It’s The Little Things

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Retirement is a huge change in life.  Shocker, right? 

We’ve all read about, or experienced, the Big Things.  You know, that shift from Accumulation to Withdrawal of our assets.  The reality of life without an alarm clock. The enjoyable death of the commute.  The huge change to our daily routine.

Good things, all.  But sometimes, the biggest changes are the little things.  And, it seems we read a lot less about the little changes that retirement brings.  In fact, I hadn’t thought about it myself until a reader e-mail spurred the thought.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized “It’s The Little Things” that really add up in retirement.  

The seed was planted…and this post was born.

Today, at the request of the readers, I’m giving my thoughts on the little things that change in retirement.  They’re little, but they’re huge. Click To Tweet

Today’s is the second in a series of “What’s On The Reader’s Mind” posts, based on feedback thousands of you sent me during a recent book giveaway contest.  The first in the series was “Lacking The Courage To Quit”.  I’ll continue to link these posts together so you can follow the trail of thoughts provided by the readers.

The credit for today’s post goes to Frank, who included the following in his e-mail response to the book giveaway contest:

A few ideas:  “The Little Things”, a collection of small life-things/differences you have noticed since retiring…

And, to Jason, one of the few readers who has read every single post I’ve written!  (Jason, Thank You again for your amazing loyalty to my passion project):

I quite enjoy your posts updating your personal journey since retiring with…new discoveries every few months…

Today, I’m combining both emails and will explore the “discovery” of “The Little Things”, and the big impact they make on life in retirement.

Thanks to all of the readers who filled my inbox with what’s on your mind.  I’m slowly working through the queue, with fewer than 1,000 unread emails left to go.  I’m getting there, but I’m intentionally taking my time and enjoying the process.

Which brings me to the first little thing…

It’s The Little Things…Like…

  • …being able to take my time working through my email inbox.

For the past three decades, my inbox has induced a certain level of stress in my life.  That urgent email from the boss that comes in shortly after you left the office (why did he always seem to do that?).  That project that just dropped into your inbox like an A-Bomb.  That crisis that just unfolded without the courtesy of a phone call. The inbox was always full of potential landmines, and never, ever, ever stopped.  E-Mail Zero?  Not a chance.

Now that I’m retired, it doesn’t matter as much.   Sure, I’ve always been diligent and have prided myself on being responsive.  But, I’m also aware that the urgency of the inbox is, in retirement, a figment of my own creation.  

I can decide that it’s no longer urgent, a luxury I’ve never had before.

That’s a little thing, but it’s huge.

  • … going to a vineyard on a weekday afternoon, just to listen to music with friends.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I decided to throw an impromptu invitation out to our Freedom For Fido volunteers to meet up at a local vineyard to listen to a very talented local musician, Adrian Stover, (you have GOT to click that link, here it is again, and listen to the first 60 seconds just to hear his voice – WOW!  It’s a clip from the actual “performance” we attended).   We discovered Adrian a few months ago, and hired him to sing at a fundraising event we’re hosting in May.  The guy’s voice is amazing and we like to support him as he’s starting his singing career. I suspect he has a future (You heard it here first.  You did hear it, right?  One last time.).

We met at 3 pm on a Friday, and 15 of our volunteers showed up on short notice.  Enjoying live music, with friends, on a Friday afternoon. 

Yeah, it’s a little thing, but it’s huge.

  • … being able to leave my phone unattended for hours at a time.

During our careers, most of us don’t have a choice when it comes to our cell phones.  They become appendages, and they’re impossible to leave behind.  Though I loved my role as a plant manager in my 40’s (my favorite role of my 33-year career), I dreaded the reality that my phone could ring any time during the day or night.  Even when it wouldn’t ring, it was always on my mind.  I deeply cared about the safety of the employees at the plant, and I always worried that I’d get a call in the middle of the night with a safety incident at the plant (thankfully, that never happened).

Retirement is an electronic amputation that severs the cellular appendage. That’s a little thing, but it’s huge. Click To Tweet

Retirement severs the cellular attachment.  It’s an amputation, of sorts. When I head to the gym for a few hours, or outside to putter on my various landscaping projects, the phone stays inside, alone.  If someone leaves a message, I can get to it when I have time to chat.  It can wait until I’m ready.

That’s a little thing, but it’s huge. 

  • waking up at 3:30 a.m., and being happy about it.

When I was writing my book, I discovered the joy of writing between the hours of 3:30 – 6:30 am.  The first time it happened, I had a thought about a point I was trying to make in the book and couldn’t get it out of my head.  I decided to get up and start writing, even though the sunrise was 3+ hours away.  I did some of the best writing in the entire book that first morning and learned to embrace those early morning hours.  I don’t plan on those early mornings, but I’ve learned to love them when they happen. 

I discovered a beautiful reality that first early morning a few months ago.  A little thing, really.  The reality is this:  It doesn’t matter when I get up, or when I go to bed.  If I feel like getting up at 3:30 am, I’ll get up.  If I feel like sleeping in, I’ll sleep in.  If I feel like taking a nap, I’ll take a nap.  The true definition of Time Freedom.

Time takes on an entirely new perspective when you’re retired. 

That’s a little thing, but it’s huge.

  • … stopping to talk to a neighbor.

Many days, when I’m taking the long way home from the gym, I happen to pass by Jack walking on our gravel road.  Jack takes his daily 2-mile walk at the same time I’m heading home, and we often run into each other on our peaceful gravel road.  No longer in a hurry, I’m free to pull over, roll down the window, and chat with my friendly neighbor.  He worked at Disney for 30 years, and he’s an interesting guy.  I’ve learned to enjoy our chats while parked alongside our gravel road.  

Taking time to talk with new friends.  

That’s a little thing, but it’s huge.

  • ... deciding how much structure I want in my life.

When I was working, my life was filled with structure.  Up at 5:30 am, out the door by 6:15, at my desk by 7:15.  Conference calls, staff meetings, quarterly reviews, monthly reports, presentations, e-mails, and phone calls.  Grab a quick jog at lunch, then back on that Corporate Treadmill until 5:00 pm, when I’d slog through that dreadful traffic for 90 minutes down I-75 through the heart of Atlanta, East on I-20, and down the winding side roads to our suburban home in the countryside outside the city, only to repeat it all again the next day.  And the next.  And the next.

For the first 4 months of retirement, I intentionally decided to keep my days 100% unstructured. Serendipity reigned.  In time, I learned that a bit of structure is good for the soul, so I established a morning gym routine 5 days a week.  After a few hours of structured classes at the gym, I keep the remainder of my day open for whatever appeals.  An afternoon movie?  A lunch date with my wife?  Wetting a fishing line? A few hours writing on my blog?  The Freedom to do whatever I want to do, with just enough structure to start the day and make me feel productive.  The amount of structure is now a decision I can make, and I can change it anytime I feel like it.

That’s a little thing, but it’s huge.

I’ve always wanted to play around with woodworking but never had the time.  Now that I’m retired, I’m enjoying the challenge of tackling some projects, starting with customizing an enclosed trailer. Lately, I’ve been working with a great woodworker, Tim, who volunteers his time building amazing doghouses for my wife’s charity, Freedom For Fido.  He and I have decided to do a step-by-step YouTube video, along with a complete set of blueprints, to be able to send to other volunteers who have expressed an interest in building doghouses for us.  It’s been an enjoyable project, and I’ll plan on sharing the video with you when we complete it in the coming weeks. 

Working with wood. 

That’s a little thing, but it’s huge.

When I was working, I was shot by the time I hit the bed.  Even if I had the desire to read for a while before calling it a night, my body wouldn’t have gone along with that plan.  My wife got into the habit of reading for 30 minutes in bed when I was traveling, and she really enjoyed it.  We decided to try it together shortly after I retired, and it’s become one of our favorite times of the day. 

Taking 30 minutes to relax and get absorbed in a good book is a great way to end the day, and it’s a luxury I never had until retirement.  It calms the mind, and sleep comes easy when finishing the day with 30 minutes in a book. In 2019, I read 5,540 pages while completing 14 books.  How do I know?  Because I’ve discovered Goodreads, and enjoy logging the books I’m reading and seeing the year-end summary of what I’ve accomplished.  Reading is a pleasure, but it’s best enjoyed when you have the time.

That’s a little thing, but it’s huge.

I could go on with many other examples of “The Little Things” that change in retirement.  Things like…

  • Fishing alone in the fog on a trout river on an early weekday morning.
  • Weekday camping (avoiding the weekend crowds).
  • Weekday mountain biking, hiking and dinner dates.
  • Being home for the service appointments.
  • Freedom to travel on our schedule.
  • Walking the dogs in our woods.
  • Taking my time on landscaping projects.
  •  Enjoying our charming downtown on weekdays, without the out-of-town weekend mob.
  • Writing on my blog whenever it suits me.
  • And on.  And on. And on….

They’re all little things, but they’re huge.


In retirement, the little things add up.  Cumulatively, they become a big thing.

The reality is the Time Freedom that comes with retirement changes everything.  We seem to focus on the big things, but it really is the little things that you notice most on a day-to-day basis.  You quickly discover the joy that comes with being able to live your life against the flow dictated by the working world’s schedule. 

Working folks have the weekends off, so that’s when they do the good stuff in life. Retired folks have every day off, so we live against the flow. Click To Tweet

Living against the flow.

That’s a little thing.

But it’s huge.

Your Turn:  If you’re retired, what little things have you noticed that make your life better?  Let’s chat…


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