People who hit middle age without having changed careers, moved to a new city, traveled the world or reinvented themselves have done themselves a disservice. As those who have experienced these life-changing events recognize, these "passages" may not be easy, but they are energizing, refreshing, freeing and, simply put, necessary.
Downsizing and decluttering have a similar effect on people, no matter their age. But it's empty-nester baby boomers who have the most to gain from creating a "new world" -- because they have approximately half of their working years yet to live. Without the baggage of a large home with rooms they rarely enter and closets full of life's clutter, they are free to roam, more likely to start another career, able to sit on the porch without worrying about chores left undone, and more apt to visit their children and grandchildren.
In some ways, downsizing is reinvention. It's following a different path, allowing a different pattern to unfold.
People who reinvent themselves do so for many reasons, just as people who downsize have different reasons and motivations. Some reinventions and downsizings are forced, some are optional. In his book Boomer Reinvention, author and Reinvention Coach John Tarnoff advises people 50 and older about how to reinvent themselves to prepare for a new career, one that will help ensure they have enough money to cover their expenses in retirement. (An estimated 60% of baby boomers have not saved enough for retirement.)
The advice he provides to baby boomers about how to prepare for career or workforce "reinvention" is spot-on applicable for how to people in all stages of their lives can prepare for downsizing and decluttering their homes.
- "It's okay not to know what you're going to do." And it's okay not to know where you are going to GO. The first and most important step in finding a new career or in downsizing your lifestyle is to make the decision that you're open to new opportunities.
- "If you've always done it that way, it's probably wrong." This pearl of wisdom is from Charles Kettering, the first General Motors R&D executive, the gist of which is to get outside your comfort zone, be willing to be uncomfortable for a while. Same with downsizing! It's not easy and it's not quick, but the end game is worth the headaches.
- Be strategic. Assess your skills, interests and opportunities. Do a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). Get a sense of what the future looks like, but be realistic. You're not likely to find the perfect, high-income career in record time, just as you're not likely to quickly find the perfect new home that's half the size of your existing home.
- Don't make the same mistakes. Simply because you've been a chief financial officer all your life, don't jump at the first CFO opportunity that comes along. It could be a disaster if you have a grueling commute, a new leadership team, or a new, unproven product to promote. Similarly, if you decide to downsize from the suburbs and move to an urban environment, don't clutter up your new smaller place with your over-sized furniture from the old place and start jamming closets with linens and sets of china that are rarely, if ever, used.
In his recent blog post about how baby boomers should prepare for the reinvention process, he concludes:
". . . in retrospect, you will be grateful for your willingness to make those changes, whether it involved learning a new set of skills, moving or downsizing your lifestyle or finding new ways to be useful or needed in your job. This may be your last chance to save your career, but if you get it right, you'll have many fruitful years ahead to enjoy it."