Thursday, 30 January 2020

It's all true!

Over the years, I lot of retired friends told me they were busier after they retired than when they were working. They also told me I'd wonder how I ever had time for work. I confess I was skeptical, but it turns out everything they said was true. I am busier now - at least in some ways - than when I was still schlepping into an office every day.

I think it's because, as soon as I left my job, all the projects I'd put on the back burner were once again front and centre, demanding my attention. Added to which, I live with a man who never stops puttering, and whose many projects often require my input.

A case in point is our recent attic renovation. Over the past six months, we gutted the attic and installed new windows, new wiring, foam insulation, drywall and flooring. Husband did much of the work himself with help from an excellent contractor and electrician, which I very much appreciated, but that doesn't mean I wasn't implicated. My contributions were to take on a larger share of the cooking and other chores, review plans, and make dozens of necessary decisions. Add to which, there was the emotional and psychological toll of living with stacks of boxes and furniture temporarily relocated to the living room, dining room and den.

The payoff was a bright, warm studio/office space for me - which I love! - an extra bed for visitors and less cluttered storage space. That's the hope anyway. We still have some way to go dealing with all the clutter.

Truth be told, living with so many of our belongings crammed into the main part of the house for several months was an eye-opener. It forced me to really see just how much stuff we'd accumulated over the years, which was sobering to say the least - especially now, when we're doing our damnedest to walk more lightly on the planet.

Have you ever stopped to think about how much stuff you own? If not, here's a fun exercise: The next time you're seated on the toilet, count the number of items in your bathroom. I did that recently and gave up after 200. Two hundred. Don't believe me? Think about it. Towels, face clothes, toiletries, medications, shower curtain, bath mat, bath scale, decorative items... It doesn't take long to reach 200, and that's just the bathroom.

As I write this, I'm sitting in a room we refer to as the den, though I store my clothes in here as well. There's a corner cabinet housing the printer, computer and various supplies, a sofa bed, two small side tables, a bookcase, a filing cabinet, lamps, several pieces of art, a dresser and a closet - oh, and a pile of boxes that were stored in the attic. I shudder to think how many individual items there are - thousands, I suppose. How on earth did we accumulate so much stuff?

If you're imagining we've got serious hoarding issues, don't. Aside from four overstuffed bookcases, we have fewer possessions than most people we know. With things in their proper places, you'd be surprised how tidy and uncluttered it all looks. But that's part of the problem. We put a lot of effort into storing our stuff to avoid being overwhelmed by it, when the better option would be to dispose of much of it.

I've gone down a rabbit hole here, but I guess that's the point. A year ago, as I was saying farewell to friends and colleagues at work, I expected that in retirement I'd feel as though I had plenty of time to do all the things I dreamed of doing. Instead, I often feel hemmed in by the many personal projects and belongings that have quietly accumulated around us for years, and spend much less time on creative and volunteer pursuits than I hoped and expected.

Fortunately, I have been able to carve out some time to join a local choir and photo club - both of which feed my soul. I also do occasional volunteer work, which enables me to connect with interesting new people. Now that the attic's done, the theory is I'll have more time and space to tackle other projects but, of course, much depends on how well I avoid unwelcome distractions. Here's hoping I do a better job of juggling demands on my time in Year 2.

What about you, dear reader? Are you retired? If so, did you also find you had less time in retirement than you expected? What tips would you offer fellow retirees for managing their time wisely? I'd love to read your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

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