The New Retirement Lifestyle: Minimalizing

My third wife and I lived in Paso Robles, California, during the last 7 years of our 13-year marriage. I had been commuting the 215 miles to West Los Angeles once a week, spending three or four days in Paso Robles and three or four in Los Angeles. In L.A., I stayed in the spare bedroom of friends.

When my third wife and I separated in 1996, I decided to stay with my friends full time, in part to save money to pay off debt, and in part, because I enjoyed these friends’ company and thought being with them would be more pleasant than living alone, a comfortable transition. I enjoyed the freedom of doing what I wanted when I wanted that being single brought. My room was just big enough for a bed, a chair and a small desk. There was no room to store a lot of stuff. Having lived in large homes in upper-middle-class neighborhoods for most of my adult life, I worried about this adjustment.

Much to my surprise, I didn’t miss the room. I loved the freedom of living in a small space that I didn’t have to spend much time fixing, maintaining or cleaning. I didn’t miss all my stuff. I found out that I had no “need” to live in a big, fancy suburban home or to be a homeowner at all. It didn’t bother me to live in a poor, central Los Angeles neighborhood. I enjoyed living among the diversity. I loved walking to the little, family-owned Salvadorian restaurant that served a spicy chicken soup with homemade tortillas that had me salivating during the walk there. Sunday morning walks were especially pleasant as the gospel music from the many church choirs wafted through the air, especially in warm weather when the doors of the non-air conditioned churches were open.

Eventually, I moved to my own apartment in Marina Del Rey. It too was small, as was my subsequent apartment in Oxnard. These experiences laid the foundation for my later decision to minimalize and my awareness that I didn’t need everything that the American middle class holds dear.

Before and into my retirement I lived in one-room apartments and didn’t miss more space. Except for a computer and a camera (and now a cell phone with a camera), I didn’t miss all the gadgets either. I even lived without a television for a while, and the only thing I missed, as a lifelong Dodgers fan, was the televised games. Before one move I gave away all of my stuff except my writing materials and equipment, clothes, camera, computer and some books that I thought I would refer to. I stored some old photographs and things that had sentimental value. I consciously kept only things I would use or wanted to save as mementos (keeping those to a minimum). I gave away even more before my next move. I had become a minimalist in my old age, and I loved it.

Acquiring a lot of stuff and living in a large space means that you spend a lot of time buying and taking care of stuff, and cleaning and taking care of your living space, instead of actually living. My most recent home was a one-room cottage behind a main house, surrounded by a beautiful garden maintained by my landlady. I spent virtually no time repairing things, buying things (except food and a minimal amount of clothing, books and writing and drawing materials), cleaning or worrying about things. I could thoroughly clean my whole living space, including the kitchen and bathroom, in an hour.

Retirement was my chance to change my lifestyle and live the way that gets me the most out of life (and minimalizing leaves a smaller footprint on the earth). According to Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who have written a book about, and regularly blog on, minimalism:

“Minimalism is a tool to get rid of superfluous excess in favor of
focusing on what’s important in life so you can find happiness,
fulfillment, and freedom.”

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  1. 1st wife of someone: Your comment is a good example of judging someone without knowing the facts. First, I paid alimony to both my second and third wives and had not developed my minimalizing lifestyle until well afterwards. (My first wife earned more than I did at the time and had no need for alimony). It is not that I want nothing. The concept is minimalizing, not nothing. It has been 18 years since my divorce from my third wife, and I recognized that I had a problem with relationships. My memoir, “Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages” is about my journey to understand my role in the failure of those marriages. In writing that memoir I learned a lot about my failures in those relationships. I hope those who have read it have been helped by my mistakes. All of us humans have faults and frailties, including you, 1st wife of someone, but since I don’t know you, I certainly would not comment on what they are.

  2. Thank you for writing this, I am in the process of downsizing my life and needed some extra inspiration to load up stuff I have kept for years and so was looking for a story of someone else, and yours came up. I also used to live in Paso Robles, but ended up moving to Arkansas for the last 10 years with a big house I hardly ever see because I am working most of the time, with retirement a few years away I realized I had worked for nothing important instead gave up the last 17 years of my life for stuff which I never really needed. But it is hard to let go at times. So I appreciate your story and will continue to load stuff up and give away…Salvation Army here has been loving me of late LOL!!!! When I have time I will have to look up your book and read it I always love stories of people who look inside themselves…not an easy task for any of us myself included. Thanks again for sharing. Have a great day.

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