The baby boomer generation was born after 1945 when their parents (the silent generation), started to establish families and communities after the hardship of the second world war.

Many baby boomers are now finding themselves with elderly parents to care for. Decisions regarding caregiving and life transitions to nursing homes or assisted living centers are difficult. Caring for the silent generation parents in their own home or even moving them out of their home presents many challenges for downsizing and getting rid of belongings and family ephemera that has long been treasured by its owners.

There are many reasons why the elderly parents of the baby boomer generation may have been reluctant to purge or get rid of stuff over the years. Understanding the emotional and social influences on that generation of people might help you to understand why all that stuff is still hanging around.

You should understand that the major influences on your parents generation were:

  • the great depression
  • second world war
  • the post war boom

The Great Depression

Many silent generation parents will remember living through the great depression when they had nothing and had to make do on their own. Resources were scarce and everything was recycled and re-purposed. Throwing something away was considered to be wasteful and people were convinced that saving and reusing things was a measure of good character. Your parents may not be able to get rid of things because it makes them feel like they are a bad person. They want to believe they are a person of good character and they would like others to think that too so they hang onto things to prove it.

The Second World War

Experiencing life through the second world war created the value of duty before self. It would have been impossible for soldiers to go off to war and for their families to be proud of them if this value was not embraced by the society in general.

Your elderly parents may not think of an item and its usefulness in terms of their own needs but in terms of whether or not that item may have usefulness for someone else - especially family members. They will not be able to bring themselves to part with items that may be useful to someone else since they consider it their duty to preserve items for future use.

Sometimes the silent generation is referred to as the veteran's demographic because of the great influence the second world war had on their way of thinking. There can be little doubt that this particular way of thinking can lead to accumulation of goods that have long since outlived their usefulness.

The Post War Boom

Once the war was over the veterans generation tried to settle into some sort of normal life and what could be more normal than marrying and raising children so that's what they did!

Economic prosperity became the norm and the silent generation began to expect that their personal worth and assets would continue to increase. They had done their duty and were promised prosperity as a reward for living through and participating the war efforts both abroad and at home.

Wages continued to go up and real estate values rose so that the silent generation became used to being prosperous. Bear in mind that this was all happening on one household income as women were still not a normal or expected part of the workforce.

Being able to enjoy prosperity through attention to money management and land ownership created an expectation that the accumulation of material goods would make life better and more enjoyable and so those material goods began to pile up.

Over a life time quite a bit of stuff can be accumulated if you never learn how to balance what comes into your home with what goes out.

If you are a member of the baby boomer generation these influences may have also had a great effect on you and it may be necessary to examine your own ideas about clutter before you can help your silent generation parent with the difficult task of downsizing for the transitions ahead.

Author's Bio: 

Read more about the clutter profile for the silent generation, their baby boomer children and Generation X grandchildren at where Beverly OMalley offers organizing tips and clutter control advice to help you create and keep a more organized home.