The Little Things

Well I have to say I’m enjoying my time off more than I thought I would.  It’s been nice to relax a fair bit and be more involved with the kids while still getting some things done.

What has really amazed me so far is how effective having a large block of time off is at getting to all those little things you know you should do sometime, but never seem to get around to.  I keep a list of things I should do and try to do one thing per day from that list.  Some are very quick, like pickup some 600 grit sandpaper from the store to polish off a few minor rust spots on my sword (yes I own one…see here) while others took a bit more effort like taking apart our one sink that was draining slow and cleaning it out.  Yet most of the projects are done in under an hour.

Yet the compound effect of all these little things is the fact I’m making my life slowly just a bit better or easier each day and I’m in a much better mood because it.  I actually caught myself humming Christmas carols the other day while doing some cleaning.  You know life is good when even cleaning doesn’t feel like a chore.

Perhaps this is why retirees look so happy a lot of the time.  They can actually get something done and still have time to enjoy life.  For instance they never get torn by the decision to have a nap or fix the sink.  They do both.  Having more free time does seem to work wonders on your stress levels.  Like the fact it is quickly going to be Christmas and I’m not really that stressed at all as all I have left to do if wrap a few gifts and bit up some food (but recall I can shop at 9am on Monday and avoid most of the crowds).

Ok retirees, what else is great about having all that time to do things?  Does it get better as you go along or not?  Why?

9 thoughts on “The Little Things”

  1. I’ll feel free (as always) to change my mind as time goes on and experience is gained… but I feel very uncomfortable having large amounts of free time without a primary focus (aka puttering). The discomfort has historically set in at about the three month mark once giddy wears off. Truly envy/am mystified by people who don’t feel that.

    Just like sometimes at work I used to feel like “is this all there is?”, I end up feeling the same when I’m not working at paid employment at all or don’t have a major project to work on and waste hours of my life puttering around doing stuff like buying groceries that could or should only take 10 minutes. Having said that, I haven’t felt like that yet at this job beyond one 10 minute, likely SAD-related episode and do believe it’s possible to not feel like that in “retirement” if someone has the right mix of hobbies/work/self-employment/lifestyle. I had two past contracts where I put in anywhere between 0-50 (maybe 1-2 weeks on the 50) hours/week and averaged about 15 h/wk – on projects I found quite interesting with great people but were unfortunately finite. It was ideal. So I’ve decided that I need to put some thought into how I can build that lifestyle mix outside of a corporation.

    I suspect that retirees may look more happy just by virtue of the research that shows that people become happier as they age.

  2. Jacq, you are not alone in these thoughts. It seems like a lot of people who technically have the ability to ER simply don’t have enough going on outside of work hours to fill up their time, or as you say, not the right mix of things. MMM forums are full of such discussions. I really… I mean REALLY don’t have this problem. 😉

    Before I ER’ed (three months ago now) I had developed a litany of passions and hobbies over the years that I worked full time. Of course, I could only do things things in tantalizingly brief doses. But I knew that saving and investing at the pace I was that one day I would be able to immerse myself fully in these things. That time is now…

    My wife and I just got back from a month long stay in Mexico. Just a few things we did… my wife and I caught some Yellowfin tuna and made amazing fish tacos with them an hour later. We learned to stand up paddle board, kayaked amongst whale sharks (largest fish on earth BTW), my wife and I took Spanish lessons from some locals… might even of have got some “clothing optional” sunbathing done on a completely deserted stretch of beach – sorry if thats TMI. 🙂 Quite a few of my hobbies are quite physically taxing, so a retirement at a still spry 42 is quite wonderful. And not having any thoughts about what was on my plate on my return to work enhanced the holiday MIGHTILY on its own.

    Tim, you are one of the guys whose thoughts on ER echo my own. There is no hand wringing angst about it. It just makes absolute, beautiful sense to you – and I feel the same way. So far, in a mere 3 months, it has easily surpassed my expectations.

    Another thing… a few of my hobbies could easily be monetized down the road. Not sure if I would do that – I certainly don’t forsee the need for this income, and I wonder if it would remove some of the joy I receive from the activities themselves. Anyway, I certainly have the time to figure these “issues”, such as they are. 🙂

  3. Not fully ERed yet; that’s still a couple years off, but I have dropped to a 32 hour week, and having that extra time has been a great drop in stress. Like you say, I have the time to get many more things done without feeling pressure about it. Who knows, I may even get the baseboards back on one of these years…

  4. Jon – you are one of the people that I could see wouldn’t have a problem – you had/have pretty strong “going to” goals.

    I wish more of mine were physical / concrete vs. needing fairly extreme intellectual challenge. Although the intellectual stuff can pay well. 😛 I’d do it for free though… and actually have…

    I just find it hard to believe that the type of people that are the ambitious, goal oriented types that would go for FI/ER would be the types that could shut off that desire to live life fully by… puttering/accomplishing very little. It implies wasted time (and wasted time = wasted life to me).

    Having said that, maybe it’s an age or personality thing. I’ve even noticed during the last year that I’m getting way more zen in my focus and way more focused on building enjoyable, slower processes and enjoying the journey vs. always striving for goals or looking at life things (ie. fitness, work initiatives, hobbies, saving $…) like “projects” that need the most efficient or fastest path to completion to be classed as a success. Just completely stopped measuring by numbers or measuring at all and go by some kind of intuitive happy ratio which feels rather odd but really quite wonderful.
    (Maybe I’m hanging around too many INFX writer types…) 😉

  5. It’s weird… my job was extremely challenging physically and intellectually. I was paid extremely well for 24 years for my efforts. Yet I felt strongly that I was “wasting my life” doing this. At some point I felt the years passing by more quickly, and despite the allure of accumulating monetary wealth at a fairly amazing clip, the decision to ER was a slam dunk. The thought of lying on my death bed one day having only scratched the surface of what is possible to do and see in our brief lives on this world… no, I HAD to do this… no regrets.

  6. Well, I think we’re coming at this from two different perspectives. I haven’t worked straight through for 24 years but took a whole bunch of mini-sabbaticals to do those things I wanted to have the time to do. Somewhere along the way the drive to ER stopped happening so I think my personal ladder was up against the wrong wall and FI was a better one.

    Not a single day of the last 2.5 months I’ve been at this one have I thought “crap, I don’t want to go to work today” or that I’m wasting my life at all – in fact, feel my talents are well used, I’m learning a ton… and it’s fun. I’m going in thinking “oh good, I get to get further along today with solving _____ (insert issue)”. Having said that, I know what you mean and have BTDT on other jobs. But sometimes I wonder if the jobs have changed that much or my attitude has because I’ve just become much more cheery in general almost all the time and the circumstances even outside of work aren’t that much different. Even my kids and friends have remarked on it.

    Regardless, the perspective of “do I want to do (or have) this despite the monetary factor” is working for me both with spending and making $. So it’s good that I can stop measuring a metric that’s become meaningless.

  7. What I really think it boils down to is that as different as people are, their own individual paths to happiness and fulfilment will be as equally different. Jacq, sounds like what you have found works for you as well as my own works for me. It’s all good… no, GREAT. 🙂

  8. Thank you to both of you. This was an interesting conversation to read and I agree that different people need different things to be happy,

  9. LOL – true that. At the end of the day (or beginning) – as long as you can say “I’m happy/content about what I’m going to be doing/what I’ve done today” – it’s all good.
    And the same person may need different things at different times/seasons of their lives…

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