Reclaim Your Empty Nest Once the Kids Are Gone-MainPhoto

Reclaim Your Empty Nest Once the Kids Are Gone-MainPhoto

So the kids came home for Thanksgiving, then headed back to campus for finals. They’ll be back for a few weeks for winter break, but busy catching up with friends. The house is yours again, so now you can seize the occasion to reclaim your empty nest and make it all your own!

Read Related: What To Do When Your Baby Grows Up

Once your children have moved out, living in an empty nest is almost like having your first home all over again, except that it’s bigger than that cramped newlywed apartment. It’s just the two of you again, grown up people who don’t write on the walls or try to jump off the sofa, who don’t leave piles of toys and dirty laundry and backpacks strewn about the house. What does that leave you with? Space. We’re talking about space.

A sewing room can be in your future, or a place to spread out those craft projects. Need a home office? It’s yours for the asking, with a bit of rearranging. Once the kids are out of the house and, hopefully, have taken most of their stuff with them, it’s time to take back the space and do more with their rooms than raise dust bunnies.

First, clean it up and pack it away. If your child has her own apartment, chances are the stuff left in the closet is no longer that important to her. But on the off chance it’s the treasure of her youth, pack it away. Plastic containers are cheap, and they can stack easily or slide under the bed. A side benefit, storage containers under the bed inhibit the growth of dust bunnies. (It’s a scientific fact; look it up. Maybe not scientific but, if the space under the bed is filled with containers, there’s no room for dust, right?) And when the kid does come back to visit, those containers transfer nicely to the trunk of her car.

Nothing freshens a room like paint color. If your kid exercised a bit of creative freedom and loved her green and purple room, save your eyesight and change the color. Utilize a bit of spackle to fill in the holes from all those Hannah Montana and High School Musical posters that have since fallen to shreds. Choose a color you enjoy and go for it. Paint is cheap and it’s hard to mess up.

Decide how to use the space. Is this room perfect for crafts? Use the empty dresser as storage for supplies. Make a work table out of sawhorses and an interior door with a flat surface. Move in your supplies and add some bright lighting. You spread out and craft to your heart’s content. The real plus is that you can now use your dining room table for…dining!

For a home office, push the bed into a corner and rearrange pillows to make it look like a day bed. Exchange dresser space for file cabinets. Install a desk and chair, change pictures to reflect your taste and not that of your now launched child and install a phone line. It’s an office but, can double in a pinch as a guest room. In the meantime, you can telecommute or work on that memoir you’ve been meaning to write.

Let your imagination (and your budget) guide the transformations. Yoga rooms are inexpensive; a calming paint color, a good mat and a soothing playlist and you’re done. For more money, invest in a set of weights and stop using the treadmill as a coat hanger. Install it in the newly renovated room, add a TV and save the cost of a gym membership. You’ll exercise more often when the gym is just down the hall.

Get truly creative in the basement. Pack away the Gameboys and Wii units and change the sofa grimy with spilled soda and popcorn crumbs. Invest in decent slipcovers or new furniture, install a free-standing wet bar and a pool table, and the adult party room comes to light. The next time the kids are home, invite them down for a drink.

Worried that your kids will be upset that their childhood rooms have a new purpose? Make sure they know there’s always a bed for them in their family home. Retain a few mementos of their childhood in the repurposed space, whether it’s prom photos or a cheerleading pom-pom. And remember, if they’re away at college, chances are they might need to come home and live rent-free after graduation—so don’t get too attached to that empty nest!