Minimalism isn’t just for Millennials anymore.
Nor is it for their (most) parents, the Baby Boomers (they get everything). The funny thing is that even though these two generations probably don’t see eye to eye on a number of issues – and Yes, I am generalizing, I know – they have both embraced Minimalism for many of the same reasons.
It just makes sense.
Less stuff = More life
Minimalism, or at least the new trending hashtag of Minimalism, was propelled out of necessity from a generation that was finding the ever increasing costs of housing, food, and transportation were not matching their starting salaries after graduating from University, especially if they are laden with student debt. Upon finding this ‘less is more’ way of living, and Instagramming this way of living, the retirement approaching Baby Boomers started to realize that this new approach may be exactly what they need in their lives.
Now, I am stating the obvious when I say that the Baby Boomers who have embraced Minimalism probably are still in much better financial shape than the Millennials who found themselves as minimalists by necessity. The generation who lead the exodus to the suburbs and the 4 bedroom house with double garage are now sitting in their 2500 square foot homes as empty nesters and wondering what their retirement years will look like. (Again, I am generalizing) By living as minimalists, they can live with less stuff in smaller apartments or condos in order to afford to travel and check off their bucket lists.
But what about the Gen X’rs?
Those of us born between 1965-1984 are still very much in the middle of their working lives. Since the youngest of this group are still in their early 30’s, they may just have finished their education or are just starting out with families of their own. The older X’rs probably still have children in school, living at home and are still a good 10-15 years away from retirement.
How can minimalism work for Gen Xr’s?
As a Gen X’r with three kids, all of whom are now living out of our home, as of this year. We are parents of a university student and one who has completed (at least for now) university and one who is following a passion for art and working full time. We are very new to the this empty nest, although, truth be told, the door tends to be a revolving one for a few years before they actually leave, and we are more than ok with that.
Generation X by name, is sort of this lost generation, heck, we don’t even have a cool name to put to us. The generation is between “go to school, get a job, get married, have kids, buy a house, work for 30 years and retire” and “I want to find my passion and live it. All we have is today”. Believe me, it is a confusing place to be. We are often caught between two different lives we ‘think’ we should be living. If we compromise with either view, we are letting ourselves down and inevitably we are letting down others who are counting on us. The chronic sense of disappointment to those who ‘wanted more’ for us and those who think ‘we deserve more’ leaves us in limbo; unable to act for fear of making the wrong choice.
Here is where I think Minimalism can help us out.
- Begin by doing a regular rotation of ‘if one things comes in, one goes out’. We have tried this and it works really well. If we are in need of a new article of clothing in particular, we only replace, and not add to the the wardrobe we have. This allows us to be more choosy with our purchases and also to look at what we have and eliminate the things we are not using. By doing this, we can keep hold on storage that is necessary. We don’t need the extra bin or closet because we are still keeping the same amount of items in total.
- If you have kids, re-use items as the child grows out of them. I think this pretty much goes without saying. There are plenty of items that kids just don’t wear out. They grow out of clothing and shoes and sporting goods way faster than they wear them out. So use them for the next child in line. When you get to the end, if they are still in working condition, there are definitely places to donate gently used items.
- Buy used if you can. Why we have the need to buy everything brand new, pay full retail (or even sale price) is absurd. Just like the previous recommendation, there are people who have donated items to local vintage or resale stores that are in perfect condition. This not only saves you money, but also teaches your kids that brand new is not always necessary.
- The bigger house is not always necessary. This one may rub people the wrong way. What I mean by this is that as soon as we have our first child, then maybe start planning for the next, we think we have to have 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. We have this misconception that we have to have closets as big as some bedrooms are and ensuite bathrooms with a shower big enough for a party of 5. I am not begrudging anyone for wanting to purchase a bigger home for whatever reason they have, but this purchase is one that ends up giving people the most stress. The way I see it is that while the kids are small (0-6) they are basically in the same room you are most of the time. When they are 6-16, they may want some of their own space, which may constitute a room for them to hang out in. Then from 16 and up they are usually in and out of the house, and eventually leaving to go to college or university or work. Some move out when they go to school at 18 and never move back. So if you look at the time line, they are really only in need of their ‘own’ space for about 10 years. Take my word for it, the 10 years goes by fast. I guess what I am trying to point out here is that if the purchase of ‘too much’ house will cause you stress or require you to spend more time away from it to pay for it, then maybe it is just ‘too much’ house. Find one that fits you because when your kids leave, the echo is deafening.
- Your kids don’t want you crap…or your parents’ crap. This sound callous, I know. I am sure there will be things that I leave to our kids that they will cherish. There are things I have from my own parents that I cherish and couldn’t imagine getting rid of, but the china, crystal, knick knacks, silver serving pieces, and costume jewelry are literally collecting dust. I ended up with my Grandmother’s china and crystal and my Mother’s silver serving set. I also inherited a set of blue collectable plates that hung in my Mom’s kitchen. After years of storing them in a cupboard and moving them each time we moved, I decided to wash them and use them as daily dishes. They are completely mismatched but now they are in regular rotation in our daily dishes. The china and crystal gets used whenever we have a family dinner and yes, it gets washed in the dishwasher. The silver is in a box. Still. The thing to remember is that they are things. Things don’t hold the memories we associate with them, the memories are in us. Sure, there are always going to be items we just can’t part with, but if we were to use the money we spent on these things for experiences with the people we are leaving them to, they would be able to carry that memory forever.
I am not a person who tells people how to live their lives. I don’t begrudge anyone who wants the newest iPhone or the expensive pair of shoes. If those items are bringing them joy, without causing them stress later, then who am I to judge how someone spends their money.
The path of Minimalism is a very personal one. We need to use the tools that work for us in our own lives. Minimalism for a Gen X’r may look completely different than for the Baby Boomer or Millennial, but by adopting some of the tools for Minimalism while still in our working lives, we may find that we gain something we can’t buy…time. The more effective we are in living a meaningful life and using our free time to engage in that life, the time we spend and the time we have becomes more valuable.
Instead of living to pay for things we may only use for a short time, look at the time it will take away from living to pay for them.
As a Generation X’r, we find ourselves in a unique place in history. We may be stuck between two diverse generations, but it may be us that leads the way to a happier, less stress filled future.