De-Clutter & the Big Move

This is a blog about when you realize you and your significant other have significant differences in life vision for retirement. One significant difference has to do with stuff. He firmly believes: he with the most stuff at the end wins. While he is not a true hoarder, he is definitely a packrat. I’m not exactly going minimalism, but I do envision a future with the reduced complexity of stuff.

This has really come to a boiling point with our downsizing move. We are shrinking our living space by half. We are going from 12 closets to 4, literally.   There is just not the space to have 45 different sizes/shapes of backpacks, 25 different winter coats, a Costco-supported pantry, boxes of board games we never play, or just-in-case anything.

I’m coming to terms with it and yes, I plan to purge more clothes and shoes. I really don’t need 20 pairs of (black) work pants anymore, nor cute heels in a range of colors. My daily reality is jeans/shorts and T-shirts and a couple of going-out outfits for each season.

And who am I to doubt serendipity – recently 2 bloggers commented about getting rid of all the old work files. In the move, I had what amounted to 4-5 boxes of old work stuff – memorabilia, reference books, and file folders full of resource material. I put this on the after-move purge as well. I’ll need to watch for the negativity elements on that (for me that’s reminders lost identity & daily relationships) and focus on the positive (the work shaped my skill development, created the person I am today).

Recently I read another blogger who said: “Holding on to something just for sentimental reasons (like the 50-year-old matches from my wedding) can weigh you down.” In this move a lot of sentimental stuff showed up in those 12 closets. Some got put in the Goodwill pile, some still managed to find its way into the 4 closets and basement storage. But I did feel the weight of it as we moved it in!

So I have been trying to de-clutter the stuff. But hubby just cannot give up his 6 computers; stacks of DVDs, CDs and albums; bikes, non-motorized water-craft, motorcycles, and all the associated paraphernalia; those 45 back-packs; or T-shirts and race awards from his running days. Yes, he has really tried to not move some things (an old TV, a second computer desk, years of magazines, clothes that will never fit again), and I can tell it is wrenching him to pieces.

I have also realized it is more than stuff – it’s also organization of said stuff.

Last week, during our multi-week move, he realized he could not find one of his car titles, and there were 5-6 boxes of office papers it “might be in” – in different rooms in the old or the new house. (At least I got him off the sidetrack to find it and back to a packing mode.) So, there was a realization I need to help him create a better system – which he’ll push back on, but I am the more organized and he did say he needs more organization. How to do this without marital fighting? A plan for November I’m thinking (after the move!), when we can stay focused on the fact it is not de-cluttering, just organizing.

 

So what have I learned about our differences. I cannot push him into the “do you love it, does it bring you joy” (Marie Kondo) or even “have you used it or looked at it in the last 10 years” thinking. I need to give him the space in the new house to keep his stuff – from the 2-bay garage with 8 sets of heavy duty shelving to an “attic office” of his own, also with 8 sets of storage shelving.   I can appreciate him for the great traits he has, and allow him to be the packrat he is. (Although he did agree to not have a Costco-supported pantry any longer!)

And I can focus on how to minimize for me. Yes, I’m the one with the 25 different coats (I know, but my excuse is the old house had 12 closets and I had no idea I had that many coats!).

What have you been able to de-clutter in your life? Or not?

Picture Credit: Tim Doyle, Africa Safari 2017, the “say what zebra”

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21st Century Retirement – Planning Beyond the Money

My retirement was highly anticipated and poorly prepared. I had done due diligence on the financial side of things, but I had just vague assumptions about what life would be like if I didn’t have to work everyday.  I was too busy working to really figure out what I was retiring TO! And I’m sure I’m not alone in this regard.

Recently a number of IRL friends who are still working have articulated the possibility of retiring soon.  And commented they are looking towards me to be their role model. Oh dear, I certainly do not want them to be poorly prepared!   Days after retirement, everything I knew about daily living was gone. Yes, no more pre-dawn alarm clocks; no more endless, mind-numbing meetings; and no more office politics. But also no more regular connections with stimulating conversation and no more feeling of accomplishment for hitting project milestones.

  • I did not have a plan for being socially connected when 75% of my social connections disappeared because they were work affiliated.
  • I did not have a solid plan on getting physically fit, having no pre-retirement fitness/exercise program.   And everything you read (and know to be true), is about move it or lose it.
  • I did not even have a plan for staying mentally sharp, although everyone assumed I would simply keep working doing consulting in my field.

Post-work life did not just happen. I had to “do the work” to create a new life plan because I was an expert on how to work, but I wasn’t very sure about how to live a life. Figuring out what I wanted my daily, weekly, monthly and yearly life to be took time.

  • I had to learn that it’s less about what you want to do (and having a plethora of activities booked) and more about who you want to be (and understanding what’s truly important). Was I engaging in the right activities for me – the ones that bring me joy and fulfillment?
  • I had to learn relationship-building skills to form a new village of connections – from casual conversations to extended-family support.
  • I needed to create new habits for exercise and mobility – things to get me off the couch every day.
  • I needed to be patient. Learning this (emotional) stuff, creating new habits, building relationships – all takes time.

I learned that a 21st Century Retirement Life is whatever you want it to be. That everyone’s is different, and figuring out what is truly important to you, and not based on someone else’s “you should” or assumptions, takes time and self-discovery. It took visioning, planning, and then refining the vision and the plan.

 

What is my advice to soon-to-be retirees? (Yes, L and R and K and T, this means you!) Do some pre-planning beyond the finances. Think about what is important to you and how you will replace the aspects of work life.   Not the endless meetings or office politics. But work often provides camaraderie and social connections; a sense of accomplishment, purpose and identity; and even a structure to your days and weeks.   What are your (detailed) assumptions of what a day, week, and month will be in retirement?

And, even with a plan to ease into retirement life, realize that this is probably one of the biggest changes of your life, so allow the stages of transition to occur. Understand you might need to let go of some things – perhaps some long-held beliefs or some long-standing habits?   Understand there is a period of uncertainty when things have ended and others might not have started; when you need to just let it be. Be willing to adjust the plan (pre-plan or post-work plan) as life happens and you get new learning from real life experiences.

My 21st Century Retirement Life is still a work in progress.   Learning to be true to myself, and not to other’s expectations, continues to be a work in progress as well. I continue to refine my vision, and re-work the activities in my daily, weekly and monthly calendar to match that vision. I’m looking forward to a big revision in the next month as a major milestone is achieved (our downsizing move!).

Do you have a vision for your own unique 21st Century Retirement Life?

 

Picture: my own — Serengeti Sunrise, 2017

Year 3 – Top 10

I’ve passed my third anniversary of my retirement date (where did the time fly; I still feel like I’m in transition) and my second year of blogging (excited that I’ve passed the infamous 18-month drop-off line, even if I’m not hitting my one per week personal goal). I enjoy top 10 lists, and avidly read ones others have posted.   So here are the top 10 things I’ve learned (so far) in post-work life and the world of blogging.

  1. Have a life vision based on what’s important to you. Own your choices of where you spend your time so you’re moving in the direction of your life vision. Stop listening to everyone else’s “you really should”.  Keep refining that vision as you learn new things, about what works for you and what doesn’t.
  2. Don’t let fear drive procrastination. Take action; do something (something small, if needed). What are you waiting for? As Nike so aptly puts it: Just do it. And celebrate those small advancements.
  3. Make gratitude lists regularly.
  4. Be OK with being a beginner. Try new things. Take the opportunity when presented – say “yes”. Give things a fair shot as well; don’t expect to be an expert immediately. If you like it, keep doing it. And be OK with less than perfection (like not hitting every week blog postings!).
  5. Stop listening to the voice of comparative inferiority. Stop feeling guilty/unworthy/less if you’re doing life differently. It’s your unique life, your unique retirement.
  6. Learn to just be It’s not always about constant activity and checklists. Stop to watch the surf, listen to the falling rain, read some blogs, or have a chat. And don’t feel guilty that is “wasted time”.
  7. Consciously build connections with others. Be OK with feeling like you’re putting in all the work – the social connection really is worth it. Appreciate the connections you do have – both IRL and virtual.
  8. Move Do something to get off the couch.
  9. Enjoy the journey. Find joy in the little moments of life.
  10. Marry the best guy ever to share that journey – the one who loves me even when I’m not very loveable. The homebody who was willing to go on a 3 week African Safari because I really wanted it. The hoarder who is trying so hard to downsize and de-clutter.  And a pretty good photographer, too!

 

Picture Credit: Superb Starling, Africa Safari  – Tim Doyle, 2017

Retirement & New Relationships

Following my last post on finding a new herd, I thought I’d look back on one of the biggest changes I’ve experienced in my transition into retirement – relationship connections. Even 3 years into retirement this continues to be a personal challenge.

While I was working, I interacted with a lot of people every day. For an introvert, that could sometimes be draining. Yet, those daily interactions, even if just the casual conversations about what is happening in your life – from an update on my kitchen re-do to vacation plans to a family/personal challenge – all provided me with moments that validated me, grounded me, made me feel like I was not alone.

Daily work interactions provided people who listened to my issues and stories.   I might get some advice, some commiseration, some empathy, or just an acknowledgement that I was a real person dealing with real life. And I provided it to others. Work was my tribe, my herd, my village!

I miss those daily connections, those grounding and validating moments.  When I stopped working, they completely disappeared.   I went from lots of connections/ relationships to almost none.   Being a workaholic, I didn’t have many non-work-related friends.   I had to consciously work to create moments of connection, to establish (re-establish) and build relationships.

So how is my relationship development going three years into retirement? Alas, it is only so-so.

Of course, there is hubby, my best friend. In retirement, we are spending more time together. We are still working though the time together/time apart dynamic.  And yes, he validates me, but he’s often living the issues and stories and certainly doesn’t want to hear about them!

Creating more diverse moments of connection took conscious planning and action.

  • There is my Quarterly Coffee-Chat plan. I put 2-4 people’s names on my calendar every quarter to set up a coffee date. I am hoping at some point I become the recipient of someone else’s coffee-chat plan as well, but for now, this creates a couple of connection moments a month.
  • There are my Women-Who-Walk friends. From monthly to weekly, weather dependent, we walk and chat. Combining connection and physical activity – a two for one.
  • I’ve created and continue a Mid-week Foodie Club (mostly retirees) that meets up monthly for a nice dinner and stimulating conversation.  Yes, food is one of my interests, so this fits my life vision.
  • There are our Dine-Out-Couples who I connect with quarterly to set up dinner double dates. I’m very happy that a couple of them are starting to call us to set things up, so I’m not always the planner!
  • There is my blogging community – from those I read and comment, and those who read me and comment.  A new set of virtual friends who provide inspiration and encouragement.
  • I have my (Florida) yoga buddy and my Zumba pals. A couple of Meet-for-Wine & Whine girlfriends. My long-distance write/talk pal who’s known me for years.

Some attempts to create more relationships have not been successful. Joining a philanthropic group left me with a third-wheel feeling as everyone else joined up as existing friends.  A local yoga studio is more a come, do it and leave; it was 4 months of regular attendance before one instructor even asked for my name.  Classes (pottery, cooking, writing, life coaching) so far have not resulted in any longer term connections.

But I’m not giving up. I recently came across an apparently old phrase: ‘friends for a season, friends for a reason, friends for life’.  I will continue to consciously create opportunities to create friends in all three areas.  Some comments on my last blog about the herd have inspired me to try come new things.

I’m hoping at some point to “have a village” – not work dependent, but part of my life.

What have you done to create more connections/relationships in your retirement life?

 

Picture Credit: Tim Doyle, “Family Portrait”,  Africa 2017

Herd Mentality – Finding a New Herd?

It’s hard to acknowledge that I follow a herd mentality. Life is defined by social norms. As social animals, we find life easier and more comfortable to adhere to group roles or mimic group behavior – it promotes safety, saves energy, and the approval is a source of pleasure.

So of course, given that almost my entire social sphere is still working, I’m more comfortable with being perceived as a part-time, free-lance worker.  I “fit in” if I’m working. It allows me to keep a part of my former identity and the validation that comes with that identity. And being an early retiree, almost all my work colleagues assumed I would continue to work.

So, since retiring, I’ve continued to work part-time as a consultant in my field of expertise.  Working is my herd mentality – comfortably adhering to group roles and expectations.

This past May, I got caught up in the work, not thinking about life. I returned to the regular work habits of years – juggling multiple projects, loving the fact I was being asked my opinion on things, but also not exercising, not blogging, not connecting with friends. Yes, I returned to my workaholic habits.

And I didn’t like it at all.

I’m not sure how to give up part-time work. Since I struggle with the workaholic tendencies, I think I need to.  But it’s hard to be different from your social sphere.  I’ve realized I don’t know how to “fit in” with friends or even how to live life if I’m not working as part of it.

How do I find a new herd mentality to become part of? How do I find a social sphere of (young-ish) retirees who are not working? Will this give me alternative role models and help me feel like part-time work is not the must-do to fit in?

Yes, there are many retirees (especially on line) who are not working.   They are active travellers, active grandparents, and/or active hobbyists. I’m none of those things. I also know that, just like Facebook, you don’t see the total picture of other’s lives on blogs and I should not do any inferiority-focused comparisons.   I guess I assume that by creating a IRL connections with a tribe of non-working retirees I’ll see more real pictures of how to live day-to-day life not working.

I’d love to hear your POV about this struggle of mine.

 

Picture Credit: Tim Doyle, Gnu Herd, Africa Safari 2017

Fear of Missing Out?

During our recent African Adventure, I came across a number of Millennials and experienced first hand how different they are from me as a Baby Boomer!  Yes, I know not all Millennials are the same, just as all Baby Boomers are different.  But there were definitely some generational gaps I noticed.

It is said that Millennials largely live for today because they hold a deep “fear of missing out” on life experiences by saving money for a future that many not come. The term has even been reduced to FOMO.

The Millennials we met on tour took 2-3 trips a year of the kind I called our once-in-a-lifetime trip. They even talked about their fear of missing out on life experiences and needing to live like there is no tomorrow. They had their next adventure already being discussed and planned while this one was not even over.

It also amazed me how they moaned about not being connected. As soon as we got to a space that had WiFi they were immediately on their phones, heads down, no conversation with those who were physically with them. To them, (old) virtual connections were more important than (new) physical connections. I guess the FOMO was linked to making sure they were up to speed on things back home.   Hubby and I ended up interacting mostly with the (other) 50-70 year olds and met some amazing, inspiring people!

My Baby Boomer delayed gratification behavior conflicted strongly with this FOMO, do-everything-now mind-set.  I realized I like having lots of possibilities on my possibility list – probably more possibilities than I’ll ever get to! It gives me reasons to look towards the future.  I wonder how these younger folks will continue to find things to look forward to, when they’ve done it all by the time they are 50.

Are you happy with a long list of possibilities that might never all be realized (without regret)?  Or, do you have a fear of missing out?

 

Picture Credit: Tim Doyle, Kenya 2017

Packing for a “Luxury” African Safari

One of my readers asked me what did I pack for an 18-day African Safari, which had a luggage size & weight restriction (soft-side, no-wheel, medium canvas duffle – combined with carry-on max weight 33 lbs).  First off, I can say most (but not all) of our fellow travelers ignored the size and weight information without any added fees/downside. However, here’s some tips on what to pack, and what not to pack, if you’re thinking of a long trip of this sort (third world, wilderness safari, limited luggage, high end accommodations).

Things you might not think of that really came in handy: a small flashlight; an extension cord multi-plug strip (many places only had charging stations in the main lounge – everyone fighting for a few plugs made our US multi-plug power strip popular); tissue or toilet paper (many places, including “bush stops” don’t have it – I carried mine in a small zip-lock bag to make bush stops a leave-nothing-behind experience); a non-electric alarm (many on our trip had at least one morning of no wake up “call” which starts the morning off on the wrong foot; of course, the good wake up call in tent camps came with fresh coffee); cash in small un-damaged bills (ones and fives; the local markets all took US dollars but not worn ones; no-one gave “change”); a camping clothes-line (I did use the laundry services for shirts and pants a couple of times – it was hot and dusty and the laundry charges were small, but washed my own underthings out in the sink & hung to dry overnight); small collapsible tote (we ended up using it for a number of different things); duct tape (another traveller needed this to fix a luggage disaster and it took awhile to locate some).

Standard fare for a trip: camera, charger, extra battery, electric converter, good pair of binoculars, security pouch, travel documents (confirmation numbers, emergency phone numbers, copy of passports/visas/credit cads; I put a copy of the itinerary in each of our bags); small day pack (to hold the camera, binoculars, pullover, scarf).

A limited amount of Clothing: 2 lightweight, long-sleeved camp shirts; 4 quick-dry, short-sleeved T-shirts; 3 lightweight zip-off hiking pants (the kind that convert to shorts); 2 fleece/pullovers; 4 pair breathable socks; 4 hand-wash (quick dry) underwear; 3 sports bras (essential for bumpy roads!); 1 pair of good walking shoes/trail runners (not hiking boots)/1 pair running shoes or keens/tevas/1 pair flip flops. On safari they recommend all clothes to be in the infamous khaki or olive color; I added in some lilac & peach color. And travel wearing one piece of each item!

Additional Clothing: Wide-brimmed hat with strap (essential!); 2-3 Buff/bandanas (dust control, also essential); 1 pair sleeping clothes; 1 pair gloves; 1 rain jacket/all weather jacket; bathing suit; minimum jewelry (buy something local; leave home the good stuff). My bald hubby added a warm hat – good on cool mornings.

Other essentials: 2 pair reading glasses; 2 pair sun glasses; small bottle sun protection lotion; hand sanitizer/wet wipes; insect repellant (we pre-treated our clothes as well and I do think it helped); a small toiletries kit (deodorant, lip balm, razor/shave cream, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, nail clippers, nail file, emery board, tweezers, small scissor, Q-tips, minimal cosmetics); a small first aid kit (ours had band-aids; an elastic wrap; anti-diarrhea pills; topical cortisone cream; anti-biotic ointment; ibuprofen; allergy medicine; sore throat lozenges); even smaller day-kit to carry (mine had 2-3 hand sanitizer wipes, 2 bug repellent wipes, ibuprofen, Pepto, Bandaids, tissues, emery board, extra hair ties). Yes, I used almost everything in our kits over the 3 weeks, either for myself or for a fellow traveller.

Things I liked having: Safari wildlife book, journal + pen (helped me to capture what I experienced each day); a lightweight pashmina/scarf (mine was cotton and it served as both warmth and color).

Things I didn’t need (and wished had not taken up space/weight): Reading books (There was very little downtime and when there was, I napped!); Soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, washcloth (All the places we stayed were well supplied); extra toothbrushes (was warned about potential of rinsing toothbrush in sink forgetfully…but I put bottled water at sink handle and never an issue); SPF body lotion (I was covered 95% of the time and only needed face product); water bottle (every location provided complimentary bottled water in the rooms, and it was widely sold as well; too many airport security checks these days to try & carry water onto the plane!). When you are limited on space/weight, leave behind these things for souvenir buying space/weight!

Don’t forget your daily medicines and Malaria prophylaxis.

If you’re planning a village visit, bring pens/pencils/notepads for village children. One woman brought nail polish for the village women and another brought ball caps for the village men (yes, she was one which disregarded weight/size limits)!

A few folks planned their “leave behinds”. One woman gave away a shirt every time she bought a new one; another left her well-stocked first aid kit on the last day. We gave our extension power cord to a camp towards the end of the trip.

 

Yes, I survived for 20 days (trip plus travel days) on that limited amount of items, which seems like a huge list but all easily fit into the medium sized duffle.  And it felt good to be able to carry my own luggage (if I needed to).  And nobody noticed I was wearing the same clothes multiple days.

 

Picture Credit:  Me!  Serengeti, 2017