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Lifestyle Trend Goes Mainstream as Baby Boomers Embrace Minimalism

By Rita Wilkins January 27, 2023 Lifestyle

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.”

We Have Learned

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!

5 Key Factors Contributing to the Cultural Shift to Living with Less

The Decluttering Movement

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 Pandemic

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.

Aging and Mortality 

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.

Life Circumstances

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.

Lifestyle Choice

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. 

We’ve Learned Much from Our Life Experiences

  • More stuff doesn’t make us happier.
  • Too much stuff gets in the way of the more fulfilling life we could be living.
  • Stuff is just stuff and it’s no longer as important to us as it once was.

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:

  • MAXIMIZE our life experiences, and 
  • MINIMIZE our excess clutter.

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.

Settle for LESS

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.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you downsized? How did you feel afterwards? Do you think you have lived a life of consumerism? Is minimalism your new lifestyle?

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Good for you guys. Now that the planet is trashed.


I have been living and working in numerous international locations for over 18 years. I have no home base really, and everything I own in in 2suitcases. Over the years I ghave become more and more simplistic.if I have to carry it, it has to be necessary in my life.Now I am planning retirement and have to do ” grow up stuff” like buy a home, furniture and a car.its us quite scarey.Not sure how I will be comfortable with this. Time will tell.

rita wilkins

Sue, it sounds like you already discovered the essence of minimalism and the joy of living with less. 
You may want to consider easing into the idea of too much “grown up stuff” because it will begin to way you down. 
Right now it seems like you have a lot of flexibility and mobility. When people own too much stuff it inhibits that freedom.

Toni Stritzke

I moved from NZ to Western Australian in 2001. All I could take with me was two suitcases.
Rebuilding a life in this way taught m that not a lot was necessary for happiness. I still enjoy the freedom of a minimalist way of living and regularly go through my “stuff.” There’s a great neighbourhood movement here called “Buy Nothing ….suburb name. You can only join your suburb. I always put stuff up to give away before I donate to charity.
I’ve met some lovely neighbours in the past couple of years and one has become a true friend.

rita wilkins

Toni, it sounds like you continue to perfect the art of decluttering and enjoying the
benefit of donating items to those who might need them. 
This is the essence if a minimalist lifestyle. 

R. Rogers

In April 2022, moved from a 3500 sq ft house in the suburbs of Chicago to a 1 bedroom apartment in Charlotte, NC. I called my house the Cornucopia House because there was so much stuff in it that whatever you were looking for, you could find it there. Now that I’m looking for a condo, I’m considering a 1 bedroom instead of a 2, because this has been freeing and liberating to not be weighed down with STUFF.

rita wilkins

Rogers, I laughed when you referred with your Cornucopia House, I have never heard of it before, but it fits!
I am glad that you are now experiencing the joy with living with less so you can live abundantly with more.


Downsizing through the event of a bush fire that destroys your house, contents, tools, vehicles, machinery and pets…..you quickly learn what you need. Replacing a house, cooking utensils and appliances, furniture, clothes and vehicle are essential. But quickly you learn that you have a house not a home. It lacks memories and history. I am a baby boomer who became aware of climate change 50yrs ago. My husband and I live an organic, sustainably lifestyle, grow our own food and make our own bread. Although aging and illness fill most days with physical pain, we enjoy ‘real flavour and real nutrient’ in our food. We are not responsible for the garbage piles in the sea or on the land. Younger people turn to us to learn the joy of life and how to live sustainably. Without the advantage of social media and through hardwork, BABY BOOMERS have led the way in climate change, science, medicine, social welfare, sustainable architecture, horticulture, organic farming, education, technology etc. Many of whom did not grow rich in the process. Lifestyle and home-making is creating a comfortable home that meets your daily needs, is welcoming to family and friends and reflects who you are. A minimalist home can lack soul.

rita wilkins

Judith, your comments are inspiring and evidence that contributing to the sustainability to our environment is critical. 
Part of living with less is also learning to care for our surroundings and 
as well as our family. 

The Author

Rita Wilkins, known as The Downsizing Designer, is a nationally recognized interior design and lifestyle design expert, Tedx speaker and author of Downsize Your Life, Upgrade Your Lifestyle: Secrets to More Time, Money and Freedom. She challenges baby boomer audiences to reimagine, reinvent, redesign their lives to live abundantly with less. Learn more at https://www.designservicesltd.com/

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