KEEPING WHAT "SPARKS JOY" IN RETIREMENT

Is retirement all about being busy and filling your days with activities and to-do lists? Or are you cruising through and waiting for joyful moments? #retirement #joy

HOW RETIREMENT LOOKS FOR OTHERS

The other day I was thinking about what "retirement" means for different people. I've noticed that there's quite a lot of variety in the Midlife blogging community in regard to how to approach this new stage of life - and my method seems to be a little different to many of the others I read.

The most common approach I've seen over the last year or so is to jump into retirement with gusto, trying every new thing that pops up - lots of women leap into a new fitness routine, or a new hobby, or they find a place to volunteer, or take a course at their local college, they're trying new recipes, joining a bookclub, and many more pastimes come into play. In between they're travelling all over the place, buying or renting second homes to escape the weather, and generally living really busy and interesting lives. Me..... not so much.

HEADING IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION

I seem to have taken things to the other extreme and I've been discarding pastimes, interests, obligations, and busy-ness. Instead of looking for new things to do, I've actually given up some of what I used to occupy myself with because I'm finding that I don't want to keep doing a lot of the stuff that used to fill my spare time and keep me busy. 

I didn't leap into retirement with an action plan, I didn't have years of anticipation and a Pinterest board or two dedicated to "what I'm going to do when I retire". Life threw me a curve-ball and I went from gainfully employed to gainfully-unemployed (retired) virtually over night. When the straw that broke the camel's back of my horrible job finally came, I wrote my resignation letter, and two weeks later I was a free woman. The only problem was that I was completely shell-shocked and unsure of what to do next - one thing for sure was that I wasn't about to add anything extra onto my plate!

RE-INVENTING MARIE KONDO'S METHOD

In the beginning I kept doing most of the same things I'd filled my non-working days with, and added an exercise class into the mix because I thought I needed to move more. Then I started paring back - and now I look at it all in retrospect I can see I've been using Marie Kondo's method to take back control of my life. For starters she says:

“Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.”

So that's where I began - I looked at all my obligations and my commitments and asked which ones spoke to my heart and which ones were past their use by date. Then I started discarding what didn't fit my new life - and I've hit the reset button on where I want to go from here. Nothing I discarded was "bad" but it wasn't feeling "right" anymore, so I stepped back and re-evaluated.

Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle. #mariekondoquote

SPARKING JOY

Marie has some really valuable wisdom to share - here's another quote that I appreciated:

"Not every person you meet in life will become a close friend. Some you will find hard to get along with or impossible to like. But these people, too, teach you the precious lesson of who you do like, so that you will appreciate those special people even more.”
Not every person you meet in life will become a close friend. Some you will find hard to get along with or impossible to like. But these people, too, teach you the precious lesson of who you do like, so that you will appreciate those. #mariekondoquote

This was so true of leaving behind my work and the people associated with it. It's not a matter of having to like everyone, or that every person you encounter has to stay in your life. You meet certain people and they teach you what you don't want in life - and I certainly learned a lot about what I don't want! Letting go of all the drama has also involved letting go of things that don't make my heart happy. Instead I want to replace them with things that "spark joy" in my life now I'm retired.

Marie says:

“The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?”

So I've gradually looked at what I filled my days with and asked "is there's joy in what I'm doing?" If there's very little joy, then the next question I've come to is "why keep doing it?" and I've let it go quietly into the ether. It might mean doing less, or it might mean I replace it with something new - regardless, the process should bring me joy and reduce any stress or drama.

The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy? #MarieKondoquote

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

I've given quite a lot of thought to where I want to go in the year ahead. I've given up my mentoring at the local primary school because I needed a change of scene. It had been five years and I felt like I needed to move on. I've begun helping in our church's mothers' playgroup making coffee (although that's on hold while we're all in lockdown). I'm not sure if it's going to be the right fit, but I'm willing to see how it goes. Lockdown has also meant that Tai Chi has stopped and I'm thinking I may cut back because it was feeling a little bit stale. Maybe I need something new to balance it out, or to keep going but less frequently?

When life returns to normal, I've been invited to a craft group and that's a new challenge because I've always seen myself as the AntiCraft, but this is a more freestyle group where anything goes - so I'm thinking I could take my colouring-in along and chat while I do it. 

Having a less busy approach to retirement has also set me up nicely for isolation and lockdown. I really enjoy having time at home, time where I can read, or blog, or potter around the place. I'm finding I'm quite a homebody and that it's okay to not fill every waking moment with something "meaningful". Doing less sparks a lot of joy for me - I have no intention of swapping that out so that I look busy all the time. Retirement is sparking a lot of joy too - much more joy than I ever could have expected. The curve-ball that life threw at me a year ago has turned out to be a godsend! To quote Marie:


“We cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important.”
We cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important. #mariekondoquote

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Is retirement all about being busy and filling your days with activities and to-do lists? Or are you cruising through and waiting for joyful moments? Has it made isolation and lockdown easier for you or are you itching to get back to all those projects that are on hold?

RELATED POSTS




Is retirement all about being busy and filling your days with activities and to-do lists? Or are you cruising through and waiting for joyful moments? #retirement #joy
Is retirement all about being busy and filling your days with activities and to-do lists? Or are you cruising through and waiting for joyful moments? #retirement #joy

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42 comments

  1. Hi Leanne, Retirement in the beginning was not planned and I struggled with the loss of structure to my day. 5 years on and I realise I will always be a personality that needs to be doing something but also balancing with just being. Erica wrote this in a comment on my recent post and it really resonated with me: 'You likely have heard the saying “a human being” versus “a human doing.” We all just need to be “a human being” to reclaim our energy, our spirit and ourselves'. I will always need to 'do' but I will be exploring the 'be' more. xx

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    1. I think "balance" is always the key theme in life Sue - if we get the 'being' and the 'doing' balanced in retirement and isolation and in our relationships then we're on a pretty sweet spot aren't we? For me it's been about paring back at first and now it's about deciding what to add into the mix to keep things interesting.... x

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    2. Hi Leanne, I'm nearing the end of my Fitness Course and that will bring new possibilities. I'm hoping to work in this area but at my own pace which means I might have to let go of other areas in my life. Another week of co-hosting #MLSTL with my BBB. Take care and I've shared on SM. x

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  2. Hi Leanne, I like the way you have applied Marie Kondo's principles about things to activities. She has a lot of practical wisdom. I retired in June 2018, took 6 weeks off and jumped back into working part time. I wasn't ready to come to a complete stop but knew that I did not have the energy for full time work. It is good to be both proactive when it comes to retirement and also leave room. I love they way you re leaving spaces in your life and not cluttering things up with nonstop activities. Blessings, Michele

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    1. Hi Michele - I'd love to have the perfect little part-time job leading into retirement in a few years time. I thought I had it and then it imploded in my face - leaving me shell-shocked and very untrusting of what employers are really offering. It seemed simpler to just call it a day and settle into life at home.
      The issue then becomes about fine-tuning and finding what's worth holding onto and investing in, and what was just filling my days and masking my unhappiness with my previous working life. It's been an interesting journey!

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  3. Leanne,
    This post really resonated with me...You and I experienced similar circumstances going into retirement...I was suddenly on a medical leave awaiting the knee replacement surgery that I had planned to have right before I retired, only I was 6 months ahead of the proposed date. I had the surgery and when it was time to go back to a very toxic working environment, I chose to resign and retire 6 months before I had planned...Best thing I ever did..I had been eliminating events and people that I felt were draining me even before this because they were causing me stress and heartache. I have not worked now for a total of 15 months and I feel I still have a To Do List of at least 2-3 years of things that I want to do around the house...I always knew I was a Home Body so I am in my glory now and not much has really even changed for me with this world wide Health Crisis. while others say that are "Stuck" at home, I am "Shining" at home and When they say that they are "Cooped" up at Home, I am "creating" at Home!! Great post!! I shared it on FB!!
    Hugs,
    Debbie

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    1. Hi Debbie - I think we must have resigned on almost the same day! Once you get past the idea that it wasn't the original game plan, then it becomes quite an exciting journey doesn't it? I love that I've settled in my head and heart and I'm not being pulled apart by the whims and dramas of someone I work for. I feel like I've reclaimed my power and my life - now I'm just deleting the things that aren't working so that I have room for the great stuff that I'm discovering as I refine this next stage of life. It came a bit sooner than expected, but I'm wondering why I worried about it - life in and out of lockdown is pretty fabulous!

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  4. Most of the things that have happened in my life that I thought were "disastrous" turned out to be good things that required something big to happen! Glad you are enjoying this stage!

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    1. Hi Rita - I think sometimes we need a major upheaval to get us to refocus and see that a change is not only necessary, but essential! If I'd kept pushing through at work, I'd have been a drained shell of myself by now, instead I'm rocking this retirement gig and looking forward to seeing where the years ahead take me :)

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  5. HI, Leanne - This post is such a great example that retirement is not a one-size fits all experience. When I first retired, I was sure that I would do as little as possible. Actually, I didn't even have an email address for awhile (I used Richard's when absolutely needed). Then, slowly but surely, I began to fill my days with people and activities that inspired me. Now (at least preCOIVD) my days are quite full. That works for me, but definitely would not work for all. I believe that the secret of a successful retirement is to find what works for us as individuals, and not to focus on what others say we should be doing.

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    1. You're so right Donna - I think everyone has an image in their head about what retirement looks like, so when someone else is doing it differently they wonder if they're doing it wrong. I was worried that I wasn't busy enough - but as the same time I felt really relaxed and like I was in "recovery" - so just kept gradually adapting as my reslience came back on line.

      Interesting that you started slowly and built up to being busy - I thought you'd have leapt in with all guns blazing - so now I know a little bit more about you!

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  6. I love how you're Marie Kondo-ing your life. I'm almost at the stage where I need to dump everything and see what's left - way too much noise in my head at the moment.

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    1. I wondered how your head was going Jo - you mentioned the need to walk to clear it and for someone who manages to fit in as much as you do, I figured you must be on overload to be struggling. I'll be interested to see if you jettison anything in the near future (and what you decide needs to go to clear your path a little).

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  7. Hi Leanne, You remind me how personalities and approaches to life do not immediately change from one moment to the next. Working one day, and then retirement the next.........we are often on a continuum of patterns we have developed over the years. Like you say, Leanne, you headed in the opposite direction. I appreciate your honesty in “shell-shocked.” You remind me how overall we are individuals and come to the table with unique backgrounds and experiences. You strike me as a very thoughtful woman and you gave this transition a great deal of thought.

    Extra goosebumps “Doing less sparks a lot of joy for me.” I was on the very busy, every moment of every day filled to capacity. Until the pandemic hit. Despite the challenges and roller coaster of emotion, I am breathing deeper and easier. A message here for me. A great post!xx

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    1. Hi Erica - I think my head was so "done in" by the drama and upheavals of work that I didn't have the capacity to leap into a busier lifestyle when I left. I needed that breathing space (the same space as isolation has offered a lot of us) to clear the fumes and discover what I wanted to do that would bring joy - rather than what I was doing to distract me from the upsets of my job.

      Once I got rid of the background noise, I discovered that I'm basically a pretty simple person and I want an uncluttered life - not racing from one commitment to the next. I have room for new things, but I'm not going to fill every moment or overcommit myself ever again :) x

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  8. Hi Leanne, I think the beauty of retirement is that the person can design it to their taste and it's unique to the individual. It can also change over time as the individual's taste or situation changes. Definitely embark on what brings you joy and discard the rest. I've always enjoyed the activities that I'm currently doing. The main difference is that I have more flexibility when to do them in retirement. #MLSTL

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    1. Hi Natalie - what I'm loving is being able to choose to do something because it's what I want, rather than because it's distracting me from things that are making me unhappy. Since I settled into life away from my old job, I've been able to hold each thing up and look at it clearly and decide if I actually like it or whether I can discard it - that's a joy in itself!

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  9. Interestingly, your second paragraph is basically how 90% od the world launched themselves into lockdown...curious. Must be very much a part of human nature. While I find the Marie Kondo craze more an elaborate avoidence technique than anything else (and I'm aware I'm in the minority,so that's my own avoidence technique possibly -ha!), I think as long as you are finding happiness and contentment, while still offering something to your other relationships, there is no right or wrong in how to live your life (or retirement). We mistakenly live our lives to expectations that are usually not personally made but to fit in with society - a narrow viewed agenda based on nothing at all really, except habit or history. Grace Petrie has a lovely line in her song Black Tie "Well that's fine, Cause I decline A narrow set of rules that just don’t work" and "No you won’t grow out of it you will find the clothes that fit". I hope we all are in the clothes that fit us. Life is too short to be uncomfortable with other people's ideas of what's 'right'. Good post. What we think we should do and what we should do are often not the same thing.

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    1. To clarify, I think your statement " I'm finding that I don't want to keep doing a lot of the stuff that used to fill my spare time and keep me busy. " Is perfect. That is steering your ship with intention. My comments on the Kondo-ing is that the practice actually becomes the purpose, and that's the avoidence. Was not meaning that by not doing what you don't enjoy was avoidence.

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    2. Hi Lydia - I had to go back and clarify a comment I made on another blog the other day because I was worried it might be misinterpreted - so I totally appreciate you doing the same thing. Your comment made a lot of sense to me and I completely agree that retirement is not a one size fits all journey. It also seems to morph and stretch and need to be reinterpretted on a fairly regular basis - which is a good thing because (as lockdown has shown me) anything we do too much of can become a boring trap. We need to keep stretching ourselves and discovering the new things that come our way, and allow others to do the same (even if we wonder why on earth they do!)

      Marie Kondo has never been a huge inspiration to me because we already led a pretty minimal life (and folding things smaller seemed to be a waste of time!) but I think the idea of paring back and choosing wisely has a lot going for it.

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  10. Hi Leanne. I love Marie Konda and often find myself asking “does this spark joy?’. I’m not sure about retirement yet and have a foot in both camps. Not rushing the decision. I’ll know when I know. But after living a really busy and rushed life, I’m loving this slow life I’m living in isolation.

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    1. I love that Marie has allowed those of us who live simply and minimally to have some credibility in our world of excess Jennifer. I no longer feel apologetic for living in a house that isn't drowning in "stuff" and I quite like the idea of living a life that isn't submerged in commitments and activities and consumerism. Simple is lovely - whether that happens with work included or not is definitely up to the individual - I certainly had no intention of retiring a year ago but life had other plans!

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  11. I'm looking forward to a retirement that sees me embracing my homebody personality. I can certainly relate to how you've enjoyed paring back your life. Retirment for me will be getting out of the rat race and enjoying having days to just potter and no expectations of having to be somewhere on any particular day.

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    1. I love that retirement means I get to choose the when and where of everything - when I get up, who I see, where I go, what I fill my days with....it's a joy and one I never take for granted. Lockdown has also taught me that I need to have a certain amount of stimulation in my day and that being at home is wonderful, but I also need some outside interests (on my own terms) to balance things out. It's a lovely stage of life.

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  12. I think you are proving the point that's it's all about finding what works, and maybe as importantly, what doesn't. I love the idea of pairing back on the things that don't make your heart sing, and one is doing just to pass the time. And only then, build up the things that we want to do. #MLSL

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    1. Hi Enda - you definitely got what I was trying to say. When I was unhappy and super stressed I tended to do things out of 1) obligation or 2) avoidance - and neither of those is healthy. Now I do everything from a sense of what feels right and what balances my life - rest and productivity, but both on my own timetable - it's very pleasant!

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  13. I think you've found the right balance for you Leanne, you've worked through bits and pieces and activities and sorted them out to suit you! This is what it's all about but many don't stop and ask themselves the questions just launch themselves into this next phase. It's been interesting to read your posts over the years and see the changes occur! Good for you :). Shared for #mlstl

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    1. Hi Deb - yes it's been a journey and a half hasn't it? I think when life takes you to a place you never expected, it takes a bit of effort to redirect and find a path out again. I never thought I'd be working with someone who had so many problems and who would mess with my head so much, I never dreamt I'd need 6 months to recover, or that it would mean not finding another job. But it's all worked out well, and I'm certainly grateful for the life I have now, and what I've chosen to keep and discard.

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  14. It seems to me, you are headed right where you are supposed to be, Leanne. I'm so happy for you. You seem like you are in a really good place. I love Marie Kondo's philosophy and I must read more about it. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Christina I look at your amazing life and it makes me tired just thinking about it! Your ability to live in a country where you don't speak the language, to be re-building your apartment from scratch, to be doing it all during these difficult times of isolation (and with a damaged wrist!) It makes my life look very simple and easy!

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  15. Thanks Leanne for sharing your approach to new retirement. I don't consider myself retire, both rather a woman who works part time. I have cut back on my very active goings and doings since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic. I like it that I have made the decision to take more time for myself and my hobbies. Probably will keep to it once the all clear is given. Thanks for hosting #MLSTL and stay safe and well.

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    1. Hi Nancy - I used to see myself as a part-time worker and that the rest of my time out of work was needed to balance all the issues I was dealing with. Now I'm free of all of that and it's been a new journey to decide what I need for my own enjoyment and health, and what was just dross to fill my head and distract me. Finding the right balance is what brought the sparks of joy.

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  16. Excellent post! I too have unhooked from what no longer works and feel better for it. I stopped also thinking that I "had" to adhere to the traditional retirement plans of travel (nope) volunteer ( worked for a little while but nope) and learn new things...kind of doing this. Even though my career was one of planning, teaching, revising and doing that again, I am approaching this time of my life with a freedom as an adult I have never experienced before. I like it. A lot. Denyse #mlstl

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    1. I love the freedom too Denyse - to not be on someone else's timetable after all these years is an absolute joy. Since I stopped everything for lockdown, I've also come to see that I need more than just being at home, and I'm looking forward to restarting some of my commitments - but there will be some more changes coming when I see what still works and what is just an obligation that I really don't need in my life. Retirement has turned out to be a lot better than I expected.

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  17. I like that thought, paring back and keeping what gives you joy. And one doesn't need to be in a rush to figure that out.

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    1. There's definitely no rush Jennifer and there is no end date - I think it's a constant evolving and when you throw a pandemic into the mix, that changes things too. I feel like I'm still in process and probably will be for several more years to come.

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  18. Hello Leanne. I really enjoyed how you related Marie Kondo's principles to retirement. I'm not quite there yet, but I can see that this approach could serve me well in my life today and as I prepare for retirement. As I participate in my typical activities, I plan to ask myself, "Does this spark joy?" Love it! Thank you.

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    1. Hi Christie - I think being prepared for retirement and choosing your timing for when you leave your job would be a huge asset in the process of deciding what to keep in your life. I was thrown into the deep end and it's been a process of sorting through what I was doing for joy and what I was doing to escape the stress. Once the stress was dealt with, things got a lot clearer!

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  19. A few more years for me to officially retire, Leanne. I haven't really thought of that time. Marie Kondo's suggestions are very wise - keep only those that spark joy, what a lovely thought, and makes a lot of sense too. Very inspiring writeup. #MLSTL

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    1. Hi Pradeep - I think it's good to have some sort of idea about what you think your retirement will look like before it actually happens. It was a complete surprise for me to end up without a job after all those years of working and it took me a while to figure out what to keep and what to get rid of - choosing the things that bring joy was such a pleasure after all the upsets from my job.

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  20. Thanks, Leanne. I shall keep that in mind. :-)

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  21. I'm all for doing things and keeping relationships that bring us joy, Leanne. I've spent too many years doing things for others - not in a healthy way - now it's time for me to focus on joy.

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Thanks so much for your comment - it's where the connection begins.