November 30, 2011

Retirement and Simple Living

Over the past few years one of the bigger trends in the world of blogging has been the number of sites that promote living a simpler life. If you do a computer search for phrases like voluntary simplicity, zen living, minimalism, or frugality, the number of hits will be in the millions.

What is the attraction? It could be a desire to spend more time on things you like. Travel, becoming deeply involved in gardening or photography are more fun than constantly dusting, cleaning, repairing, and maintaining stuff you own. Living a simpler life has strong appeal for many. Eliminate things that take you away from what you really enjoy. Get back to basics. Play that creative music that is inside you.

I have found a tremendous interest in this topic among readers of the Satisfying Retirement blog. To have a happy retirement lifestyle you must have a firm handle on your finances. You may be looking to move to a smaller home or condo and aren't sure how you decide what stuff to get rid of. Maybe you are tired of all the work lots of possessions entail. Whatever the motivation, simple living strikes a real chord for many.

Most of the things listed here I have been doing for quite some time. There are a few recent additions as I have become more sensitive to the negative impact an overly consumptive lifestyle has on the planet and my own happiness.

I don't enjoy shopping so I don't buy much. I shop when I must for what I need. To some people, shopping is a form of entertainment or relaxation. To me it is a chore to be completed as quickly as possible. That saves me money and clutter. Maybe this is a guy thing, but I avoid malls. Clothing covers me and keeps me warm or cool. That's it. For me clothing is not a fashion statement or an indicator of my economic status. If it performs its function, is within my budget, and I need it, then I buy it.

A car is transportation. It takes me from point A to Point B with a minimum amount of fuss. It must be dependable, relatively safe, and have good air conditioning (this is Phoenix after all). Its year, make and model don’t really matter. Even the color is not terribly important (ask my wife about the baby blue Mustang I had in 1976).

I use it up, wear it out. Only then do I replace it. If something does what I need it to I don't feel the need for a replacement that does it 2 seconds faster, or is in a different color. I don't even require it to have all its parts as long as it still works.

We repaint, re-purpose, reuse. My wife is amazingly creative in looking at something and finding a whole new use for it. We find it much more satisfying to do that than simply throw something away that can be used in another way.

I buy very few books or new music. I read books constantly and listen to lots of music. I just don't feel the need to own them. That's what libraries are for. That's what the Internet offers. Part of that belief came during my radio days. I was given thousands of free CDs (I still have most of them). So, I got out of the practice of buying music and never regained the habit. Of the books I did own, I got rid of 80% of them. I realized I would never re-read them. All they did was take up space and get dusty. Someone else might enjoy them. So, I took many of them to a used bookstore for credit, and donated the rest to charity. Then my wife re-purposed the bookcases!

We use our own photos and painting to decorate. My wife and I like to take photographs and she is a painter and mixed media artist. Why buy someone else's work to decorate our home? We have the photos blown up and framed, or printed on canvas. Her paintings grace several walls in the home. It is much more satisfying to be surrounded by something you created.

Simplify lawn and yard work. Over the last few years I have cut back considerably on the number of potted plants I maintain. It was getting to be a chore, not a pleasure. We converted most of our bushes and shrubs to low water, low maintenance varieties. This saves time and money.

Cook enough at once for two meals. It is very unusual for us to make a dinner that doesn't produce enough leftovers for another time. And, if an ingredient is required for a meal we find another recipe that requires the same stuff so it doesn't go to waste. 

....this is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of my e-book, Building a Satisfying Retirement: How to Make the Most of This New Stage of Your Life. There are eight chapters full of practical, actionable information, whether you are a few years away from retirement, or have already started this exciting new phase of life.

I ask that you consider buying a copy for yourself, or someone else, this holiday season. The book is available through Amazon by clicking here.

Don't worry if you don't own a Kindle. A free reader for your PC can be downloaded here. Apps for your iphone and Android phones are also available at no cost.

 Building A Satisfying Retirement is available for just $3.99.

Your definitive guide to a successful retirement yours today for just $3.99. If you are an Amazon Prime member you can "borrow" the book for free!


  1. Bob,

    There are many books and articles on retirement, the simpler life, and so on. Many can lose people if they push too much of the extreme on either end, either a champagne lifestyle or one that intimates you should be something akin to a monk in a cave. This is a plug for your e-book, which I purchased a month or two back. It is an easy read and full of practical, usable advice. And buying it to read on my laptop got me galvanized to download other books, most of them free, to my laptop as well, which will save a tree or two in the long run.

    I agree with you on shopping for clothes; for some reason I get tired as soon as I hit the mall. An electronics or hardware store seems to give me a second wind, but even there I just window shop unless I absolutely/positively need something at that moment. I can go for years before I change a TV, for example, until I get just the right deal. Same with a car or truck. Separate wants from needs and most people would be better off, and the environment will thank you for it.

    Keep up the great work.


  2. Chuck,

    Thank you for purchasing the book. I'm very happy you found it worthwhile.

    Could you do me a huge favor? Leave a rating and review of the book on Amazon. Just a few sentences or paragraph on how it is helpful and easy to read plus a rating would be extremely helpful to me. People tend to follow what other readers say.

    If you click on the link on the top of the sidebar it will take you to the Amazon site. You'll see a place to click to leave a review. I'd very much appreciate it.

    I have to really push myself to go clothes shopping. There must be a real need in my wardrobe to bother. Like you, I enjoy walking through Best Buy, but only if there is one particular thing I need (not want!)

    I used to be addicted to bookstores. Now, I rarely go into one just because I know I'll buy a book or two on impulse.

    I know what you mean about the simple living idea running the risk of being extreme. I read a blog yesterday in which the woman wanted to give away every single thing she and her family owned, except for whatever would fit in a small closet. That reminded me of the ancient religious order that used to beat themselves with whips to remind themselves of their sins.

    Simple living is about not cluttering up your life with stuff that doesn't serve a purpose. It isn't about seeing how little you need to survive.

  3. Itn's no coincidence, I think, that simplicity is a theme in the posts I'm reading this morning and in my own post today! We are entering the season of stressful over consumption. Even though I cut back our Christmas excess, I was still taken aback by how many gifts I ordered online yesterday.

  4. Galen,

    First, congrats on the excellent guest post on The BridgeMaker web site. Spiritual Simplicity is a very much on-point topic. I wasn't aware of Alex's work, but now I am.

    Since this is the time of year when our consumption habits are the most out of control, the link with simplicity is not surprising. In fact, I would guess that in January when folks start looking at how overboard they went and how big those credit card bills are, there will be another surge of interest.

    I had to fight back on attempt to reinstate presents for adults in our family, but so far the wall is holding firm.

  5. Hi Bob,

    A few years ago, I read in a book (don't ask me to remember the book!! LOL!) a guideline for downsizing that really stuck with me.

    "Surround yourself with things that you love, if you don't really love it, get rid of it."

    That has helped in getting rid of so many "things" that one collects over the years. It has been an ongoing project since we retired a year and a half ago, to keep going through things and getting rid of what is no longer loved or useful.

    I too used to be a book store junky. I rarely go into one now, but am planning on using the library a lot more in the future. I also go to the thrift stores and buy paperbacks for $1 or so too. Then I don't have to return them till I am done with them. They will be recycled back to the thrift store. I read mostly online now--something I never had time to do before I retired. I should probably go through my books again and see which ones I really love and then either sell or donate the rest.

    The last book I did buy, was yours - and it doesn't take up space on a bookshelf!!

  6. Donnie,

    I am constantly on-line with the Phoenix library system. I search for names of books that a friend has told me about, or I'll see the name of an author that I might enjoy. I'll place everything I find on my virtual library bookshelf and then place 2 or 3 of them on hold so the books are sent to my local branch waiting for me. I just just checked: as of this moment I have 57 books on my library bookshelf. That will keep me going for quite awhile.

    Like my request to Chuck, if you are so motivated I'd very much appreciate a rating and brief review of my book added to the Amazon page where the book is for sale. Click on the link in the post above to go directly to Amazon. Just under the title is a line that says "Customer review." click it and the next page has a link to add your own comment.

    Thanks, and double thanks!

  7. I've found that the longer I am retired, the simpler my life becomes. The urge to purge grows stronger each and every day.

  8. Morrison,

    The older we get hopefully the wiser we get: things are just things that either add to our life or clutter up our life. We have learned what to do with the latter.

  9. I like your blog, so I just downloaded the book. Thanks.

    My life is busy, but there isn't anything in it I'm not interested in. What a nice place to be!

    We are simplifying the holidays and travel and how we eat. That's a good start, I think.

  10. Linda,

    Thank you for the purchase! If you enjoy it I'd appreciate a rating and brief review on the Amazon page where you downloaded the book.

    We are putting up no decorations this year because we will be celebrating in Flagstaff and having our Christmas dinner there.

    I'm in the midst of a 6 week challenge to lose 5 pounds. I'm halfway there so my eating will also be watched carefully.