Baby Boomers have accumulated a lot of stuff over the decades and now is the perfect time to embrace a lighter footprint.
I was born in 1957 and that means that I'm in the middle of the Baby Boomer generation. "Boomers" are generally those born within the 20 year period following World War II, roughly 1945 - 1965, and we are retiring in unprecedented numbers.
Many of my fellow Boomers from high school (Alive in '75!) are either considering retirement or have already done so and in the process have been forced to downsize their belongings in order to relocate to their chosen retirement location.
Downsizing, in this usage, simply means getting rid of all the crap we've accumulated over the last 40 years.
While some have thoughtfully curated their possessions over the decades, and enjoyed the experience of selecting and keeping those things that brought value to their lives, others haven't."
Our homes are filled with impulse buys, a series of appliances that all do the same thing (how many George Foreman Grills does one truly need?), or just accumulated items that add to the general conglomeration. It can be a daunting experience to open a garage door and see no clear path leading to the other side.
Is there a way out of this mess?
Is there a way to move forward and embrace a simpler lifestyle as well as one that is satisfying and not devoid of items we truly enjoy?
I'm proof that there is
I'm 60 and I embraced minimalism about 10 years ago. I was living in Santa Cruz at the time and helped a friend move. She was in her 50s and was still hanging on to boxes and boxes of note collections from her undergraduate days in college. I had a sudden realization that I too was probably hanging on to things that served no further purpose.
Over the ensuing years, I got rid of nearly everything I owned except for those items that contributed value to my life. Gone were the books that I'd moved over and over; donated to my local library. Gone were the clothes that I like but never wore: donated to a thrift store.
For the first time in my adult life I experienced true freedom from the belongings that lurked in closets and patios. It was (and still is) liberating."
Even today, a decade later, I still go through periods where I identify and purge unnecessary belongings, but I don't have a lot of stuff to begin with —I'm proof that even after arriving in Minmalistville, there remain periodic audits and adjustments to be made.
In a subsequent post, I'll get into how to transition from your current state of mass-collection with no end in sight to one with fewer extraneous items and offer help charting a course for the Boomer minimalist lifestyle. For now, let's look at some of the reasons for doing so. After all, without a clear motivation, you'll fall short of your goal.
5 benefits from living the minimalist Boomer lifestyle
Right off the bat, let's define minimalism for the aging Boomer. Here's how I view it:
Minimalism is embracing those things (possessions, relationships, jobs) in your life that bring you true value and joy and purposefully letting go of the rest."
Example: If having 12 purses brings you joy and value, then you should have 12 purses. However, if you only to use five, then the other seven could be donated, sold, or trashed."
Here are five benefits you'll experience from transitioning to a Boomer minimalist lifestyle...
benefit #1 - falling in love with your home again
No one likes living in a messy home. When you have less stuff, your house is easier to clean and keep tidy and is a more peaceful place to be. There is less shifting of this to make room for that taking place. Closets are actually functional and are no longer places just to cram stuff to forget about (because you never really forget it... see benefit #2). Because you'll have less stuff, you'll enjoy being there and yours will likely become the favorite home for friends to gather.
benefit #2 - experiencing less stress
In a minimalist home, everything has a place and things are easier to find when you need them. This alone leads to less stress when you truly need an item and can locate it in an instant. Beyond the happiness-inducing instant location feature, is the decrease or even total elimination of the psychic stress associated with having five closets and three storage facilities crammed with junk. Just walking through a room with too many things in it we experience a basic level of stress. Minimalism can greatly reduce and in some cases eliminate it altogether and that's one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.
benefit #3 - having more money in the bank
Who wouldn't enjoy more money, right? When you're no longer buying a purse or new dress shirt every time you get paid, when you're no longer paying for three storage units, guess what? You have more money in the bank to invest in your future, pay down some credit card debt, or take part in experiences that bring you true value - a trip to Europe, using the one quality coffeemaker to replace the ten you donated to Goodwill, etc.
benefit #4 - having more time for what you enjoy
Imagine having the time to enjoy life. Perhaps the most enjoyable reward of becoming a minimalist Boomer is having more time for what you truly enjoy doing. If you're spending less time cleaning, organizing (a fancy word for moving your clutter around), and taking excess items to your storage facility, you'll have more time to write, to knit, to read, to spend with your significant other or your grandkids, and to do all the things your twilight years are supposed to include.
benefit #5 - leaving less of a burden for your children
Make it easy on them. When my 85-year-old, non-minimalist father passed away in 2017, I was forced to confront an immense amount of possessions that both he and my mother accumulated over their 65-year marriage. Even though I filled a dumpster that measured 16' x 5' x 4' with stuff from their garage, it emptied only half of it.
A year later, my sister and I still have a lot of his belongings to deal with. My mother is now 85 and although she is more amenable to letting extraneous stuff go, she's not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination and would rather buy five Chapstick rolls instead of one.
When you take the initiative to leave a smaller footprint behind for your children to manage, it's one of the kindest things you can for them as they will be left to make the decisions you weren't willing to make."
Based on ten years of experience, I can tell you that embracing the minimalist lifestyle is one of the best decisions you can make both for your immediate well being as well as for your future.
Next time I'll write about how to make the transition from aging maximalist to Boomer minimalist with as few difficulties as possible.