September 2, 2017

What Are Passion Piles? Do You Have Some?

First question, what's a passion pile? For purposes of this post, it is what I need to enjoy a hobby or interest. For example, to enjoy playing a guitar I need an instrument, music books, and a place with good light and space. A passion pile contains what I need to make the most of the time I have set aside to do something I like. Since one of the most-asked questions is "what do you do all day after retirement," I thought you might find some answers based on what I do.

In one of my file drawers are materials and inspirations I need for this blog. After 7 years I can write one of these articles pretty quickly. What takes the time is deciding on a topic. As you might imagine, after nearly 1,000 posts virtually all the topics that relate to a satisfying retirement have been covered, and covered again. To keep readers coming back I have to find new ways of presenting the same information. Or, I have to find a fresh approach to a common problem: a good example is the idea of "passion piles." 

Links to web sites, things on Twitter or Facebook, questions or suggestions from readers, newspaper or magazine clippings, even random thoughts I have while doing something else are stored away until I am facing a writing deadline without an idea of how to fill 600 words. 

I am considering writing a new book about retirement. That means another filing drawer of rough drafts and partially finished chapters printed out for my review and corrections. Actually, I will be asking for your feedback on this project in a few days.


The previously mentioned guitar is probably better described as a passion corner. The guitar hangs on a hook on the wall behind the printer. A collapsible music stand and various books of songs are kept on a nearby shelf. A few times a week I close the office door and plunk my way through 30 minutes of practice. Since my office is next to the living room, I have noticed Betty puts on earphones when I start to play, but I am assuming that is just a coincidence.

Reading is a serious passion of mine. On average, I probably finish a book a week. That means I have several stacks in various places in the house, at various stages of completion. When the urge hits, I am never more than a few steps away from something I can pick up and immerse myself in a mystery or whatever non-fiction topic has captured me at the time. Having recently seen the powerful movie, Dunkirk, I have located a book to help me know more about this momentous event.

Ham radio has been a hobby for over 10 years. My office has half a dozen different amateur radios just to the right of the computer. A few different types of antennas are strung around the attic, allowing me to talk to other hams across town and on the other side of the globe. Some reference books for the hobby are kept close-by.


I written before about refinishing and restoring vintage radios as a new interest. That requires several large and growing larger passion piles. 

Beside the radios themselves, there are all the spare parts, wood stains, furniture strippers, soldering irons, cleaning rags, screwdrivers, and other things needed to bring these 1940's era radios back to life.

Betty has been teaching me the best way to sand, strip off old finishes, and use shellac or stain on the wooden cases. This is something I have never done before; it is a new challenge.

I have taken the attitude that if I can't fix a radio or  if I turn a working one into a non-working hunk of tubes and parts, that is OK. Learning to do something new requires some failures along the way. 


Update: Just in the last few days I have done exactly that: tried to update the insides of a 1945 radio. Instead a large puff of smoke meant it would be pretty to look at but will no longer work!

A pile that is quite small at the moment but will grow in a few weeks is the material I need to teach a Junior Achievement class at the local elementary school. The organization provides a clear-sided briefcase packed with everything needed to fill a 45 minute lesson once a week. Even so, I must take the teacher's guide and figure out the best way to reach the kids who are setting in front of me, near the end of their school day, very ready to head home.


Finally, one passion pile includes all the stuff we need for upcoming trips and vacation ideas we think would be fun. A folder for our European river cruise next May, an upcoming family trip to Flagstaff to take part in a fun run for Parkinson's Disease, thoughts on day trips inspired by the post on Retirement Travels of a few weeks ago, and a cruise to the South Pacific when our budget recovers.

Often all we need is a nudge or a reminder of something that is satisfying to fill our time in a meaningful way. Passion piles, or simply things that engage your interests and enthusiasms if you prefer, helps answer the question of what a retired person can do with all that free time. 

What type of "passion piles" you you have? 


21 comments:

  1. One of our newer passions, backpacking, has resulted in quite a passion pile - tent, sleeping bags and pads, cooking equipment, water bottles, water filter, headlamps, backpacks, and a good deal more. We have a dedicated cupboard in our garage for it all. Currently, however, it is all in our car as we return home from a just completed 3 night trip through Pt. Reyes Nat'l Seashore. Once we return home we'll lay it all out to be cleaned/laundered, then back into the cupboard until the next trip.

    Other passion piles: our travel trailer, our road bikes, our mountain bikes, hiking gear, running gear, travel books and maps, my cookbook collection, our yet-to-be-used inflatable kayak, my tennis rackets, yoga mat, Spanish books, book club reads, Lifelong Learning materials, Road Scholar trip planners, maps for RV trip planning, piano and songbooks . . .

    I know there is more, but I think these represent a good chunk of what we spend our time on. Have to admit that in listing these on your blog just now, I'm rather amazed at how we've broadened our list of interests in the six years since we left the work place.

    My experience so far has been that there is way more out there to do than we have time. Or energy!

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    1. There is a basic theme in your piles: active, physical pursuits! Our bikes are safely stashed in the garage until the temps come down. When it is almost 90 by 7:30 in the morning, certain outside activities much wait.

      As you noted, it is kind of amazing to look back a few years and realize how our passions and interests have changed and expanded. Aging doesn't have to shrink our world at all.

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  2. My craft studio has a pile of card stock and envelopes and all my supplies for making greeting cards and collage tags..easily. I also love to read so there are book piles in every rook!! I have a bag full of watercolor tools so I can spread out and work on the picture of the moment. Cooking: A small nook of cookbooks on the counter so I can browse for fun when the urge hits or when it's time to meal plan.Planning meals and cooking is a great hobby to me, I enjoy it. I have a small home altar where I keep my spiritual items, tarot cards,some heirlooms from my mom and mother in law and my Nan..their old sewing thimbles, a beautiful pin my Mom used to wear to work, a rosary bead set from my grandmom. I stop and say prayers there every morning.. my spirituality is a passion for sure. I love having everything I love surround me, in my home. Ken has his guitar nook, his own piles of books, and a special group of shelves in our closet where he keeps sentimental things. Home is where the heart is! And all our passions are well represented, as are yours and Betty's in yours!

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    1. I was hoping you'd comment, Madeline. I know your crafting room is well-stocked and kept busy, with watercolor painting being a new passion. Betty and I have seen your first few efforts. You have real promise in a difficult medium.

      With the amount of outdoor activities he does, I would guess Ken has camping gear stashed somewhere!

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  3. Regarding how life EXPANDS when we retire: Well, I love that saying: Life is a banquet, yet some people are starving!!!!! Like Tamara, I feel i will run out of years before I run out of interests and ideas....

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    1. That is a great problem to have. Too many folks have things set up the other way around.

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  4. I think most people walking into my house would be struck by the full bookcases in every room (including a whole wall of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in my study)supplemented by piles of books on tables and nightstands. So obviously reading is a passion, as is learning. The content of some bookshelves points to other passions -- like the three shelves of garden books within easy reach of my desk. Of course, books are just the tip of the iceberg with regard to my gardening passion. There are also the many garden tools, garden gloves in various states of wear, and garden clothes for every season in the basement. And there are the piles of empty plant containers waiting to be cleaned and recycled, the cubic yard of compost by the driveway, and the bags of cow manure piled up by the basement door. I suppose all those gardens full of flowers could also be considered part of the gardening passion pile. Some of my passions don't produce so much material evidence. My music passion is singing, which only requires the human body (although there is a small shelf of sheet music for my choral singing group). Fun to think about what our possessions say about us. -Jean

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    1. Being a book lover myself, I can only envision all those books, especially the wall of of them in your study. Over the years, I have given away/donated hundreds of books, but that wouldn't even make a dent in your collection.

      It's the bags of cow manure by the basement door that took my breath away (ha!). That said, I love a beautiful garden. Flowers bring me joy, though in Arizona we can only enjoy the really colorful ones from November until April. Lantanas and vincas are about all that will survive the summertime heat and they aren't particularly vivid.

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    2. Where I live we only have flowers April to November (well, October actually). The one's we've planted all survive the winter but there's absolutely no flowers blooming under the snow ;)

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  5. So many piles so little time. Admittedly crafting piles are by nature larger. I have a list one basket bowl of knitting traveling around the house at any time. I read multiple books a week and take first come first served at the library, so my reading basket (there's a theme here) holds my kindle and or paper books depending. I am taking an art journal class so there is a little basket with pencils and sketchbook. LIke Madline, I have, while not al altner a little basket that holds daily readings, a set of beads and a candle. The sewing room/office is obviously full of fabric but that does not travel the house. I have large plastic, file folder sized envelopes for things like travel, my church cooking, special events like the gingerbrad house fundraising event I am doing in the fall. And I have a bullet journal in a special case with the pens that goes with me whenver.

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    1. I'd like to know a little more about your art journal class and bullet journal. I have a bookcase shelf full of old journals of mine but have somehow gotten out out the habit. How are these two journals used?

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  6. Passion piles - what a good way of embracing the stuff that we gather. I am drawn to words so I listen to talk shows on tv (sometimes I just watch "river hills tv") and radio (there's even a radio for outside so I can garden and listen when I'm not listening to nature); I have magazines, newspapers, books, journals, pens/pencils, laptop at hand. I have lists of to-read, to-see, to-listen-to in my journal. Is this linked to my attraction to music and the piles of cds because I am drawn to the lyrics? So there's the old boom box, the ipod, the computer playlists, the speakers. I have bookmarked live venue websites on my computer so I can view the line-ups. I enjoy hosting the performers that come on the Home Routes tour and I'm able to indulge my cooking passion. I have a well-stocked pantry because I like to cook and eat so there are lists of menus and flyers and cookbooks and magazines laid open to dishes that interest me. I love the outdoors so there are no window coverings. There are clothes for all weathers and good footwear. Back to the books - there are gardening books. I love my home that reflects my passions. It's filled with the stuff I love. In the words of Nate Berkus, it rises up to greet me.

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    1. Your home sounds so inviting and stimulating. I see that as a common thread in most of the comments so far...stimulating items and creative urges being satisfied.

      Like you, I have all the local venues and college web sites available so I can check on upcoming performances and exhibits. Many are free on certain days of the week, so we adjust our schedule accordingly. Others we want to experience come from our entertainment budget.

      I hadn't thought of it until you mentioned it, but we have no window covers on the kitchen/dining side of our house either. That's the view into the backyard and plantings.

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  7. I'm Betty of Bob and Betty. I'm very excited to see Bob's piles growing!It's fun to see this man's mind expanding. He is always finding different and exciting ways to do this. I've never known the man when he wasn't growing his mind in one form or another!

    As for me, I have lots of piles. Too many in fact and they're not the nice, placid piles like books or writing materials etc... Nope. mine are messy, time consuming BIG piles that threaten to take over my space and all the space of my loved ones oozing over my office, living room, back yard, side yard, garage, attic and storage shed! Not only are they physical piles but piles bubbling up in my head! For every idea I work on there are 40 other ideas swimming around in my head and I am just beginning to learn how to sort through everything. I am a collector bordering on hoarding. I am an artist, photographer and a woodworker. It is messy but I love every moment of it!

    Some of my piles are... A pile of pallet wood that I've washed, stained, painted, sanded and sawed that will be put together as art. A workbench with many tools, courtesy of my father and grandfather and a a lot of table saws thanks to my daughter's father-in-law. I have piles of paints, brushes, markers, papers and cutting tools. Light tables, paper cutters, sewing supplies, ribbons, glues, all sorts, rulers and protractors. I collect junk for my grand daughter's fairy houses and furniture. I have over 80 photo albums most are over 5" wide (Those are just for the analog pictures) I have a computer bursting at the seams with pictures with two outside Terabytes that are three quarters full and cameras all over the place. Some day I'll make sense of all of this or maybe just let it be because mess is what I'm all about!

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    1. THis pretty well summarizes my dear wife's passion piles (or mountains)

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  8. Alas, my racquet sports passion pile has fallen into disuse b/c of a bad knee. So now I'm curating my golf pile. Books, of course. And my new camera.

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    1. Enough to keep you busy, Tom, including the writing for your excellent blog.

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  9. Isn't it nice that retirement brings us the opportunity to grow in so many different directions? So much fun.

    I am trying to avoid passion piles in favor of organized passion areas. When I was working I lived with piles and I am so sick of them, I am eliminating them as fast as I can.

    That said, my passion areas (corners, bookshelves, cabinet drawers) include books, organized by my interests; a music area for piano, acoustic guitar, and harmonicas; my computer desk; a shelf of family papers and history; prints that I am slowly framing and hanging on our walls; a drawer of fabric and patterns, a short row of cookbooks, and a half-shelf of drawing and painting materials.

    Aside from the cookbooks, I've kept only the books I really love and limited myself to 5 shelves of books. The rest of the bookshelf space in our house (6 floor-to-ceiling bookshelves) houses my husband's books. We both enjoy books about his passions.

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    1. A nice list of piles or areas. Some of them sound like what ard in Betty's office: stuff to do with painting, prints, and frames.

      We have converted a few of our bookshelves into places to display coffee mugs that we have collected on our various travels. They are colorful and small enough to fit many on the now-empty shelves.

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  10. I have so many passions, although presently many of them are still in boxes. And now that I am retired, I am planning to add more: yoga, mosaic art, ocean fishing, and kayaking top the list. As well, I intend to devote a great deal more time to my long-time interests of fiction writing and painting.

    Jude

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    1. Mosaic art and ocean fishing: the juxtaposition of those two does a great job of displaying the tremendous freedom that comes with retirement.

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