Empty Nest Organization

by Lisa
(Zimmerman, MN, US)

Lisa has the following home management question about empty nest organization. She asks:

Now that the four kids have moved on to their own homes (permanent & temporary) I still have lots of their "things" from clothing to memorabilia all over.

Also I was very organized with them here, with job charts, etc. but now having to do it all on my own is overwhelming when it comes to organization, cleaning, and basic maintenance. I need HELP!

Taylor's answer:

Lisa, I feel for you.

I have not yet experienced this myself, currently being in the throes of three very active little children of elementary school age and younger to deal with.

Here is my advice, taken with a grain of salt that I have not yet been there, done that.

First, in regard to your kids "things" everywhere, I know what you mean, but in reverse.

My poor parents still have some of my stuff in their home and they are always trying to get me to take it away.

I understand why -- they want to use the space for other things and don't want to have to keep cleaning around it.

From my perspective the best method we have come up with is to deal with a box or two of it each time I come.

I identify what I want, what is trash, and what I want to give away to Goodwill or a similar charity.

I have been allowing my parents to give it to Goodwill for the tax deduction since they have been storing the stuff, and they bought it with their money when I was a kid anyway.

As for the kids that have moved out temporarily, I assume this is because they come back for summer and other breaks for school, or something like that.

It is more difficult to get rid of these items because the kids are still living in your home, at least part of the time, and dorm rooms just aren't good as storage facilities.

I would perhaps separate those items and place them in a specific location out of the way of your projects, but keep those things for the time being until those children have permanently moved out.

Second, as for having to do all the chores for yourself again, again I sympathize.

Although, just remember when they were all underfoot and you just wished you had a few minutes to yourself to just finish folding the laundry! (I just thought this recently!)

OK, after remembering the fun times when they were little I would pull up a chair to the kitchen table with
a nice cup of tea or coffee, and really think about what needs to be done around the house on a weekly basis.

In theory with less people in the home there is less that needs to be done, as frequently.

For example, since I have three little kids who trail crumbs everywhere I need to vacuum more frequently than I would if it was just me and my husband.

Now, obviously there is a minimum amount that needs to be done, but make sure you are not trying to do everything you did before unless you still really need to do it.

Then, when you determine what needs to be done on a weekly, or daily or every couple days basis make yourself a weekly house cleaning schedule, a daily cleaning schedule, and a laundry schedule.

Some of the suggestions in the articles linked to above are specifically written with the idea that you have lots of little kids in your home.

Here are some ways to tweak these ideas to deal with your situation:

You may find that instead of doing a load of laundry daily, which is essential in my family of five, doing laundry just once or twice a week is sufficient for you.

Similarly, I split up my weekly cleaning into a bit everyday because it works for me, but if you don't have as much cleaning to do after you reassess your current cleaning needs, and you have a large uninterrupted block of time you may just want to do it all in one or two blocks in a week.

The only thing I know you need to still do is have a daily cleaning schedule. Of course, this can be pretty simple, such as making sure you always clean up the kitchen after dinner, make your bed, etc.

It doesn't have to be anything too time consuming. Instead, it should just be the minimum daily maintenance of your home.

If you make realistic schedules, and stick to them more or less, it has been my experience that it will all be more under control in your home.

OK, I hope that helps!

I would also love to hear more about those job charts you used successfully with your kids! I need to be working on that more with my kids!

So, does anyone else have any more suggestions for Lisa? If so, tell us in the comments.

In addition, if you have your own home management question, you can submit it here.

Related Links At Household Management 101

Schedules, Routines And Habits For Your Home

Household Notebook

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Comments for Empty Nest Organization

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Empty Nest Organization
by: Jackie Pettus at

If any of your kids are living away from home "temporarily," you are a "temporary" empty nestor, so you can't go into full "empty nest" gear. I'm in this situation too. (My daughter just returned from two years abroad getting a Masters Degree. Her old bedroom is now my office, so she's camping out in the TV room, using our dining room as a walk-in closet!) Here are two ideas that might help.
1) Memorabilia: Buy a big plastic see-through bin for each kids memorabilia. Keep it in the garage. The minute the kid finds a permanent home, have them pick it up, or deliver it!
2) Clothing: Put all of the clothes in one room and invite them over some Sunday for pizza and clothes try-ons. If your family is like ours, it could make for a pretty funny evening as everyone chimes in on the decision to keep or toss.

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