Retirement Happiness — Life Intermissions

Intermissions in life usually accompany a major life change. The life change might be a marriage, the birth of a child, a promotion at work, or achievement of a milestone such as running a marathon. The life change may also result from the death of a loved one, a health crisis, a financial set back, a divorce, or the loss of a friendship.

Regardless of whether a life change is positive or negative, an internal transition occurs.  It may result in unexpected emotions ranging from joy, giddiness, euphoria,  and anticipation to grief, loss, and sadness.

You can anticipate many life changes such as graduation, moving, or retirement, and plan for the change by visualizing  the results. Nonetheless, living through any change can be intense and difficult.

Major Change as Intermission

Over the years I’ve learned to consider the transition that accompanies a major change as an intermission. It’s a time to pause, a time to consider options, and a time to rest.

There is often a feeling of hollowness and emptiness.  It seems that life is on hold. Days drift past.  Everything seems in a state of flux.  What provided stability and predictability seems lost. Unexpected bouts of tiredness, anxiety, and pessimism about the future occur.

Encountering a traffic intersection when taking a drive provides a good comparison.  At an intersection, it’s natural to slow down, review the route, and consider whether to make a turn. A life intermission is also a time to take stock, review possibilities, and consider new options.

In his book, Managing Transitions:  Making the Most of Change, William Bridges describes three steps for adapting to a new situation.  Bridges describes the loss and sadness associated with an ending.  Then comes a messy ‘neutral’ phase; and finally, the capacity to embrace a new beginning.

Bridges contemplates the neutral zone as a time of limbo when fears and ambiguities need processing before a successful transition to a new situation.  In the neutral phase there is distress and loss as a person struggles to find a new identity. I like to think of this time as a life intermission or a timeout for psychological growth and renewal.

Managing a Life Intermission

Here are seven considerations to help you successfully manage a life intermission.

  1. Take time for self-reflection.  A life transition is an opportunity to rest and think.   Journal writing and meditation are outlets that allow you to express emotions and let go of the past.  Writing prepares you  for the personal growth that comes from successfully dealing with a life transition.
  2. Allow time wasters. When you let go of productivity aspirations and take time to relax, you give your mind the flexibility to restore itself.  There is no point in grinding away when your brain needs to run on idle.
  3. Focus on self-care.  A life intermission  is a time when you can focus on wellness and being kind to yourself. By keeping exercise routines, getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and enjoying soothing rituals you nurture your body, mind, and spirit in preparation for the energy needed to make a new beginning.
  4. Experience the range of emotions that go with a life transition.  Transitions, even those that come from positive changes, are stressful.  Frightening feelings including feelings of loss, sadness, anger, fear, regret, exuberance, anticipation, and happiness are normal reactions.
  5. Remember earlier life changes. How did you manage yourself during other transitions? Coping skills learned when navigating previous transitions will carryover to help you move from vulnerability to a new normal.
  6. Make plans for the future especially when feeling lost or alone. Life transitions are times when new routines and habits are easily formed. With planning and a positive attitude new experiences that promote personal growth and learning will occur.
  7. Allow time to incorporate the effects of the change into your life. At the theatre, intermission is prescribed.  It happens in 20 or 25 minutes — enough time for a stretch and a biology break.  When dealing with a major disruption, it’s difficult to forecast the time needed to shape a new identity. The time required will be unique to each of us and unique for the type of change. It will not happen in an orderly linear progression but in multi-dimensional fits and starts.

Treating a life transition like an intermission can lead to re-invention.  In the aftermath of moving, I’m acutely aware of the mix of reactions and feelings I experience every week.  Sometimes I have bursts of energy; on other days, I can’t focus, can’t remember important information, and can’t concentrate on complex tasks.

I’m using this time to re-assess where my life is going.  It’s an excellent time to take stock and to re-create in preparation for a new beginning. This life intermission is a time to re-engineer, to understand the reality of living in a changed environment, and to prepare for another chapter of retirement. I’m in no hurry to move to the next phase. In fact, I plan to luxuriate in the limbo of this life intermission and let the world go by — at least for a little while as I need some time to replenish my energy bank!

Moving — A Recipe for Upheaval

Moving from one house to another is a recipe for weeks of upheaval. The disruption, confusion, and life-changing chaos that comes with moving from a beloved house, from a group of friends, and from a community with an established network of services is unbelievable.

This post contains a potpourri of reflections about moving from one house to another.

Regular postworksavvy readers know that my husband and I have purged, organized, and packed our belongings in preparation for a move after deciding, about a year ago, to sell our too-big house and down-size.  We also decided to move to a smaller South Western Ontario city that is near to family and near to our cottage at Lake Huron. We wanted a smaller house, smaller yard, and less commuting as a way to ensuring an independent lifestyle as we grow older.

We anticipated a certain amount of disruption in our lives but experiencing it has been another matter!  Moving at a later stage of life is a recipe for upheaval.  Neither of us expected to spend so much time with lawyers, realtors, painters, carpenters, movers, and decorators. Who could imagine that making an address change would take over one hour of phone time? Some of these encounters were easy; many have been an exercise in frustration.

Panicked Preparations

As moving day approached, I greeted friends and neighbours who came to pick up furniture, beds, bookcases, couches, and appliances. Some were excess  belongings; others we decided to replace and not take with us. As Marie Kondo advises in her book, The Life-Saving Magic of Tidying Up, I said a silent thank you and a good-bye as each of these things left my life.

Because moving costs double if the moving company packs the contents of a house, we chose to pack for ourselves. For two weeks before moving day, we packed.  Thank goodness for U Tube videos that show proper packing procedures for dishes, lamps, clothes, tools, computers, and stereo equipment.

I learned new terminology about 2, 4, and 6 foot cubic boxes, mirror/picture boxes, and wardrobe boxes. Whoever manufactures moving boxes must be extremely wealthy as the cost to purchase standard boxes ranged from $4 to $26 dollars per box not to mention the exorbitant cost of $60 for flat screen TV packing cases! Although I was tempted to use boxes from the grocery store or liquor store, I was dissuaded from this due to possible vermin contaminants, especially in boxes previously used for food items. Our moving company helped us by giving us some boxes and also by allowing us to buy clean used boxes that were surplus from office relocations.

Other packing accoutrements included tape and tape holders to properly seal each box, reams of white packing paper, rolls of bubble wrap, and labels. Fighting with rolls of tape that seemed to stick to itself as much as sticking to the boxes caused aching hands and swollen fingers. Fatigue in under-used arm and back muscles meant early bed times.

Project Management Approach

I used a project management/room-by-room approach.  Guest bedrooms and extra bathrooms were first on the list.  Once packed, boxes stayed in assigned rooms.

Items from one room were not mixed with items from other rooms as I didn’t want bedroom linens mixed with books or kitchen towels.

When  packing  sundry items from the basement and the garage took twice the allotted time that I had scheduled, panic reigned. My project management approach had not included time for packing many odd-sized articles. U Tube did not mention angst about packing sundry items like watering cans, hoses, measuring sticks, or long brooms and mops.

Although we had purged most areas of the house, the ‘donation’ and garbage piles grew quickly. We made repeated runs to the re-cycling depot and the dump during the week before the move.

Moving Day 

June 17, our moving day, dawned sunny, bright, and hot. To contain and protect our skittish cats from the mayhem, my husband crated them in their cages and left for the cottage.  I was ‘on deck’ to manage the moving process.

There was no air conditioning as every door was open for the team of 5 sturdy people who arrived precisely at 8 am. The house heated up as furniture was wrapped in 5 foot rolls of padded bubble wrap and quilted padding. My apprehension subsided as load after load of movers dollies heaped with 3 or 4 large packing boxes moved into the humongous truck. Wardrobe boxes filled with heavy clothing were heaved onto shoulders and backs — then carried sherpa-style into the truck Three men effortlessly maneuvered our piano down a ramp and belted it to the wall of the truck.

Seven hours later, the truck filled with our worldly possessions rolled down the street for weekend storage in a Toronto warehouse. I said a silent prayer of thanks.

As my next door neighbour watched the truck disappear, she cried. There were no tears for me, just a feeling of emptiness accompanied with relief.  I vacuumed the house, cleaned the bathrooms, and washed the fridge interior in preparation for new owners.  I walked through every room, then stood in the foyer and thought, with gratitude, about the shelter this house provided to our family over the years, about many parties hosted in these walls, and about the safety we experienced inside each room when bad things happened. I locked the door for the last time, and drove away.

Aftermath and Unloading

During the weekend, as we waited for arrival of our belongings and unloading day, we relaxed. Sitting on the deck at the cottage was a welcome break from lack of sleep, stress, and heavy lifting, The quiet of woods around us, the sounds from the lake, and the fact that cottage possessions were not in a state of disruption brought calm to frayed nerves.

Unloading day was, in many ways, a reverse of the loading experience.  We marvelled as heavy crates and bulky items were lifted effortlessly and placed in our new home.  Thank goodness for labels on all boxes that allowed placement in proper rooms of the new house!

We are in no hurry to unpack as we are living at the cottage and commuting to the new house.  The painter has finished painting the rooms and the front doors. I’ve cleaned the kitchen cupboards and bathroom fixtures.  We have internet, phone, security, and cable service. We’ve hired landscapers to cut the grass and trim the shrubs.

Another phase of moving is over. In the fullness of time, we’ll unpack, and begin sleeping/living in our home.  Meanwhile, it’s summer.  We don’t want to miss precious days of cottage time.

Soon enough we will engage with a new community, meet neighbours, and face the day-to-day challenges of living.

Retirement Happiness — Good Endings

In the final days before moving I’m aware that good endings are important.  Good endings involve letting go of people, places and traditions.

Endings mean difficult good-byes. As we say good-bye, we worry that inevitable life changes will alter relationships. We know the future won’t be the same.

We resist good-byes because we don’t want to lose people or things that give meaning to our lives. The natural tendency is to hold on and deny the inevitable.

Moving is one of life’s big stressors.  In stress terms, it’s rated as equal to losing a job, retiring, death of a family member, or divorce. Handling a move effectively means ending relationships; it means saying many good-byes.

Dealing with such endings is  much like the grieving process. Periods of confusion, uncertainty, and fear cloud thinking. Anxiety and doubt creep into decision-making.

When everything about your life, your home, and your living arrangement changes rapidly, it’s difficult, yet important, to stay focused and to manage endings as well as possible.

During my career I learned to bring things to an ordered close before moving from one job to another.  As a manager I faced endings as people who made substantial contributions moved to new roles. I also faced endings when I left various positions for new opportunities.

Getting things in order for a smooth transition at work meant finishing projects, preparing reports for those who would replace me, and briefing team members who would carry on until a successor was named. A project management approach enabled the transition. The skills of project management can also be applied to achieving good endings before moving.

Good Endings with People

Relationships with people will change once gatherings become infrequent. I’ll miss the daily exchanges with neighbours, locker room conversations with gym buddies, weekly bridge games with friends, and animated  book club discussions.

I know that people maintain friendships despite distance as this has happened in past moves to various cities and provinces.  The friendships will change. Many friendships will have less closeness. Some friendships will dwindle to the point of no contact.

I’m grateful to friends and neighbours who have arranged lunches and dinners to offer opportunities to say good-bye.  During these events we’ve recounted the good times and the activities we shared. We thanked each other for the fellowship we enjoyed with each other.

I’m sad about missing good-byes to church friends as we have lived at our cottage on most weekends.  I regret not saying a personal good-bye to colleagues on the library board as I could not attend the last meeting due to illness. I  can’t say good-bye to some of my gym buddies as they are away on vacation.  Without good-byes, these endings feel incomplete.

Good Endings with Places

How does one effect a good ending with a place?

My favourite spots in our community include a couple of ethnic grocery shops, our local library, the walking trail in a nearby park, and the salt water pool at my gym. I’ll miss the services I receive from our pharmacy  and the car shop that keeps my car running. Most of all, I’ll miss my back garden, the herbs outside the side door, and the plentiful yield of organic veggies from my kitchen garden.

I know that I won’t visit most of these places again and, if I do, the feelings will be those of a visitor and not feelings of belonging to those places.

Good Endings with Traditions

Some endings are linked with traditions.  Leaving our home, our community, and our friends means that many routines and traditions will change. We’ll find new ways to carry on the traditions that are meaningful but until those changes become part of daily, weekly, and seasonal patterns, we’ll feel that something is missing.

Rituals help when going through scary changes. Rituals also bring order and strength to life.  In the past few weeks, the ritualized traditions around saying good-bye have helped us make good endings as we’ve thanked those who gave meaning to our lives during our time here.

Endings and beginnings aren’t always smooth; nor are they black or white.  I’m sure there will be a hiatus before I can embrace the learning and growth opportunities that will come from living in a different place.

It’s my strong belief that good endings pave the way to new beginnings.  Giving closure to the phase of life that is over helps build capacity for a new start.  Emotional readiness is a key factor for a successful new beginning. By expressing appreciation to people, places and traditions that held meaning the foundation for what comes next emerges.

Thanks for reading my post.  If you like the Postworksavvy blog, please tell your friends, email it to others, and consider becoming a  subscriber.

Retirement Happiness — Celebrations

It’s the May long weekend in Canada — sometimes called  May two-four, or Victoria Day weekend.  We’re at the cottage with our son, daughter-in-law and grand-daughter.

The weather forecasts call for sunny days; trees and plants have begun to show their summer finery; people are celebrating on the beach.

The challenges of preparing to move from our house have consumed most waking hours during the past few days leaving little time to write blog posts. Instead, I’m goofing off, taking much-needed time off.

Most Canadian readers are celebrating this weekend enjoying warm outdoor weather in their gardens, at festivals or at their cottages.  For readers from abroad, please enjoy this time vicariously.

To read posts written in earlier years about this celebration weekend, please click on these links:  How to Enjoy the May Two-Four Weekend

What are your essential May 2-4 traditions?

Letting Go of the Place Called Home

Our house sold a few weeks ago.  Now it’s time for another stage of letting go of the place called home.

Letting go of our home is a process just like letting go of work, or friends, or a pet.  Letting go began with the decision, many months ago, to down-size and move to a smaller house.

The next stage was de-cluttering and purging ‘stuff’ that had accumulated during 25 years of living here.  It involved a basement bootcamp that took weeks as we cleared bookshelves that contained a small library of text books, professional books, and best sellers. It involved sorting sports equipment, trophies, sports clothes, books, toys, and other memorabilia belonging to our son but never taken out of the house.  It involved looking through gifts, and mementos from family and friends that had been stored and forgotten.

Sorting photos as well as framed pictures of awards, degrees, certificates and other career highlights that both my husband and I saved took days.

There were moments of euphoria. There were moments of despair.  Almost every item we touched brought vivid memories — sometimes happy, sometimes sad. There was frustration. What should be kept? If this item is tossed, will it be missed? There were tears. It felt like excavating 25 years of life.

We felt less encumbered as stuff disappeared. Rooms were bigger. There was an emptiness in some of the space.  Once the SOLD sign was in the front yard, it also began to feel as though our house belonged to someone else.

Closure, sort of…..

Now that the house is sold, its time for beginning the final ‘letting go’. It’s not quite the final closure as we won’t ‘close’ the Agreement for Sale until June 20 but we have entered another phase of the letting go process.

We need rituals as we say good-bye to the feelings and emotions contained in our house, to remember key life  events including birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, career successes, and life passages. We need to find ways to honour rooms where we took refuge when grief, loss, and disappointment came our way. My husband and I have told the stories of these times as we begin packing the things that will move with us.

Since last fall, I’ve taken photos of favourite spaces in the house, our back garden and our street.  I need these digital memories — at least in the short-term.

letting go -- my spring garden
letting go — my spring garden

Now we need good-bye rituals as we prepare for the last departure.  Indigenous people often use tobacco or cleansing ceremonies when something new is acquired. Good-bye rituals are also common but these often involve death.

Perhaps some type of ceremony to mark this ending is needed, as emotionally, we will carry parts of this house with us in our memories. We haven’t decided how to say good-bye to our house.  It might be a final dinner with time for stories. It might be a walk-through of each empty room after the moving truck is loaded, holding hands, and looking around. It might just be a final lock-up of the 3 exit doors and the garage.

Leaving is a process. The ties to a place are strong.  A significant good-bye marking this separation with loving-kindness recognizes how much we loved the life that we lived here. We use deliberate, kind good-byes with people we love, why not with places we love?

Once we move to a another house and a different community, we’ll change.  Letting go to launch new opportunities and new adventures means giving a heart-felt farewell.  It hurts but honouring the memories allows the transition that awaits.

 

The Distraction Enemy in Retirement

As too many tech devices compete for attention, I’m determined to deal with the distraction enemy in retirement.

Who would have thought that technology would create angst after we’ve left the office? Whether from text messages, emails, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or old-fashioned voice mail, on most days digital demands rob every one of precious time.

There’s no question that digital distraction is fun nor is the internet’s usefulness questioned. Many older people find online activities ease isolation and loneliness. And who,  regardless of age, hasn’t watched funny cat videos, serious Ted talks, spent hours researching consumer information, or enjoyed the convenience of booking a vacation?

But, too often technology becomes a distraction or even an addiction. Most of us are guilty of checking something online as a form of procrastination. Few people have in boxes without hundreds, even thousands of messages, notifications, and alerts.

A couple of years ago I had an email problem and years of data got erased.  I panicked but soon realized that I didn’t need the archived material that had been lost. Nonetheless, my inbox has again multiplied sufficiently that I despair of ever seeing the coveted empty inbox.

What is Digital Distraction?

Quite simply, digital distraction  is scattered attention.  This increases exponentially when our minds are cluttered with too much information.

Most digital  messages and alerts expect an immediate response as a form of social reciprocity. Sometimes immediate action is required.  A sense of vulnerability is created if the response/action gets delayed, or worse, if it’s impossible to respond.

I can’t imagine how much information I would manage if I were still in my career or how much anxiety I would feel if I didn’t respond in a timely fashion.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and FOBO (Fear of Being Offline) create anxiety and worry regardless of age or workforce status.  Relationships suffer when the false urgency of a notification or a pointless email grabs attention.  People interrupt a conversation with a spouse, a child, or a friend to read and/or respond.

Everyone who has a social media presence suffers some degree of digital distraction. We get pulled away from priorities and use precious time and energy attending to unimportant information.  Focus on relationships or work that needs to be done is compromised by the need to check a screen on a smart phone or tablet to which we are constantly connected.

Handling Digital Distraction

A quick Google search found an excellent Harvard Business Review article “Conquering Digital Distraction” by Larry Rosen and Alexandra Samuel at https://hbr.org/2015/06/conquering-digital-distraction.  This gives a comprehensive review of digital distraction as well as suggestions for conquering it.

An escape from digital distraction is unlikely so learning to manage technology is essential.

Some of my favourite techniques when I’m overwhelmed with digital devices include a technology withdrawal. When 24/7 connectivity robs me of precious thinking time, I take time off. I remind myself that I’m retired and don’t need constant connectivity. Stress from over-vigilance and from expectations of a quick response or a quick reaction, gets a break with time off.

I also set aside time for uninterrupted work. I remember when my mother needed time to read or write letters, she turned off her radio so she could concentrate without chatter or music.  A simple timer to stop digital disruption when writing or researching a blog post give me uninterrupted time for thinking and writing.

I also set digital boundaries for how often and when to check my computer and smart phone for messages.  Usually this is twice a day unless I’m expecting something important.  I try to keep my phone in my pocket or my purse when I visit with friends as I value face time with them over screen time.

I’ve experimented with email filters and automation tools to block emails and to re-direct emails to folders.  These tools have given only limited success.Perhaps I’ve not taken enough time  to learn how to use such tools effectively. If I were in the workforce, I would likely need automated responses to survive, but, for me, using  Unsubscribe or Delete  remain the primary method of managing unwanted messages.

For a pleasant retirement, learning how to make life choices and not tech choices or app choices is necessary.  We can’t isolate ourselves from the advantages of social media. We can, however, learn how to manage how we attend to the demands of digital distraction and, thus, restrain its influence on daily life.

I’m wondering how readers are affected by information overload.  What techniques have you found to be effective for managing digital distraction and keeping the distraction enemy under control?

Thanks for reading this post.  You may also like a previous post on FOMO that you can read by clicking this link Are you suffering from FOMO?

I look forward to your comments!

 

 

The Person I’ve Become

Since retiring in 2010, I marvel at the person I’ve become.  I look back at my younger self and realize how much I’ve changed and evolved.

I’m gradually feeling calmer, kinder, even happier as I grow older.

Calmness

The sense of calm comes from good health habits.  I cook and eat nutritious whole foods, get regular exercise, and sleep 7 or 8 hours at night.

I try to live gently with others by listening  to what they say and not interrupting their conversation to add my thoughts. I also try to listen to the birds in my garden and to the cat’s delightful purr.

I admit that I’m not calm about ageism, unfairness, or deception. On these fronts, I try to control my reactions.

I worry less. Most of what I’ve worried about over the years hasn’t happened.  If worry comes from lack of planning, I take action.

Stuff is not as important as it used to be — especially after three months of de-cluttering and purging.  I still love my clothes, my shoe collection, my fun jewelry, and the multitude of scarves acquired over the years.  However, a peaceful state of mind, playful friends, and a loving family give more contentment than I ever received from ‘stuff’. It’s easier to let go of things that hold little meaning and to let go of people who rob me of precious energy without giving back.

I’ve had more experience with loss and grief. I know that there are low, crazy times when everything about the world feels unfair.  I also know that these times pass and equanimity returns.

Kindness

I don’t think that I was unkind before retirement but I was often abrupt. I lived a ‘too busy’ life in a fast-paced work environment.  I multi-tasked to save time.  I had little patience for those who were less productive than I perceived myself to be!

Having time for reflection, time for hobbies, and time for solitude has allowed my mind to relax.    I try to focus fully on what is happening. With a mindset of acceptance and respect I appreciate acts of kindness that others show in daily interactions with me and with each other.

Most importantly, I’m kinder with myself. Workplace critics who fuelled insecurities are history.  Yoga and mindfulness have helped me connect with my strengths. With positivity and acceptance, negative and painful feelings that plagued me for years are slowly melting away and, thus, taking less of my attention. self-respect, and confidence.

Happiness 

As we grow older, we become happier; I feel this happening for me as the years pass.

Researchers in the US, UK and Australia with backgrounds in economics, psychology, and sociology have shown a U curve of happiness and well-being. This U curve shows lowest levels of happiness around age 45 followed by a steady up curve.   Happiness and contentment increase in later decades of life. The correlation between happiness and ageing happens despite declines in health, increases in dependence, and less social interaction.

My happiness has increased because I’ve learned to respond differently when I don’t live up to my expectations.  I’m also more resilient and less affected by opinions of others. I feel younger on the inside than I look on the outside.

I hope my wisdom is increasing but it’s sometimes as imperfect ever. I do and say things that I regret but I try to repair damage done. I fall short of goals but I keep trying to improve.  I am learning to live with gratitude for what I have and not continuously striving for more or better or faster.

There’s an old saying that you start where you are to get your life to where you want it to be.  Some of the changes since retirement happened because of conscious choices.  Many changes were serendipitous.

I like the person I’ve become.  I’m sure that in a few years, who I am today will have changed again as I take risks, learn from daily life experiences, meet new people, and seek new adventures.  There will be more lessons as I savour this stage of my life.  In the famous words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

I’m interested to hear reader thoughts on how life has changed for you since retiring. Has retirement brought contentment, well-being and happiness? What other changes have you experienced?  I promise to respond to all comments!

 

 

Manage Time — Manage Choices

In recent months, as I’ve struggled with managing time in retirement, I’ve realized that it’s not so much about how I manage time as it is about how I manage choices.

In 2010, when newly retired, I felt like a kid in a candy store.  There were so many options for retirement happiness. I was free from routines, obligations, and schedules.  With an empty calendar I said ‘yes’ to almost any interesting activity, challenge, and hobby.

Staying involved with the world, caring for my health, and  keeping my mind active guided decisions.

I started this blog and learned the basics of Word Press. I accepted numerous invitations for membership on not-for-profit boards. I got involved with committees in my church. I joined not one, but two, book clubs. I began to play bridge with a small group, first as a substitute, and soon as a regular player. I attended a weekly knitting group to re-learn knitting skills. I made time for regular exercise at my club and began to meet gym, yoga and pool friends for lunch at the club’s restaurant after exercise. I dedicated myself to cooking and eating nutritious meals.  I spent hours developing a shade garden at our cottage and maintaining our perennial and veggie garden at home. Interspersed with all of this was time for travel, time for entertaining, and time for our grand-daughter after her birth three years ago.

Writing this list confirms how the collateral damage of trying to do too much eventually discouraged and overwhelmed me.  I needed to re-assess how I was spending precious retirement years.

It took months to realize that many of the activities and hobbies that I had chosen in the early phase of retirement were not as fulfilling as I hoped.  Attending meetings and spending hours in various board rooms had filled my days when working.  Why was I repeating this in retirement?

To find retirement happiness, I needed to take responsibility for the choices that filled my time. I also needed more free time. I had to re-organize my schedule to maximize happiness from each chosen activity.

Sorting out which activities to keep created a dilemma. Since I have only one life and one retirement, identifying priorities took serious thought. I began by resigning from most boards and  committees. Shelving those obligations freed up meeting and travel time as well as time spent reading binders full of information in preparation for meetings.

The next choice entailed a mantra that I called the ‘rule of 2’.  I would not participate in more than two activities or appointments outside of the house on any day.  Going to the gym counted as one activity; attending bridge counted one activity; meeting a friend for lunch counted as an appointment.  The ‘rule of 2’ resulted in a more manageable schedule.  It also caused me to become discerning about commitments.

Since January 2016 I’ve augmented the ‘rule of 2’ with weekly and monthly planning.  A weekly overview, usually on Sunday evening, helps me to figure out how to better achieve both short-term and longer term priorities. At the beginning of each month I review and celebrate the highlights of the previous month. I consider what was not finished and why. This helps me to understand my productivity and my successes. When I accomplish very little, I’m able to assess why and self-correct.

I’ve tried not to become maniacal about the schedule nor too focused on productivity. Rather, I try to spend time on current life priorities. For example, because making time for de-cluttering, purging, and moving to a smaller house is a key 2016 priority for my husband and me, I commit several hours each week to take me closer to achieving this important outcome.

I understand that I won’t finish everything on the schedule. I’m also realizing that everything takes longer than planned.

Making better time management choices for a fulfilling and happy retirement remains a challenge.  I struggle with time stealers like spending too many hours on email or social media. I feel guilty when I goof off too often. A mindset focused on productivity sometimes prevents me from engaging in activities of pure fun.

With this awareness, I try to cut myself some slack. I have only one retirement.  I’m determined to fill each day with inspirational, satisfying and interesting choices. I’ll use every helpful technique to manage choices of how I spend precious retirement time.

You can see what I wrote about coping with time constraints and over-commitment in earlier posts by clicking these links.http://postworksavvy.com/respect-speed-limits-in-life/http://postworksavvy.com/respect-the-speed-limits-of-life-part-2/;http://postworksavvy.com/managing-the-speed-limits-of-life-interim-assessment/

I know that postworksavvy readers are involved in many retirement activities. What have you learned to about how to manage time and manage choices?

 

Buying a House is Like Buying a Dress

Is there a comparison between buying a house and buying a dress?  After a recent purchase of a house that we believe will better suit our changing retirement lifestyle, it’s clear that the decision factors used when buying a house have similarities to decision factors used when buying a dress!

Before I frustrate readers of a gender who may never have purchased a dress, I ask you to think of decision factors that might go into choosing a car, or a sound system, or special power tools.

Buying decisions are influenced by needs but other factors, both rational and emotional, come into play.  These factors include quality, price, past experiences, learning, culture, friends, family, age, lifestyle, purchasing power, and self concept.

Purchase motivation — whether for a dress or a house — is a complex psychological occurrence. Conscious and subconscious processes affect the decision. Marketers know that buying decisions happen at the subliminal, non-conscious level. Afterward, the consumer uses rational think to justify choices that are largely based on emotions.

When buying a dress the decision usually starts with personal factors. How does it look?  How does it feel?  Can I imagine myself dancing in it? Does it fit me perfectly? What a great colour!

For a house, the decision usually begins with price. Is it affordable? After that, size  — including number of rooms and configuration of rooms, neighbourhood, built-in amenities, outdoor space, and general ambience influence in the purchase decision. Scarcity and availability are other factors that may push a house buyer to make a quick decision.

After buying a house that we believe will better suit our retirement lifestyle, I’m struck with how this purchase decision was similar to decisions I’ve made when buying a dress. When I’ve been fortunate to find a dress that fits perfectly and suits my personal style, taking out my credit card to finalize the purchase is almost automatic. I marvel at this as I see myself as driven by rational thinking in most decisions.

Just as your body determines the style of dress that suits you, your budget will determine the type of house that you can buy.  Although we shopped for a smaller house, we were not prepared to live in a shoebox.  We wanted bright, airy rooms that were large enough to accommodate pieces of furniture that survived down-sizing. We wanted a house with lots of open space but with areas for privacy. Fortunately, the choice was not overly influenced by price as we are moving from a location with high housing prices to a city with lower housing costs.

The perfect dress needs to fit the body and the house needs to fit lifestyle needs. The dress should not be too tight nor should it hang too loosely.  Likewise, a house can be too small to accommodate the needs of the owners or it can be too big, as is our present house. Although we have eliminated much of the excess stuff in our lives, each of us kept some of our ‘precious’ collections as we plan to continue to enjoy the types of entertainment and hobbies that give pleasure.

The perfect dress needs to be age appropriate and so should a house be age appropriate. As I’ve grown older, I know that short-short skirts, frills, low necklines, and spaghetti straps no longer suit me.  Likewise, a house with three floors of living space and acres of carpet to vacuum is not required. In making a decision, ease of maintenance, comfort, and an environment for relaxed living were key factors.

Buying a dress is influenced by emotions as much as reason; buying a house is also a decision that is highly emotional and, yet, partly rational.  A perfect dress matches personality.  It sends signals about self image and social class.  Likewise a house provides external validation of the social and cultural reference groups to which the buyer belongs or aspires to belong.

The dress you shop for may not be the dress you buy; likewise, the house you purchase may be quite different from the house you thought you would buy. I’ve often shopped for a dress with a mental image of what I wanted yet the perfect dress that I bought was of a colour, cut, or style that was completely different from the mental image. When shopping for a house, we began with the ideas of a condominium type of residence where snow removal and grass/garden maintenance would be part of the condo fees.  Instead,  we bought a bungalow in a newish subdivision! We will have to take responsibility to hire contractors for outside maintenance tasks but we will also have more privacy.

In terms of post purchase thinking, we’ve decided that we had a predisposition for a free standing house as this is the type of living arrangement where we have past experience, and thus a pre-disposition must have existed at some unconscious level.

A big decision always creates some post purchase anxiety.  We’ve had some of that, but, mostly, we’re excited about finding a house we both like.

Just like the perfect dress, our new house will likely involve tradeoffs and compromises. There’s no point in trying to understand all aspects of this buying decision now the ‘Offer to Purchase’ has been accepted and we have a closing date. We used rational decision processes as we checked off the items on the ‘must haves’ list. Likewise, we know that emotional choices came into the decision including attitudes, beliefs, and feelings from past experiences.

Space for a herb garden, a wine cellar, lots of storage space, a walking/cycling path behind the house, and a nearby wooded area had emotional influence. Just as with buying a dress, buying a house involves a moment when something inside says ‘YES’.  The rest is history yet to be lived.

 

 

The home stretch — listing our house

We’re on the home stretch before listing our house. Our house will go on the multi-listing service on March 30.

Coming Soon sign
Coming Soon sign

The marketing strategy that the real estate industry puts into selling a house sale is interesting. It’s different from what happened 25 years ago when we last sold a house. At that time, a thorough clean up of the house and garden was the only expectation. The agent placed a sign on the front yard, took a picture of the exterior, and featured the house in newspaper advertisements.

Things have changed. Approximately 46,000 people have licenses to sell real estate in the greater Toronto area but only a small percentage of real estate agents are true professionals. Most took a short course and may sell one or two houses each year.

Since we told people in our social network of our plans to move, we’ve had numerous real estate referrals.  It seems that everyone knows a real estate agent.  We’ve been approached by neighbours, had cold calls from unknown agents, and had agents offer to undercut others on listing percentages. We’ve had lectures on the pitfalls and dangers of making a poor choice.  People warned against certain companies or brokerages that had questionable reputations all the while recommending a cousin, a friend, or a former colleague.

Who would have thought hiring an agent would be so difficult? After several interviews, we decided that we would work with a professional who we believe understands our needs and the market, especially the online market and how it affects sales of houses.

The next step was to attend open houses in the area. We toured houses in our neighbourhood, sometimes at formal ‘open houses’ but mostly through private appointments arranged by the agent. Some tours were cancelled when houses sold in two or three days.  In the current sellers market in our area, most houses are selling quickly.

Walking through other people’s homes with our agent felt like a kind of voyeurism. Some houses were stripped of every sign of occupancy.  Others were so cluttered that it was difficult to see the charms of the house.   Sometimes we were overwhelmed with odours especially the smell of second-hand smoke.  In one house, a basement door opened suddenly and we were surprised that the house was not vacant as requested for the showing. The agent reminded us that we weren’t buying these houses but were touring the houses to educate ourselves about how to prepare our house for sale and to understand how these houses compared with ours for purposes of pricing.

We also reviewed price comparisons for listing and selling in the area during the past six months as well as for the last six weeks. In real estate speak, these ’comps’ help decide the list price and the overall strategy for selling the house.

Earlier this month a professional photographer took pictures of the house — several exterior and garden views plus photos of every room.  A home inspection has been done and will be available for prospective buyers.  Every room as well as the lot was measured with a laser device to make a detailed floor plan.  A video complete with ‘elevator’ music is ready. An online website is set up. Although most of the marketing will happen on social media as well as through real estate networks, postcards have been prepared for a mail drop in the neighbourhood next week.

The next steps are up to us.  It’s time to lock away personal papers which means finding keys for filing cabinets. Most valuables have already been taken off site. During this long weekend we’ll do a final purge of personal items.  We’ll clear everything except for computers off our desks, tidy the shelves, clear kitchen and bathroom counters, put fluffy new towels in every bathroom, and buy fresh plants for display in strategic places.

Pets are an issue during home showings as they can distract potential buyers or get lost with doors opening and closing. To avoid this problem, I will move to our cottage with the cats.  My husband will stay at the house.  He will have to find diversions when house showings are booked or when the agent holds ‘open houses’.

As I write this post, I realize that this phase of our 2016 moving adventure is coming to a close.  We’ve purged, organized, cleaned, and de-cluttered.  Many items once deemed precious, are gone.

The house feels emptier and less like the home we loved. As I walk through each room I notice that my feelings of home have changed.  The rooms still hold aspects of our personalities, our preferences, and our lifestyle but the notion of home has dissipated.  Our house will always remain a crucible for precious memories of home but, it is now just our house.  It’s time to list the house and leave the home stretch to the gods of fate and the skills of our agent.

Inspirations for a Happier Retirement

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