Wednesday, March 23, 2016

On Doing Less and Enjoying It More In Retirement

I have a confession to make: I am one of those people who regularly has more things to do than time. I have been known to write here and elsewhere that I wonder how on earth I ever had time for a job, and said it  with pride.

While some people have a single passion, I have many things that I like to do, and many more things that I want to try, at least once.  In fact, a blog post down the road is surely going to be about how the mantra "Don't try, just do" is one that I think should be eradicated. Just off the top of my head, activities that I try and keep in my life include sewing, quilting, drawing, painting, photography, writing, church activities, taking college classes,  travel, the movies, meeting people for lunch, knitting and many more. That list does not include basic house, family stuff, or the regular good book.

Retirement guides, gurus and books regularly instruct us on how to fill our days, using every method, and I have read more than a few, from Ernie Zelinski and his Get a Life Tree onward. Books abound on how to be busy in retirement, decide what you want to do in retirement, and more. 

I certainly would not want to see folks not plan for retirement, don't get me wrong. Reading those books was valuable, and I know more than one person who has been at lose ends in retirement while deciding what to do with the rest of their post work years. In fact, I have had some more than filled retirement days. I have shared what I did "today"' on occasion, listed my retirement goals for a week and for a month, and more.

Lately, however, I have realized something. I don't WANT to be as busy in retirement as I was when I was working. I'm no longer particularly interested in having my days "filled" if you will. I want time, and lots of it-to sit and daydream, to stare out the window, to sit on the swing and watch the dogs in the summer, to read a book, even to binge watch House of Cards in two or three days if the mood strikes. I don't want to tell a friend I am too busy to go to lunch, and if I want to read a book from start to finish in two days, so be it.

Don't get me wrong. Anyone can have too much down time, and some of us need more scheduling than others. I have blogging friends who prefer to go from dawn to dusk and that works for them. It is true that for some folks too much down time is unhealthy, and it is also true that the old image of a retiree sitting in front of the tube snacking all day is a scary image for some.

As an enforced early retiree I get that. I've been through some of that, and dealt with the fact years ago of my new lifestyle change. I also feel pretty strongly that as a retiree I need to be contributory, and active both for my own health and that of the world if you will. What I am unwilling to do is do it all, or even as much as I possibly can on any given day. To that end, my new goal is to try and  plan to do one "thing" a day. 

On Monday, I baked many dozen sugar cookie cutouts, as I planned for one of my homeless shelter group programs to be decorating Easter Cookies (which they did). This took me three hours in total, and it was the only thing I planned all day. Now, this definitely does not mean it is the only constructive or semi-constructive thing I did, but it was the only thing I planned to do. The rest of my day was low key and played by ear. I read half of a book by a new author while eating some kettle corn (a true addiction), and I watched some of the new season of the Harry Bosch series on Amazon. I sat in my chair and cuddled with the dog for quite some time, and I forced myself to do a small local errand, just because it was sunny and 75 degrees out (I no longer walk outside, but in my living room to a program).

Yesterday, I volunteered  at my shelter, and spent an extra hour making cookies with "my" women, before leaving them to their own devices and heading home. In earlier days, I would have gone straight to a crafting group, done some errands and then headed home-maybe. Yesterday, I drove home with all the windows down, and spent the rest of my day doing similar low key spur of the moment stuff at home, including downloading patterns to make felt food for play food kitchens (which I will give away, as I have no little people in my life as such-not that I mind).

Today, I planned not a thing-because we are paying for all those seventy and even eighty degree days in January and February with a blizzard day!! I have planned nothing, nothing I say, and in fact am still in my nightgown with a sweater and sweats added at two in the afternoon (I can hear the gasps now!!). My day to this hour has been a relaxed hodge-podge of printing out Easter stickers for a craft, writing, perusing new quilt projects and just sitting with my feet up.

I do still have a small notebook/journal and I do still write a few to-do's each day, but they are very few, and most of them have to do with things like making sure I entered what I was eating, remembering to find a quiet place to meditate, and doing my two mile in home exercise walk. Each day has only one "project goal" and that is flexible, to say the least.

I still have a pile of goals and "want to dos", including a family cookbook gift, family history research, designing a quilt, and planning a beach trip - just to name a few. I've just realized that I have few deadlines. The few times I do want to meet a deadline (to plan a trip, make a cookbook as a Christmas gift), I've simply put that deadline farther out. The bottom line is that I'll do everything on my list and more, just when it works for me. And I certainly will have some days when projects will take over my life from dawn to dusk-summer canning comes to min, as do those days when I will be taking senior college (Ollie classes) a couple times a week. As they old saying goes, this new slowed down schedule is a guide, not a rule.

Meanwhile though, my goal for next few months at least is to experiment with taking it slower and enjoying life more.  Hopefully, it works for me!


  1. I agree! My husband and I are both retired but busier than ever! We help with childcare for one grandchild often, but when we have the opportunity we enjoy travel around our new state of Colorado. We joined a senior group in our community and have been encouraged by people in the group that are in their 90's that are still active! As long as one has their health there is no reason to "slow down" or be bored.

    1. Welcome Pat. I'm in Littleton near the old toen, where are you located? Please keep stopping by.

    2. Welcome Pat. I'm in Littleton near the old toen, where are you located? Please keep stopping by.

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  3. A great post. I've never been one to need to figure out how to fill my time. Like you I have many passions and interests which can easily fill my days. But I also deal with illness and so not every day can be filled. I plan but sometimes those give way to having to go with the flow. I find doing one thing a day, outside of the house works for me better than trying to do 2-3 things a day. This year I am also trying to just give myself permission not to do all the time and just rest. So far so good.

  4. It is fun and challenging to figure out our retirement lives, since we get to make choices, as opposed to being at work 40 hours a week. Hurray!

  5. Sounds like you have found a good balance in your life Barb! That is what it is all about; doing enough to keep you happy and content, but not so much that it becomes taxing and stressful. Everyone has their own way of finding the balance that works for them.

  6. Barb, I like how your retirement life unfolds. "I don't want to tell a friend that I am too busy..." In retirement, I have more time and energy to socialize. I no longer have to say "no" because I have to go home to go to bed so that I can get up and go to work. It's a delicious feeling. I do think we can have it all, just not all at once. Like you, I am not a proponent of filling every minute of my waking hours solely for the purpose of being able to report how busy I am. Like you, I have a "to do" list. Rather than accomplish everything on the list in a day, I just move to the next thing. And sometimes life provides a detour. There really is no "nothing" - as a character in The Color Purple said - sometimes I set and think and sometimes I just set. So far this month, there's been work on the early childhood development committee that I work with; attending the regular meeting of a community recreational area; hosting a folk music house concert and preparing for the next one; attending 3 concerts and a local dinner theatre; the monthly card playing and scrabble; the weekly yoga classes; attending 2 funerals; preparing for the Easter/spring celebration; a day of part-time work; a day of making 160 doz pyrogies with friends; prep work for a presentation on citizenship at the elementary school; visiting with extended family. All of this and more interspersed with activities of daily living, 2-mile walks, reading, etc. Life is full and good.

  7. Same here:Life can get too busy,even in retirement! I have many interests and I enjoy just going from one to the other at my leisure. Yesterday I played with making new music playlists,since I bought myself a decent bluetooth speaker. I read about a quarter of a new library book. I spent two hours working on a rag wreath I am making for our front door. I studied some astrology. I made an easy supper and served my husband and I out on our patio with the waterfall going. A friend stopped by for a glass of wine and we just talked for an hour. I love setting my own pace and never get bored.When did we have the time to actually work???????

  8. Sounds like you're finding your way in this retirement life style. We all find our own pace which we can adjust at will more readily than when we were employed.
    One of the pleasures of retirement for me has been to minimize commitments and obligations so I am free to do as I please most days. I have on occasion indulged myself by sleeping-in, other times remaining in my sleep-wear through the day fairly confident no unexpected guests would appear at my door -- but kept my robe handy. Seems there's always more than enough to engage my attention, or I even allow myself to do nothing. That's not to say I don't involve myself in a variety of activities.

  9. Last year I decided that I would try to avoid days where I had 2 or 3 commitments outside the home on the one day, as the rushing from one place to another was completing tiring/stressing me out. I feel much better for that decision and don't feel that I'm missing out on anything. I often have 'veg out' Mondays where I sleep late, stay in my nightie till mid morning and just relax! Lol

  10. Excellent point. I just keep on telling myself: do what YOU want, not what others want you to do. That keeps me on track most of the time.

  11. I love reading through a post that will make men and women think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!


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