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10 Secrets Every Empty Nester Should Know

Becoming an empty nester soon? Here's everything you need to know to make the most of this next phase.

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The kids are out of the house and it’s finally time to get back to the life you lived before kids. But a lot has changed since you were in prime-time parenting mode and, since we’re living longer, more-fulfilling lives than ever before, we want you to take advantage of it.

So, here are ten tips, tricks, and tidbits that will help you make the most of the next phase, from how to reinvent yourself, to what technology can do for you. The empty nest years are going to be the best time in your life, but only if you know the secrets to making the most of it.

Rethink your physical space

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to do next if your life is cluttered, and when your personal space isn’t optimized to fit your needs. With the kids gone, it’s time to adapt your environment to your new circumstances. You don’t need to immediately transform your child’s bedroom into an office, yoga studio, or guest room the minute he or she moves out—but you can if you want to. At the very least, take the opportunity to declutter. “The more organized your home is, the more able you’ll be to focus on the things that make you happy,” says Andrea Bonior, PhD, a psychologist in Washington, D.C., and author of The Friendship Fix. “Reorganizing your space brings you a mental clarity that allows you to let go of some of the past and refocus your energy on what you want to prioritize in the future.”

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Rethink your virtual space

Keeping up with everyone and everything in your new life is going to be more complicated, especially with family out of the house, possibly living far away. “My son and I are part of the same business networking group, so I get to see him at that meeting every week,” says Sherrie Dunlevy, an author and speaker who reinvented her life after she turned 50 and her son left for college. “Besides those times together, we keep in touch mainly through text and, since he’s blessed with a great technical mind, he’s my go-to guy for all things technical in our house—cable, Internet, even remote controls.”

With all the ways that we communicate differently now, you need a new phone plan to match. With T-Mobile’s Unlimited 55+ plan, Americans aged 55 and older can get two lines of T-Mobile ONE for just $35 per line with AutoPay, and that comes with unlimited talk, text and 4G LTE data. And taxes and fees are included so it’s really just $70 per month—no surprises! This means unlimited talking, texting, and photo sharing on multiple devices—allowing you to stay in closer touch with your adult kids.

Travel, Travel, Travel

With fewer responsibilities at home, now is the perfect moment to consider booking a vacation in a place that has long been on your bucket list but might not have been high on your kids’ lists.

With T-Mobile’s Unlimited 55+ plan, you get unlimited talk and text and up to 5GB of high-speed data included on trips to Canada or Mexico. Just take your phone and go! Going further than North America? It includes texting and data abroad in another 210 countries and destinations. The plan also includes in-flight texting and one hour of Gogo inflight Wi-Fi on domestic flights. When it comes to this kind of life-changing travel, there’s no time like right away to get going—and with modern technology, it’s never been easier.

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Amp up the confidence by getting fit

Now that the kids are out of the house and you’ve adjusted to your new life, it’s time to bring back your sparkle by getting fit. “As parents, sometimes we let ourselves go and this may affect our self-esteem,” says Nichole Tipps, a mother of three and a lead trainer at V Shred, an online virtual fitness training program. “But I see it in the people I help all the time. When you see the results you want, and you look in the mirror and an outfit from a few years ago fits perfectly, it’s encouraging. Not to mention the moment your partner looks at you with a sparkle in their eye, you begin to realize you are going to love this new stage of your life and you are going to look amazing.”

Reassess friendships

While the house might seem emptier now, this phase of your life is actually an optimal time to rekindle old friendships or make new pals. “As an empty nester, you finally have the time to reevaluate and reconnect with people you truly want to spend time with,” says Bonior. “You can also enjoy the freedom of no longer being forced into friendships of convenience, like the parents of your children’s friends.”

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Create an inspirational social circle

Now that you’ve sorted out who you want to spend time with, invite your pals to partner with you on your newfound health goals. “Make exercise your time to be social,” Tipps says. “Whether it’s asking an old friend to take a jog with you at a park or going to a beginner yoga class, fitness provides a reason to dial those old friends and meet new friends as well.”

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Let your gut lead you

Now that your day-to-day parenting days are behind you, why not consider pursuing a long-forgotten hobby or even a new career path. If so, follow your gut, says Dunlevy. “That new direction could be calling you to go back to school, to pick up a paintbrush or the guitar again or to become a mentor,” says Dunlevy, who has made it her mission to inspire others to get excited about this new chapter in life instead of dreading it. “My gut called me to write a book and to enroll in an improv comedy class. Now I have a bestselling book and a new career as an inspirational speaker and I am part of a local improv theater group, too!”

Find ways to give back

With some extra time on your hands, now is the ideal moment in your life to find ways to help others. “As an empty-nester you can now shift your thinking away from your immediate household to ways to give back to your community, the world, or your loved ones long-term,” Bonior says. “We know this creates a mood boost and this will help you develop a new sense of purpose now that your kids are grown up and out of the house.” 

Re-invent old routines

Replace fireside chats with Sunday morning Skype sessions. While sitting down together at dinner-time for family chats about anything and everything may not be on the table anymore—leveraging technology such as video chatting or group chat apps lets you engage in real time as a family—keeping your conversations as funny, real and poignant as they ever were.

With the right phone plan, you won’t have to think about your bills going through the roof and with T-Mobile’s Unlimited 55+ plan, you can really take advantage of unlimited data which will fulfill all your video calling needs. And if you’re looking for a device upgrade, you can get the latest iPhone XR at T-Mobile for only $10 a month.

Take charge of this next phase

Raising your children to be responsible and kind adults is a great chapter, but it’s not the end of your story, Dunlevy says. “You get to decide if the next chapter is going to be boring as you sit and wait for your children to visit and the grandchildren to come, or if you’re going to fill your days with tales of adventure,” she says. “Will it be travel, a new career, a new hobby, a home-based business, reigniting your marriage, climbing a mountain? The good news is you get to choose because it’s your story.”