Leaving the Nest – How to Part with your Home

I confess: I am a nester, deeply attached to my home and surrounded by my things.

Most of us will find it necessary to move from our nests. How we manage such change is important in our ability to move on. Frequent movers understand that they can’t keep too many things. But individuals who have lived in one place for decades may find the prospect of moving daunting. And yet, making such a transition is possible. Here are ways to help you let go:

Acknowledge your angst and grief.

It is not wrong to feel overwhelmed, sad, or even angry.  Talk with friends or a professional, but don’t let the thought of letting go incapacitate you. Following the loss of her husband, one woman decided to downsize and move to a retirement community. She then agonized over her decision, overwhelmed by the contemplation of packing, the move itself, and the unanticipated grief she felt from leaving the place and things she loved.

Assign an emotional quotient to your stuff.

Although square footage and location may dictate what can share your new space, the emotional factor may well be the most significant. Decide what is meaningful and why. Perhaps the items you are attached to are gifts from family or special people in your life. What can you absolutely not discard? Some people find that photographing and recording the stories of a room, curio cabinet, or even the entire house is a good way to capture important memories to be recalled later with fondness. When I remarried, I found that leaving some of my “can’t-part-with” things and photos packed in boxes where I could “visit” them to be a happy compromise—and my new husband appreciated this, too.

Create your own rituals.

Perhaps you can gain comfort from touring your home room by room, thanking each space for the memories made there. After moving, Jay discovered a box that had been packed away in his former garage for years. When he opened it, he discovered the sympathy cards he had received following his mother’s death years earlier. He created a little ritual to help him finally discard them. After rereading every card, visualizing the person who had sent it and thanking them, he found that he could let them go. (You might try this before your move.)

Gift with joy.

One woman who loved hosting large family gatherings and parties discovered a huge, forgotten roaster. Knowing that she no longer intended to cook for large groups, she decided to gift all of her large cooking utensils to organizations that could better utilize them.

Embrace your new nest…

…with gratitude, thanking it for the memories yet to come. For some, a house blessing shared with friends will set the stage for a new future.

Do I want to leave my nest again? Absolutely not. But if I want or need to, I know that I can.

Linda Henry writes regularly on topics related to aging, health care, and communication and is the co-author of several books, including Transformational Eldercare from the Inside Out: Strengths-Based Strategies for Caring. She conducts workshops nationally on aging and creating caring work environments. Her volunteer emphasis is age-friendly communities.

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