A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about de-cluttering in retirement, specifically whether retirement was a good time to engage in such a potentially cleansing activity. I read the blog recently to see how it might fit with the one I am about to write. First thing to say is that I enjoyed it as a blog which is a great relief. It’s nice to know that my writing has maintained a certain consistency even if you could equally say, it’s not improved one jot. I prefer the maintaining a high standard perspective. The other bit of good news (there is no bad news at this point) is that the primary focus of that blog was the traditional view of de-cluttering, i.e. getting rid of unwanted items or, in my case, not getting rid of them. Looking back it seems guitars and books were a particular weakness for me. Suffice it to say, they still are. But that’s not what I’m writing about.
The focus of this blog is different, whilst still about de-cluttering, it is more to do with simplifying a retirement life which I have suggested on a number of occasions, is a life too complex and nothing like Garrison Keiller’s sought after version of setting aside responsibilities and cultivating a certain looseness of life style. Not his exact words I fancy but close enough to give the flavour of how he believed a retirement life should be led.
Before getting down to the detail I want to make a small digression. I want to go even further back in time to my life as an educational psychologist and specifically me delivering courses on stress management. Pretty funny you might think if you’ve read in these blogs about the stress levels I frequently experience, perhaps even more so since I retired. Physician heal thyself or something of the sort. But I’m not sure about this, the memory / funny tricks / plays. Now if I’ve written about this before forgive me, did I mention that the memory plays funny tricks?
I’m referring to a graph I used to illustrate what I might call now, optimum stress levels. The point being we need a degree of stress (call it challenge as I did in my last blog) to feel fulfilled even ‘happy’, if I dare use that word. The graph had ‘stress levels’ along one axis and, what I probably called ‘well-being’, down the other. I suppose I should search it out to confirm my distant memories but nah, can’t be bothered, you’ll just have to take my word for it. In fact I’ll just have to take my word for it. Anyway the main point here, just in case you were thinking there wasn’t one, is that too much stress leads to burn out while too little stress to something called rust out. The first one is probably quite familiar to us 21st Century beings but maybe the second less so at least in that form. I guess you’d call it boredom nowadays.
So where am I going with this and why am I writing about it / resurrecting it even? Well, I’m going to take a chance and tell you and you will see why I put it like that in a moment or immediately if you skip further along in this blog. I happened to look at the front of this year’s diary a couple of days ago. That’s the diary I write in every day or at least if not actually every day then about every day (I go back and fill in the gaps). At the front of my diary, as I have done for the last forty plus years, I write my goals for the year and then periodically review them throughout the year to make sure I’m on course for a fulfilling retirement (a degree of irony there) and then review them at the end of the year when it’s too late to do anything about it, to see what kind of year I’ve had.
The main goal for this year was to simplify our lives by closing down the gardening business, helping our son to return to Australia (one way of emptying the house as he has been living with us for the last 7 months – feels like longer) and finally, and this is where the element of risk comes in, taking a chance. The third area to simplify was to reduce the number of properties we own. I’d like to say that with the number of homeless people in the world, this was a matter of conscience, well, maybe a little bit but if you know the history of how we acquired the properties we really aren’t as uncaring capitalist as the bald figures might suggest. Anyway, running 4 properties and even owning a piece of land in Colorado costs us money. Furthermore we need to pay off a mortgage debt for next July (when I’m 70, eek). And the point is, at the risk of buggering things up, we think we have sold the Pateley cottage. Whisper it because if you’ve read a previous blog on the topic, you’ll know that flying freeholds can be a problem. We’re told this buyer, unlike the last one is quite happy to have a house where the third bedroom is over an alleyway we don’t own. I digress.
This then is our hat-trick of simplification which, with any luck, we will accomplish within the time frame of the year of 2017. Which brings me back to the, as yet unwritten, question in this blog – am I going to be bored or relieved? Will de-cluttering our retirement lives in the above fashion make us more or less ‘happy’? Well, call me Mister optimistic but I have no doubt that this reduction in our activity areas (can I call them that?) is going to make for a much better-balanced retirement. Notice I’m not using the ‘h’ word, that’s just not going to happen, but better-balanced, well that’s two words admittedly but I’m confident that that’s what next year will bring.
Ha, did I really write that? The other possibility, and some would say the more likely one on the grounds that nature abhors a vacuum, or so they say, that we (read ‘I’) will simply fill the gaps with other activities, objects, challenges, call them what you will. New hobby, house in Ireland, log cabin in Colorado, public jazz appearances. Stop it, I’m only kidding, aren’t I?