Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 200 Free At Last

“I don’t own a thing”, said Diane Athill, a British editor and writer. She has just recently moved into an assisted living facility. “And I love it. For the first time in my life I feel free,” she added. She went on to rave about the arrangement where other people make her meals, make her bed, clean her apartment, shop for her groceries and do her laundry. This could be the description for the living arrangements of a king or queen, or the rich and famous. But it really describes someone who is ninety-two years of age, of sound mind and body and just moved into an assisted living facility. Sounds pretty good to me now that I think about it.

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

I know we live in a materialistic world and we seem to always be on track to accumulate more stuff. Why is it that when we get older all of this stuff seems to turn on us? It becomes a weight around our neck; drags us down.

There seems to be a real advantage in simplifying one’s life as one gets older. I’m not sure it comes with age just because we are older or if, indeed, it does come with wisdom that takes us a long time to acquire. Perhaps there is no shortcut. Maybe it would be just as advantageous to simplify life at an earlier age but we just don’t know enough to accept it.

It’s hard to understand why it is we spend a great deal of our life trying accumulate things and then decide we don’t need them. Is it because our society convinces us that we need more things? Or, perhaps it’s because our parents and grandparents shower us with gifts of every kind when we’re young and we get use to it; conditioned to it; accepting of it. I know every time I walk into my grandchildren’s rooms I’m astounded at the number of toys, games and other stuff. Why do they have so much? I know my daughter some times disappears some of their toys and the kids never miss them.

Whenever we have the opportunity to spend Christmas morning or birthdays with them the quantity of gifts amaze me. I recall getting one gift for my birthday; perhaps three small gifts for Christmas which included two articles of clothing and one toy; always just one toy. I still remember a couple of these toys some sixty years later. If one of my toys came up missing I would know it and look until I found it.

“Times have changed”, I’m told. Well, I’m not sure it is such a good thing. I always wonder how many “gifts” or things will be needed as they grow older. Perhaps the effect of getting all of these gifts as children will result in them not wanting so much in later life. Perhaps they will not want more but realize at an early age that life can be focused on more that material objects.

I’ve mentioned before in some of my other podcast my friends from Alaska who retired and sold everything they owned except a few cloths and their car. They sold their land, house, furniture, sporting goods (they kept their bikes); they sold their dishes, threw away their photographs, paintings, tools. They terminated any investments they had. They put all of their money in the bank in a simple savings account or checking account. They cleaned house – big time.

They said that they wanted their kids to be able to burry them when the time came and  then walk across the street to the bank  and split any money they might have left and be done with it. They rent a furnished house. They travel a lot. They travel light with just a small rucksack, bikes and a van that is also their only car. They moved from Alaska to New Mexico. They are free. I always ask them if they miss all of their things and they always reply in unison, “Not at all”.

I’m not sure this is for everyone but it has a certain appeal. I know we try to make a conscious effort to throw stuff away. If something comes in the house we try to make sure something else goes out. That’s one thing I like about eReaders – an iPad or Kindle for example. Books can come in and out of the house and not take up room on a shelf or have any physical presence. I know some people like to collect books. I have always felt fortunate in that I never really wanted to collect anything. My modus operand has always to use whatever I get and if I don’t use it then it needs to be gotten rid of. Now that I say that I think I’ll soon take a good walk around the house and see what stuff can be unloaded.

Perhaps Diane Athill is on to something. Being free from things might be a worthwhile goal for we retired people. Maybe I’ll do the walk around the house when my wife is out of town and throw stuff away. Then again – maybe I won’t.

This is Retirement Talk.




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