Your daily life is going to change as a retiree. It’s important that you remain adaptable during this transition if you’re going to remain healthy and thrive. One of the best ways to set yourself up for success is to attempt to simplify your life – in everything from long-term financial planning to daily household chores.
But how do you do this? And why is it so valuable?
The Value of Simplicity
A simple life is one without convolution or complication. Striving for simplicity means eliminating waste, cutting out things that aren’t significant or relevant, and generally optimizing so that your life flows in a streamlined, easy-to-understand way.
This is beneficial to retirees for a couple of reasons:
First, living a simple life typically comes with fewer expenses. If you live in a smaller house, go on fewer vacations, and indulge in fewer hobbies, you’re going to spend less money overall. But there are also incidental reductions to your living expenses to consider. Living a simpler life with fewer possessions and less overall clutter means you’ll have less upkeep to worry about and fewer maintenance expenses.
Retirement is supposed to be the era when you can finally relax – but stress is still inevitable. You’re going to stress about money, relationships, health, the future, and many other things. But when you make a concentrated effort to simplify your life, you’re going to stop focusing and worrying about things that don’t matter. You’ll be able to dedicate your time, energy, and attention exclusively to things that are significant to you, ultimately reducing (though not eliminating) your stress.
How do you simplify your daily living as a retiree?
Phase One: Decluttering and Downsizing
Your goal here is to simplify your physical reality, eliminating possessions and potentially living spaces.
Many retirees start their retirement by downsizing their home. They choose to live in a smaller place or a place that’s more suitable for their needs. This one move can save you money, reduce the amount of house that you have to maintain, improve your mobility, and encourage you to keep fewer possessions. However, it’s not the right move for everyone. If your house is already sufficiently simple, or if you have an emotional attachment to it, don’t feel pressured to move for the sake of downsizing.
Sort through your belongings.
Even if you don’t plan to move, you should sort through all of your belongings – and yes, that means all of them. Chances are, you have an accumulation of items that serve no practical or emotional purpose. You can greatly simplify your life by getting rid of them or properly organizing them.
Start with obvious low-hanging fruit, such as miscellaneous piles of items. Then, look at furniture, decor, keepsakes, and items in long-term storage. This is a huge undertaking for many people, so don’t be afraid to take it one room at a time.
Get rid of what you don’t need, don’t use, or don’t want.
In your perusal, you’ll likely find items that you don’t need, don’t use, or don’t want. As a rule of thumb, if you haven’t used it or thought about it in the past year, you can get rid of it safely. Donate to charity, give to friends or family, recycle, sell, or throw away. Any item that leaves your life through any of these channels is a move to greater simplicity.
Organize what’s left.
Spend some time organizing what is left after moving and decluttering. If you have a dedicated storage place for every item you need, it will be much easier to stay organized in the future. There will also be inherent limitations on what you can acquire, making it easier to continue living a simple life.
Prioritize versatile goods.
When stocking your house and shopping, try prioritizing versatile goods that can serve many purposes without taking up much space by themselves. For example, consider dishwasher detergent sheets. These sheets are primarily designed to work in the dishwasher, but they can be used for a wide variety of different cleaning tasks. Similarly, you can maintain a wardrobe full of clothes that serve multiple purposes, getting rid of niche outfits that you never have an opportunity to wear.
Phase Two: Simplifying Schedules
Next, it’s important to spend some time cleaning out your schedule. True, in retirement, you’ll have more time than ever before, but it’s still finite and something that you should deliberately control.
Analyze your current obligations.
What does your daily life look like? What weekly, monthly, and annual obligations do you have? Do you feel rushed or that your schedule is overcrowded?
Identify your biggest priorities.
What are the jobs, hobbies, and activities that you don’t want to live without? Who are the people that matter the most to you? These high priorities should always have an opportunity to get on your schedule; everything else is secondary.
Consider making cuts.
It’s very likely that after this analysis, you’ll find that many of your obligations are either unnecessary or unwanted, at least comparatively. This is a great opportunity to make some cuts. That could mean quitting a part-time job or trading one hobby for another.
Prioritize flexible and optional events.
When filling up your schedule, always prioritize flexible and optional events. The fewer commitments you have, the simpler your schedule will be and the less stress you’ll feel, since you can cancel, withdraw, or reschedule at your own discretion.
Create a routine for the basics.
There are pros and cons to having rigid routines, but most retirees thrive with a basic daily routine in place. For example, you can create a healthy morning routine with steps for exercising, showering, eating breakfast, and reading the newspaper. This makes sure that you have some consistency and predictability in your life, while simultaneously ingraining habits that are important for your life, health, and wellness.
Simplify chores and housework.
To the extent you can, try to simplify the chores and housework that you have to do. There are many ways to accomplish this, such as making improvements and upgrades designed to be low maintenance, automating certain tasks, and even hiring some extra help so there are fewer chores for you to do. You can also invest in better tools that make it simpler or less strenuous to engage in routine cleaning and maintenance.
Phase Three: Fixing Finances
Simplifying your finances can be challenging, but it’s important if you want things to be streamlined, low stress, and flexible.
Optimize your portfolio for consistent income.
Retirement is much easier when you have a consistent, predictable flow of income. That’s why you should consider optimizing your portfolio for consistent income. Rather than guessing at how much of your principal you can withdraw, or optimizing for gains at the expense of higher risk, try to allocate more resources into assets that return stable, predictable income. Dividend paying stocks, rental properties, and even some CDs and high yield savings accounts (HYSAs) are definitely worth considering.
Clear out superfluous investments.
If you’re even a somewhat active investor, you’ve likely accumulated some superfluous investments over the years. This is a great chance to clear them out and consolidate them into safe, income-generating assets. You still need to diversify your portfolio, but you can do this without having money all over the place.
Generally, you should also balance your holdings to favor increased liquidity. In other words, you should have more money immediately available to you, rather than locked up in illiquid assets. This way, if you face any unexpected challenges or downturns, you can move your money around without much of a hassle.
Define clear necessary expenses.
The topic of budgeting and retirement is a big and complex one, but for now, just focus on defining your clear necessary expenses. What are the expenses you need to be able to survive? This is useful for long-term planning and budgeting, but it’s also useful for better understanding which of your purchases are optional and discretionary. Lifestyle creep and perceived need can distort our sense of what’s truly necessary.
Phase Four: Mental Changes
There are also some mental changes you can make to simplify your mind, your feelings, and your overall approach to life.
Everyone’s inner mental state is unique, but these are some strategies that can help you pursue a simpler, cleaner, more effective way of thinking and seeing the world.
Clarify your retirement goals.
What do you actually want out of retirement? What’s going to make you happy and/or satisfied with life? Too many people enter retirement with a kind of open, wandering mentality, ultimately pursuing no particular direction and with no clear markers of success. This is, in some ways, acceptable, but it’s much easier to differentiate between what’s beneficial and what’s superfluous if you know what your goals and priorities are. It’s okay if these change, but you need to keep tabs on them consistently.
Journal and reflect.
Take time to journal and reflect on a regular basis. People who introspect regularly and get to know their own thoughts and emotions have higher emotional intelligence and more resilience than their counterparts. This is a great strategy for examining your own mental health, revisiting your core goals and priorities, and ultimately living a more fulfilled life.
Mindfulness meditation is a practice that forces you to contemplate the present moment, without any regard for the past or future. It’s a difficult process if you’ve never done it before, but with practice, it becomes much easier. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to reset your thinking, reduce stress, and remember how simple the most important things in life are.
It’s tempting for retirees to fill up their schedules with as many exciting things as possible, taking the trips they’ve always delayed and pursuing all the hobbies they wish they could have followed earlier. But it’s also important for people to occasionally be bored. Times of boredom are opportunities for introspection, creative brainstorming, and fostering greater appreciation for everything else – so let yourself be bored at least occasionally, even if you have to schedule time for it.
Together, these strategies can help you find peace and contentment in retirement – and stave off a host of mental health issues.
[Related: The Best Hobbies to Take Up as a New Retiree]
Extra Tips for Simplifying Your Daily Life as a Retiree
These bonus tips can make it even easier to simplify your daily life as a retiree:
Don’t go to the extreme: Simplicity doesn’t mean selling all your possessions and living in a box. This is an exercise best practiced with deliberate moderation, rather than extreme zealotry.
Get help: Don’t do it alone! Major projects like organizing all your belongings or moving are much more manageable when you have helping hands.
Be ready to adjust: Your first attempts at living simply may not be a good fit. That’s okay; just be prepared to make adjustments.
Daily life as a retiree can be exciting. It can be boring. Also, it can be challenging. It can be relaxing. But if it’s simple, it’s going to be much less stressful, easier to manage, and capable of helping you feel fulfilled. Take the time early in retirement to simplify your life in every way possible, and resist the natural inclination to complicate things over time.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Huy Phan; Pexels; Thank you.