Dorinda Medley doesn’t mind an empty nest.
When the Real Housewives of New York star’s daughter, Hannah, moved into an apartment of her own in the Big Apple, it felt like the right time for the duo, Medley says.
“When your children leave to go to college they leave as kittens and come back cats,” she tells PEOPLE. “When you have a kitten you can tell it what to do, but when you have a cat, it’s different. So it comes a time when it’s not healthy anymore.”
Omitting the day-to-day chores like checking in and planning dinners helped relieve some of the stress. “We see each other now because we want to spend time together,” she says. “All that sort of micro stuff we fought about is gone.”
Now Medley has her 2-bed, 2-bath abode all to herself, and has been busy decorating it for the holidays with HomeGoods. The discount store is also a source of recent faux-conflict for her and Hannah.
“Hannah came in the other day and was like, ‘What do you mean you went to HomeGoods without me?!’” Medley says. “We get breathless about shopping there.”
Luckily, a recent “mommy-daughter” weekend to Boca Raton, Florida, ensured Medley’s secret shopping trip was quickly forgotten.
“She said to me on the way back on Monday, ‘You know Mom, I don’t think we’ve been this happy together since before Richard died,’” she says, referencing her late husband, who passed away in 2011. “I cried.”
Now Medley is looking forward to spending the holidays enjoying her and Hannah’s “very close” relationship — and her new decorations.
“I actually took a nap by the tree the other day,” she says. “I put NPR on my radio; I got my blanket; I laid down, and it was like I literally woke up and was like, ‘Mama?’”