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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?

Please take the Sixty and Me 2023 Community Survey

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Judy Schapker

As a boomer raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression, I have never put value in “things” or exessive spending on frivolous items or big houses or fancy cars. Things I value are family, experiences, travel and living debt free. Not all boomers are evil, but the stereotype lives on.

S. Jan Lackey

We downsized after both children were out on their own, and we had both retired. After three garage sales and giving away some treasures, we moved out of home of 32+ years into our new home with only items that we truly enjoy. Since then, some of our space has been taken over with slides and old home movies from my parents’ house. I am going through those, but it is a slow process. I will testify, that being a minimalist is extremely freeing!


Hi! I’m 63 yrs young.

I’ve seen and experienced after someone dies no one cares to take their ” home decor” as a token of ” family memories “!

I’m completely on board with decluttering and minimizes my home.

Thank you for this open discussion.

Thanks for joining in this timely conversation about decluttering and minimizing
Rita Wilkins
The downsizing designer


I am now 68. Five years ago, my father died leaving our huge homestead in stowe vermont to be cleared out. Being the closest child, I was tasked with clearing out a sprawling 8 bedroom, 2 apartments home and barn on 15 acres, 8 of them a blueberry farm, a pool and a pond. All this while in the midst of 2 new hips, lol. It took me 2 and a half years, coordinating auctioneers (lots of precious antiques and art) and horse, farm, entertaining, etc. Plus the lives of 5 children and many friends and workers. IT WAS A DEATH MARCH!! Presently, I am going thru my life and making choices. I live in a 7200 sqf general store/post office/ undertaker parlor, in which I have created 2 apartments and my studio. My adult kids ask every now and again, what I am planning to do with everything and wouldn’t I enjoy a smaller building? Well, no, I wouldn’t. However, I do not wish to do the same horrible task of dismantling my/our lives on their shoulders. So, the work has begun. We fo not know when our last day is upon us. I love them more than that 😀.and truly, as I age I do not care about these things with the passion I once did. Life is short. Not enough time for grasping.

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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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