Emptying the Nest: Making a Move After the Kids Fly Away

Allie Johnson
May 19, 2015
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Mother of one Laura Hazan had just sent her son off to college when her husband got a job offer and the couple decided to make a major move.

The upside: They’d be going to Baltimore, MD, near family and an hour away from their son Paul’s university. The downside: They’d be leaving their home in an idyllic neighborhood in the St. Louis, MO, area.

Steve and Laura Hazan

Steve and Laura Hazan made an empty-nest move from Missouri to Maryland.

“We lived in a fabulous suburb that’s like Main Street USA where kids could ride their bikes to the ice cream shop and the library,” Hazan said. “It was bittersweet to leave.”

In conjunction with National Moving Day, which in 2015 falls on May 26, SpareFoot is sharing various stories about people who’ve moved amid life-changing events. This story focuses on moving away from an empty nest.

‘A Huge Change’

In fact, Hazan started a blog to cope with her feelings about her newly empty nest and big move. “It was such a huge change all at once,” she said.

On top of the emotional challenges, the couple faced logistical snafus with downsizing and moving with little time to plan.

Starting in late fall, Steve started traveling back and forth between his new job and the family home in St. Louis. In February, he moved to a small Baltimore apartment, taking a card table and an air mattress. “He lived like a monk,” Hazan said.

On the Move

In the meantime, Laura priced movers and sorted through mountains of stuff. The large bank where Steve worked provided a lump sum that covered the $15,000 move.

Baltimore MD

Previously suburbanites, the Hazans low live in the city of Baltimore, MD.

After the couple put their house up for sale, they were surprised to get an offer in 48 hours. A few months later, movers from United Van Lines packed up all their stuff, loaded it into a truck and headed east.

The Hazans had the movers drop off a few pieces of furniture at Steve’s apartment, and everything else got stashed in storage while the couple looked for a house to buy.

 Getting Settled

The couple couldn’t decide whether to live in the suburbs or the city and whether to downsize. Laura wanted another four-bedroom house so they could keep a bedroom for their son and also have a guest room. “It was an interesting house hunt,” she said.

They finally found a three-bedroom home in the city with a “fabulous rooftop deck and all kinds of great views of the harbor,” she said. They can walk out their door to their favorite trendy restaurant, Of Love & Regret, or head to a pub to sample local microbrews.

“I wanted to live in the suburbs, but I’m glad we ended up in the city,” Hazan said.

The Hazans learned a lot from moving on the fly. Here are four moving tips for empty nesters.

1. Make Time for Planning.

An empty-nest move can be complicated, so take about six months just to plan, Paul Nelson, president of Marathon Moving Co., recommends in a podcast on empty-nest moving. If you can, stay in your current place for the first year, Hazan recommends. “It takes time to get used to your kids not being around,” she said.

2. Enlist the Kids to Pare Down Their Stuff.

It can be hard to get rid of your children’s things, Hazan said. So ask your kids to help make decisions, said Breeze Carlile, president of It’s a Breeze, a moving coordination company.

Over spring break, Hazan’s son helped her go through old toys and video games, and even convinced her to get rid of a few things she wanted to keep for grandkids to play with someday.

It’s usually a mistake to get a storage unit for stuff you think your kids will want later, Carlile said, as “that stuff could end up in storage forever.”

3. Get the Floor Plan for Your New Home.

If possible, figure out ahead of time how much space you have in your new home so you know what will fit in it, Nelson said. Because the Hazans didn’t pick a new house until after they moved, they ended up paying to move stuff they didn’t need. If necessary, call in a professional organizer to help you make decisions, Carlile said.

4. Get a Handle on Logistics.

If you’re moving to an unfamiliar place, especially from the suburb to the city, find out everything you can about moving-day specifics in your new area, Hazan said. For example, she didn’t know she needed to get a parking permit for the moving truck and display it for 72 hours beforehand. That meant she had to turn away a truck and six men, and she was without her stuff for an extra week. “Ask 100 questions,” she said.

Above all, be flexible and open to new things as you enter the empty-nest phase of life, Hazan said. “Sometimes things just happen by serendipity,” she said.


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