Man kissing his wife while hiking

When our children leave the nest, we know it’s a huge milestone in their lives. It can be easy to overlook the opportunities it creates in our own. The time just before and after their departure can require some real adjustment. It’s a big step in their lives, and can represent the next phase of our own.

As with so many things, the key to making a great transition often lies in planning and preparation.

Will you...

  • Use your newfound free time to explore new pastimes?
  • Make changes to your home or even where you live?
  • Explore the world? Reimagine your routines? Make changes large or small?

The possibilities are endless!

It's important to acknowledge that an empty nest represents an opportunity for new beginnings on whatever scale seems best to you. Here's our collection of pro tips large and small to spark your imagination:

Make the most of your free time!

Is there anything you’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t had the time? Did you have a dream in your youth that you put aside because you were busy raising your family? Or is there something you’ve become interested in recently that you’d like to devote more time to?

You will soon have the freedom to pursue these interests. Start thinking now about what you would most like to do. Then, when the time comes, you’ll be ready to immerse yourself in exciting new projects.

Time to make new use of those rooms?

You may want to keep your children’s rooms exactly as they are to provide a familiar environment for your kids to use when they visit. Or you may want to use the space for a new purpose. You could also do both by leaving part of a room as-is while using the other part for a home office, crafts area, or exercise space.

If you want a bigger change, you could remodel the room in any number of ways. Remodeling projects done right can have huge benefits; you’ll enjoy your home more in the present, while also increasing its resale value for the future. In this article, BobVila.com explores some of these transformation ideas for a newly vacant bedroom...

Catch that travel bug!

If you’ve always wanted to travel more, you will soon have a golden opportunity. You may have more money and more time, so whether you want to camp out at a nearby state park or explore new continents – start planning!

Getting there can be half the fun. Plan ahead by making a wish list of places you would love to visit. Start doing research now. Maybe set up a Pinterest board with photos of your favorite destinations to enjoy the anticipation even more.

Falling short on the funding side for your travels? New experiences await you just around the corner at state parks, national parks, or just down the road at that touristy town you haven’t been to in a decade. If you need to go further than the checkbook might support, do you have equity in a home that might fund your adventures?

Expand your social circle

You'll have the time to make new friends or revive relationships with old ones. Is there anyone from your past who you’d like to get back in touch with? Consider reaching out to them on social media. As you pursue new interests, you may also meet new people who share these interests. Keep an eye out for people you’d like to get to know better. Your common interests can be the start of rewarding new friendships.

Declutter your home for peace of mind.

You may have put decluttering projects on the back burner - maybe for year! Now that you will have extra time, you can create a new sense of peace and organization in your home.

If you find decluttering tough, our advice is to move at your own pace as you winnow down your possessions. If you're having trouble thinning things out, consider taking photos of objects before storing them, discarding them or giving them away. Another great strategy is to keep selected items that represent the different times in your life.

When deciding what to keep, take a tip from Marie Kondo, the queen of decluttering. She suggests that as you consider each object, ask if it brings you joy. If yes, keep it. If no, then it’s time to let it go.

Time to downsize?

While we’re on the subject of simplifying, have you given any thought to downsizing? If you have more space than you need and an appetite for change, moving to a smaller home can have real advantages. You get a chance to live in a different community, if you wish. You can gain more free time by not having to take care of a larger space. And the money you make from the sale of your home may provide a nest egg for your retirement or help fund your adventures as an empty nester.

Shake up your routines!

When your kids are home, much of your life may revolve around their schedules. After they leave, new routines can be your friend. By setting up new activity patterns, you can establish whatever new sense of order and purpose you'd like.

Have you always wanted more exercise in your morning routine? Now's your chance! Maybe a daily walk with friends? What about your evenings? Always wanted to cook more? Dine out more? A little more of both? If you plan to pursue new interests and make new friends, how would you like to fit them into these new day-to-day routines?

The possibilities are endless, and they’re all yours. An empty nest is one of life’s great opportunities for a fresh start.

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