This month, I’m sending my youngest son, Michael, off to college. (For those of you playing along at home, you may remember I have two sons, but my oldest is now a junior in college.) Sam and I are going to have an empty nest.
That makes this post very personal. Back to school season is always tough on parents, but even more so for those whose children are leaving home for college. But if you’re living in a soon-to-be-empty nest, you may find yourself getting wistful over photos and stocking up on boxes of tissues.
But, let’s focus on the bright side. I’m here to tell you there are benefits to being an empty nester you may not have thought of yet.
Aside from having more time to yourself, having your children out of the house gives you opportunities to increase the home’s value and make plans for the future. If you’re making this transition, consider these options to make the most of your new living arrangement.
1. Focus on increasing your home’s value. When your kids lived in the home your house reflected their presence. Now that they’re living elsewhere, you can find ways to upgrade the home as you change how different rooms function. If your children have moved out for good, for example, think about making over their rooms into full-time guest rooms or convert one to a home gym or office. Creating different uses for the space should signal flexibility to future buyers.
2. Embrace the sharing economy. While you’re making upgrades, consider renting out extra bedrooms to travelers and vacationers through sites like Airbnb and Homeaway. You’ll need to be comfortable hosting strangers but if you can get on board with the idea, these sites offer fantastic options to earn additional income with your extra space.
3. Prepare to downsize or move in retirement. If your kids are out of the house for good, retirement is one of your next milestones. You can prepare for it now by downsizing to a condo or townhouse, trading a large house you no longer need (and don’t want to pay for).
4. Create a no-clutter zone. Getting rid of the clutter you’ve accumulated over the years is a simple step you can take that will help you adjust to your newly-empty nest. You don’t have to get rid of everything–those childhood memories can be helpful in this transition–but it’ll make it easier for you if you do decide to move or make upgrades later on.
Here’s one thing you should know: Kids are wired for stability and may resist any changes you try to make in the house. But if you engage them in your thinking and ask for their ideas, they’ll probably become your biggest helpers. So while it’s never easy to say goodbye to your kids, especially if they’re leaving for their first year at college or for their own apartment post-graduation, making the home yours again will help you get through the weepy times (as will the box of tissues).