December 7, 2019

A Different Take On Fall Cleaning


No, this post has nothing to do with cleaning out closets, garages, and storage areas, though all those are good things to do as cold weather arrives to stay. This is a more subtle kind of fall cleaning, but still very important to your satisfying retirement. This is the time of year when we usually face a busier schedule, more calls for our help, and more demands on our energy. So, I am suggesting this is the perfect time to fall clean yourself. 

Just like a closet in your home can easily reach a cluttered, disorganized stage, so can our minds. Both require regular thinning out, re-prioritizing, and replacing worn out stuff with something newer and better suited to our needs.

I have written before about dumping personal habits that no longer serve their purpose. Just a few weeks ago I posted Declutter, Delete, Repeat.  Rather than revisit that topic, I'd like to explore a different kind of mind-cleaning: the buildup over time of commitments, must-dos, should-dos, and want-to-dos. Most of us hold onto a self-image that says we can do anything we set our mind to. When a friend calls we respond. When an interesting new volunteer opportunity arises we squeeze it in. When a friend recommends a new book to read, we get it and put it on the teetering stack by the bed.

Think of the messiest place in your home. Let's assume it is a hall closet: try to jam too much in and it becomes useless. You can't open the door without the risk of something falling on your head. When you need an item in the back of the closet you must take time to remove things that are blocking your way. The more we try to squeeze into that space the less it can perform its intended function. Finally, we are forced to take drastic action: take everything out and put back only the stuff that belongs there.

Our minds can become just like that closet. We try to pack in so much that we actually end up harming our productivity and happiness. Year after year we fill our schedule with meetings, events, and activities that no longer satisfy us or fit our lifestyle. Our mental closet has no space left to actually enjoy what we are doing. We go through the motions because we always have.

Fall is a good time to:




Stop doing what you do every fall and take the time to decide if everything continues to fit your life. Does that organization you belong to still meet your needs? What about the three time a week exercise class at 6:00 AM that leaves you dragging for the rest of the day? Is meeting friends at the coffee shop every Friday still a joy? Do I really have to dust every other day? Could I save a lot of money if I cooked at home more often?

Look at your options. The great thing about retirement is you have the freedom to look at how your life is going and make changes if you want to. Look at all the options you have for social interaction, hobbies, strengthening your body and health through new exercise routines, or going back to college to get that long-delayed degree. Think about your important relationships...is there something I can do to make things nicer around the house? If I hire a cleaning service I can start those night classes I've always wanted. Can I squeeze that into my budget?

Listen to your heart. Too often I think we discount the importance of our emotions when we make decisions. During our working lives, usually thinking with your heart as well as your head can get you into trouble. Rare is the job where logical thought, an ordered system, and performance-based evaluations are balanced against how all of it makes you feel. But, now, you can listen to what your heart is telling you. Does this feel right? Am I more content if I do this instead of that? Is it less "productive" but makes me smile? Your heart can't always overrule your head, but at least give it a chance to be heard.

We all learned to Stop, Look & Listen near train tracks. That continues to be good advice. satisfying retirement requires that you keep a balance between your head and your heart. If something you are doing doesn't bring you joy or satisfaction and you can choose to do something else, then do so. The person best able to judge your performance is you.

16 comments:

  1. I actually did evaluate a lot of the social things I was doing late summer and I ended up quitting an organization I'd been a part of for 15 years. I got to the point where I was missing half of their twice a month meetings and in all those years I hadn't really formed any deep friendships in the group. (I was one of the few people in it that hadn't gone through grade school and high school together and belonged to the same church.) I also cut down on other social activities to make time for my Great Moving Project. It remains to be seen if I will miss them this winter.

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    1. There was a particular organization that had me on their board for developing plans and programs for retirees. After almost three years of meetings with virtually nothing accomplished. I moved on. I believed in the goals, but there didn't seem to be a way to achieve them. To continue my presence made no sense.

      In another volunteer board situation, our group has accomplished a tremendous amount of good for the organization. We were given the tools to meet the goals and had a bunch of people dedicated to action and making a real difference. The contrast between these two situations is night and day. I plan on being on this board for quite awhile because I can see progress.

      Sometimes we have to leave one arrangement to find a better match.

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  2. I used to be involved in some interesting groups but, as I've 'aged' I feel like I'm becoming reclusive. We are getting to know more of the year round folks, here in Cape May, and that's been somewhat helpful in getting out. Dave's much more involved in 'groups' and, I just don't feel it. But, I'm glad he's happy with what he's doing.
    b

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    1. I am more in your camp, Barb. I have looked at some book clubs and discussion groups, but just didn't want to commit the time and interaction required.

      Maybe it is because our grandkids are still of the age when we interact with them often, but time with family is the best fit, for now.

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  3. Fibber McGee's closet has hit me in the head for the past few months and I'm so glad to see your post! It's time to give something the old heave-ho so I can get time to read again!

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    1. Fibber McGee's closet is a good fit. You only heard it on radio, so your own imagination made it real in your own circumstances.

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  4. One thing that I've given myself permission to do is cancel subscriptions to a few magazines that I've been getting forever. I found that I was no longer interested in the articles (some were no longer relevant to my retired life and others just seemed like a fancy way to advertise products). I had stacks of these magazines because I didn't have the heart to recycle them before I read them. Now they don't come to my mailbox in the first place. Problem solved.

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    1. We still get two magazines, one from AARP and one from the AA Auto Club. That's it, both come with membership, and both are read. All the others we got for decades are gone. Most magazines still in business are thinner, filled with even more ads, or out of date by the time they arrive.

      So, yes, magazine subscriptions are gone.

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  5. Thank you for the perfect timing of this post. I have been struggling with that "buildup over time of commitments, must-dos, should-dos, and want-to-dos". Yesterday after reading this post and the others comments I gave myself permission to eliminate the guest room and reclaim that space for my hobbies. By eliminating that 'must do' (providing free lodging for an occasional visitor) I can now focus on the 'want to do' (my hobbies). the bed and all the lines where donated to a thrift shop late yesterday.

    Other commitments of 'lunches' are also going to be eliminate or at least become less frequent. I am an introvert and am happiest when I am at home yet I find myself at endless lunches and get-togethers - the 'should do's. I realize social interaction is important but so is my time. I enjoy spending time learning something new so the hobbies are constantly changing but that time is also my thinking time and I've missed it, consequently my brain has become more and more cluttered.

    I've done the decluttering and simplifying of the house and have the 'clean, neat, and organized' space I wanted, now I'll start the decluttering of the mind. Thank you again.

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    1. You are very welcome!

      A seldom used guest bedroom is an excellent example of something we maintain that may no longer fit our needs. For the very occasional guest, pay for a room in a nearby hotel. Murphy beds are another good option, freeing up space but allowing you to still be hospitable as needed.

      A craft room that gives you joy day after day is an excellent conversion.

      Glad to be of help and inspiration.

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  6. The timing of your post is relevant to me. I'm just beginning to retire from all the jobs I took on after I retired. The key is, I think, let the ones go that don't mean much to you; keep the ones that bring you some sense of, well ... satisfaction.

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    1. Exactly. I have been thinking about this blog along those lines. Is it time to move on? Well, after several weeks of thought, writing it still brings a sense of satisfaction. So, stay the course.

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  7. Interesting timing. I am finally giving myself permission to back out of things that I no longer enjoy, things that stress me out, and things that overload my calendar. And, although I enjoy my hospice volunteer work, I'm realizing I have a sweet spot re: how many patients I can manage at once, how far I'm willing to travel, etc., and keep up with the rest of my life. As with any volunteer activity, I suppose, the organization will give you as much as you are willing to do.

    Retirement does require adjustment from time to time. And I'm glad to see you're still interested in blogging. You start some great discussions and I learn from you and your readers regularly. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks.

      I have tremendous respect for hospice workers. They were so great with my mom, who died 9 years ago today, as a matter of fact.

      As you note, one thing about volunteering is any organization will use you until you draw a boundary of some sort. They are doing what the should; it is up to us to match our needs and interests with theirs.

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    2. Anniversaries are hard, and it must have been hard to lose your mom right before the holidays.

      I think hospice work is the most rewarding work I've ever done. We have various avenues available to us with just a bit more training (caregiver relief, visiting patients, helping people write their life stories, etc.), and all of them have been meaningful to me. We used hospice in our family a couple times, too, and it was really inspiring to me.

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  8. Bob, your excellent point about letting go of some habitual “must-do’s”” was a good fit with my Christmas experience this year. Instead of buying gifts for everyone, the adults in my family drew names this year, which saved a lot of time shopping for unnecessary gifts. As another example, every year for 30 years, I have hauled out a large box of Christmas themed stuffed toys, gifts from my former mother-in-law, who was addicted to shopping. The previous few years, each year I let my grandkids each pick a stuffed toy to take home, but now they are too old for such toys, and besides I don’t want to offload my “stuff” problem on my daughter. So, we just didn’t open that box this year. One less job of putting things out and putting them away after. I will have to look for a suitable organization to to donate them to next year.

    Jude

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