By Rita S. Wilkins, The Downsizing Designer

If you are a baby boomer growing up in the 60’s, you probably remember listening to Neil Sedaka singing “Breaking Up is Hard To Do.”

Many years later, baby boomers are still singing the blues, but this time it is not about breaking off a relationship with a young teenage romance, it is about parting with a family home and its treasured contents that you have collected over the past 30 to 40 years.  You have accumulated more than you have ever imagined during that time and as you begin the process of decluttering and downsizing, you are completely overwhelmed and you have no idea where to begin. 

It IS hard and you are NOT ALONE.

There are 76,000,000 baby boomers in the United States.  Each day for the next 12 years, 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65.  As we enter this next phase of our lives, many of us are choosing to downsize to a smaller, more manageable home.  We are ending our love-hate relationship with the yard, snow removal, and other chores that prevent us from pursuing new dreams that are aligned with what matters most to us in our 3rd act.

If you have made the decision to break up with your family home and much of its beloved contents, at some point, you will likely ask: Why is it so hard to let go of my stuff?


While downsizing you discover sentimental reminders of special people, moments, and happy times in your life.  You are afraid to let go of them lest the memories fade forever.  (i.e. my dad’s alarm clock)

Someone you love gave it to you

You feel guilty about letting go or getting rid of something, fearing you will hurt or insult the one who gave it to you.  (i.e. Granny’s Victrola)

You spent “good money” on it

You feel guilty about wasting money on something you bought.  (i.e. that expensive silk jacket)

You might need it “someday”

You prolong or procrastinate about letting go of something because you might need it “just in case”.

(i.e. outdated appliance manuals)

You attach hopes and dreams to possessions

You haven’t accomplished something yet but you might… someday.  (i.e. lose the weight so you can fit into those skinny jeans again)

You procrastinate or postpone decisions.

You are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start or you get started, but then get “stuck”.

(i.e. decluttering or downsizing process)

“I want you to have it someday”

Our parents generation passed stuff down to us.  You may have welcomed it when you were building your nest.  For the most part our kids do not want our stuff.


Let’s get real!


Reality #1

Our kids are living in smaller spaces, urban environments and may never have large homes like we did.

They don’t want our stuff!

Reality #2

Many of us are embarrassed by how much stuff we have.  If we want a simpler less cluttered life we will need to let go of a lot of our stuff.

Reality #3

It’s overwhelming and many of us have no idea where to start.

My 4 Favorite Tips on How to Let Go of Stuff

  1. Take photos of hard to let go of items.  Write a story about them and create a Shutterfly album.
  2. Give it to someone who needs it or wants it.  It may not be your kids but maybe a friend or family member wants it.
  3. Legacy based approach.   Give a gift to your kids by dealing with your stuff now while you have time and before it’s too late.
  4. Repurpose your stuff.        I.e. make a quilt out of clothing and gift it to your grandchildren.

While downsizing and decluttering keep your vision alive for what kind of lifestyle you want in your 3rd act. (i.e. more time and experiences with family, friends, and grandchildren)

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. When did I last use it or wear it?
  2. Does it add value to my life?
  3. Is it worth the space, time, and effort to take care of it?
  4. Will it sit in a box or should I just deal with it now?
  5. Does it align with my vision for a simple less cluttered life?

Breaking up with your stuff IS hard to do but if you want to make room for a simpler less cluttered life, it’s well worth the time and energy to have the life you love.


Do you want to learn more about downsizing and decluttering?

Call us to discuss your design needs 302-475-5663.

Visit our website to download The Downsizing Designer’s Free ABC’s of Downsizing PDF



“Over the many years I have known Rita, she has continued to educate herself on design and everything related to the baby boomer generation.  She’s highly credible as a subject matter expert and continues to develop innovative ideas that will make a difference for those of us who are approaching our retirement years.”      – Janet P.


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Downsize Your Life: Why Less is More | Rita Wilkins | TEDxWilmingtonWomen