Is it time to get rid of your kids' junk?

When Empty Nesters Reorganize and Declutter Their Home

by Gary Foreman

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For years, your refrigerator was covered with pictures and closets were full of Legos, Beanie Babies, and too small children's clothes. But now it's time for the empty nesters to reorganize and declutter their home.

To help us find the best way to organize our empty nest home, we contacted Lisa Woodruff of

Lisa has authored a number of resources on home and business organization. She's been quoted in Woman's World, US News and World Report and Ladies Home Journal.

We asked her the following questions about how empty nesters can reclaim their homes:

Q. What's the biggest organizational challenge for empty nesters?

A. The biggest organizational challenge facing empty-nesters is that while the physical items that used to clutter their home are on the decline, they usually have less time to themselves than they ever have before.

Many of my clients in the early empty-nesters stage are juggling full-time employment, young adult children's needs, and the needs of their aging parents. Having an excellent calendar system and paper management system is the key in this stage of life.

Q. What's the biggest home organizational opportunity for empty nesters?

A. As the last child leaves the nest, most parents are flooded with emotions and ideas. The end of your daily active parenting stage is a huge life event. Some parents use the next few years to go through all of the memorabilia that they have saved over the past decades and create lifelong mementos for their children and families.

Others use this time to reclaim their home and get rid of the clutter once and for all. Either option is completely normal and acceptable. Love yourself and know which path is best for you.

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Q. How can parents decide which of their grown children's possessions they should keep and which should they insist the kids take?

A. Many parents quickly move from the emotional feeling of having an actual empty nest to the liberated feeling of I can finally put my things where I want them! For some parents, this happens right away, and for others, it happened somewhere before year five. By the time your children have their own residence, it is time for them to take any of the memorabilia that you personally do not want to hold onto.

Often, memorabilia that has been stored for decades is precious, but not actually something either the parents or the children physically want to hold onto. If your children do not want to take their own possessions, consider taking photographs of those possessions and making a digital scrapbook for them.

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Q. What questions should be asked before disposing of something?

A. When you are decluttering your home, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I love this item?
  • Do I still use this item?
  • If I had to find this item again someday could I borrow it from someone or purchase it inexpensively?
  • Is there someone else I know they could use this item right now instead of me?

Expert Interview: When Baby Boomers Move Out of The Family Home

So if you're an empty nester and would like to reclaim your home now is the time to begin reorganizing and decluttering.

Reviewed February 2018

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Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, and Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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