But What Will You Do? Part 1 – Mrs. PIE

I spend a lot of my time feeling that there are simply not enough hours in the day, days in the week or months in the year. Between commuting, spending time doing stuff for and with the kids, and general household management I’m consistently in need of a bit more time to get everything done. I often feel that I simply don’t have the time to go to work, and to be honest when Mr. PIE is traveling for business – sometimes I don’t! I have creatively used ‘work from home’ days and vacation time to ease some of the craziness.

Given that, it’s not difficult to envision what early retirement will be like for me. Keeping the house and kids running smoothly, along with some time to do things I enjoy – that’s a full time ‘job’ right there! However, I’m very aware that the term ‘Early Retirement’ will send friends and family into a frenzy of concern about what on earth I’ll fill my time with. It’s a fair point – if you haven’t given it much thought it can be difficult to imagine what a non-working life could look like. Of course, I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. My imagination has been hard at work – and I have a lengthy list of both practical and ‘dreamer’ hopes and desires for when freedom hits.

Before I go much further, I have been told by Mr. PIE that I have to include cake pictures in this post. There will be cakes and there will be cake pictures a little later.  Just hang on!

It’s helpful for me to think about these post retirement activities in ‘buckets’. Some are easy to fill as I’ve already alluded to, some take a little more imagination. So here we go, introducing Mrs. PIE’s Early Retirement Buckets:

Bucket 1 – The Day to Day Stuff Bucket

This certainly doesn’t sound too glamorous or exciting does it? Maybe it’s not – but I’m actually pretty excited to be able to be able to fill this bucket with good stuff that I can spend time on  doing properly – instead of simply getting by with the bare minimum I have time for now. What am I talking about? Things like this:

Shopping and cooking: I’m looking forward to being able to plan and cook our family’s meals with the care and time they deserve. Currently there’s one grocery shopping day a week, done as quickly and cost efficiently as possible. Every couple of weeks or so we’ll spend a chunk of time at the weekends preparing large meals in the crock pot to keep our family going during the work week. Despite this, there’s still a lot of convenience meals and less than optimal food choices in our lives. I’m hoping that both nutritional value and cost will be much improved once I have more time to not just prepare food but plan food.

Kids needs: On the mornings I find myself simultaneously eating breakfast, making the kids lunches for school, answering work emails and running through the small PIE’s spelling words for their upcoming test, I truly know what multitasking is. A slightly crazed Mrs. PIE then has to jump in the car and do battle for about an hour and a half to get to work. Admittedly these mornings are when Mr. PIE is out of town on business. On a regular morning I have the distinct delight of getting up at 4.45 am to beat the traffic, go to the gym and get to work. Did I mention being slightly crazed?

We know that the small PIE’s are getting the rough end of the deal here. Their school projects and homework are squeezed in with everything else in a very short time-frame before and after school. I know that they’ll benefit from more time in this bucket too. ‘Kids needs’ also includes them being able to get involved with before and after school clubs if they want to. Anyone who has read this blog for a while will know that Mr. PIE and I are very mindful of the amount of scheduled versus unscheduled time our kids have – with our preference being for unscheduled time. So I certainly don’t mean that they will suddenly be in every club, choir and sports team available, just to be able to get involved with something if they want to.

House and yard: Keeping early retirement spend under control will mean no more house cleaner and no more landscaper to pay. That’s a no-brainer as both of these  items can be categorized currently under ‘the cost of working’. The other side to this is that Mr. PIE and I have been reluctant over the years to attack large maintenance or home improvement projects ourselves, knowing that learning the skills needed to carry out the project will lengthen the completion date way beyond what we’re comfortable with, as well as the obligatory three trips to Home Depot for tools/parts we don’t have. Simply put: we pay people to get jobs done quickly and correctly! While we are fully aware that many larger projects will remain beyond our skills and ability, I’m very much looking forward to some simpler things like gardening and landscaping. For larger projects we can spend time book learning, You Tube learning, and learning from our mistakes.

Bucket 2 – The Volunteering Bucket

I’m in my third year volunteering at a local middle school as a ‘science coach‘. This is sponsored by the American Chemical Society, and aims to pair a chemistry professional with a K-12 science teacher to help with research, lesson preparation, teaching classes, or anything else the teacher may need. I teach a chemistry lab class for 6th graders about once a month, and I have been paired with the same teacher for all of this time. We get up to all sorts of fun stuff: making acid rain, testing the viscosity of household liquids (it’s all to do with lava, honest!), and growing crystals (also to do with lava – really!) This is something of a passion for me, and a welcome relief from the ‘day job’. It’s a bit like being a grandparent or an aunt: Borrow the kids, have fun, then give them back to those who are really in charge!

I get a lot out of this little bit of teaching, and while it’s a million miles away from ‘real’ teaching, I can see myself committing even more time to this once I have even more time. Who knows where this will get me? I’m not really after a paid gig, but if I managed to get involved with getting a school chemistry club started, or offer guidance to high schoolers looking for tutoring or career advice I’d be a happy PIE.

Bucket 3 – The Planning and Doing Fun Stuff Bucket

Just because this is bucket 3 should not diminish it’s importance. This is the raison d’etre, the real good stuff, the chocolate filling! We can’t wait to be able to ski mid-week when the snow is deep and the lift lines are short; or to take an off-season trip to who-knows-where depending on the kids school vacations and what travel miles we have been able to hack. Mr. PIE is already warming up to be ‘Trip Planner in Chief’, something he will no doubt expand on when he writes his ‘part two’ to this post (“honey, I just told the internet you’d do a follow-up post, ok?”)

There’s all sorts of winter sports we don’t do yet but want to: Snow shoeing, cross country skiing, winter hiking. There’s also many summer activities we want to take more advantage of: hiking, camping, kayaking, maybe even learning some rock climbing. The tough part here will not be wondering what to do next, but keeping the activity budget in check!

Bucket 4 – The Serial Hobbies Bucket

As I think about what I want to spend my time doing, a lot of the activities I used to enjoy as a child come to mind. I was a creative kid, with always a sewing or confectionery project on the go. Sadly over the years sewing has been relegated to hemming Halloween costumes, and confectionery is mostly limited to cookie baking with the kids.

The one permanent fixture in my life has been cake decorating. Let me explain a little. My Dad spent most of his working life as a baker. He worked in the baking business and decorated cakes at home. I sat by his side to watch from a very young age – tempted by tastes of frosting of course. He was what you might call ‘classically trained’ and used techniques and styles you would now find in books from the 1950’s. I watched, played, tried my hand and eventually became his assistant. I also taught myself some of the more ‘modern’ techniques, and he set me up with the books and equipment I needed to expand my knowledge. Going to college, getting a job and moving country all conspired to put a brief halt to my hobby.

Fast forward to more recent times: I dusted off my equipment and books once I had the perfect excuse: Kids! Over the years the small PIE’s have been recipients of my efforts (ahem, guinea pigs) to apply my skills to today’s styles of cakes. It’s mostly just about a fun hobby for me where I get to challenge my abilities. I’ve made cakes for two or three friends, just charging cost price, and using the experience as an pretext for testing my skills.

I’ve had many excuses over the years not to turn my cakes into a side hustle. The biggest excuse is time – it’s an all consuming event when a cake is getting decorated in the PIE house. Mr. PIE will happily attest to the complete takeover of the kitchen, dining room and other rooms that ensues when a cake is getting made. My other excuse is that I want to continue to do it for fun and not be pressured by customers. Who knows what form this particular hobby will take when time is no longer an factor- and the kids get too big to want a Minecraft cake made by mom. This hobby is a work in progress.


But why serial hobbies? Well, given that almost every week I come up with something new I fancy trying my hand at, there’s a very good chance that not all of the new (or old) things I try will stick. Humor me for a moment, my imagination is working overtime. Here is a list in no particular order of ‘things Mrs. PIE wants to have a go at’ (Mr. PIE is shaking his head and rolling his eyes – but he’s getting used to this)

Vegetable gardening, starting a compost heap, roasting coffee (SSC to blame for this one!), knitting and sewing, keeping bees (maybe even chickens, but not the chickens of doom…..), baking all the things I have never baked but should have, learning Spanish (or maybe Italian), learning to change the oil in the car, reading all the books I should have read but haven’t, running, rock climbing, glass blowing, pottery……..

It would appear it’s not ideas that I’m short of. I may find myself short of time though, and it won’t take long for me to wonder how I ever had time to go to work! I’m ready with answers – and then some – when I get the inevitable questions about what I’ll fill my time with in early retirement.

What’s going to fill your time? Will you expand current hobbies or find new ones? have you already fielded questions from others about what you will do?









  1. I love that you are helping with the ACS at your school! (This is coming from a former high school chemistry teacher who has a daughter who is the lead ACS rep at her college. She’s also doing activities for “mole day” in the local school near the college!) It sounds like you will have plenty to explain to those who doubt how you will “fill” your days! I can’t wait to be done with work to get back to the things I want to do. I actually feel kind of bad for those who think they would get bored retiring early!

    1. Hi Vicki,
      You were a chemistry teacher? how cool! And it’s awesome that your daughter is also getting involved. The ACS is getting really good at outreach.
      I think those who would doubt how I could fill my days are also those who look forward to getting back to work after vacation because they get bored!

  2. I LOVE the idea of separate buckets, truly brilliant! I’m < 2 years from FIRE at Age 55, and have been populating my own bucket list. I think I'll modify my approach. I was using "Travel", "Learning" and "Life Experiences" as my buckets, so we're philosophically aligned. Here's the article I wrote about my bucket list strategy (if you don't mind a bit of obvious, but unintentional, self promotion. Only sharing here because I think it adds to the discussion. http://www.theretirementmanifesto.com/whats-in-your-bucket/

    1. Hi Fritz, thanks for stopping by and thanks for the link.
      I guess we’re a logical bunch who like to think about things in similar ways – can’t beat a good bucket!
      I like your idea of continuing to take notes. I need to do this as even for this post I had to stop and think about all the things I had fly through my head recently. Thanks for the input!

  3. Sounds like you have things thought thru very well. I’m 6 months into early retirement – trust me when I say you’ll be as busy as you want. Your relationship with time will change, but there are no boring days. Asking a retiree what they would possibly do all day is like asking ex-convict why they would want freedom.

    1. Hi Mr FS, thanks for the comment.
      My parents are the same – a lot older but always busy. well, just as busy as they want to be, and not busy when they don’t want to be. I’m personally looking forward to not trying to do everything at once!

  4. There have been many discussions on where we would keep bees – I think it would be pretty cool to watch.

    You are definitely not short on ideas and potential new hobbies! Great way to look at your future freedom. Even without kids so far we get stuck in foot ruts occasionally where it’s the most convenient meal up.

    1. Hi AE,
      Mr. PIE thinks I’m nuts and swears he will stay well away from any bees! The funny thing is I don’t know the first thing about setting up a hive, where to put one or how to maintain one. sounds like fun though!
      Food ruts are so easy to get into, even with more time I’m sure it will still happen. I’ll have to add reading lots of new recipe books to my things to do list!

  5. I’m so glad with our new schedule that I get to walk out the door at 5:40am to beat the traffic – and avoid the madness of household mornings. 🙂 Nothing like getting wound up by the kids before going to sit in traffic for an hr to get wound up by adults on phones while driving. Ergh…

    I feel that my day to day bucket will be busy, and then with gardening, yard maintenance, and volunteering at some kid/non-kid functions (the ACS sounds fun, maybe they have an earth science version too!). Needless to say, I’m not worried about what to do with my time.

    The serial hobbies is one I’ll dabble in too. Though, to be fair a compost heap and roasting coffee are low time commitment hobbies. 🙂 I too have hobbies that have fallen by the wayside due to lack of time or energy or both. Tying flies for fly fishing, fly fishing, playing more music, hiking, kayaking, what hasn’t fallen by the wayside?! It will be fun to get back to living and not just surviving.

    1. Hi Mr. SSC,
      Never a truer word – “living and not just surviving” You’ve hit the nail on the head!
      Funnily enough I have never in my life studied Earth Science, but that’s what the 6th grade curriculum is! I’ve been tailoring chemistry around earth science concepts and learning a lot as I go along. The ACS membership is a company perk I’ll probably keep even after quitting
      As for serial hobbies, I think of it as trying a bunch of things to see what sticks. The ones that stick are the important ones

  6. Great list! I am always surprised by the people that say they didn’t know what they would do with themselves if they retired early. I am similar to you in that I have a list of things a mile long (and I am also a notorious serial hobby person).

    I want to pick up so many different creative hobbies. Learning to play different instruments, getting better at producing music, learning to write in different styles, writing fiction. I can’t imagine ever being at a loss for what to do with my time.

    Also, I love the fact that someone who goes by Mrs. PIE is so good with cake. 🙂

    1. Hi there and thanks for stopping by,
      I have to admit that the ‘PIE’ acronym did actually come about with cake in mind!
      It sounds like you do have a long list of creative pursuits, what do you play right now? what type of music?
      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with serial hobbies, it’s a good way to try lots of things to see whats really going to stick. as long as there aren’t large overheads involved!

      1. I grew up as a trumpet player and it is still the only instrument that I am actually any good at, but I have taught myself to play a bit of guitar, bass, piano, ukulele, and drums. I tend to pick one up until I am passable and then move on to something new.

  7. Well done, Mrs. Pie. It is funny to think how some folks (not on the FIRE bandwagon) would consider it a challenge to fill the day with things to do. When the day comes and I get asked the question what I’ll do to fill my time, I plan on responding with the Napoleon Dynamite quote and say, “Whatever I want to do, gosh…”

    I like how you broke it up into those buckets. I think my challenge would be trying to minimize the encroachment of the day-to-day things (obligatory things that need to be done) as well as trying to keep buckets 3 and 4 within budget!

    1. Hi GS, thanks for stopping by,
      Love that quote, I may have to steal that!
      I think part of folks not knowing what they would do is simply not having thought about it. It’s easy not to think much further than household chores if you don’t let your imagination go a bit.
      I absolutely agree about the day to day things taking over. We’ll have to watch that one – and the budgets for buckets 3 and 4 are a big deal. I’ no doubt have to limit my serial hobbies to just a couple a year!

  8. Ha! This is a great post… the truth is you’ll probably be even busier than you anticipate. There’s always something good/fun/exciting/necessary to fill the time we’ve got. Even now, I still am up every morning by around 4:30 – old habits die hard. So you’ll probably still be one of those early birds at the gym even when you could go anytime!

    Like you, we’re not short on ideas… and that seems to really be part of the point of this whole retirement thing – to actually have the opportunity to really do the things you want (and need) to do. Which means, to me, there’s not a moment to waste!! Cheers, and feel free to send some cakes (or pies) this way for taste-testing. We’ll, ahem, carve out the necessary time.

    1. Hey there, thanks for the comment,
      yup, there’s going to be plenty of fun stuff to do. I fear you may be right about the wake up time. Since having kids I seem to be physically unable to sleep much past 6.30am, and if I’m up that ‘late’ it feels like half the morning is gone!
      There’s a lot of benefit to being at the gym early. less crowds, and those who are there are there for one thing – not to chat, not to show off, just to get in and out and on with their day.
      Happy to send some cake for tasting but can’t guarantee how well it would travel 😉

  9. So many awesome buckets!

    It’s strange to me when people worry about not knowing what to do with themselves if retired. Half of me can understand, but the other half of me is just yelling “But there are so many things to do tho!!!”

    I also love the little Minecraft swords on the cake – so cute and tiny. 😀

    1. Hey Felicity,
      Glad you like the cake, those swords did actually drive me nuts!
      And I know, how can people not have a zillion things they would rather do than be at work?

  10. watch my nieces and nephew, fishing, coin collecting and camping are main ones but they cant occuppy all the time i need. would love a small hobby farm someday

  11. I got a taste of ‘fire’ life when I was unemployed last summer. Mid day grocery shopping, & cooking a lot more, were high on the list. I got to take my time visiting friends and family, working with their mid week days off, not fighting traffic on a Friday after work. Having time to ‘do’ laundry vs pulling things out of the dryer is as good as it sounds. 🙂
    My parents are retired and plenty busy. Part of the motivation for FI for me is to negotiate to work remotely with views like the have. I would not mind 4-6 hours of work with a lake or ocean view.

    1. That sounds like a fantastic plan: working with views. Can’t beat it! 🙂
      Oh yes! no traffic nonsense! I haven’t worked Fridays for nearly 10 years now – and a one of many big reasons never to do that is traffic. Monday to Thursday traffic is bad enough!

  12. Nice pie chart!
    Of course, only “lifers” can object that we could run out of stuff to do in early retirement. All the things that I repeatedly keep pushing to the next weekend: reading books, sorting though our photos, etc. will keep me busy.
    And little Miss ERN isn’t in school yet, so I haven’t even thought about the school activities and volunteering so far. This won’t be my parents’ retirement, that’s for sure. No need for bingo nights to kill time!

    1. Hi ERN, thanks for stopping by,
      I hear what you say about ‘not my parent’s retirement. In a way I feel like I could describe ER for me as simply being a stay at home parent – lots of kids and volunteer opportunities.
      Funnily enough my mum cautioned me recently that “you’ll have to find something to do”. For a regular age retirement like she has right now, absolutely true, and she’s doing a great job of it. I bet no one told her she would have to find something to do when she quit work to stay have kids. It’s all in the perspective!

  13. Wow that is a NICE cake. Great list of hobbies and activities to keep yourself busy as well. Honestly don’t really understand the question when people ask it, like what do you mean what will I do? This is such a BIG world and most of us never even get to know the tiniest fraction of it.

    1. Well thanks Mr.SLM! 🙂
      I like that thought. That the world is so big and we don’t get to see much of it. I may have to steal that one! ?

  14. Oh yes, there’s never a shortage of things to do, see, and try. I also try to schedule in some lazy days, with bonus points if I don’t have to put in my contacts or get out of my pajamas!

    1. Haha! I could certainly go for the bonus day theory! Will just have to watch that there aren’t too many, and try equally as hard not to have too few!
      Thanks for stopping by!

  15. It never is less shocking to me that people don’t seem to understand how life looks without work.. “but.. what do you DO?!”. How stunted our society has become to not even be able to picture an enjoyable, productive, meaningful life without a career.

    Mrs Pie, I hardly even had to read this article to know that you’ll have a lot of happiness, productivity, meaning, purpose.. You do you!


    1. Thanks much for the kind words 🙂
      I think you’re right, it’s what society expects, and that’s obviously driving all the imagination away. I’m ‘somewhat’ looking forward to some conversations with colleagues when we reveal our plans. Maybe I’m just looking forward to the surprise on their faces. We’ll soon see who has imagination and who doesn’t!

  16. Wow, AMAZING cake. Having done a few homemade specialty cakes for my kids, my crowning glory was the castle cake using upside down ice cream cones as the turrets, I am truly in awe of your creation. Definitely a side hustle possibility for sure. And as far as ideas to keep you busy, you mentioned chickens. Although I’m not early retired (yet), my husband is, and he built a chicken coop. Although a little lukewarm on the idea at first, we now have had 12 laying chickens (bought half-grown) and I am the first to say I looooove my girlies so much! They’re just so much fun. We’ve got three different kinds, including some blue egg layers. The kids love them too. Now we are thinking about a dairy goat. !!! So anyways, I’m guessing you’d enjoy a chicken hobby just like I have.

    1. Hey there, thanks for your comment.
      Mr. PiE says I don’t need any more encouragement like that, let alone goats! We’ll see, he’ll come around to fresh eggs!
      Thanks for the compliment on the cake! You’ll understand how all consuming they can be, the castle sounds awesome, bet the kids loved it!

  17. Great call on having that cake picture!! That was a necessity to the post 🙂

    I agree, finding stuff to do that adds meaning once early retirement comes around is something that has to be thought about. I have no idea what I would do once I am retired but thankfully that is a long ways from now before I will make the proverbial leap so I have a long time to figure it out! Little by little, I will learn!

    1. Yup, can’t beat a cake picture in a post about retirement!?
      It sounds like you have plenty of time to figure out your plans. Just let your imagination go and you’ll be surprised what you come up with!

  18. Great post!
    Time goes so fast! I have no kids and I can only imagine how much busier day-to-day life must be for you.
    I have been fortunate enough to take a mini-retirement over the last year so I have a pretty good idea of how to fill my time now. I’m definitely going to spend a lot of time writing and engaging with others online. Some time will be dedicated to investing. Besides that, I’d like to be in a position to travel a lot. I want to spend a lot of time with friends and family. Like you, I like taking time to prepare proper meals. I also want to focus on health and exercise. A lot of reading too. And I’d like to try a lot of new restaurants. And watch a lot of basketball haha I’m sure some of my hobbies will change over the years but this is where it stands now.

    I think your plans sound awesome by the way. Gardening and landscaping is almost therapeutic. It’s so nice being outside. It will be great for you to slow life down and avoid the chaos. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Hi Graham,
    I sound like you have more than enough to keep you occupied! Taking a mini retirement is a great way to test the waters and figure out how you’ll approach the real thing.
    We really are looking forward to slowing down. the crazy can’t last forever, and it leaves me wondering how others deal with it!

  20. Can’t wait to hear about you turning your cake-making into a side hustle. Money aside, it would be wonderful for others to experience and spread the word of your creations.

    Out of everything you mentioned I must say that glass blowing hit me in the funny bone. I have no doubt you and Mr Pie will remain busy, productive and happy. After week 1 of retirement I can see how much there is to explore. For myself, I need to get my priorities a little organized but that’s after I veg out a few weeks.

    1. Hi Mrs. Groovy
      First of all congrats on the retirement! Vegging out is a much deserved and vital start – I can guarantee I’ll be doing my share of that!
      Glad I hit a funny bone! I’m a little bit serious though. I’ve had a fascination with glass blowing since being a kid and have been able to watch it in action a couple of times recently. I find that I still have that wide eyed wonder when I see it, along with a desire to try my hand. So you can be sure that if I come across a studio where I can take a couple of classes – I’m in!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *