Hopping On The Wave Of Pandemic Minimalism
In the past few months, more and more people have been finding that money, space, or both are unusually tight. Forced into an early retirement through layoffs, or forced to spend much more time at home, many older Americans are looking for ways to spend less, declutter and focus on the essentials.
In other words, they are looking to become “minimalists”—a term that rose in popularity throughout the 2010s as icons like Marie Kondo championed the benefits of a simple, clutter-free lifestyle. Kondo is most famous for her advice to throw away anything that does not “spark joy,” and has inspired thousands of people of all ages to live with less. As many people scale back out of sheer necessity, the minimalist philosophy can serve as a reminder that this doesn’t always have to seem like a bad thing.
While the minimalist trend has been the most popular among millennials, those later in life stand to enjoy unique benefits from this lifestyle. Amy and Tim Rutherford, who write about their experience on their blog GoWithLess.com, explain how downsizing and living frugally allowed them to retire in their 40s. “Substantially reducing our spending and streamlining our lives was the key to our financial independence. What we spent was far more important than what we made,” they explain.
Downsizing and decluttering can be both cathartic and profitable. Selling old items on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and other websites is a great way to make a bit of extra income, while also freeing you up to move into a smaller home. Some thrift stores, such as Buffalo Exchange, make it easy to trade in old clothing for cash. Donating or gifting old belongings are also great ways to keep heirlooms in the family, give back to the community, and reduce waste.
Of course, spending all day stuck at home can also make sparseness sound less appealing—quarantine has led some to regret stripping their homes of extra clothes, forms of entertainment, and cooking appliances. But minimalism doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing gambit. For many, simply cleaning out the basement, storage closet, or garage offers mental and financial streamlining, without making the house feel drab or empty.
Despite all the pain and inconvenience, the pandemic has also offered many a silver lining: refocusing on what is really important and stripping away what is not. As they move toward retirement, many older adults feel that this kind of refocusing is particularly important. Have you done any downsizing or decluttering during quarantine? How have you done it and how has it gone for you? Share your experiences in the comments below.
Eve Driver is a freelance feature contributor and a graduate of Harvard University. She writes on a variety of topics including aging, climate change, and political polarization. Her work has appeared in Harvard Magazine and the Harvard Political Review.