Grieving Your Empty Nest, and Reclaiming Your Schedule

Hello, fellow empty nesters!  Today I’d like to talk about the grieving process and how it relates to our current situation, and give you some suggestions as it relates to the organizing process.  Some of you may be familiar with the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.”; she proposed that there are five stages of normal grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance (you can read more about it here).

While your children are still very much alive, the space they used to fill in your life can leave a hole (or many holes), and you may find yourself somewhere in the grieving process over this loss, maybe in multiple places at the same time.  I am not a medical or psychological expert , so can only speak from my experience, and I can tell you that I have indeed gone through and am still going through the grief process, and here is what I’ve learned.

In the context of organizing, I find that some of the reminders of my children are still around my home, and that blank spaces are part of my schedule now.  I appreciate the reminders of my kids but perhaps don’t need so much “stuff” to be that reminder. So I am working on sorting through and letting go of things; this seems to be an iterative process in that I find myself letting go of more as time goes on, and being less attached to the material reminders.  They will always be with me in my heart, and so I don’t need 3 boxes each of their schoolwork or to keep their outgrown sports equipment.  The temptation is to keep it for the grandkids (although I am not rushing that process!), but I don’t know when I will actually have grandkids, or what their interests might be, and feel better about passing the equipment along to someone in need so it can get used now instead of collecting dust in my basement.

The bigger adjustment has been in my schedule, and I know you can relate if you ever had to chauffeur the kids to their multitude of activities, or had them around regularly, and now you don’t.  Many of us have dedicated our parenting time to putting our kids at the top of the priority list, and now they are establishing their own lives.  So what to do instead?  There are many resources dedicated to finding your passion or a hobby.  You may find you now have the time to do these things, hooray!

Here is an excellent tool to help you revamp your schedule.  It is called the Life Rhythms Map, and this version was created by the owner of Living Peace, Erin Elizabeth Wells.  You incorporate all the various aspects of your weekly life (work, family, home care, personal care, community activities) into a visual map so that you can see where you have extra time to incorporate your passion/hobby.  I encourage you to keep an open mind during this exercise, as many of us have been working the same routine for years, and maybe that old routine doesn’t fit our new lifestyle sans kids.  (here is another resource for time maps:–map-your-time)

Let me know if you try this exercise out, and any insights you gain from the process.  I am enjoying the process of gaining back some “me” time and doing the things that make me happy!

Life Rhythm Map: Life Rhythm Map.xls

Image: Taliesin/

About Melissa Belliard

Melissa is committed to helping her clients find the organizing system that works for them, with compassion and creativity. She has been helping her friends and family get organized for years, and loves decluttering closets and cabinets, especially for empty nesters and folks who are downsizing. Melissa brings her 16 years of experience as a Human Resources professional to her work, including compassionate listening, leadership, and creative problem-solving skills. Melissa is also a part-time massage therapist, and has raised two great kids. She loves being out in nature, listening to music and dancing, as well as bringing women together in community.

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