When you were in the world of work, did you ever notice the range of decorations that could be found in individual offices, cubicles or classrooms? In the early ‘70s, I distinctly remember my first husband’s new job at a large chemical company. There was a prohibition on all personal possessions and images in the offices. Both of us laughed like hyenas about his company-approved photograph of a “heat exchanger.” This business practice was antithetical to what was going on in the world of the liberal and shifting social practices of the time. When I left full time employment, it seemed that some people still had not gotten the memo that personal expression was, indeed, allowed in the office.
Almost everyone in my department had nothing, or next to nothing on their walls, except for the required diplomas, certificates and awards. My office, on the other hand, was a reflection of my values at the time: photographs of my children, vintage educational artifacts, artwork from recent travels, along with inspirational quotes and images. Perhaps because I wasn’t part of the tenure track crew at this university, the rules were different for me. Although my home certainly reflected these same standards, after retirement I began an upgrade almost immediately.
Home Base: Your friendly headquarters
It might be a good idea to start thinking of your abode as “home base.” Most of us, while working, might use our homes as a hotel and storage unit: a place to sleep every night, and a place to stow things purchased on weekends. I was no exception! It is important to know that at this new time in life, everything you do will emanate from your home, so it is a good idea to look at it from a different vantage point. It’s the place you will be spending the bulk of your time.
The upgrade depends upon your past efforts
If you are in the “heat exchanger” category, you have a lot of work to do. On the other hand, if your office reflected the multifaceted person you are, your home base might not need as much work. Let’s take a walk through the house (or apartment), room by room. I’d like to share some of the changes for the better I made over my Rookie Year.
Outdoor and indoor plants and garden objects are an excellent place to start. Because you were restricted to the indoors for decades, purchases and rearrangements in these categories provide a welcome release! Capitalizing on the first season of your retirement, there will be no shortage of either outdoor plants, autumnal harvest items, or seasonal decorations. Your entry way is the place you will pass through most frequently. A change in this location will go a long way. Adding a little green strategically indoors will also give those tired hotel rooms some life. You now have no excuse for not watering or fertilizing the plants.
The kitchen is the next place that cries out for some change. Many of you might be dining on the dishes you received as shower gifts 25 years ago, a post-college set, or at least the one set that came after one of those milestones. I was in this second group. Ours was a “lovely”, beige set of Ikea china, which stubbornly showed each knife scrape on the platters. I had always dreamed of a set of handmade, pottery dishes, and this set, a poor substitute for $50, popped up on one of my weekend smash and grabs. I was becoming more and more agitated every time I set out the dinner plates. A few years earlier, I had purchased a lovely mismatched set of small Polish pottery plates for a special occasion. My daughter had just become engaged, and I was serving cocktails and hors d’oeuvres for her new mother-in-law to welcome her to the family.
I loved those plates, with their thick, shiny glaze and folk-art motifs. One day soon after retirement, I realized I could easily and inexpensively buy the matching dinner plates and bowls and be dazzled every night at dinner! I continue to be thrilled, every time I handle those plates when I prepare meals, and even when I empty the dishwasher!
I had also accumulated a respectable library of cookbooks. In my high-ceilinged kitchen, a step ladder was needed to reach the long, always collapsing row of books on top of the kitchen cabinets. So often, I would rather go online to get a recipe rather than climb the Matterhorn. For the sum of $30, I purchased and assembled a small three shelf bookcase which I kept in our mudroom. After a kitchen redo, I had an accessible shelf built above the refrigerator to house the books, arranged by content. I did another reorganization job on my haphazard file of online recipes. A new, portable file box with a handle contains folders with subject labels. There is no doubt that meal planning has become a joy, with a healthier variety of recipes coming from the cookbooks and paper stragglers I’ve had for decades!
Similar redo’s occurred in the other rooms. In the living room, there is a small journal with a list of new movies and tv shows available for streaming. Previously, these were recorded on lots of random notes, as I received the emails. There are also comfortable throws and sleep masks, convenient for daily naps in the living and family rooms. Small, twinkly lights are strung around the sliding door in the dining room to create a magical space in the evening at dinner.
In the bedroom, after the work clothing was purged, my closet holds far fewer items which are easier to manage. Everything not worn frequently is either in a less obvious place or in out-of-season storage. My closet reflects my new, simpler life. Yes, I found many unworn items still with tags. Yes, I have enough clothes for several retired size 6 women. No, I rarely go shopping anymore, and definitely not for sport.
The urge to stay home
Our final stop on the home base tour takes us to the bathroom. Even this room has been repurposed. It is now the home of the luxury soak or the endless shower. It is also the home of that magnification mirror which is bringing my self-awareness into the present tense. All beauty creams and potions which missed the mark were tossed, along with their improper lipstick color cousins. Non-hotel thickness towels traveled to the rag bin, and only a few bath sheets and fresh, new hand towels took their place. Wall decorations and floor coverings were reconsidered, and treated to an update.
In my five years since retirement, home base is frequently modified. Each revision encourages me to stay home, an alien idea before retirement!