organizing for an empty nest

Ah, the empty nest—a phase of life typically fraught with mixed emotions! While many people experience feelings of satisfaction with seeing the kids through to young adulthood, most empty nesters go through feelings of loss and change as they adjust to their new household and schedule. If you are an empty nester, you’re probably seeing the upside: newfound freedoms and joys of having the house to yourself!

Organizing For An Empty Nest

We meet plenty of people who want to downsize soon into their empty nest years, but many of our clients choose to enjoy their current home, neighborhood, and community. However, staying put doesn’t mean that you have to leave everything exactly where it is. If you take a fresh look at your space and your current lifestyle, you can have the best of both worlds: customize your space to take advantage of your whole home, without sacrificing the memories of your child-raising years.

The empty nest stage presents an ideal opportunity to tackle some of the more cumbersome downsizing tasks, with the double advantage of upgrading your current lifestyle and giving yourself peace of mind that you will be confident and prepared to move when you’re ready. 

You may also consider reimagining the family home, or retrofitting existing spaces to better suit your current lifestyle. By reassessing your space and needs, you can enjoy the benefits of customizing your living environment without sacrificing the memories of raising your children.

We asked Professional Organizers and Senior Move Managers across the country to share their best tips for Organizing for an Empty Nest Lifestyle:


Preserve Family History and Artifacts

This task is your biggest opportunity to free up space for new options and also get a handle on sentimental clutter and family history.  If you are able to commit to this process, you’ll be way ahead of the downsizing game!  Here are some ways to approach decisions about what to keep and how to store it.

  •  Involve your adult children in choosing what mementos to save or document.
  • Consider space-saving ways to display your family artifacts, such as shadow boxes, collages, and bound photo or memory books.
  • Educate your kids about treasured family history items as you go, or even better, log your sentimental items and preserve your memories in Artifcts.
  • You may choose to store sentimental items for your kids until they have permanent homes of their own, and doing the sorting and choosing now will give you peace of mind that meaningful items have been preserved.


Take a Fresh Look at Your Storage Spaces

When you’ve been fully immersed in a busy family household for twenty years or more, your storage spaces may be filled to overflowing with toys, clothing, gear and clutter.  An easy first step to organizing for an empty nest lifestyle is to reconfigure your storage spaces to keep your most frequently needed items close at hand.

  • Clear space in closets, attics and garages. Look for usable toys, sporting gear, craft supplies etc. that may be donated to other families while they are still in good condition.
  • Identify your most-used kitchen equipment and store it within easy reach of food prep areas.
  • Adapt your meal planning and grocery shopping habits to accommodate the changing needs of your empty nest household.
  • Reduce food that you store in your pantry, and consider moving everyday pantry items into the kitchen area.
  • Assess garage space to prioritize your current needs.  Clear space for landing areas and ample room around your cars for parking.


Reclaiming Rooms in the Family Home

Sometimes a little imagination can create a dramatic change in the way you use the square footage of your home.  Imagine your home as an empty space.  How would your rooms most benefit your needs and interests today?

The most common room reconifiguration for organizing for an empty nest lifestyle is extending the uses of the primary bedroom and bathroom.  We see many empty nesters spreading out to claim space in an unused bedroom as a dressing room or a private study, and dedicated private bathrooms are a welcome change.

Many times, space can be reconfigured to create one-level living.  The simple change of repurposing an unused den or living space into a bedroom can transform the functionality of your home.

Another common re-purposing we see is to convert former bedrooms or bonus areas into areas for hobbies or office space.  Murphey beds or convertible sofas add even more functionality to these areas, allowing you to utilize your extra space and still host extended family or guests on occasion.

You may also tweak your kids’ childhood rooms to function as guest rooms. We like a hybrid approach of leaving some personality and character of the childhood room, subtracting clutter and adding thoughtful touches your guests will appreciate, like a rack or bench for luggage, strong wall hooks, and clear surfaces for them to spread out.

You may be able to optimize your property and create extra income, too. Some empty nesters who own homes with features like a detached garage apartment or living space with a separate entrance will leverage extra space as a short-term rental.  Be sure to check with your HOA or local ordinances for guidelines in your neighborhood before exploring this route.

Simplify Trips with Travel-Ready Organization

For many, the empty nest lifestyle includes opportunities for frequent travel.  If you have the travel bug, you may want to do a little organizing upfront to simplify your packing:

  • Store your go-to suitcase or overnight bags within easy reach of your closet.
  • Maintain a pre-packed toiletries bag that includes everything you may need for one week of travel.  The convenience and time savings of having a complete set of health and beauty supplies easily justify the expense of having duplicate items.  Just be sure not to “borrow” from your bag when you’re not traveling.
  • Designate a convenient yet secure place to store your travel documents between trips, preferably in a travel-ready document organizer.
  • Curate “travel uniforms” of comfortable, reliable outfits to simplify packing for short trips.


The empty nest years are full of opportunity and discovery, including the way you live in your home!  Your newly imagined home can provide the luxury of space to spread out and enjoy your time there. And if you address some of your downsizing tasks now, while you have the time and energy, your future self will thank you.

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