Starting to Simplify and Semi-Retirement

Over the course of the next couple of months, we are really going to be looking closely at how we live and things that we can do to simplify our lives even more. You notice that I am using the “we” statement, this is because my wife and I have purposely decided to look at what is important in our lives:

  • each other,
  • family
  • our health
  • lowering stress levels (yes this is part of health, but deserves its own mention)
  • our time
The reality is
  • I have resigned from my teaching position and decided to join my wife in semi-retirement effective the end of the summer.
  • We are both tired of all the hype that goes along with today’s consumer driven economy and have decided to be much less of a participant.
  • Our income will be approximately 1/5 what it was in 2009 and we have done this ourselves voluntarily
  • We want to be more in control of how we spend our time and energy

How did we put ourselves in this position?

Some careful planning, not always buying or doing something that we wanted to, a bit of luck and my wife being very frugal when we first got together over ten years ago. Neither one of us is high maintenance and we don’t have delusions of grandeur or inflated self-importance. We are just pretty normal working class kids who grew up in the 60-70’s and figured out that we don’t need to keep up with the Jones’.
When we first got together we choose not to go for the big house, flashy new vehicles every couple of years, not eat out a lot, keep the credit cards under control, not go on an expensive vacation every year and we didn’t.  In other words we didn’t get caught up in the “American Consumer Dream” of newer, better, bigger or more often and put ourselves so far in debt that we would have to work until we were well in our 60’s.
So what are the major things that we have done to simplify our lives over those 10 years?
Over the past few years:
  • Maintain an organic garden
  • Canned vegetables
  • Gleaned wild blackberries and raspberries from the local area
  • Supplement oil heat with wood
  • Pay off the mortgage
  • Avoid buying new cars and keeping up on the maintenance on the ones we do have
  • Packing lunch almost every day
  • Keeping things longer and only replacing what is a need, not the nice to have
  • Research buying our larger expenditures i.e. wood chipper, power washer, chain saw, etc.
  • Buying quality versus quantity
  • Doing staycations or driveto’s for vacation time
  • Doing as much for ourselves as possible and only hiring out to have things done that we can’t do safely
  • book sales

Over the last six months

  • Got rid of my gym membership
  • Stopped monthly massage
  • Paying off all credit card debt – there isn’t very much (last bill $12.00 yes app store and ebook)
  • Learning that I don’t need everything I see in the Mac App store (but I do plan to buy Lion)

Now that we both will be semi-retired?

  • Paying off the last vehicle
  • Cancel my smart phone
  • Reduce cable TV to basic or canceling, and just keeping web access (gotta have the internet)
  • Reduce current cell phone plan to minimum necessary
  • Stopping my addiction to trying the newest software/hardware (I want but don’t need an iPad)
  • Go to u-pick for strawberries, blueberries
  • Use the farmers market system
  • Continue to glean the land for what we can use
  • Maybe look for some free lance writing jobs
  • Start writing a book after the first 3 months
  • Probably a lot of other things that we will think of or read about
  • Take time to stop and smell the roses

Was all of this easy – no.

There was a lot that we didn’t do, buy or experience that others have done or ended up with more “stuff”. However, doing all these things and having been frugal is now allowing us make choices based on our wants, rather than being completely at the mercy of societies expectation of having to keep working full-time.
Am I bragging about how great we are and about what we have accomplished – no that is not my style.  I am writing this to show that it can be done, but it does require that you to make some choices about living for today and getting ready for tomorrow.  Contrary to much of the popular wisdom, we didn’t write down goals, we didn’t keep a strict budget, we kept making little changes over the course of the last 10 years that resulted in our being able to make the choice to live life more the way we want, instead of the way we are expected to live.
Maybe it is part of the aging process, but I see things a lot differently than I did 10 or even 5 years ago and I now am not as worried about having my life being based around job security. I was always too concerned about having a job and giving 110% to that job. It is really interesting that now I have finally the self-confidence to go outside of my comfort zone – way outside of my old comfort zone, came in my 50’s, not my 20’s or 30’s. It is strange how our lives work out, if you let them.
I am going to try something that I didn’t think would be possible for me a few years ago for a while – not having a job and not really looking for one.

I do want to thank Leo Babauta, in the years that I have subscribed to his blog “Zen Habits” and read his books “The Power of Less and “Focus”; for writing has been on my mind for several years, but didn’t know how to say it. His words have been part of my inspiration to change my mindset towards living a much simpler lifestyle and for showing me what might be possible.

Hmmm I wonder where this new life will lead me once it starts in a few weeks.  Methinks it will lead to many good things.

Starting with a great deal of stress reduction and losing weight.

“Are you doing the right thing for the right reason.”

Disclaimer:  No Mr. Babauta did not hold me down and make me say those things about him or his books, he didn’t try to bribe me with gold bullion or offers of exotic trips, they are simply my thoughts. But…naw –  😉