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How to declutter and update your home after the kids have left

We can all understand the benefits of simple living – clean, clutter-free spaces which still show individuality.

The problem is that as your kids grow up, they’ll amass what seems a lifetime of junk in just a few years. So when they leave the family home it can be doubly emotional: you feel like you’ve lost your child, but kept all their clutter.

Harveys_BlogHeadshot_FreshStart_03To really fight that empty nest syndrome, you’ll need to be prepared to deal positively with the mess they leave behind – so find out how to declutter with an expert.

Calm from chaos

Professional organiser and declutterer Lesley Spellman shares her five top tips: 

  1. Time it right

You may be champing at the bit to get into their room and start throwing things out. But just remember that these things defined your child’s life. They may not be ready to come back from university for their first visit to see all their precious belongings gone (and you may not be ready to see a room stripped of your child’s personality). Take things one step at a time and include them in deciding what’s special or useful – and what’s not.

  1. Get started

Putting in a four to five hour shift will give you the momentum to continue and finish the job. Use different coloured bin bags for charity donations, things to sell and stuff for the tip – and boxes, marker pens and labels to categorise what you want to keep.

Ask yourselves: do they use it? Do they need it? Do they love it? If your child is becoming resistant, delve deeper: would they take it to their own home? Be prepared for your child to object, but they may surprise you with their ruthlessness.


  1. Manage emotions

Decluttering your house evokes a range of emotions. You and your child may feel guilty about things you’ve never used or about throwing away gifts, sentimental about special memories or wasteful for discarding things that may still be useful.

Try to only keep what is truly beneficial for the future. For sentimental items, it’s all about editing the highlights of our lives. Keep only those items that give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Display or store special collections carefully if they have monetary value. And with clothing – if it’s not already in their new homes, it’s time to say goodbye.

  1. Stay focused

Focus on what you want the room to look like. Be practical and think about how often your child is going to stay. Only an occasional guest? Store the remainder of their stuff in the loft, and you may be able to repurpose the room for the home office, craft room or gym you’ve always dreamed of. If they will be regular visitors, you may need to think about new storage solutions that will allow the room to be multipurpose.


  1. Don’t dump

Don’t ignore the clutter: it has a nasty habit of expanding. It’s all too easy to overlook clutter in a room that’s not used every day. Gradually put your own clutter into your child’s room and before you know it you have another dumping ground.

Lesley says: “Get the timing right, involve your children in the process, and focus on the future, you and your family will be able to create new rooms in new homes with new memories. You’ll never look back!”

Lesley runs The Clutter Fairy and is on the management team of The Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers.

And the streamlining process resonates with anyone who has tried to create style and order from an empty nest. As blogger Izzie says: “Owning less is most definitely the way to go.”


Remember that having too much stuff can even increase stress levels if it all gets overwhelming. Help organise and take control of your clutter with an elegant sideboard or stylish display unit.

Furniture images credit: Harveys Real Living


Need some more decluttering tips?  Head over to our post: 10 steps to a clutter free home

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