I know for a certain fact that I have already written a blog about de-cluttering in retirement yet when I came to look for it to re-read it as a context for this blog, it was not anywhere to be found. It might have been one of the 15 or so blogs that mysteriously disappeared into cyberspace, who knows. I did find one on simplifying our lives and had a look through that, it was fine but that was then and this is now. This is my view of de-cluttering, simplifying, minimalizing, call it what you will, our retirement lives just after I turn 70.
This blog was prompted, not so much by becoming 70, but rather by selling one of our houses. I have hinted at this process quite a few time over the last 8 or 9 months without going into any detail. I haven’t written about it because I had this peculiar idea that by doing so I would jinx the outcome. I can honestly say I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any more jinxed that it has appeared to be since we put the house on the market last October.
We needed to have the house sold and our outstanding mortgage paid off by my 70th birthday or the mortgage company would get cross and start imposing on-going financial penalties. We exchanged contracts a day before my birthday and paid off the debt the day after. Talk about cutting it fine. When we put the house up for sale last October I thought we were being ridiculously cautious. It couldn’t possibly take that long, could it? Well you know the answer. It wasn’t that it was hard to sell, we sold it three times, unfortunately only the last time counted.
The first ‘sale’ happened before the house had even been advertised but fell through when our ‘buyer’ pulled out on account of how she wasn’t actually a cash buyer as she had told the estate agent she was and the house she had to sell didn’t and so she didn’t buy ours. So then the house went on the market properly and we had another, mostly cash buyer, but that went the same way on account of, if I remember correctly, something called a flying freehold. So to our last, and successful, buyer who wasn’t a cash buyer at all and needed a mortgage which he got but meant, as it turned out, the whole process went incredibly slowly, dragging on and on and on until the above. The protracted nature of it all rather took the edge of any pleasure we might have felt on final completion but let’s not be ungrateful.
So we’ve sold it and cleared our debts and a huge amount of stress has been removed from our retirement lives. Financial challenges in retirement aren’t exactly unknown and we’re not exactly poor but owing a lot of money that had to be repaid by a certain date was undoubtedly anxiety generating. We looked at other methods of repaying this particular debt including taking our another mortgage until we were 80 and emotional blackmail of the children, well the one worth blackmailing. We will never know the outcome.
So less stress now and also a feeling of lightness at having reduced our property portfolio, a small collection never intended to be a financial investment just a way of travelling to, and living in, different places without needing to put the dogs in kennels or with Uncle Paul, a blessing though he is. The responsibility of it all weighed us down from time to time. After closing down the gardening business and forgetting our health (as if we could) for a moment, our properties were our biggest form of worry and anxiety.
This rather drastic form of de-cluttering only helps so far in that we still have all the clutter – furniture, books, art work, TVs, toasters etc etc. that lived in the property. I admit I’m not very good at throwing things out but I do wonder whether the age of retirement encourages a degree of simplifying one’s life, or is it the exact opposite? As always seems to be the case with our lives, it’s a two-way street. There’s a definite feeling of unburdening, reducing the sense of being weighed down by life and its complexities. There’s also, I’m sorry to say, a little bit of a feeling of loss. We no longer have access to a house where we have spent many happy times for the last 12 or more years, roaring fires and snow outside the window in winter in a picturesque Yorkshire Dales town. A little bit of the richness of our retirement lives, gone forever.
That’s the thing about retirement I can quite easily, in my case, convince myself that it’s a time for a bit of indulgence. A time to say to hell with it I’m going to buy that thing I wanted, no point in waiting any longer, we’ll all be dead soon and the kids will get the money. So, on one hand, it felt OK to have more than one house to move around from one to the other, it’s our form of travel. We don’t take expensive holidays so if we choose to spend money on financing our different houses, so be it. But now that strategy has had to be over-hauled, we needed to clear the debts and now we have.
Of course it doesn’t end here. Most of the money has gone to the mortgage company but there’s still a bit of profit left over and what’s the point of leaving it in the bank getting no interest? You’re right, no point at all. Mrs Summerhouse and I don’t quite see eye to eye on this. I’d happily spend it, she would keep it for the rainy day and yes, talking of rain, the roof of our main house will need replacing fairly soon and yes, that will be expensive but nah, that’s far too sensible. So what to do with it. It’s a good thing that number one son in OZ doesn’t read this because he would know exactly what to do with it. But he’s had plenty already and the other child doesn’t need it, so I say again, what to do with the money?
Retirement is a tricky time, a time of opposing pulls loosely based around on how much of a good time should people have. Generous to self, generous to others, cautious just in case, wild and crazy, frugal, indulgent and so on. Yes, tricky business this retirement.