It’s our job, as parents, to try to ensure that our children grow up to be independent adults capable of thriving away from our care. Yet somehow it can still come as something of a shock when they finally fly the nest for good. Some say the difficult teenage years are a way of preparing parents for a life without their child (and making it easier to see them leave!), but even if it’s a relief to see them grown up and independent, it can also be a time of sadness.
Transitioning from being a parent of a dependent child, to the parent of a fully-fledged adult, is tough to come to terms with, and renegotiating the terms of your relationship with your children can be tricky. You don’t want to interfere with their lives, but you do want to know they’re safe and well; you’re no longer responsible for their wellbeing, but their happiness (or unhappiness) will always be important and will affect you. Once, you knew the names of all their classmates; now you barely know what they do all day but you have to respect their privacy and choices.
Part of the process of adjusting to this new type of relationship is reorganising your home to suit just you, or you and your partner. You might decide to downsize by selling your family home and moving to a smaller, more manageable property, or you might decide to repurpose the space in your home and enjoy the extra space. Here are some things to think about for when you’re ready to make that choice.
Repurposing and reorganising your home after your children leave
If your children have recently left - perhaps after graduating, or to pursue a long-term relationship - your house can feel horribly empty at first! It might feel too quiet, and you’ll be at a loss as to how much food you’re wasting each week when the fridge remains unraided.
Gradually, though, you’ll come to appreciate the peace and the ability to do just as you please without having to consider your children. You’ll start to spend less at the supermarket, and all your crockery will be where you expect it to be.
Gradually, you’ll start to think about all the extra spare space in your house and how it could be put to use rather than simply standing empty.
A decision to repurpose your child’s old bedroom can sometimes feel disloyal - as though you’re showing your child that they are no longer welcome or that they do not have a home with you if they need or want it. Improving your communication can overcome that guilt - you can tell your adult children that you want to repurpose their old bedroom but it doesn’t mean they’re no longer welcome and you’d be happy to change it back if ever they needed it again.
Follow these steps to make a smooth transition from being a family home, to being a home where your family is always welcome:
1. Keep a record
Before you make any changes, take photographs of all the rooms in your home as they are, or make a walkthrough video. Send copies of the photos or video to your children - they might roll their eyes and think you’re being daft, but when they’re older they might appreciate seeing what their childhood bedroom looked like!
Clutter probably isn’t the right word for this - basically, if your children have chosen not to take some of their belongings on their journey to the next phase of their lives, you need to decide what to do with those belongings. Do you donate them to charity? Give them to friends with younger children? Sell them?
It’s important to consult with your children before you dispose of anything, because they might want to hang onto them. For instance, they might want to keep their old bed for when they move into their permanent home, or to use for their own children later on. They might have left things in their old room that they want to keep, assuming you’d store them for them indefinitely!
Anything they (or you) want to keep but don’t need right now can be stored. If you have a loft, you could put things into plastic, lidded boxes and store them up there if you’re sure they’ll stay dry. If you lack storage space at home or need to store larger items of furniture, you could rent a self storage unit
(or ask your children to!).
Once you’ve decluttered, you’ll have a better idea of what space you have to live in, and repurpose rooms or storage areas accordingly.
3. Decide what to do with your new ‘spare room’!
Your overstuffed wardrobe doesn’t need to stay overstuffed - you could turn your child’s old bedroom into a walk-in wardrobe! You don’t need to work from home at the dining room table anymore - you could turn your child’s old bedroom into an office space! Always wanted to take up a hobby but didn’t have the space? … You get the idea.
Having an extra bedroom can make your home feel more spacious because you can spread out your furniture and create extra storage space. As you start to reclaim it as your own, you’ll feel the absence of your children less acutely and it will normalise their absence from your day-to-day life.
If your children have only fairly recently moved out, you might still feel the need to keep a bedroom available for them for when they visit at weekends or for holiday visits.
If your child’s old bedroom is still needed as an occasional bedroom on a frequent basis, you could adapt it so that it serves the dual purpose of being a bedroom and additional storage space. For instance, you could install a lift-up Ottoman storage bed, or use underbed storage drawers or boxes for additional storage. Keep a wardrobe free for their clothes when they visit, but also use any drawers or cupboard space for general storage. If you can still fit a desk in there, it can still be used for your hobby or as an office.
If there isn’t enough room to use the room as a bedroom and storage space, you could consider renting a self storage unit
to store excess belongings like out-of-season clothing, Christmas decorations, spare bedding and duvets etc. so that you don’t have to use your child’s bedroom for storage at all.
Alternatively, you could go ahead and turn the room into an office or storage space, but install a pull-out sofa or folding bed for when they visit.
4. Downsize to a smaller house
Depending on your financial situation, it might not be possible to keep your family home, and you might need to downsize to a smaller house that is cheaper to run and easier to maintain when your children have left.
If your children are settled with their own family, it is unlikely that they’ll need to return to yours very often, if at all. They might come and stay at Christmas, or for special occasions, but for such infrequent visits it might be more financially savvy for you to offer to pay for them to stay in a hotel rather than keep a house with a spare room you definitely don’t need and/or can’t afford.
If you decide to downsize, you’ll need to be rigorous in your efforts to declutter. You simply won’t have the space to fit all the things you currently own in a much smaller property. Even so, you might be keen to hold onto furniture in case your children (or even grandchildren) want it to furnish their own homes at a later date, or just in case you decide to use it again in future.
If you need to store furniture
that won’t fit into your home, you could rent a self storage unit for a few weeks, months or even years. Of course, you’d need to weigh up the costs of doing so against the costs of buying new furniture to replace it in future years, but this is something you could think about and revisit over time.
You could use a smaller self storage unit to store belongings you don’t need on a day-to-day basis, such as garden furniture during the winter, or chunky jumpers and coats during the summer. That might free up enough space to enable you to keep more of your furniture at home rather than renting a larger unit for it.
5. Look forward to the future
As difficult as it is to see our children leave, it is a natural part of life and - let’s face it - you’d be a lot more worried and upset if your children were unable to fly the nest.
We all want our children to be independent and happy. You’ve given your children love, attention and time over the years to give them the skills they need to achieve this. Now it’s time for you to live the next phase of your life and look forward to free time, freedom of choice and the ability to make your home your own again.
Get in touch
If renting a self storage unit can help you to reorganise your home or store your excess belongings if you downsize, you can get in touch online, by phone or in store to see how we can help. Our friendly team can give you an idea of how much space you’d need for whatever you plan to store, and can give you a no-obligation quote for you to book if you choose.