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Home hacks for empty nesters

Sending the kids off to college can be an emotional time for parents. The pride you feel at watching your children venture off into the world is only tempered by the sadness of having to say goodbye to them. What makes the whole experience worse is having to go back to an empty home.

But just because your house may seem a little quieter — and a lot bigger — doesn’t mean it has to feel empty. By making a few changes around the house and to your schedule, you can help it feel cozy and inviting again.

Not sure where to start? Here are some of our favorite hacks for lonely empty nesters who want to feel more comfortable in their home.

Banish the clutter. Without the kids underfoot, you may find that clutter around the house is harder to ignore. Not only does clearing out the clutter help make your home more comfortable, but it also serves as a project that can keep you busy when you’re missing your kids. Start with a single room ... or even a single closet or set of shelves. Throw away the stuff you haven’t used in a year or longer. If you think there are items the kids might appreciate, box them up and send them off. Otherwise, consider selling your unneeded belongings at a consignment shop, or donate them to a local charity. For the items you still need but don’t want cluttering up your space, consider a decorative storage option such as a storage chest or bench. These functional pieces can help hide away clutter while providing an extra seating or table option for the room.  

Give the house a new look. After years of the kids running around and making messes, your house may need a little freshening up. Redecorating your home can enliven the place and give it a new feel, so you aren’t reminded of memories with the kids that might leave you blue. Try a bold new paint color on the living room walls, or buy a new sofa with a fun print. If you’ve always wanted a velvet or suede couch but held back because you were worried about the kids ruining the upholstery, now is the perfect time to indulge. Find ways to help the house feel a little cozier, too. A brand new plush area rug can add warmth and color to any room.  

Adopt or foster a pet. Your spouse may be excellent company, but chances are good that your house still feels much emptier without the kids around. If you miss the pitter patter of little feet, consider adopting a four-legged friend to keep you company. Whether it’s a dog, cat, or even a bird, having a pet in your home can definitely help banish the blues. Visit a local shelter to find the perfect new friend to help your house feel full again. If you aren’t up for the responsibility of a full-time pet, look into fostering opportunities in your area. Shelters and rescues often need volunteers to care for the animals while they’re waiting for their forever homes. You’ll have some company and help out some animals at the same time, so it’s a win-win situation.  

Be the life of the party. With the kids out of the house, you don’t have to worry about helping with homework or waking anyone up at night, so it’s the perfect time to throw a party. You probably have at least a few friends who are in the same empty nest boat that you are, and they’ll appreciate an invitation to your place to have a little fun. Invite some neighbors you’d like to get to know a little better, too, and you’re bound to have a good time. Plan a traditional dinner or cocktail party, or host a game night with your favorite board games. You can also use seasonal events like the Oscars or the Super Bowl as perfect party occasions.  

Get out of the house. Sometimes when you’re feeling a little lonely, getting away from your empty nest is the best thing you can do. Have lunch with friends, visit local museums and attractions, or sign up for classes in subjects you’ve always been interested in, like photography or French cooking. If you already have some hobbies you love, join a club in the area that caters to your interests, such as scrapbooking or model building. Make it a priority to get out of the house with your spouse or a friend, too. Schedule a regular date night to enjoy new restaurants in town or other activities like wine tastings or ballroom dancing. Plan that vacation you have always wanted to take but couldn’t manage because of the kids’ schedule. It’s definitely hard to feel lonely when you’re trotting around the globe. Sending the last of your kids off into the world can be a highly emotional experience for parents, which is why it’s normal to battle feelings of loneliness as you get used to no longer having a full house. But it doesn’t take much to banish that empty nest feeling. A few changes to your house and your routine can make all the difference.

Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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