Empty Nest Recycling and Buying the Farm

or Kicking the Bucket or Going on for my Reward

An eker in an empty nest will make less trips to thrift-store drop-offs than the typical empty nester. Unlike most empty nesters, an eker does not purge so much as recycle the things the children leave behind. An eker strives to master, over time, the art of empty nest recycling.

Recycling Remnants of Childhood and Youth

I still have most of the children’s furniture. My daughter’s bed has become a guest bed. The chest of drawers is photo album storage. All of the children’s closets are holding areas for things undecided. The homework desk with all its sharpie marks and pen indentations became my jewelry making station. It now lives under my son’s double loft bed, where the built-in shelves make a perfect craft cove.

And those leftover school supplies! Backpacks, composition notebooks, binders, dividers, clips, pens, pencils . . . I’ll never run out of college-ruled paper or index cards.

I have a tub of pencils, some of which date back to kindergarten. The erasers are shot, but the pencils find new purpose, like marking measurements for flooring installation and greenhouse construction.

Most of the plastic tubs we used for school supplies have been re-purposed. The tubs are filled with canning lids, garden whatnots, and necessary miscellany. Spiral notebooks —some partially used, some untouched— are my scratch pads for scribbling recipes and grocery lists and for doodling or writing when I’m stuck in a waiting room. I keep a nightstand notebook for those seldom occasions when I wake in the night with an idea. The chalk moved to the kitchen chalkboard, where we scribble to-dos and to-buys. The school supplies are stealing their way into every room of the house!

Recycling for the Farm Purchase

As I continue to find re-uses for remnants left in my nest, I’m pleased with last week’s recycling move. A plastic multi-pocket folder has become my folder of documents for the day that I buy the farm.

empty-nest-recyclingA friend’s mom recently passed, leaving her children a notebook with instructions, last wishes, and all the useful information to help navigate a mournful final farewell. Her thoughtfulness inspired me to get my check-out papers in order. I scanned the shelves of school supplies for a notebook. Instead of a spiral notebook, I pulled out a purple, multi-pocket folder. The sturdy pockets will hold my last will and testament, cadaver instructions, information about my accounts, and some thoughts on how my survivors might survive the days following my death.

Recycling Beyond the Nest

The act of filling out death documents was laced with a bit of morbid dread. However, as I collect the documents and thoughts in the folder, that dark, alloyed emotion morphs toward the antipodal feeling of joy. I feel comfort as I fill the folder. I feel I am tying an important loose end. I feel the satisfaction of a gift well-conceived and well-given.

No amount of preparation can preclude the grief and regret of words said or unsaid, acts done or undone. My hope is that this recycled folder will make the journey through it easier. That the thoughts I scribble on index cards and college-ruled paper will bring at least one smile. That the pockets will offer one last gentle caress, one last comforting squeeze, one last I love you locked onto their hearts to float them well beyond that day.

I remind my children and myself that I expect the folder to collect many more years of dust in my empty nest. That idea of dust helps dissipate the morbid dread as well.

The empty nest recycling job is as yet incomplete. Far from complete, I would say. But with the Farm Purchase Folder in order, I have my eye out for a pretty something that could serve as an urn. Not sure I’ll find it among the pencil boxes and sheet protectors, but I’m searching. This, too, I do in love.

© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2016