Updated: Apr 26, 2020
I'm 6 weeks in to working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with no end date in sight yet.
Once the initial shock of what's happening faded a bit, and now that I'm getting adjusted to working from home every day instead of just on Fridays, I realize that my old way of doing things - a lot of things - were going to change.
Did I say that I'm single and living alone? That means no long talks into the night, no watching scary thrillers or laugh-out-loud comedies. No family dinners or board games.
Thankfully I'm an introvert, so it's not as bad for me as it probably is for a lot of other people. But it's still weird.
The first, and most important step, is to start seriously thinking about what you want your re-invention to look like. I hate to say it, but this process has even more relevance in light of the Coronavirus outbreak. We don't know yet what the new normal is going to look like, but I think it's safe to say that it's not going to look like the old one.
If you have a partner, and/or children living at home, you may be learning some interesting things during this time. Hopefully spending so much time together is bringing you closer together. Perhaps you're rediscovering the joy of playing games together, watching movies, or listening to music.
If you're single, perhaps you're reading more, or taking long hot baths with a chilled glass of wine. Maybe you're spending more time outside taking walks around your neighborhood, or preparing your yard for spring.
Now is the time to assess what you're doing (or not doing) and design what things you want more of in your life, and which things (or people) no longer serve you. Then it's time to do something about it.
So, my first suggestion is to spend some time imaging what your life could look like post-COVID-19 and use this time to get a jump start on planning for that life - now. I've made a shortlist in this blog post of the types of questions you might start asking yourself to get a jump start on this process.
Once you've started envisioning what your new life might look like, it's time to start developing a plan to bring that vision to life.
Here's a list of things some productive things that Retirement Divas can be doing while stuck at home during the COVID-19 outbreak. Over time I'll be offering a lot more detail on these and other tools, strategies, and resources, but for now, my priority is putting the list out there so you can pick the areas you want to focus on and get started.
Do a deep-clean of your home. It's Spring. What better time to do some serious Spring cleaning? Not to mention the importance of disinfecting frequently touched areas of your home to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19. If you can, keep it simple with the chemicals since you're spending so much more time indoors.
Yard clean-up. If you live in a home, this is also a good time to get some sunshine while you're cleaning up the yard. Clear out garden beds or make new ones. Cut back any plants that look like they need it. Pick up any fallen branches.
My yard is a mess from years of neglect, so I bought clear plastic recycling bags from Walmart and I'm using them to collect old leaves, overgrown vines that needed to be cut back, dead plants, broken flower pots. The landfill in my county doesn't charge for bringing yard waste so I'm keeping the bags in a back corner of my property and when I'm out and about again, I'll start dropping them off. I feel like I'm doing my little part to help the environment (the landfill uses yard waste to make mulch) and I can save space in my dumpster for other trash.
Plant flowers. This one is my favorite. My Retirement Diva vision includes beautiful fresh flowers whenever they're in season throughout my home and in my office. Before Alzheimer's took over, my Dad was an amazing gardener. We weren't close, but whenever he came to visit in the spring and summer he'd bring a gorgeous bouquet of mixed flowers that he'd picked from his garden. That's one of the things I want my family and friends to look forward to from me too.
I used to spend a lot of money buying flowering plants from a garden center. More often than not they died. What's interesting though is that the plants that have thrived are the ones that I got as cuttings from friends or that I found in the distressed (i.e., almost dead and really cheap) plant section at Home Depot or Lowe's.
This year, thanks to a lovely conversation I had by email with Joanne from Petal & Twig on Etsy, who sells absolutely gorgeous heirloom cutting flower seeds, I've decided to try my hand at growing flowers from seeds. She explained that the most beautiful cutting flowers were annuals (I've always thought annuals were a waste of money) and that it was much easier than people think to harvest the seeds, store them through the winter, and start again the next spring. I'm learning a lot from The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds that I found on Amazon. Wish me luck!
De-clutter your home. This one is a really important component of the Retirement Diva model so you'll see a lot of posts about the many, many benefits of decluttering here over time. The following blog posts will introduce you to my perspectives on this topic and why it's a must for Retirement Divas.
Develop a debt reduction plan. Eliminating debt is also essential for Retirement Divas. The less debt you have, the less financial pressure you'll feel as you approach retirement. Of course, the first step is to stop creating new debt as much as possible. Of course, unexpected things happen to all of us, but buying shoes, or the newest smartphone when the one you have works just fine, or taking luxury vacations that you really can't afford don't count. Learn more about an amazingly successful strategy for getting out of debt that I use here.
Exercise. In the spirit of full disclosure, this is the one I know I have to do, but I hate it. I always have. There's really no good excuse not to exercise, although I've thought of lots of not-so-good ones. Regardless of your age, your stamina, or your physical condition, the internet is full of exercise plans, including free videos on YouTube, that are appropriate for any situation. Whether it's a virtual walking tour, Zumba or country line dancing, cardio, or strength training, find a few that work for you and schedule time JUST.DO.IT.
And, when the weather's nice, take a walk through your neighborhood. This time of year it's always fun to notice which flowers are beginning to bloom, which neighbors are doing a really great job keeping their yards well-groomed, and just reminding yourself that we're going to get through this and that there's a world out there waiting to get moving again.
Become a Virtual Volunteer. Even though we're social distancing for now, there are still countless opportunities for each of us to do something to help others. If you knit or crochet, find an organization that needs preemie caps, chemo caps, scarves for the homeless, or blankets for children in hospice care. If you sew, make face masks and give them to family and friends, neighbors, or to a retirement community in your city.
I found several patterns for simple face masks on Pinterest, bought some fabric, and even bought a sewing machine. I gave my nearly-new machine to my daughter a few yeas ago, and realized that I didn't need to invest in another one, so I found a "baby machine" on Amazon. It looks like a toy, but it's not. It's perfect for small jobs like face masks. The one I bought is no longer available, but it's similar to this one.
Sign up for NextDoor. I recently learned of NextDoor, a local hub to connect and share virtually with your neighbors. You can use NextDoor to sell or give away those items you've decided to let go of while de-cluttering, get tips on which local stores have hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes, get help with chores, and much more. It's free to join.
Re-connect with old friends and colleagues. I don't know why, but I don't like the concept of video chats. It might be the introvert in me that finds them intrusive. Anyway, my team from work has started daily check-ins every morning at 9:00, so I'm getting used to them. I've even started video chatting with my daughter and my mother - at the same time. In fact, we now have a standing Thursday evening Girls Chat on our calendars.
For the time being, Westminster Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay, a retirement community in Virginia Beach, VA is offering free access to Birdsong Tablet, an application they developed to help seniors stay engaged. While the platform was designed for retirement communities for use by their residents, it's being made available to the public during the COVID-19 crisis at no charge. I mention it here because it includes a video chat feature, as well as a lot of other cool things. Check it out here. You have to create an account, but for the time being, it's free.
Learn something new. There's no limit to the opportunities for on-line learning available on the Internet and many of them are free, or very reasonably priced. Here are a few resources to get you started:
Coursera: 100 online courses free through May 31, 2020
Open Culture: 1,500 free online courses from top universities
Alison: Ober 1,000 free courses in 9 distinct categories
Udemy: Free and low-cost course on a wide variety of topics
SkillShare: Thousands of free classes for your career or your passions
Recommit to or find new hobbies/interests. Do you have a hobby or interest that you let slip away because you didn't have the time to pursue it? Do you have tons of yarn, paints, or other craft supplies stuffed in a box somewhere that you've been reluctant to get rid of because of all the money you spent? Do you wish you'd kept playing that musical instrument that's now gathering dust? What about all those books that you bought but never read? Now's a good time to generate new interest in things that once brought you joy.
Never had a hobby or interest? Now's a great time to find one!
Learn more about your temperament. This one may seem like it's coming from left-field, but believe me, it's not. Dictionary.com defines temperament as "the combination of mental, physical, and emotional traits of a person; natural predisposition." It's a major contributing factor to why we think the way we do, why we feel the way we do, and why we act the way we do. It's what makes us tick.
So why is this important for Retirement Divas? Because we're making intentional choices about who we want to be moving forward. The more intimately we know ourselves, the better choices we can make. Had I known what I know now about my temperament years ago, I would've made a lot of different choices and probably saved myself a lot of misery. Yet, years later, the knowledge has been therapeutic in helping me connect a lot of dots in my life that never made sense in real-time.
There are a lot of personality tests out there, but one of the oldest and most tested is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). LifeHack.org has a great article summarizing the impact of MBTI on career choices. The original MBTI test is clearly the most accurate, but it's hard to find a free version online. While writing this post I took 3 online tests. Only this one came back with a result that matched what I know to be my MBTI type.
Time to take action!
Living our best lives,