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4 Tips for the New Empty Nester

by Kimanh Moreau | Sep 04, 2015

This September, thousands of teenagers will move into dorms for the first time, and thousands of their parents will become empty nesters. First time empty nesters can expect feelings that run the gamut from sadness to anxiety to excitement about this new chapter in their lives.

However you are feeling about having your home to yourself for the first time in decades, you have probably found yourself asking the time honored empty nest question – now what?

For many empty nest parents, the answer to “now what?” is “downsize now.” Increasingly, empty nesters are downsizing sooner, rather than later, engaging in a deliberate process of scaling back and cutting down that can take many forms.

Perhaps downsizing means selling a large family home and purchasing a smaller condo, or it may mean testing the waters in a warmer weather winter rental property. If your little birds are leaving the nest this year, our list of Empty Nest tips is for you.

1. Conquer the Clutter
Decades of childrearing have no doubt left you with clutter you’d rather not have. Even if you are in no terms ready to put your family home on the market, it’s never too early to begin the process of reclaiming your home from the clutter. In addition to making your home more marketable down the road, however, clearing the clutter from your home may help mark the transition to empty nest in a meaningful way.

Having trouble letting go? A professional organizer (https://www.napo.net/consumers/) can help with that. Your organizer will work with you to systematically go through your belongings to decide what needs to go and what should stay. Sometimes, having an outsider to consult with can help you see the forest through the trees when it comes to objects that have an emotional value. If your budget allows it, consider hiring a junk hauling company to remove the fruits of your de-cluttering labor.

2. Pick a Remodel Project
While you may want to wait a bit before turning your son or daughter’s childhood bedroom into an exercise or hobby room, now that the kids are out of the house, your thoughts may turn to remodeling. Perhaps you want to re-do the kids’ bathroom, or finally take the plunge and design the kitchen of your dreams.

Remodeling may be at the top of your mind if you plan to stay in your family home long-term. The AARP reports that 90% of seniors (http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/ppi/liv-com/ib190.pdf) wish to stay in their homes as long as possible. Experts agree that, ideally, modifications that are necessary to allow homeowners to age in place should be made in advance of that modification being needed. So, while your senior years may be a way off now, it’s never too early to start at least thinking about the types of modifications that you’ll want to do to make it easier for you to remain in your home as you age. A home equity line of credit (https://www.columbiabank.com/heloc) is a popular strategy for homeowners who want to remodel their homes.

3. Explore a Warmer Climate
The weather is still warm here in the Pacific Northwest, but when it turns cooler, your thoughts may turn to wintering in a sunnier clime. If you plan to move somewhere warmer eventually, you might consider renting a home in your targeted area for several months to make sure you like living there, if your schedule allows for it. Many empty nesters prefer sampling a town or two in their desired location before making any permanent decisions.

Interested in hanging on to your family home, but planning to live elsewhere for some portion of the year? You may want to consider doing a short-term rental of your home. But before you jump headlong into the business of being a landlord, make sure you research your state’s landlord/tenant laws to make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities.

4. Invest in a Smaller Home
As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of older Americans polled wish to stay in their homes for as long as possible. However, staying in your home does not necessarily mean staying in the home you live in currently.

If you would rather put the days of mowing a large lawn and cleaning the gutters behind you, you may wish to start thinking about buying a condo, townhome, or single family home within a 50+ community where you will have fewer of those responsibilities to contend with. If you see this next purchase as a long-term home and do intend to age in place there, features to look for that make this easier include:

  • A Single story home or a master suite on the ground floor;
  • A kitchen with lower, easy-to-reach cabinets;
  • Hallways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair;
  • Bathrooms that have things like grab bars and a seat in the shower.

Good luck on this exciting (and no doubt emotional) new chapter in your life! While adjusting to life without children in the home will take some time, it may help to think of this as a time for new beginnings rather than simply an ending. Whether your new beginning takes the form of a new home, hobby, or even a new state, it is bound to be an adventure!

 

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