we know we’re not the only ones who have thoughts like: after we retire, things will be so much easier. things will be less stressful. things will be simpler.
and most likely things will be simpler. but the idea that we aren’t in control of our lives now, that we have to wait to have the lives we want, is silly. that would suggest that virtually everyone on the planet — most of whom never retire early (or at all) — aren’t getting any say in the lives that they’re leading. while we all may make plenty of mindless decisions, or get caught up in the flow of life and forget to look around, we still make choices about the lives we’re leading that make a huge difference.
it’s our goal to be active shapers of our lives, and our life together, not just in the early retirement we’re working so hard to get to, but now. this year. today.
related post: living for today — and tomorrow
the life that we want is, in a word, simpler. less stress — that’s a given. less information overload. fewer deadlines. no office politics. and simpler on the home front too: less time with screens, more time face-to-face, more full nights of sleep, more time cooking and less time reheating. more time to devote to our physical fitness, but on a leisurely schedule, instead of cramming in a quick ride or walk after work, before the sun sets. more time to breathe deeply, enjoy the scenery, read long books, write long letters.
our question now is: why wait until we’re retired to start living more simply? life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, of course. what if we never reach early retirement? the market crashes, one of us loses a job (or, heaven forbid, we both do), our house burns down, we get bankrupted by a medical emergency, who knows. we think we’re getting a lot out of the journey to early retirement, even if we care a whole lot about the destination too. so we want part of our journey to include not waiting for circumstances to be perfect, but shaping the life we want now.
we’ve already moved to the mountains, and bought a house we feel at home in. we’ve simplified a lot of our routines — just a few, mostly homemade, toiletries and cleaning products live in our cupboards — and become more engaged in what we put into our bodies, engaging with farmers at the market and making most of what we eat from scratch. we’re super happy with these changes.
but the rest is the harder part: consciously changing how we think and behave in ways that reduce our stress, not add to it. starting with a biggie: work stress is a reality for now, but we still get to decide how we deal with it. and building up our financial cushion helps a lot with that. not that you need to have a lot of money saved up to keep healthy perspective on work, but it helps us immensely knowing that we could quit our jobs today and be fine. we could live for a long time off of the cushion that we’ve built up. knowing that helps us keep work b.s. in perspective, and actually helps us stay more dedicated to the work that we’re doing for a few more years.
then there’s everything peripheral to work: all the travel, the need to be constantly connected, the pressure to work long hours that interrupt our sleep. on this front, sometimes it’s about changing how we do things, and sometimes it’s simply about owning our decisions, and knowing that we’re making a proactive choice to do a certain thing rather than being forced to do that thing by circumstances beyond our control. we may be having dinner together, and glancing at our email in the middle of it — a total bummer. but we have consciously decided that glancing at email keeps us less stressed — for now! — than not checking it, and knowing that something could be blowing up and getting worse than if we just keep an eye out. (this is a behavior we’ll gladly abandon in a few years!) for work travel, we think about how we can make it feel like real travel — travel we’d choose to do — by taking at least an hour in each trip to go somewhere or do something we wouldn’t do at home. and sleep — we have just decided to be more protective of our sleep. we’re not getting any younger, after all, and our bodies and minds need sleep to stay sharp. we try much harder than we used to to cut off the work, and think clearly about whether that project really needs to be done tonight, or can wait until tomorrow.
most of all, though, living more simply today means this: if we find ourselves wistfully lamenting that our life is too stressful/busy/whatever to do something right now, we have started saying to ourselves: let’s do that thing now. let’s get off the couch and get some fresh air. let’s spend hours in the evening devouring books. let’s take a whole day and cook food to can or freeze, or to serve to loved ones. let’s put the phones down for two whole hours and engage without screens. let’s enjoy the simple thrill of the wind whipping around us as we bike down that hill just a little too fast.
life is too short to waste even a single day. we’ve been as guilty as anyone of wasting some of ours, but we’re committed to living the life we want every day from now on, even if we haven’t yet reached our destination.
what are you doing to shape your life before you reach financial independence? how do you shut of the work stress? what are you prioritizing? share your thoughts in the comments!
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