Decisive Under Thirty and Decluttered Over Fifty – Two Guys Who Have it Down

Y’all know I love millennials. This whole group is very interesting, highly educated, and they’re quite decisive. In all this obervation of millennials while enjoying their company, I’ve noticed a couple of things that they just don’t get about their parents’ generation.  

One:  Why is it so hard for us to fall in love with sushi?

Two:  Why do we keep so much stuff

Millennials are decisive about sushi, and they’re decisive about their stuff.  In other words, neither stays around for very long.

It’s not that they don’t accumulate anything. It’s just that what they accumulate fits into better categories.  Friends, money, knowledge, experiences – this is the stockpile of the new generation.  

Just ask Hector Rivera. 

Hector is a recent graduate of the University of Texas and now works in the legal field. In his free time, he enjoys the experiences of Austin, buys a shirt every now and again when he needs one, mostly online (or finds it online first and then reserves it at the store for pickup), and keeps a clean apartment.  Millennials are nothing if not methodical. They are fully capable of moving themselves to a new city, planning a month-long trip to another continent and learning to cook whatever they want to eat. (They’re not quite so decisive in their dating relationships, but I can harp on that one later. )

If there’s anything on the minds of millennials, it has nothing to do with the accumulation of stuff.
If there’s anything on the minds of overfiftyers, it has everything to do with the elimination of it.

Go to lunch with friends, and the topic will come up.  Talk to a relative in Indiana, and she’ll say she wants to send you some pictures she’s trying to get rid of. Go out with another couple on Friday night, and you’re guaranteed to discuss how one of you needs to clean out the garage this spring.

Overfiftyers be talkin’ ’bout our stuff.  

How to organize it.

How to give it away.

How to get rid of it.

How to label it.

How to insure it.

How to market it on eBay.

How to sell it on craigslist.

How to repair it.

How to hand it down.

How to put it up.

How to find a place for it.

And then … how to remember where you put it.

Since Mike and I have downsized from a barn and two acres to a downtown Austin apartment (incrementally) in the last 5 years, I’ve been pleasantly, albeit surprisingly, delighted at the freedom we feel with, like, SO MUCH LESS.

If you don’t already know this about me, I claim to be good at only a couple of things. Like trend spotting. Like a mile away.  Like I see it coming.  Start feeling it in my bones. Then all of a sudden, everyone is talking about it. Partially hydrogenated oils were out of my kitchen way before Y2K. 

I can spot a trend a mile away, my friends, and I believe this decluttering trend is fixin’ to turn into a walleyed tidal wave

Why? Because we overfiftyers are, to a large degree, empty nesters, and we’ve grown tired of stacking stuff higher and higher around the circumference of the nest. We thought our kids would need some of this stuff, or better yet, be as attached to it as we are and give it a special spot in their own little nests someday.

But, do they? Will they? 

A lot of us are ready to spend our time in greater pursuits, like writing books, adventuring around the world, volunteering, coaching teams, learning about art, spending time with our grandkids and starting blogs! Getting rid of our stuff is helping us spread our stiff overfifty wings and fly – soar – zoom – into some pretty exciting places!

But don’t get me wrong… it’s a journey. You can’t do it too fast. You can’t do it willy nilly. And you sure can’t do it uninspired

I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking you’d like to jump in on this journey, too, but you’re not sure you have it in you, and besides, you might have to get rid of some cute shoes or a 4th pair of pliers. Well, you don’t have to get rid of EVERYTHING. But if it’s all been weighing kind of heavy – if it’s been gnawing at you every time you raise the garage door – if you don’t feel like you can have anyone over for dinner – it’s time.

And I’m telling you this:  You can do it.

Just ask John Wagner.  

I instantly liked John when I met him.  He’s just got so much going for him. He’s smart, he likes to laugh, he’s easy to visit with, and he’s a very hard worker. Let me tell you, if you’re a business owner, you know that employers everywhere are looking for people like John.

He’s passionate about his job and does it very well.

Over the past few months, in the time between fishing trips to the coast and working on his golf game, John has found new inspiration in an unlikely, but quite a fulfilling new passion.

It starts with a D and ends with a G – yep, it’s decluttering

Oh, I know.  You were expecting me to say John has taken up a thrill-seeking hobby like bungee jumping from rugged cliffs in Colorado or backpacking in the Himalayas.  Not boring old decluttering.  But, here’s the thing.  Decluttering done well and done right is not only not boring (excuse the double negative), it is straight up exhilarating!

Here’s John’s story.

As an adventurous kid from an average family, John grew up in North Houston where he fondly remembers his most prized possessions: a bicycle, skateboard, a few baseball cards and  some cherished concert ticket stubs. There’s John on the far right.

While a student at the University of Texas, John swam, made friends, worked, and enjoyed Austin in its simplified musical prime.

After graduation and a few years in the banking industry, John decided to make a change.  A friend approached him about taking a position at the already-prestigious law firm of Scott, Douglass & McConnico, where the firm would depend on him to hire and manage staff, organize office space for meetings and a myriad of other tasks that keep the place up and running. John took the job and has been there ever since.

While surfing the net last fall, John came across a #1 New York Times bestseller by Marie Kondo called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  Since he had already started a list of winter things to do around his house, John was drawn to Marie’s book, hoping for a little motivation.  After downloading a copy and quickly devouring the whole thing like a couple of Friday breakfast tacos, John became a man on a mission.

He followed the book’s prescribed process to a tee – starting with clothes.  About getting rid of some big, heavy, unused coats that had been hanging in the closets for years, John remembers, “I just decided if it gets really cold one day here in Austin, I’ll just suck it up.

That same weekend, John took all the books off of his sagging shelves, touching each one, and asking himself:  Will I ever read this again? Does it look nice on the shelf? Golf books could stay, he decided. The rest were highly negotiable, and most ended up in four boxes that John sold to Half Price Books. “Hey,” John said. “That’s $49 I can use on a fishing trip!”

After applying Marie’s principles, John was able to whittle it down and leave the bottom of the bookcase completely empty. He was amazed at the progress he was making, so he just kept going.

These bunk beds have been in John’s family since he and his older brother actually slept on them! He remembers them climbing all over these beds and stretching their bodies as long as they could so that they could step from the beds t.o the dresser without ever touching the floor. Pretty sure my brothers did the same thing! Today, this is John’s man-cave / workout room, where he keeps an assortment of weights, a yoga mat and a few man-treasures.

In three months’ time, while following Marie’s counsel to only keep what sparks joy, John has now totally decluttered his digs. The whole kit and caboodle. Every closet, every drawer, every book and every fishing lure. Done.  No more thinking about it. No more trying to motivate himself to accomplish it. Done. Done. Done.

It’s been liberating, John says.

As supervisor to an ever-changing fleet of 12 college students who work in the same busy law firm, John finds himself putting his new tidying up tidbits to work in the workplace. Together, these students and John have organized, downsized and categorized until every binder, every chair, every paperclip has a place – and stays in it.

Hector actually started out at the law firm a couple of years ago as one of John’s runners. Now, he’s rolling up his sleeves and helping get the job done in a different way – managing page after page of important documents.

Who would ever think that talking about tidying up could be so enjoyable? We spent a lunch hour at Sullivan’s discussing it all, but could easily have talked much longer.  It was really interesting to hear their thoughts about how they decide what to buy and what to keep.

John is planning to take a week off soon. He said this will be the first time he can spend 5 carefree days without thinking of all he needs to do at home. He still has a to-do list. It just looks a little different than it used to.

Fishing, spin class, yoga workshop, golf.  

What a great list!

Hector will still be at the office. The nice, neat and tidy office. 

I think I’ll see if he wants to join me for lunch one day.  Maybe some sushi. 

Encouraging intentional adventure and some tidying-up magic along the way,

Have you decluttered anything lately? How did you feel about it afterwards? Have you missed anything? Do you like sushi? 









Is he glad he did it? You bet, says John.


Hi, there! My name is Brenda McDearmon, and I love to encourage people! I created this blog to help overfiftyers look beyond the transitions into a future of everyday adventure so they can focus on themselves a little, and on every other good thing in life a lot. I'm so glad you're here!

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