First-world Life Challenges: De-cluttering with a hoarder partner

Retirement is a perfect time to reduce the stuff that crowds your life – whether it’s your environment, your schedule, or your mind.   You would think that the simplest would be to de-clutter your environment.   Get rid of the extraneous stuff that has accumulated.

But what do you do when you live life with a hoarder partner who firmly believes “he with the most stuff wins”?   Even the simplest of de-cluttering can be a minefield.

So with that mind-field in mind, I needed a personal coaching session for inspiration this winter.   So here it goes:

My Blog Is My Life Coach: Winter De-cluttering

Is it beautiful, useful, well-loved?  If you don’t love it, if you don’t use it, if it no longer fits your lifestyle, if it no longer fits….get rid of it.   You will not begin to love it, you won’t use it, and in reality, if it does fit in the future, you’d rather treat yourself to something new anyway!

You will not use that soup tureen, that silver-plated pitcher & serving dishes, those brandy glasses, nor that punch bowl.  You haven’t in 25 years since you got them as wedding presents!  It is time to let them go.

Get rid of the former work clothes.  No, you will not ever wear those jackets with blue jeans…. no matter how often you look at the Talbot’s catalogue for inspiration.

And old sports gear and dinghy sports attire.  Yes, I have 25-year-old skis and I know I will never, ever use them again.

And bookshelves of books, cases of CDs, DVDs, even vinyl – there are not enough years to re-read and listen to all of that.

A garage full of tools and toys – including old tools we inherited.  Really, who would ever use a hand scythe on an urban postage-stamp lawn?   Why do we have a baby swimming pool?   And a basket of old volleyballs that don’t stay inflated?


So which of these items can I get rid of without the minefield of hubby screaming “you’re killing me– I need that – it’s mine”.   We shall see… But I’m now inspired to de-clutter this winter!!

What are you de-cluttering from your life in retirement?


Picture Credit: MorgueFile


What do I want to be when I grow up?

As kids, teens, and young adults we are regularly asked –  what do you want to be when you grow up?   During this retirement transition, I’ve continued to struggle in defining (discovering?) my passion –  what do I want to do/who do I want to be?     I just finished reading the book I Could Do Anything, if I only knew what it was by Barbara Sher.   Besides having a very intriguing title, which indicated it might help with discovering what I really wanted to do (my passion!), I found that it did stimulate my thinking.   I didn’t agree with some of her core premises, but let me share some of my “aha” elements with you.

I think everyone agrees that life feels fulfilled when you’re doing things you love, or at least heading in the direction of what you love. But as I’ve discovered, if you do not have a long-held passion that you’ve just been wanting to explore, there are so many options that it becomes hard to know where to start. One of Sher’s core premises is that if it’s hard to know what your passion is, then something inside you is preventing you from discovering it.

I agree with her premises that for much of life you did what you were supposed to do! (I know I did.) I also agree with her premise that much of our beliefs and behaviors are hard-wired into place after all these years of doing them.   So if something is stopping you from trying something, there is a hidden resistance, an inner conflict that needs to be identified. This hidden conflict is defining your current behavior… you are hard-wired to resist whatever you’re thinking about.

One of her premises I disagree with is the work she focuses on discovering how and why these hard-wired, supposed-to beliefs and behaviors were created.   I am more of the mind-set that after identifying them, focus on moving forward to change them, not looking in the past for the how and why.

Another aha element – A big part of inertia (resistance to doing something) is fear. For some reason your inner consciousness senses fear in the path forward. So your “go for it” mindset cannot overcome the inner, hard-wired fear that screams “danger – stop”.

  • Perhaps it is fear of not doing what you were supposed to do?   Meeting others expectations, whether consciously or subconsciously, is all about belonging and acceptance. And belonging is a need for most people. (Bog one for me!) What if this new thing conflicts with your inner mind-set of “supposed to do”?
    • We all have an inner belief system of what retirement is “supposed to be”, even though we consciously acknowledge that this is a “new retirement” world we live in! One of the elements I know I’ve heard repeatedly is that in retirement, you are supposed to be doing things that are meaningful and giving back to the greater good. So if an activity that I think I might have passion for doesn’t match this expectation – is that the inner conflict that is preventing me from even starting it?
  • Perhaps it is fear of not aligning with your self-identity? Everyone has a self-identity and this is one I do believe has a long-term element.   Were you always the “smart one” or the “stupid one”? The risk-taking bad girl or the play-by-the-rules girl? The one with her head in the book?   The athletic one? The one who’s not good with people? The one who’s not creative?   Are these long-term identifiers (subconsciously) holding you back today?    The “I can’t start/do that activity because I’ve never been good at that type of thing” mind-set.
    • I recently had lunch with a young lady who in the breadth of 30 minutes told me twice that she has always had a hard time networking and talking with people.   And in the same 30 minutes told me about 2 instances where once when got into the meeting/conversation, everything was fine! Her belief, when I asked her, continued to be she couldn’t network well, even with 2 examples she gave me of the opposite.   Reality doesn’t overcome our belief in our identity.
  • Perhaps it is fear of success?   Yes, I too had the reactive question – why would you fear success?   One of Sher’s hypotheses: perhaps you believe that success will make you less acceptable to those around you.  Will being successful at this activity make you less lovable, because of the (internal) stereotype we hold about people who do it? Or you think you don’t deserve to be successful.
    • While I don’t think fear of success is my individual fear, this probing did make me realize I do worry about engaging in activities that might take time away (physically and emotionally) from my key relationship!
  • Perhaps it is fear of commitment?   I have always been a “finish the job” kind-a-girl   (Self-identity insight!).   If I promise to do it, I will. So fear of commitment stops me because I worry that I’ll be stuck in “it” for life.    But in retirement and in this “what should I do” discovery exploration, I need to realize that just because I “sign on” to something does not mean I cannot stop or leave.
    • Thinking about this fear, I also realized that I don’t just commit – I tend to over-commit. Work-life balance is something I am committed to in retirement and my fear of commitment on many other activities is worry that my workaholic, over-commitment tendencies will overwhelm life!

One of Sher’s exercises that I enjoyed was one I’ll call 10 Lives: List 10 lives you think you would like to have. A few of the things on my list were: gardener, gourmet cook, world traveller, yoga guru, writer, jewelry maker, food blogger, birdwatcher, photographer, dancer. (Yes, I looked at my Personal Possibilities List – they were all on there!)     Now pick one (any one) and focus on it for a month. Do something, anything that moves you in that direction. One life vision, one month.  This activity fit another of Sher’s core premises – “do something”!   Any action will move you forward.  It doesn’t need to even be the right action or the right direction to get you started. Action and movement will breed additional action and movement.

A few other of the elements that focus on moving forward:

  • Every time you do something that you were afraid to do but still dared to do it, you get a boost of self-esteem.   And the next thing you’re afraid to do becomes a little less scary, because you’ve begun to re-set the fear hard-wire… whatever the underlying cause of that hard-wiring is.
  • Do it because you decided to do it. Not because you believe it’s the thing that will be your passion. Doing is a big leap from thinking and planning – make the call. Sign up for the class.   Focus on a small movement forward.

So did reading this book help me figure out my passion? Nope. But it helped me feel less like I’m “supposed to know and live my passion” today.  And it helped me understand some of my procrastination habits.  And yes, I did sign up for a month of yoga classes.  A cheer for my small movement forward!

Picture Credit: Pixabay

Family Reality

Almost every article about having a fulfilling retirement or improving your longevity includes strong advice on the need to be connected socially at this next stage of life.   A blogger friend (Donna at Retirement Reflections) even recently posted a bunch of the research supporting this importance of family support.   She did it in the context of her own crisis where she had the support.

So, no argument, a strong family support system is critically important.   But then I look at my family reality.

My reality is I do not have strong friends and family connections.  Even if I know it is important, dream about it, envision it, it is just not my reality and I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to give up the dream on family and focus on friendship building skills.

As with so many things we are told we “should do” (really, who can eat 5-7 veggies/fruits a day!), you have to ask “Is it real?” I know it’s not advised to do comparison with others, but I had to really ask – In today’s world, do real people have strong connections with family?  Do real people have a strong support group they can rely on?  And my answer is yes.  This is not looking at Facebook fantasy or a scripted TV show – this is looking at real life women; women I know (besides Donna virtually).

If it were just one woman I know, I’d say it was a fluke. But I can name a few whom I know well. Women aged 30, 40, and 50 who not only have strong sister and girlfriend bonds that have lasted through the years, but who socialize with their siblings, moms & dads, cousins, aunts & uncles, on a regular basis (not just Thanksgiving dinner).     Family members even seem to like one another.   They gather to watch a Sunday football game, regularly play board games, have drinks for the solstice, run a joint yard sale, go to a festival in town, have a girls weekend out of town, or try out a new restaurant on a random Friday night. They support each other with shared interests, watching each other’s pets (and kids), gather to make holiday cookies, pitch in for wedding planning, or sit in the hospital when someone is having surgery. They are connected and have a support network they can rely on, in good times and bad.  And there is reciprocity of engagement; it’s not always one-sided planning.

What is unique about these women? And I guess, more importantly, why can’t I become one?   It’s not that they are all extroverts.   Do they have a more nurturing personality? Maybe.   Are they a better friend to others themselves? Maybe.

Is it about family proximity?   My family is spread far and wide, but my hubby’s family is close by (most within 15 miles).   Is it that some people were raised to expect that connection is what family is all about?   And everyone in the family still believes in maintaining the connection? I think with the ones I’ve seen, it’s just “what you do”, even when the initial matriarch has passed. “It’s what you do” exists on both sides of the connection.

I guess I need to accept the fact that I don’t and never will have the strong family support that I’ve dreamed about. It’s not the reality of my wide-spread family, nor my husband’s large, close-by family. We just “don’t do that” – that being all the things that makes a support system exist.   The putting aside of this long held dream of family is hard; I need to mourn its loss.

And I need to continue to work on friendships… finding those individuals who will provide the social support in our future.   Not just acquaintances, but close friends – the call-at-2AM kind of friends.

I read recently that finding new friends is like dating.   I haven’t been in the dating scene in 25+ years and even then, I wasn’t very good at it.  So building friendship is another new skill to learn in retirement.  Luckily, I’ve got some great role models to watch and learn.

Do you have any advice for building friendships at this point of our lives?

Picture Credit: Pixabay

What I am Learning in Retirement

Being relatively new to retirement, I am finding there is a learning curve.  It’s more than learning about an interest area.  It’s learning how to live.   Here are some of the specific things I am learning about life in retirement:

  • In retirement, you choose how to spend your days. This is a bit of a love/hate thing because when I have days that are not fulfilling, it’s my own fault!   So, I am learning to own my choices, be happy with my accomplishments, and not beat myself up if something goes differently than planned.  Everyday is a new day to experience joy. And everyday does not need to be extraordinary.   There can be joy and fulfillment in the smallest of things and the most ordinary of moments.
  • Learning to take time… to have a conversation with a neighbor, a glass of wine or a morning coffee with a friend, a leisurely shopping excursion.  I am learning to enjoy not feeling rushed.  And the joy of mid-week un-crowded shopping.  For this Type-A “hunter mentality” shopper, this is definitely a learning curve!
  • Learning to just “be” and not always “do”. A very challenging learning curve for a recovering workaholic!
  • I am choosing to be happy by learning to practice gratitude. I am also actively using tools to be more emotionally aware by labeling negative emotions.
  • Learning to be OK with being a beginner. I am exploring new things – learning about retirement, doing the self-reflection needed to form a vision and action plan, and  exploring  new activities.  From having mastery-at-work to be a beginner-at-living has been a huge change and one that challenges me regularly.


Besides new interests, what are you learning in retirement?


Picture Credit: Pixabay