There’s a cultural shift taking place right before our eyes. The generation that created consumerism is now embracing the idea of choosing to live with less… much less!
For years, baby boomers’ big wallets and significant disposable income allowed them to buy big houses, fill them up with lots of beautiful stuff, then to buy even bigger houses, and fill them up with even more stuff… and so it continued.
But as we’ve gotten older and a little wiser, and as we enter a new phase of our lives, many baby boomers are adopting minimalism as a lifestyle choice because they’ve discovered that less can really mean more.
Less stuff, more freedom. More freedom, more life. Less clutter, simpler life. Simpler life, more happiness.
When you hear the word minimalism, you might naturally think of millennials, not baby boomers.
But a fast-growing trend within the baby boomer generation is to learn how to live abundantly with less… a lot less.
While the minimalist lifestyle spans across many generations, it is a relatively new concept to baby boomers, who, for years, adopted a consumer lifestyle of “bigger, better, more.”
Many of us have learned a little bit about minimalism from our own adult children, who are extremely selective about what they allow into their homes and their lives. We may have even experienced a resounding “no” when we offered them some of our stuff as we decluttered our basements and attics.
Perhaps turned off by growing up in homes with an overabundance of stuff, the younger generations have clearly identified what they deem essential, and they also have the courage and willpower to say “no” to what’s not necessary or useful.
Our generation is finally starting to realize that having excessive amounts of stuff not only creates clutter, disorder, and chaos in our homes and in our lives, but that stuff can also feel empty and meaningless. Many boomers have started to realize that when they intentionally remove the excess and unnecessary stuff, they free up time, money, and energy to focus on what matters most to them.
The days of spending so much of our time, money, and energy on accumulating “more” seems to be dissipating. Instead, we are beginning to discover what our kids knew all along… LESS IS MORE!
Marie Kondo’s book and Netflix show, Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, has had a major influence on people of all ages to live with less, and to embrace minimalism. In her book, Kondo encourages us to remove anything from our home that doesn’t spark joy.
The Covid lockdown challenged baby boomers to rethink their priorities. Many were forced out of their jobs, while others opted for early retirement.
In an effort to make their savings last longer, many baby boomers decided to declutter their large homes, downsize, and move to smaller homes to reduce expenses and live a simpler, more fulfilling life.
The pandemic also forced us to face our own mortality. Realizing that they were much happier not working, many baby boomers discovered new ways to live their best life right now while they still could.
Many chose to sell their big homes, downsize so they could live closer to their children and grandchildren. They chose meaningful experiences with their family and loved ones over the big house and the big mortgage.
When our lives change, so must we change and adapt.
Divorce, death of a spouse, caregiving, and declining health are just a few situations we are faced with in our daily lives.
By choosing to sell the family, homestead, declutter, and downsize to a smaller, more affordable and manageable home is often what’s necessary to restore some semblance of calm in stressful life changing situations.
Many boomers are just plain tired of the mental, physical, and financial burden of their once-beloved large homes and properties.
They are ready to let go of much of the stuff that weighs them down and prevents them from living the life they really want… a lifestyle that provides more mobility, flexibility, and a lot less responsibility.
They can then choose to spend their time on what matters most to them: their relationships, experiences, health, and passions that light them up.
Fortunately, it’s not too late.
An overabundance of stuff causes clutter and clutter comes with a cost to our health, well-being, and overall happiness… a cost, that at this stage of our lives, we cannot afford to pay.
Knowing that we have fewer years ahead of us than we do behind us, it’s not at all surprising that we want to:
The trend towards minimalism, to travel light, and to pare down our possessions to only what we need, love, and will use is the natural offshoot of the wisdom gained from years of overindulging and overspending.
It’s only natural that we want to settle for less in our third act.… not less life, just less stuff so we can focus on what matters most.
The cultural shift and trend towards minimalism for boomers is an example of our shifting values as we age and how we are choosing to spend our time, money, energy, and resources.
At one point in our lives, we likely chose to buy more because it gave us pleasure, and we enjoyed it… the big house, the beautiful designer furniture, and the dinner table.
But at some point, perhaps not too long ago, we acknowledged that all of that stuff was just stuff.
It felt empty. It felt superficial.
The never-ending desire for “more” robbed us of precious time and resources.
The vicious cycle of buying “more” promised happiness, but never really fulfilled on that promise.
As a baby boomer myself who has decluttered and downsized and who now and speaks nationally on the impact of living with less, I’m not at all surprised that baby boomers are embracing the freedom of less.
It’s our third act, and by choosing to say goodbye to the emptiness of material possessions, we are saying hello to a richer, more abundant life.
We are going from a life full of stuff to a life filled with meaning.
Have you downsized? How did you feel afterwards? Do you think you have lived a life of consumerism? Is minimalism your new lifestyle?
Tags Downsizing Your Life
My husband and I still love our suburban colonial home that we’ve lived in for 30+ years, where our children grew up. We love our community.
our adult children, their spouses (all in their 30s) and our grandchildren have a warm, loving comfortable ‘homestead’ to gather for holidays or anytime. We’ve updated our home many times over the years to fit the stages of life and changing needs and enjoy our home in new ways. we love our stuff! The things that bring us joy.
We did get rid of 35 pieces of furniture stored in our basement during the pandemic and turned it into a big playroom and workout space.
Our adult children live in good sized homes and buy plenty of stuff.
So, maybe we’re the generational exceptions but we’re not downsizing or moving away from our family and community, or living minimally.
It’s a great pleasure having a place where everyone feels at home!
Thanks for your comment. I agree, many baby boomers are choosing to stay in their homestead for all the reasons you mentioned.
But there is another group of boomers who have decided to try a new lifestyle with less stuff and less to manage …an interesting movement to watch for sure!
The downsizing designer
Prior to 2018 we lived in a 2-story, 4 BR, 3 BR house in the north. For over a year, I cleaned, cleared out, gave away and sold items filling closets and rooms that we did not use. We moved to a much smaller house in the deep south. After living in a smaller home for 5 yrs and looking back…I do have some regret. There were things I moved that I should not have moved. There were things I left behind that should have come with us. For me it was a failure to be able to envision the future needs we would have a totally different climate and social environment. If I had it to do all over…I would have worked on downsizing for 2 or 3 yrs…not one year. I would have sold more of the stuff I gave away and stashed the money in a special account. So, that would be my advice to others. Really try to envision a new lifestyle-what you will need and not hurriedly discard.
BL, thanks for sharing your experience and lessons learned. Hopefully your new lifestyle is simpler with less stuff.
Decluttering g and downsizing does take time and there is a roller coaster of emotions in letting go,
I agree, visualizing f your new lifestyle..where to live, what you will be doing, with whom is such an important part of planning.
The downsizing designer
My husband and I moved from a big house in Omaha, NE (typical 4 beds, 3 baths and even an apartment in the basement!) to a teeny tiny rowhouse is South Philadelphia (moved to be closer to family). We even sold our two cars in Omaha and use public transportation in Philly. (By the way there is NO parking in So. Philly and that’s why we ditched the cars).
The only thing I miss about owning a bigger home is a yard and gardening, but other than that living in a smaller space “ain’t” so bad. Less to clean (however Philly is dirtier than Omaha so I have to clean more often) and my husband and I actually use the entire rowhouse! We didn’t use half of our house in Omaha.
I really like not having a car…it forces me to walk and I’m not paying for: car payments, insurance, inspections, parking tickets:), upkeep, etc. Getting rid of the cars was more freeing for me than downsizing, but I recommend both! And yes, I’m a boomer, and married for 50 years! Now that’s a feat!
Mary,congratulations! You have taken some bold steps and it’s so great to hear you loving your new minimalist lifestyle!
When I moved from a 5000 sf house to an 867 sf condo in Philly, I experienced more time, money and freedom! With regard to the gardening, I learned how to make a beautiful garden in pots and you can always volunteer to garden in Washington Square!
The downsizing designer
When a flood destroyed everything we had stored in our basement as well as the recently remodeled basement itself, I realized that all of the material things so carefully acquired was all just “stuff”! Losing so much of the “stuff” gave me a new perspective on what was really important in my life. I’m actually grateful that it happened.
Lucinda, I’m sorry to hear about the flood, but appreciate your sharing how that loss impacted your relationship to “stuff”
The downsizing designer
I’m embarrassed to say but I inherited things from my Mother’s move from guilt! I did have a huge sale of her things and things I had accumulated in my own home. But…it still wasn’t enough. I’m finally free from needing anything as I have sold, gave away and refused any more needless things to enter! It’s easier cleaning, loving and using the things I have and the organization is impressive! I’m FREE.
Donna, the ultimate gift of decluttering is freedom. Enjoy!
The downsizing designer