Sunday, October 21, 2012

Volunteerism-And My "Free" Retirement Lifestyle

Well, my craft fair event this weekend is now over. It was not the success I had hoped, although I made friends and contacts, and learned a few things along the way. Fortunately it was an absolutely lovely weekend (in the eighties both days). I'll have to upload the pictures from my phone, so this will be a two step process.

 I did learn that I'll need to make more smaller items if I am to continue in this area. I had requests for individualized pillows, Christmas stockings, mug rugs, and small quilted throws. I also could have sold my daughter's Redskin bed sized quilt for about twice again the asking price-I turned them down because I wanted to make it through the weekend. I got the name of a marketing person who designs web pages, and personalized logos. I ate barbecue and yummy sugar cookies decorated like little pigs (the barbecue guys wife's effort at income plus promotion).


Thankfully I'm back at home. I function the best with at least a third of my time as my own, or down time, whichever you prefer. This doesn't necessarily mean do nothing, but it does mean mostly uncommitted, low pressure time. Reading, relaxing,sewing and crafting,  casually working in the garden or having lunch with friends. I've learned from other retirement bloggers that we all have different needs in this regards. I know for example that Tamara requires a busier, more active lifestyle.  That's what makes the world go round, and makes reading everyone's blog often the best part of my day. I prefer to do most things on my own time and schedule with little or no planning of my day. Bob over at Satisfying Retirement seems to keep his schedule on a fairly even keel.  I prefer casual unscheduled days with occasional bursts of activity and travel.
Which leads me to that topic of fitting volunteerism into my lifestyle.  Let me say here that I have a personal commitment to volunteering, and specifically to volunteering in ways that better the lives of others. Not a lecture or a platform. Just saying that "just stopping" is not a choice for me. For years, (while I was an at home mom, a part time worker, and a full time employee) most of my volunteering was of the "Tuesday from five to seven" variety, with occasional bursts with a special event). Be it being the boy scout commissioner, or manning the food bank for two three hours once a week, these things were fit into my calendar. I rarely missed a commitment unless it was for family road trips or illness (I was fortunate to live in place for years that refused to do kids sports on Sunday).

While one might think semi retirement would give me more time for volunteering, this has not necessarily been true in my case. I know lots of retirees for whom just the opposite is true. With no work or kids at home, they are free to commit to a day a week or two afternoons a week. I imagine these folks (some of whom are fellow bloggers) are much more scheduled than I. I have a one page monthly calendar by my desk (and have actually tried to do one on my tablet or phone).  I don't live by it. I don't get up in the morning and plan my day-or rather, when I do it's very rare. I put commitments on this list and do the rest on the fly.  The rest of my time is absolutely uncommitted- and I imagine it will stay so.  Uncommitted doesn't mean no activity. It does mean that activitiy will happen as the mood strikes.   If no inspiration strikes from above I not unhappy to take a two hour nap on the patio with the dogs at my feet. I am failry sure that I will sew and craft, fall clean one room of my house do some yard work, get a shingles shot, walk each day, see a movie (in a theater), and go to the arboretum this week. I have no idea when, and if one of these doesn't happen, that's okay too

In order to keep this fly by the pants lifestyle, I've adjusting my volunteer activity rather than give it up. I've changed to doing short term (usually more intensive) projects, mainly for the same groups that I was always involved in. Our habitat build is from October through January, and I took on the job of coordinating lunch service for volunteers for two builds next to each other. I no longer drive every week to the low income child care and outreach center on the other side of Dallas to spend the day.  Although I go on occasion by choice, I don't "commit". I'm unwilling to worry about finding a replacement, or that services will suffer if I am not there. I would rather my attending be an "extra". However, I fund raise for them four times a year-once in November when we have a turkey and canned good drive. Last year we had thirty large frozen Turkeys and many other things.  Once a year over a four day weekend I help the youth fill a huge church hall with yard sale donations, price them, sell them, and clean everything out before church on Sunday morning.  Umm, that would be this weekend, four days from now. The upside of this is that I get to take all the books for a nominal fee and first dibs on yard sale stuff.

On the one hand, this leads to periods of seriously (as my son would say) intense activity. October and early November become crazy times for me. On the other hand, it leads to long periods of  of free time (I am always available for emergencies). My next intensive projects will not begin until right around the Easter season. In between volunteer at home on my own schedule as the mood strikes (making a quilt for rescue dogs, or making phone calls for a special event).

The funny thing about all this is that in the long run, I probably spend more total hours doing my short term projects than I often did with my old "working schedule".  The only down side is that I no longer get a chance to work "one on one" with someone (reading to a child in school for example). So far my system has not been less rewarding, but we shall see.  For the moment I'll hold my free spirit schedule tightly, and we'll see where it leads me.

And now, I'm off to get horizontal in front of the big screen in my living room. Football, The Amazing Race and a book on my kindle (about using social media to build business) are in my future. Oh, and leftover chicken and the works.

Did I mention that one of the upsides of an empty nest is never having to make Sunday dinner unless the mood strikes?


  1. You seem to have found the right mix of solitude, relaxing, and activity that makes you happy. Congratulations. There are folks who waste too much of their retirement trying to find the perfect blend and never quite get a grip on how to handle their time.

    My schedule is more flexible than it may seem but I do finally understand it is OK to drop things that no longer fit my lifestyle.

    Like you, volunteering is something I could never stop completely. I need to give something back for all the blessings I have receieved. The amount of time I spend does vary but it is part of what makes me happy in my retirement.

  2. Good for you for volunteering, as you can fit it into your lifestyle. I've done a few short bursts myself -- like helping to run the library book sale -- but I think you'll inspire me to do more. (I volunteered to be an AARP tax guide; but they wouldn't take me b/c I insist on going away in February and they need their volunteers to be around then. Maybe selfish of me . . . but if you can't go away when you want, what's the point of retiring?)

  3. Hi Barb,
    Glad your experience with Habitat is working out. I find that short-term, meaningful commitments are best for me which is why I prefer the actual "construction" to planning, fundraising, etc. I took on a fundraiser that will end on Nov. 29th which isn't nearly soon enough. Love the work, just hate to be tied down.

    Go over to my site and check out the Habitat slide show that I put together from photos we took at our last "women build." It was a great day.

  4. Hi Barb,
    I can't find your email address, so hope you don't mind me posting this here. I thought of you today when I saw a new series on Sew Mama Sew blog on preparing to sell things at Craft fairs. Here's the link for you:


  5. Suzanne, saw that you'd mentioned the slide show but haven't had a chance to look at it yet. Unfortunately , cannot do the actual construction. I do agree that I prefer short term projects. The next few days will be sitting on the floor pricing objects. Picutres this afternoon.

  6. Joan, I did see in my feed fromt hem they were doing that. I've been working with a consultant and using the advice at handmadeology. my favorite guy. Also I've been concentrating on my own webpage and social media marketing and looking at other outlets-because im not sure craft sales are my thing, lol


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