pieces that serve dual purposes, such as storage ottomans, convertible sofas, or wall-mounted desks, to optimize space and enhance versatility.

7. Establish a Regular Decluttering Routine

Maintain a clutter-free home by establishing a regular decluttering routine. Set aside time each month to reassess your possessions, reorganize spaces, and let go of items that no longer align with your current lifestyle or bring you joy.

8. Seek Professional Assistance

If you find decluttering overwhelming or emotionally challenging, consider enlisting the help of a professional organizer or decluttering service. These experts can provide guidance, support, and tailored solutions to streamline the decluttering process and achieve your organizational goals.

By embracing these decluttering tips and strategies, you can reclaim your empty nest spaces, create a harmonious environment that reflects your individuality, and embark on a new chapter of life with clarity, purpose, and rejuvenated surroundings.

If you need help, there are plenty of professionals available.  I booked Victoria Fearnley of Surrey Decluttering for half a day several weeks before Christmas, knowing that I would need extra space for guests in December.  She advises that “the key is to actually start and keep doing it - little and often!”

Victoria kept me to task, organised me brilliantly, whisked off all the charity items for donation, took a bunch of dresses to In Style Ascot consignment store and gadgets to sell on Ebay. I felt practically light-headed with the results!  Even better, everything she sold for me more than covered her fee for the day. Win-win!

Talking of selling… there are excellent sites where you can sell those Beanie Babies from the 80s or the LPs that have been taking up space in the attic.  Offload the prom dresses to a consignment store like In Style Ascot or pop them up on  Ebay is still great for collectibles, furniture and miscellaneous items whilst if you think you have something of value you can get an estimate from Vintage Cash Cow.  I have a few pictures, old watches and vases that I plan to send to them. Hold a garage sale, maybe get your street or community involved to attract more buyers.

If you’re downsizing for parents, ask them what they would like to do with items.  As Dilly said, have that conversation before it’s too late. Where would they like them to go.  It’s important to remember that all this ‘jumble’ has meaning to them.

Remember one person’s junk is another person’s treasure!

Two Women Chatting podcast featuring Dilly Carter on Decluttering is out 7 May on all podcast platforms.


Multi-Storey Library
Multi-Storey Library

Resources Library

If you would like to search for a midlife topic in more detail why not check out our midlife library.  A useful collection of all the ares that affect us all in some way.  

bottom of page