Baby Boomers' Downsizing

Post by Sharon 

We lived our lives squirreling away things, accumulating, being ready for any occasion, any visitor, any need and before we knew it, we were drowning in things and expanding our home front to make more  room for "stuff."

There comes a time in every baby boomer's life when you have to make a decision - to possibly "let go" and "reframe" what's important. Is it possessions and space or is it experiences and freedom?

If you are considering downsizing, this is just the post for you!

I put myself through downsizing twice in the past nine years. One time, it was leaving a marriage and letting him have the house and furniture and moving to an apartment and the next time was moving from the apartment, getting rid of four-fifths of what I own to live in a bedroom-sized space temporarily until I found a situation that was reasonable. The rent for the one-bedroom was $1200 a month! The room in the house was nice, but shared with four college kids.

I thought shedding all the things I had built up over the eight years to make my own nest would be terribly painful. I had a great sense of style and my apartment was me through and through. The marriage was fraught with compromise and I always had dreamed of living on my own and having my own place, rather like Mary Tyler Moore's Mary Richards.

Strangely, as I made up huge piles for Salvation Army pickup and traded people on for smaller dresser and twin bed for my big dresser and queen bed, I felt oddly liberated. I could come and go.

When you live in an apartment or even a house, you look around and think that if you wanted to leave the situation quickly, you'd have a lot to pack and ship and great expense and exhaustion. At this point, I didn't own much and what I had was utilitarian and not worth stealing.

I promised myself I'd never be hostage to apartment rent rising and feeling trapped because moving is so expensive.

I also found out something amazing - I don't really NEED a lot of stuff. One good-sized mixing bowl, a simple set of dishes, a good fry pan and maybe two pots. I had set up my married house for entertaining that very rarely ever occurred. Platters collected dust, a breadmaker was never used....

Goodwill and other thrift stores can find 1-5 dollar items to replace if I wanted to set up a nest again, but never would I take the "hit" of buying brand new items for my home. It's like buying a car, let someone else take the initial inflated cost hit and buy slightly used.

Possible reasons you want to downsize

Be more mobile, able to come and go and not worry about the house
Don't want to pay for maintenance or maintain yourself an entire home
Less space, less utilities, less upkeep
Moving closer to grandkids or some tropical paradise
Selling a paid-off house to gain some retirement $
Living a dream, perhaps hitting the road in an RV or travel
Less people living in the home
Physical ailments that make upkeep difficult or expensive/mobility issues
Getting a home you can pay for outright
Finding a condo where you feel safe having close neighbors
Moving in with someone to save expenses or help out

Stage 1 - Furnishings, large items

The biggest space suck is furnishings and large items like exercise machines (walking outdoors instead?) Downsizing isn't always about throwing things out, it's often about literally sizing things down, i.e. go from a king bed to a full bed, go from an 8-drawer dresser to a 4-drawer, etc. I utilized to alert neighbors I'd like to trade my larger furnishings for smaller ones. People jumped at the chance to get a newer queen bed and get rid of a twin bed or get my huge two-person Ikea dresser for their tiny dresser. 

Where do the cast off's go? You can donate them to Goodwill, Salvation Army and other donation sites that come with a truck and pick them up. You can ask friends and family if they need any of them. You can advertise them for sale on Craig's List or It's not hard to find ways to have them carted off for you. Also consider if a piece can now do two jobs for you such as a mirror above a dresser becomes a makeup area or the dresser can be turned into a sink vanity in a bathroom or used in a kitchen for elongated a short counter.

Stage 2 - "stuff"

"Stuff" is things in junk drawers, papers stacked up in corners, cords, holiday decorations, and other stuff that you rarely if ever pull out and utilize or discarded items you never took time to go through. 

Consider pitching instruction books as most can be found online as well as videos for installing and repairing items on YouTube. 

This sweep would include things like garage stuff, bits of lumber, paint cans, etc. You will want to go through home office things and kitchen appliances and the like. Look at dual uses. A toaster oven can also toast bread, so toaster not necessary. A single use blender like a Magic Bullet versus a full-sized blender is another option. A hand mixer (10-25 bucks new online) that can be easily stored versus a large countertop one with bowl is another size reduction that counts in the kitchen.

Do you really need platters or an you use dishes to put things on for holidays? If you have that need once a year, consider a party store with plastic platters.  Do you need four mixer bowls? If you do, be sure they nest inside each other. One good cookie sheet and one larger fry pan and one medium-sized pot can work to do just about anything for cooking. 

Stage 3 - "clothing and toiletries"

As a female who wanted to be a clothing designer when I was younger and modeled and entered pageants, I adore clothing, accessories, shoes, purses, makeup, etc. I cringed at the idea of having perhaps 10 pairs of shoes (compared to about 40). I broke it down to - one pair of flip flops, one pair of hiking shoes, one pair of winter boots (I live in a hot climate), two pairs of sandals, one pair of walking shoes, one pair of heels, two pairs of sneakers.

When it came to clothes, I got rid of everything that didn't fit. The truth was, I wasn't at the goal weight yet and I hadn't been for a few years, so why keep toting clothing around? When I did lose weight, part of the fun is replacing the fat stuff for new thin stuff. If I had multiple tops of the same color, say 8 beige tops, why not cut it down to two (summer and winter)? 

Stage 4 - "sentimental"

Sentiment sometimes feels like an ancestral burden and other times a safety item. Either we have been passed down something that doesn't fit into our modern world or we keep it because someone we love that is missing used to love it or covet it. Add some logic to this concept - if you have to keep it for the past generation because they loved it, then your kids now have to keep it and your precious items too. Imagine a few generations of keeping alive something that had meaning to a family member at some point? Wouldn't you rather pass down values, stories, and talents? 

When you pass, will you wish your kids kept your blue cup from childhood or would you rather they love and raise their children by your example? Leave them photos, newspaper clippings and the like in an album or a written journal. 


What you will find as you pare down your life is that you feel rather liberated. You are no longer responsible for tons of sh@t you have to pay someone to move it for you or pack and unpack it forever. Decision making is fast.

If you've ever gone into one of your rooms in your house and put everything away and rearranged it and felt the sense of calm and expanse, you understand how clutter can cause a visual and spatial noise that is distracting, irritating, kind of like that tag in your shirt rubbing your neck all day long. When you look around you and see sunshine, smooth surfaces, simplicity, you relax. This is perhaps why women always dream of spa-themed bathrooms. Baskets to put items away in, clean surfaces, soothing colors, simple visuals.

That clutter is "spatial pollution" much like noise pollution - it offends the senses.

Your relationship to your space changes when you pare down. You no longer feel crowded out, weaving your way through your house. When you are down to the basics, everything has a place and everything is in its place. Now, you have free time and no guilt. What might you do with that free time and extra money not spent on buying house decorations and items on end?

Man is happier living outdoors and being with others in social environments than squirreled away with everything they own surrounding them.