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?