Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Frugal Retiree Embraces the "Do Nothing-ness" of Retirement

I have a confession to make: The longer I am retired, the less I feel obligated to fill my time. It's funny, because I'm one of those folks who used to be proud to have more things to do than time available. I've been known to write in days of old on this blog and wonder how I ever had time for a job (saying that with pride). Heck, I remember when I swore I would never, never be one of those daytime TV watchers in retirement.  I mean, people who did those kind of things are boring, right?  They have no life, give retirement a bad name, and sit around with bon-bons. I mean, our parents did that, right??

That was then, and this is now.  In the now, I get to watch Bosch on Amazon after lunch, while working on my knitting for an hour.  In the now, I have absolutely no guilt about sitting down and reading the newest Joe Pickett mystery in a day with breaks for lunch and playing with the dogs and my half an hour walk.

On an average morning I wake sometimes between eight and nine am (remember I am awake past midnight).  I grab my cola, adjust the heat/air conditioner as necessary, and depending on the day, either jump back into bed with my journal and tablet or climb into the chair by the picture window where I meditate, pray, make notes and slowly wake up. Yesterday morning, my twenty something son walked by and said "If those folks who read your blog could see you now!"

I have more things that I enjoy doing than I can count, a few of them serious passions. I have a list of things that I want to try at least once. I think the phrase "Don't try, just do" is not one that serves folks, at least me, well. I want to try many things, realizing that I'll only be good at a small percentage, and that I'll also only want to repeat and enjoy a small percentage as well. Sewing, quilting, taking a college class, writing, being involved in my church, going to the movies, meeting folks for lunch-all of these and more are a part of my life.

But I would be being less than honest if I didn't say up front that an hour or so in front of the TV is also part of my life. Sitting on the patio swing daydreaming and watching the dog explore is part of my life, as is grabbing that book, curling up in a chair and coming up for air only because I suddenly realize I'm hungry or that I need to  move.

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 loose 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.

The bottom line for me though, is that I don't want or need 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. On the contrary. I aim for no more than one out of the house commitment on any given day (and admittedly there are days when that goal is a fail), and only plan one project  per day. The rest of my day is in flux, to be as busy or as relaxing as I choose.

Just so you all don't think I'm still in my chair from this morning, this afternoon I've volunteered at my women's homeless shelter for a couple of hours, and thrown together two loaded ham and baked potato casseroles (with Easter Ham). so they can go into the freezer when I am done. So I've been out of the house and into the world today.  

Now that the cooking is done, the rest of my day involves reading (I'm introducing myself to Randy Wayne White and Doc Ford), television (yes, I will probably binge watch Bosch on Amazon), and a few weight strengthening exercises (I hope to go full normal workout tomorrow, knock on wood).

Naturally, I still have a pile of goals and "want to dos", including a family cookbook gift, family history research, designing a quilt, and planning my road trip, knitting a gift, just to name a few. But none of them have deadlines. And while I would make more of a schedule if I ever felt like I was stagnating, for me this time of life is mainly go with the flow. A schedule is a guide, not a rule.

And now, I'm gonna pull those casseroles out of the oven, grab a blanket and put my feet up and decide if I really like reading Doc Ford mysteries. Because of course, you can never have too many authors to read!


  1. Just love this post,Barb! I am in beginning of year 4 of retirement.. I went gangbusters the first 2, even wokred part time as I struggled with how to let go! Now, settling into less hectic lifestyle! I also love Doc Ford!!YOU WILL LOVE ALL THOSE BOOKS!!! I sometimes binge watch TV--I like rewatching Sons of Anarchy (don't judge!) and Sex and the City,House of Cards and other shows I MISSED COMPLETELY during my working years.

    Like you,I also feel the imperative to give back to my community so I also schedule in our time to serve meals at Paz De Christo, and I volunteer at a Botanical Garden.

    I need a LOT of down time, and alone time,though, to read, think,write poetry and hone other writing skills.I like to dabble, as you do.. a watercolor class, a jewelry making class,even though I will not purse those activities in depth,I love to try new things too!

    My main stay hobby is my collage and card making craft-- I have a beautiful studio in one of our gues rooms that I overtook!

    I love to cook and read cookbooks, and spend time in the library.


    Retirement has its chapters, just like life,eh??

    1. This is me. The first two years were go, go , go. I am still going, but now take long breaks of "hardly anything". During that time I have worked through the family tree, visited the grands weekly, and started to organize my rooms. Hoping to get into the EMT class at the local college next winter (when I qualify for free tuition). I am enjoying books again, watering the garden and just being alive. It is all good.

  2. Woops--hit send before spell checking.I can spell,I just can't type!!LOL!!

  3. I am always envious of card makers. I play around with stencils and water colors, but thats about the extend. Not that I don't have enough to do, lol.

  4. Thank you. I turn 65 on Monday and am terrified of retirement. Sometimes I set aside 30 minutes and make myself think about what a normal day might be like -- all the things I want to do, places I want to go. While I am a generally optimistic and happy person, these thinking assignments too often end in "poor sad me" scenarios because of the unknown quality of retirement. I follow you on Bloglovin and enjoy your work - I am going to save this post for future reference - again, thank you.

  5. You are doing what we all need to do: enjoy our days. Each day is a gift. You are living in the NOW. The NOW is all we have. I love your descriptions of some of your days. Thanks for this post!

  6. Absolutely. Plus it takes me longer to recharge if I have been busy. I also worked part-time after I first retired. Seemed to need some transition time. And rporter610 I agree, each day is a gift!

  7. I find myself really enjoying doing what others would consider nothing. Might be boring, but life isn't always excitement.

    God bless.

  8. I have been in a frenzy for nearly a year now, in my sixth year of retirement - nine trips (three of them to volunteer at a refugee camp in Greece). We're going home tomorrow, and I realize I'm ready to stay home and quiet for a while. Maybe spend time reading in the adirondack chair in my grape arbor, listening to guided meditations, quiet coffee with a friend.

  9. Barb, you say you feel less obligated to fill your time, yet you're knitting, choosing what to watch on tv, reading, walking, tending to your pets, meditating/praying. This is nothing? I'm of the opinion that there is no nothing. Like a line in The Color Purple - sometimes I sets and thinks, and sometimes I just set. Resting, meditating, watching the dogs run - that's all something. It seems to me it's about the value placed on those activities. You get to choose how busy or relaxing you want to be. Using Wendy Johnston's words - this speaks to the "unknown quality of retirement". Elizabeth Withey wrote in a newspaper article in 2006: "I am fed up with busyness. Busy is an ego trip. The busier the schedule, the more valuable the busy person's every breath and word and heart beat. Busy validates the sense of self-importance. Consider de-busyifying - Sorry I can't make it. I'm not busy." Time management is so individual and busy-ness is so subjective. Personally, I like space and breathing room that allows me to say yes to what comes up. Like you, the schedule is a guide, not a rule.

  10. I am a retired teacher and one of the activities I most enjoy is sitting with my coffee in my pjs and watching the school bus go down the road in the early morning. I am quite happy knowing I do not have to rush to get to school anymore.

  11. Well, not retired, a SAHM, and have been for 25 years, and I have never felt the need to fill my days since leaving work with what others think is valuable. I recognized that, especially when I had just one and DH in a trip, and I had what seemed like days on end by myself, that my day would look much different from another woman's day, and that was o.k. My hours were spent doing the things that dh and I saw value in.
    The neighbors didn't matter. Sure, I ft judged at first. I even had a teacher say in front of me AND our son, "Well, we all have jobs to do, yours is to go to school, mine to teach, your Dad does his job and your Mom, well, she does, oh, I don't know, whatever it is she does all day." You don't owe ANYBODY an account of your hours. None of us do. (But I am grateful to you for sharing them with us in your blog.)


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