Thursday, July 25, 2013

Brain Stimulation for Retired People? You gotta be kidding!

When do we need our brain stimulated?

Is it better after breakfast or before?
Is later in the evening more effective?

Should we stimulate the brain while reading our emails or during chat moments, or after our bike rides?  Before swimming or after yoga?
While taking our morning shower or after we finish the gardening?

Should we go on our dementia prevention program after taking the grandkids to the park or before?
Is it better to stimulate our brains during our volunteer work at the hospital with or without coffee?
How many months of alzheimers can I prevent if I walk five miles rather than three on a daily basis?

What stimulates the brain?
Cooking meals and mopping floors?
Computer work?
Caring for grandchildren?
Thinking out loud?
Writing poetry?
And does it matter whether I am doing brain stimulation alone or with a friend?

This is just too difficult to figure out.
Excuse me, but gotta go.
I'm too busy to bother with it anymore.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Step Number One to Downsizing: Get Rid of It

It boils down to steely nerves.

You start by going into a room and  looking at every item in that room.  Ask yourself, "What is it?  How long has it been there?  When is the last time someone used it?"

Then put it into one of two piles:   (1) keep it; and (2)  remove it.

There.  That wasn't so bad, was it?  Did you end up with anything in the "Remove it" pile?

If you did, then you are on your way.

After having taken that first brave step,  it gets a little complicated

Ask yourself, when looking at the "Don't want it" pile, whether there might be someone else who would like to have it?  This part is actually fun, sort of like being "Santa Claus", or "Robin Hood".  Is there a special little friend, like a neighbor's child who would really love to have that teddy bear?  Would a neighbor like your extra bed that nobody ever sleeps in?  How about those old pajamas with clouds all over them.  Would they make an entertaining gag gift for a friend?  And that bottle of rum that has been sitting in the basement for over twenty years.  Time to share it with a neighbor?  And all those sweaters that your kids left when they went to college.  They boy next door might like that green one.

Now with that list of items in your hand of things you no longer need or want, allow yourself the freedom to divide the "Remove it" pile into smaller, more detailed piles.  For example,

Pile Number 1.  Things to sell.
Pile Number 2.  Things to give away.
Pile Number 3.  Things to recycle or compost.
Pile Number 4   Things to put in the garbage can.

One way to enlarge the size of the "Remove it" pile  is to again look over the things that you already decided to keep  the things that you use every day, or every holiday,  that you like and want to keep because you need them.

But wait a minute.  If you keep looking at that purple vase in the cupboard and realize that you haven't used it in several years, and suspect that you are just clinging to it out of habit, or that if you thought about it, you really don't need  it or use it any more because you have two purple vases, then add the vase (or maybe both purple vases) to the "Remove it" pile.

Now we have a new problem on our hands.

What to do with the "Don't Want It or Remove it" pile?

Keep on piling.

Divide the stuff to be removed from the house into smaller, more manageable piles:

Pile Number 1, things to sell, are those items that you really wish you could keep but you don't need them any more like furniture and electrical equipment like radios and stereos, for example, but they are too good to just give away, and besides if you sold them, you could use the profits to get what you actually need.  Have a garage sale or work with a consignment shop to get them sold.

Pile Number 2, things to give away, includes all the things you didn't sell at the garage sale, or that the consignment shop wouldn't take,  but just couldn't brave up and throw away, but you don't really need and really don't want.  It includes old records, books, games, toys, clothing, and other items that you tried to sell at your garage sale but no one bought or took away.  Find a friend who wants it and give it to them, of put it in a box on the street with a sign that says "Free" and count the minutes before it disappears.

Pile Number 3, the recycling and composting pile is probably the easiest to identify.  It includes broken boxes that would be difficult to reuse, newspapers and magazines, empty wine bottles, extra glass jars, outdated paper calendars, rotting food, and the like.

Pile Number 4 goes to the dump as garbage.  It includes all those things that you don't need, can't use, couldn't sell, and that cannot be recycled or composted.  Hopefully, it is a small pile.

There now, that didn't hurt a bit, did it?  In fact, it was actually fun.  Try doing a room per day and see what happens.

But watch out, it gets infectious. Soon you will find the neighbors joining in and adding things to your piles of things to be removed from the house, while they also take some items for themselves from your "give away" piles. Just make sure that you give more than you get.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Retired Minimalist...What is that?

Facing our retirement head on and looking toward a simpler future, we sold our New York home of 30 years and downsized to a much smaller residence. We now live on a lake in Connecticut in a 500 square foot cottage that has a 200 square foot guest cottage behind it, surrounded by forests.  In our cottage we have what we need.

Guest Cottage

While making this decision I followed a blog called Home Free Adventures telling the story of a couple who sold their California home of many years, put their furniture into storage and became world travelers, choosing to have no permanent residence. Instead, they live months at a time in various places throughout Europe and other selected regions of the world, carrying their clothes on their back and keeping money in their pockets while writing about their experience.

They are minimalists of a different sort than we, but still minimalists.

What we have in common, is that their choice of minimalist life style places little value on owning things and more value on experiencing things.

What attracted me to follow their blog is the exciting possibility of  traveling to new places, and visiting interesting sites, making new friends, having adventures and continuing to keep ones' passport alive and usefully active. 

I do love to travel.  Our professions took us overseas for almost three decades and we constantly traveled. In addition to traveling all over the world for work, were were also stationed and lived for almost a decade in South and Western Asia. Two of our three children were born in Asia.

You might say that we are "traveled out".

Even when we returned to the United States and moved to New York,  I practically lived out of a suitcase.  In my 30's, 40's and 50's, our clientele were all over the world and as part of my job, I traveled to meet with them in very interesting locations, urban and rural.  Also as part of my job I visited the Great Wall of China, the home of Gandhi in Mumbai, the castles of Europe, the pyramids of Egypt, the beautiful caves of Petra and the mountains of Afghanistan, the slums of many countries and the war zones of others.  I cherish all that I learned in this process.  It was a great job.

Between the two of us, my husband and I were absent from the home almost 6 months per year. Our children stayed home while the two of us took turns rotating in and out, one of us traveling and the other staying with the children. Our entire family culture centered around world maps and story telling about our various adventures.

Our travel hours were longer than some people's work weeks.  We really did not want to be traveling quite that much, again, as part of our retirement.

One thing we knew for certain, in our retirement, we wanted a light footprint.  We did not want to worry about frozen pipes, broken furnaces, mowed lawns and snow-covered driveways. We also did not want to keep clutter, thousands of old books, shoes just in case we might need to wear them in some future year, outgrown suits, old sweaters and the like.  We also have a bit of hippy blood in us and because of this, our son-in-law says we belong in Portland, Oregon,that it would fit out life style well. We like to ride bikes, hike, keep small herbal gardens, cook our own food and constantly work to minimize our use of water, electricity and oil.

As you know, there are many different kinds of minimalists.   Part of the fun of retiring for us is redefining what a minimalist is.  Being a minimalist with a family is different from that of an older couple.  We need much less, now.

Some of our neighbors are minimalists of a different type, keeping a grand home with very little in it. For example, nearby is a retired physician and well-known artist/photographer, who keeps a minimalist home up here in Litchfield County, Connecticut that makes our little cabin, by comparison, look cluttered.  Thus, the idea of minimalism needs to be made operational to our needs.

After considerable debate, and partly through serendipity and because we want to be near our three children and their families, here is what we have chosen to do to keep our traveling skills in order and yet to stay put and be with our families:  we reside in three major locations that maximizes the time we will spend with our adult children and our grandchildren:  the Caribbean; the East Coast and the West Coast of the United States.  Operationally, we divide our time between our beach home in the Bahamas, our little cottage in Connecticut and our recently acquired condo in Oregon.

We will see what we will see.  Our adventure officially began in early 2013.

What are the problems associated with this new lifestyle?  Probably one of the biggest problems we have is remembering where the spatula is.  I am grateful that at least we have limited it to one of three possible locations:  the spatula is most likely on top of the counter in a jar in the Bahamas; in the drawer to the left of the stove in Connecticut; or it is hanging on a magnet in Oregon.

One happy result of all this downsizing is that we see a whole lot more of our children and grandchildren, and in a more casual and every-day way.  What a pleasure to have one of our children stop in for a cup of coffee without a six hour plane ride.   In addition, we only own 1/18th of a furnace as part of our condo, for which we are very grateful. We are  making new friends and discovering new places to visit, within a reasonably circumscribed area.  We no longer worry about frozen pipes or broken pilot lights on the furnace, nor do we care if it is snowing.

When we travel we do not take much with us because we keep what we need at each of the three selected locations.

We divided up our New York clothing, shoes, important cookbooks and other goods to put in one of three places and gave away the rest of our furniture and odds and ends to Goodwill, a nearby consignment shop or local recycling station.

It feels so good every time we remove something from our place and give something away.

Our goal is to have one of what we need, placed strategically where it ought to be.

Let's see how it goes.