Life is ironic by design. Your body is ready to reproduce years , even decades, before you are financially and emotionally ready to be a parent. By the time you are in your sixties and have gotten over how unique you are and you have fought for you independence and hopefully gained it , that is exactly when you want, no need , closeness and nurturing.
You turn to your kids and they squirm because they are all about establishing their own independence and they do not want to be burdened by your needs.
If you are in my socio economic bracket, you probably left the suburbs after your kids were born but before they had to go to school. You could not afford to stay in the city and ensure a good education for your child. If you are like me, you learned to appreciate the relative peace and quiet, the backyard, the pool in the summer, the local beaches and parks.
But ironically just as your house is done to your liking, just as maybe your mortgage is paid off or at least you can count down to that day, you wake up and want to chuck the whole white picket fence thing and move back to an apartment in the city. You want to walk everywhere. You want your super to have to shovel the snow and get your walls painted. You are willing to give up the two cars and rent one when you need it. You want to go out for breakfast coffee, You want to sit in cafés and people watch. You want to be part of a cultural Mecca and hear lively discussions about the work other people are doing.
But you have grandchildren. And you want them to come for the holidays. And you want them to move somewhere nearby so you can be useful again to your family in a meaningful way. You want to pass culture down and your kids can’t do it because both of them are working and they don’t have that to give. You are wiling to fill that void. But your children want their independence.
Of course I am talking about my situation. But I would be happy if you shared your experiences.
For years now I had a big sign “ACHIEVE” in capital letters carved out of wood sitting atop my book shelves in our office/den/second bedroom. It seemed appropriate at the time. We were not yet semi retired. We were still trying hard “to achieve,” although now ten years later, I cannot for the life of me remember what it was we were trying to achieve.
Once you are retired, you realize there is no more achieving. Your goal is to just get through the day, the week, the month, the year – stay healthy, pay the bills, and enjoy.
When I was on the local tv show to talk about my “decluttering dilemma” blogs along with the professional declutterer, a young woman on the tv crew asked me if she could have my “ACHIEVE” sign as I had brought that item in as an example of something I had but did not need.
I gave her the sign.
Now when I look up, there is an empty space on the top shelf. I remember that Barbara, the professional declutterer, said that the rule of thumb is – if you bring something new in, you should let something old go. Well, I let the something old go, and now I think I need a new sign that says: “NO NEED TO ACHIEVE.” Do you think I can find that at Homegoods? No but you can find this one on Etsy!!!!
I think about my tiny house. When I was in my forties, I could still dream of winning money and having my house moved to the Hamptons and plopped down where it truly belongs. But those were dreams and when you are sixty you don’t have any dreams. Even my house might go the way of the wrecking ball. The perennial garden that I had planted with my own bare hands will get excavated as this small cottage will be taken down and a new two family investment home will go up in its stead. I am not particularly sad when I realize this. I am not shocked. It would make sense financially.
I just can’t wrap my head around how quickly the time went by.
Remember that baseball movie Field of Dreams and the really sentimental “deep”one liner:“If you build it, they will come?”I am telling you: IF YOU BUILT IT, THEY WILL SELL IT!!!!!
The thing that got me started thinking about my “stuff” was a conversation I had with a complete stranger while we were standing on line at the Marriott in Birmingham, AL.I was there visiting my step children.Out of the blue, the woman in front of me on the line for breakfast omelets started telling me that she was in Birmingham to clean out her mother’s estate.She could not believe how much stuff she had to go through.She said she wished that her mother had given her a manual full of stories because she could not fathom the reason behind the items.What did they mean to her mother?To her they were just junk.She could not make heads or tails out of the clutter and she did not have the time to go through all of it.She had to get back to Texas to work.
When we got home, I looked around my tiny beach cottage home.I saw all the paintings that no one will be able to store even if they wanted to.I saw my furniture through the eyes of my daughter and step children.I have Ethan Allen traditional pieces alongside garage sale chic.Every item has a story.But who had time to tell the story and who had time to listen?
And besides, the adult kids all want West Elm.They aren’t interest in our stuff.
Now, I will not lie.I am vain. But surely, you have figured that out, because it takes a certain amount of vanity to blog.
I used to imagine that what we had tried but had not accomplished in our life, would get accomplished in our death.I imagined our children – my one and my husband’s three – would come back to our house after “the funerals” and would stay and go through our stuff and talk and connect and find out who we really were by going through our stuff.I imagined “the girls” fingering my jewelry and dividing it up.I imagined them choosing which paintings and photographs they would take back with them and keep.I imagined “the boys” going through my husband’s sports collectibles and equipment and dividing them up.I imagined them sharing the photographs and swapping stories.
We are Jewish and we sit shiva for seven days.Surely that would allow enough time for all this bonding that never took place during our living years, to take place.
Then I remembered that my step children are not Jewish.They live far away.They have their own children and their own lives and they work.
So the question is:Do we do the children a favor and start getting rid of the excesses and NOT replace the stuff that we sell or give away or throw away?Or do we burden them by making them go through decades of our lives?
My mother gave her “good” jewelry away after she got her cancer in her mid sixties.She went onto live another thirty years and went to many more bar-mitzvahs, weddings, and baby showers. And she replaced her “good” jewelry with marcasite pins, necklaces, earrings, bracelets because, yes, she still needed to accessorize!
I would love to give some of my “good jewelry” away but my daughter does not have a home.She is in an apartment and will move any day now.I would love to give some of my paintings away.But my daughter is cramped for space.My stepchildren cannot take any of my paintings because their mother has created a rivalry and they cannot display my art.I might start selling them on www.etsy.com or www.ebay.com.So, please start bidding!!!!
Oh. I forgot.You are also in your sixties and the last thing you want, is MORE STUFF!!!!!
So tell the truth… How many of you have looked around your house or apartment and asked yourself how much stuff do you really need?
I know that I have accumulated stuff and have gotten rid of stuff only to accumulate again and again and again.
I bought books and sold books.I bought more books.
I bought clothes and I sold and/or donated clothes. I bought more clothes.
We have had garage sales. We have sold stuff on ebay. We have packed up stuff and are storing it in the attic, the basement, and the backyard sheds. But we still have stuff.
My walls are full of paintings.Maybe yours are full of photographs.
My shelves hold things I “need.”But I collect vintage tablecloths and I do not know why.
I have lots of handmade necklaces with so called semi precious stones from my working days when I had discretionary income.I have Vera Bradley bags when everyone thought they would be the next collectible.I have a few depression and carnival glassware pieces that I inherited from my dearest aunt.
I have all sorts of vases.
I have a wooden sign that sits atop my shelves in my office that says:ACHIEVE.For the love of God, achieve what?
How do people know what they want to do in retirement?I knew I had to retire because I was too tired to get up at 5:00 a.m. and commute an hour each way.But I wasn’t ready to give it all up.
What if you don’t golf? What if you had melanoma so Florida is out? What if you have ALWAYS been more focused on work than on social get togethers? What if you don’t like volunteering because you still like to earn money? What if you are committed to family and want to be around for grandkids but your own daughter sees your help as a threat to her independence? What do you do with your time?
So, far, my husband and I have not made any major moves, nor any major changes.
We both tutor.We go to the gym and exercise – everyday now.And we babysit when asked. BUT…