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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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After the loss of my husband, I suddenly realized that I had begun buying stuff to replace my grief. I did feel the need to replace the furniture in the bedroom and livingroom, simply because I could no longer stay in the areas where he spent most of his time suffering from terminal cancer. I can honestly say that it lifted such a burden from me. I continued to declutter and reorganize & today I feel a wonderful calm after seven years of settling into my life.

rita wilkins

Cheryl, when we have major life changes, it requires us to also change. It sounds like you have been able to let go of many of the things that holds you back from starting your new life. You are now able to experience the freedom and peace of mind.


This article is propagating a lie that I have baby boomers ” were the generation that created consumerism”.. Consumerism is part of Neo Liberalism. I live in New Zealand and the people that implemented Neo Liberalism here predominantly belonged to the Silent generation. Neo Liberalism was implemented here 4 years later than in the US and your politicians are generally older than ours

Laura Mendoza

I will be 54 next month, live in a 90 m2 home, wich I love, with my husband and 15 yr old girl… but been fighting with our accumulating issues for years! We dont fit but I know the solution is not a Bigger house it is less stuff … Im convinced my daughter should not inherite this mess , and we do not deserve to live this way … Im working on it and asking my “roomies” for help .. IT is not easy, but Im sure we all 3 will be better. Need a lot of motivation to continue this task.

rita wilkins

Laura, part of the downsizing and decluttering journey begins with awareness and it sounds like you know the solution… it’s to own less. Decluttering now even a little bit at a time will help you prevent to have your daughter deal with all the stuff when you are gone. One of my client has taken on the challenge of decluttering one item each day and one and few months after she has seen major change. Keep it going!

Diane Pittman

My husband and I have lived in the same 4 bedroom house for 30 years. We love the community, our church and all our friends. We have renovated all bathrooms, kitchen, and living spaces to make it more saleable if we should ever leave.
My 98 year old mother passed away last year in MD. I knew that some of the pieces of furniture left to me that weren’t coming to GA. She still lived in the 1960s. I came home with a few things then proceeded to get rid of some pieces in my house that didn’t bring me joy anymore. It’s all just stuff. Family, church, friends is all I want to be surrounded with.

rita wilkins

Diane, while it is difficult to get rid of our parent’s stuff, it sounds like you were able to keep only the things that were especially meaningful to you. By living with less, you are now experiencing the joy of living an abundant life.

Claire Stanford

Do you know how in all those movies about divorce there’s some scene where they are dividing things up? When my husband ended our marriage after 30+ years he walked away with just a few things and left me with a lot to go through! In hindsight it was one of the best gifts because it allowed me take charge of the lifestyle change that divorce was causing. It gave me a chance to reassess all of what was included in that life.

Before selling our house in the country and moving to a beautiful city, I had a couple of large bonfire parties to purge unnecessary items from our past. It’s now been four years and I don’t miss anything I used to have. I think when you have a major life change if you don’t change many of the THINGS around you, you can sometimes have more regrets.

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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