Empty Nest Ideas To Fill Your Free Time

Last Updated on December 18, 2020 by Diane Hoffmaster

My kids are both in college now. Surviving an empty next is emotionally challenging and I am struggling.  While I am always happy to find new hobbies or try out a new recipe, I have been a bit lost the last few months.  I thought I would share a few empty nest ideas that are helping me stay sane while I worry about whether my college kids are staying safe and healthy. 

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The truth about empty nests

When children are young and underfoot all day, efforts to organize your home probably include chores as simple as keeping building blocks off the floor so you don’t stub a toe. As long as the carpet is visible and dinner is on the table, you’ve successfully navigated parenthood! With very little free time, your schedule is full, and there is little time for hobbies or socializing with friends.

However, once kids are off to college, you may realize that your nest is awfully quiet. Sure, they come home occasionally, but those short bursts of chaos only make your home seem even more empty when they leave again. 

Empty nest syndrome is basically the depression that sets in after the last child leaves home.  It’s real and it can kick your butt.  Trust me.  I’ve shed a lot of tears in the last few month. 

A young woman is organizing her shoe cupboard at home

Ideas for Empty Nesters

If you’re looking for a few ways to fill your free time, here are a few empty nest ideas to get you started:

Organize Your Home

Now that the kids are gone, spend some time organizing your home and clearing out the clutter. Don’t know where to get started? Try these ideas first:

  • Ditch the clutter. Chances are if your kids are in college, they don’t really need their toy cars or their high school baseball uniform. Get rid of everything they no longer need and donate it to a thrift store or host a garage sale. Make sure the items you’re getting rid of aren’t sentimental to your kids before you toss them.
  • Tackle the memorabilia. All those children’s art projects, old report cards and scouting patches are probably shoved into a box or gathering dust. Try buying a few attractive frames for the best of the art projects or looking into turning those old scouting T-shirts and patches into a decorative blanket.
  • Consider redecorating. Sure, those crayon marks on the wall are a great reminder of times gone by, but a fresh coat of paint and some new furniture will breath new life into your home. If you plan on downsizing and selling your home, you’ll need to decorate and organize your home before it goes on the market.

Woman with paper notebooks

Rethink Your Priorities

When children are young, their needs may come before your own. Now that the kids are out of the house, you have more time to invest in yourself and doing so will keep you from missing them quite so much.

  • Travel. Spreading your wings and exploring the world is a great way to treat yourself now that the kids are grown. Put your finger on the globe and give it a spin! If you don’t have a travel buddy, search a few online travel sites, like Lonely Planet, that can match you with other solo travelers.
  • Learn a new skill. You can definitely teach an old dog new tricks and learning a new hobby after the kids go off to college is a great way to keep busy.
  • Get a part-time job. It’s great when empty nest ideas help pay for college, right? Even if you work full time already, finding a part-time job on the weekends might just fill up a few lonely hours of your day. Find something that relates to what you really enjoy. Are you a book lover? Look for a job at the bookstore. You may even get a discount on your next book purchase.
  • Make a bucket list. Your to-do list when the kids were young was probably very long but in no way exciting. Now that the kids are older, make a bucket list of things you WANT to do and get started on fulfilling a few of your wildest dreams!

person wearing volunteer shirt and holding clipboard

Volunteer Your Time and Talents

Now that the kids are gone, you probably find yourself with a lot more free time than you had a few years ago. There are a lot of great ways to use that free time to improve the lives of others. Try one of these ideas if you have too much free time on your hands:

  • Host a foreign exchange student. Many students travel to different countries to attend school and host families are in high demand. Open your home to a foreign exchange student if your house seems too quiet with the kids gone. Consult the International Student Exchange for more information.
  • Volunteer in the community. Decide which activities you’re most interested in and then research relevant volunteer opportunities. Whether you spend your time volunteering at the hospital, library or an animal shelter, volunteers are always greatly appreciated.
  • Get involved in local politics. If there are issues that are important to you, get involved with politics to help support changes in the community that you’re passionate about.

Small chicks and egg shells on a wooden surface

Empty Nest Syndrome

Some days, no matter how much you organize your home or fill your free time with hobbies, you may still feel a little lonely. According to Psychology Today, “Empty Nest Syndrome refers to feelings of depression, sadness, and/or grief experienced by parents and caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood homes. If you’re feeling down, discuss your feelings with a trusted friend, family member or medical professional.

Even with these empty nest ideas, adjusting to your new phase of life will take time. It isn’t something that comes easily to all people. But, keep your chin up and embrace your new-found free time. Take a mental health day and figure out what you want your future to look like.

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