Practicing For Retirement: Communal Living

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This hangs in The New York House Bed and Breakfast in Sharon Springs.

With finances and health insurance being the top concerns, Brian and I think about retiring at younger ages than what the government advises, people who don’t think they would survive without their current income, and people who have no idea what they would do with time that isn’t highly structured and routine.

But not us. We think it can be done.

On the issue of finances, I’ve always lived within my means and have also learned that I can do even better than that. I can live well below. I didn’t have a color TV until I was 27 because I was in college in my mid 20’s and couldn’t afford one. I’m still way behind in the expensive electronics and gadgets department, and seem to be surviving well.

Need “new” clothes? Second-hand places have great clothes, and are often connected to a charity. Double bonus.

Grocery shopping? I could probably spend 2-3 weeks eating food from my pantry, fridge and freezer and skip the grocery bill for a little while.

House-hold stuff? I’ve spent the last 3 years paring down my stuff and the stuff that was collected over the last 40 years at the home-stead where I grew up. I need nothing in that department.

Like to eat out? I generally like my cooking better…plus I know better where the ingredients come from.

There are so many ways to cut corners and reduce spending.

The health insurance issue has eased during these last few years with the advent of the Affordable Care Act. The politics surrounding the program and all of the energy invested in scheming ways to dismantle it is lost on me.   The ability to have health insurance that isn’t tied to a job that’s also affordable is something that should have always been an option. How did we get so far away from reason?

Neither of us wants to completely stop working. We’re just looking for a little more flexibility in our lives to do some things that people who are tied to their jobs can’t do. And we’re hoping an early retirement from traditional work affords us the energy and good health a “gypsy” lifestyle requires before we settle down again in old age.

To get ready for retirement and the life style we’re dreaming of, I’ve found myself practicing things that will likely end up being part of the fabric of my/our lives. Things like painting and writing, living with fewer things, less space, less money, and living communally.

Living communally is something that my oldest brother and I have talked about in recent years. Neither of us has kids…not that having kids guarantees that someone will be there to take care of you as you age. We’ve just reasoned that coming together can make for an easier life in many ways. More collective resources such as sharing expenses; watching over each other’s pets; more people to share responsibility for housekeeping, yard work, and cooking. More opportunities for having fun and playing games, helping each other during times of illness, and generally benefiting from collective creativeness.

This summer, we experienced a communal living situation that had great benefits. Some friends moved in with us as a way to transition to a bigger move to the south. They sold their house and needed time to plan their move. Living together was a circus of cooking, playing games, doing group crossword puzzles and helping each other when the need arose. A mutual respect for each others space and time was the fundamental strength to our arrangement.

When they moved out, we felt a giant loss. We’re slowly returning to our old routines and responsibilities on our own.

I know now that a version of communal living can work. It has to be with the right people for the right reasons. And it doesn’t have to be in the same house…just close to each other…maybe sharing a few acres.

When our friends were packing up to leave, I wrote a silly rhyming poem to sum up our time together. Here are a few lines…

Jill and Mike are on their way, I’d really like to balk, but I must admit that Mike’s a gem, for leaving his Himalayan salt.

No more plans for dinner meals, we’re left here on our own, but rest assured of the things I’ve learned, in the kitchen I have grown.

Crossword puzzles and lazy afternoons will no doubt be horribly missed, but I will go on playing the game, and see who I can enlist.

The driveway parking was a little crowded when Jill and Mike first came, but you never heard either Brian or I ever, ever complain.

Of the things we’ve had to eat, the grilled food we really liked, we’ll have to take this duty over because there’ll be no more Grill Master Mike.

The bullet and the coffee grinder were really rather loud, but the result s and outcomes of both of those machines really had us WOWED.

The cat took ill and had a cough, he needed loving care, Jill held him down while I squirted meds, the two of us made quite a pair.

The laundry days were divvied up, we had to plan this out, for without this plan, we’d of had some fights, for this I have no doubt.  

Our back yard sanctuary is usually safe, a place for fun, it’s the best, but Jill had to dial 911 that day that lead to an arrest.

Much joy and peace are wished to them, on their journey towards the south, be we’ll see them again, there is no doubt, at least that’s the word of mouth.  

So glad we had this time together….Woof

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2 Responses to Practicing For Retirement: Communal Living

  1. Ann mckinley says:

    I always knew you would make a fabulous roommate or neighbor,Diane! You and Brian are so gracious and generous. You are good eggs! Love the poem!

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