semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living


July 2015

Work out

Over the last three or four weeks, the man and I have been discussing the work life balance side of our lives. We know we want to work less to do more, but the big question is how? There is a tension here; we have to have an income to be able to afford the more. Not necessarily a huge income, but an income nonetheless.

There is a rider too: the work has to be enjoyable.

Coincidentally, the man is between contracts. That, folks, is the fickle nature of boat building: employment one day, none the next.* The man is realistic: it is time to shut the door on the industry and find another income stream.

We have therefore put our thinking caps on and after crunching some numbers to make sure it would indeed be feasible have come up with the following:

Working three days per week each will meet our needs of income and work life balance.

The man will be able to do this by being self employed. With design and construction skills at his fingertips, he is capable of building or renovating anything from boats to furniture to houses.* To begin with he will take on all types of work to get the income, providing of course it meets the rider: enjoyable. His ultimate goal is to build bespoke pieces, the majority to his own design. The plan is to segue into this. This will feed his soul.

For me, the reduced working week will mean a new position. With a few years in my present career under my belt, I know there are parts of the job that have appeal and parts that don’t so much. To this end, I have sat down and composed two lists; the ‘I love doing it’ one and its counterpart, the ‘When pigs fly’ version.  With these lists to guide me, I am adopting an open minded, dare I say it, empowered approach to searching for the three day a week job. This is a beginning. It is not my passion. I know what that is and I also know with certainty that by working in paid employment less, I will have time for it. This will feed my soul.

We are optimistic. It will work out.

* There are a few jobs around for composite boat builders, but little long term employment for the guys who specialise in wood.

** (the man has made some of the pieces for this company)

Round Up

Now I don’t want anyone to think I am only writing about planning to make changes; you know the all talk, no action type of thing. Rest assured, there has been some movement in the right direction.

To keep you in the loop, this is the progress to date:

The man and I did a cost/benefit analysis of owning the boat and came to the startling conclusion of ‘Geez (feel free to substitute your own word here), that much?  The boat has to go!’  Decision made. It will be on the market mid September. The man who fortuitously is a boat builder is toiling hard to meet the deadline.  The middle cabin which we turned into a double berth last year is being finished in (recycled) kauri and is looking mighty fine. The headsail which was embarrassingly tatty with its UV strip flapping merrily in the breeze when we used it is now getting repaired by the sailmaker.  We are on track.

Any thoughts of me climbing the career ladder have been firmly put to bed. I am completely resolute and laugh in the face of any suggestion that a promotion is the way to go!  Not interested. When my present secondment finishes, I have vowed to return to my home library.  Once back, I will take a breathe and then work out what I need to do to achieve my aim of slow living in regards to work. Standing still for a while is a good first step in this direction, I think.

The downsizing of possessions is underway too. Sorting out the family photos, china and other pieces is happening, albeit slowly. I also culled our clothes the other day. The amount that needed to go was tiny with only a few items of mine making the pile and even less of the man’s. Most of mine were paint splattered items that I’d washed and put carefully back in the drawer to wear again. I haven’t.  As way of explanation, I do wear a large shirt as protection when I paint* but my haphazard and uncoordinated use of the brush inevitably means a sad ending for the clothes underneath the shirt.  The man’s  pile was just as small. This is hardly surprising; his uniform of checked shirts (winter and summer options), and jeans or shorts depending on the season have their own lifecycle. They start off as casual wear, and as they age, they become work wear. Eventually, when there are holes in the pants and there are too few buttons on the shirt, they either become rags or go in the rubbish. There is little wastage.  All clothes culled in the clean out that day were beyond being (further) recycled and were ditched.

Addressing the imbalance between work and leisure is beginning. The bikes are going to play a big part in this. We have had them serviced. My French course is back on the menu.

Lastly we have booked a holiday early August. I can’t wait.

* I paint rooms, not pictures.

Building bridges

Today at work I joined up a young man who used his Indonesian passport as his ID. A lifetime ago Bahasa Indonesia was the language I studied at secondary school, so as the young man seemed nice, I ventured a ‘selamat sore’ to him. Meaning  good afternoon in Indonesian, it was in fact before noon, and I knew I had the greeting wrong even before I spoke it. I hoped however that he would appreciate that I had spoken bahasa, even if he had doubts over my ability to tell the time.

He was thrilled. Encouraged by his response, I explained that I had learned the language at school and then promptly rolled out a few more words of the entirely random sort I found hidden in the deep recesses of my brain from all those years ago: bagus, baik,and jalan*, I said.  He grinned. I grinned. He told me I had great pronunciation.

I always thought I had no ear for languages, and there is every chance that I don’t and he was only being polite, but regardless, he made my day.

A year ago I was told about the language courses on the duolingo site: The lessons were well designed and were a perfect fit for my needs. They were also free. I signed up for French.

For not one nano second do I think I am a natural with languages but the encounter with the young Indonesian man has inspired me to continue persevering with my course. I know when I visit France again if I can say a wee bit beyond oui and merci, even if it is not pronounced perfectly, it will be well received. Terima kasih**, young man.

*bagus; baik – good; jalan – road

**Terima kasih – thank you

PS (do you do PS in blog posts?) Eleven hours after publishing this post, I received my invoice from WordPress. It was in English and Bahasa Indonesia. I am apparently now bi-lingual.

Grave matters

For years the man and I have talked about changing our life. We have discussed options and mulled over choices. We have prepared well for it, even if I do say so myself, having read every book we can lay our hands on which resonates with the lifestyle we wish to live.

We have waded our way through a diverse range of literature from the whimsical stories of people who have made the leap into their new life, many of whom appear to have opted for a quieter life growing grapes in rural Italy or France as well as writing books on their new life in their spare time, to  texts which explore career options for people who have been in their job 38 years and think a change might be in order. Ever practical, we have also read manuals containing budgeting, retiring, self-sufficiency, and downsizing advice.

Having read Paris Letters* recently and declared to the world via this blog that life was indeed going to change for me within two years, I decided it was timely that I started on the decluttering aspect of the plan.

The obvious place to begin this was the small store room in the roof space in the top bedroom. In here are ten or so boxes** comprising of family photos, many dating back generations, beautiful bone china tea sets, tablecloths hand embroidered by my mother for her trousseau, dressing table sets made by my forebears, some of whom were many greats back, books  and other sentimental things that have been left by my deceased parents. What do we do with them?

The plan was to spend the afternoon working my way through them to establish exactly what was there and then at a date to be decided, my sister and I would get together to make decisions on what is kept and by who, what gets donated and what gets thrown (this will be the smallest pile, we aren’t philistines!)

The exercise didn’t however go exactly to plan. Five minutes in I happened on a folder together with an exercise book that my mother had put together about her life. The sorting stopped. Clutching it, I climbed out of the storeroom and made myself comfortable on the bedroom floor. Starting with the folder, I pored over every certificate, job reference, school report and photo in it. I read the exercise book  from the first to the last page. I was reminded a lot about things I knew and things I knew, but had forgotten. I also learned new things; the most precious one being that my beloved grandmother’s ashes are interred in her parents’ grave at Purewa Cemetery. I will visit.

The folder and exercise book are on the ‘must keep’ pile.

 Paris Letters/ Janice MacLeod

**  There are also two boxes of books the daughter left  when she went overseas. She is back now: they will be returned.

Balancing Act

Two or so years ago, I decided to buy a bike. It was not a bike to be used to get me to work;  although nice in theory, I didn’t fancy sharing the road with the cars in Auckland. The plan instead was to ride a few of the  trails.* I saw the man and myself heading off for one or two days over a weekend to ride the paths in places like the Hauraki Plains on a semi- regular basis. It sounded a nice idea. Doable too. We were keen.

To this end, I set out to find myself a bike; the man already owned one. Research then followed – no surprises there, I am a librarian, so this is a given. The result was that there were two or three models that although not hard core or expensive would allow me to ride  ‘tame’ trails and even on the road, should the need arise.

I didn’t want to spend the money on a new bike, so kept my eye on the online auction site for something suitable. It took a bit of patience but within a month, I  was the proud owner of a ‘new to me’ bike.

This  machine was black and sleek. It had 21 gears; 19 of which were superfluous to my needs for the first few rides. The guy I picked it up from said it had been used only a couple of times so the condition  was superb. I was chuffed.

The following weekend, I had my first spin. The man and I did the circuit round the estuary at Orewa once. We enjoyed it so much, we did it again. All the while, I tried to sort the gears: when and how do I use them? I wobbled a bit. I had the bell sussed quickly though, which was lucky as I hadn’t got a handle on the foot and hand brakes either.

We took the bikes to Hawkes Bay and spent a couple of days exploring the wine country. I got the gears, and brakes sorted. The wobble also.  We got lost and found ourselves pedalling through the industrial outskirts of Hastings, an area of large trucks. The wobble made a brief reappearance. It was fortuitous I rode a machine that did roads.

We had fun. It looked like bike riding was going to become a regular event as planned.

Except it hasn’t.  The bike has sat in the shed gathering dust for the last 18 months or so. We haven’t done any further trails either near or far.

Why? Simply, our work life balance is completely out of whack. Too much work, not enough life.

This needs sorting.


Standing still

Career wise, I have been at  a crossroad.  Should I or shouldn’t I?

Yesterday I came to a decision:  I am not going to apply for the promotion.

Why, you may ask? It’s simple;  the role is the antithesis of the life  I want.

Yes, there are rewards. The larger salary and some would say prestige being two of the obvious, but it comes at a cost I am simply not interested in paying.

I have first hand experience, having held similar positions in the not so distant past. And, even if I do say so myself,  I made a good fist of them.

However, that was before. By climbing another rung in the career ladder, I will be heading in the opposite direction of the life I want.

Standing still is the best way forward.

I slept well last night.

Lessons learned

Although the sailing off into the sunset dream didn’t work out; living aboard was a positive experience.

There is the obvious such as moving from a house to a boat (a tiny house that floats)  is  about minimising. What do we take, what do we pack away in the garden shed and what do we get rid of? I am lucky, I’m not a hoarder and have never been wedded to things. This exercise was easy; even cathartic.

It was however living in the marina that had the most impact on us. There is a huge sense of community. It was village life complete with the leisurely chats in the communal laundry, and the friendly waves  as you passed on the pier, more often than not followed up with the invites aboard for a drink and a yarn. It was pitching in and helping someone berth their boat in stormy weather, knowing full well that the favour would be returned in a heartbeat.

Life in the marina is seasonal: in November the flavour of the marina would change as the cruisers arrived after  scurrying down from the islands to avoid the hurricane season. Some were friends who would spend our winter in the Pacific returning to the marina for the summer and to pick up some work to fund the next trip, yet others were yachties from foreign ports stopping over in New Zealand for maintenance and/or to explore the country.

In winter, the cruisers would leave our shores; some liveaboards would fly off to spend the Northern summer in their homes, be it a house or RV, in Europe or America, and some, like us, saw the winter out tucked up aboard their boat in the marina.

Yes, some were wealthy, but most were ordinary folk who made a conscious choice to live very simply so they could live the lifestyle they wanted.**

We feel fortunate to have been part of this world: the people, many who became friends, were kind, caring and inspirational; the lifestyle was simple and uncomplicated. This is slow living.

* We returned to land when our son bounced home – the boat was a bit small for three of us!

** Lin and Larry Pardey’s books are worth reading, if you are interested in cruising on a budget.

Moving forward

To achieve our aim of living simply is going to require examining every facet of the way we live. Simplifying will take time, I suspect.

I have some ideas: the first is the boat has to go. A boat you may ask? Yes, a 13.5 metre keel boat that a previous owner circumnavigated the world in, to be precise.  I know what you are thinking:  there’s a disconnect between living simply and owning a serious boat. You are right. The purchase price of the boat, marina fees and maintenance do not come cheap and certainly using it for about 20 days at the most per year makes not one iota of sense.

However, I want you to understand it was not bought as a luxury item; it was our home for two years. We got it with the idea that we would sail away. To pay for it we lived aboard and rented our house.  All good in theory, except I discovered I was a fair weather sailor. A flat, calm sea on a lovely summer’s day out sailing and I did fine; the minute the chop got up, mal de mer got me. And if I am being totally honest, when it got even a little bit rough, I got scared.  Not nice. Not  enjoyable.  The dream was ditched.

The boat will go on the market this summer.

Direction rethink

After 38 years in the second oldest profession or so I have been told library work is and 55 years of living in the same city, I think I am in need of a change of lifestyle.

The above statement is scary to a creature of habit like myself, but I do believe that my life will not change unless I step outside the safe zone. After much thinking*, I have decided that the way towards my new life is one of small steps. I therefore will not be resigning my job tomorrow, or selling the house next week to head off without a plan to find my new lifestyle. No, this approach would do my head in; rather I have  given myself two years to change my life and live differently.

I have no idea what my new life will look like,  where it will be or what I will be doing. I know my needs in life are small: I have no interest in owning a flash car, a mansion or a private jet. I think this will work in my favour.

I am an admirer of the slow living, and tiny houses movements.  This should help achieve my dream too.

At the moment, I see my husband and myself living a very simple life by decreasing our outgoings to increase our quality of life. I’d like to reduce the hours of paid work I do so that I can have the time and energy to live more slowly, travel a bit and just be. The husband has similar dreams, but his come with the addition of a big shed, thank you.

I invite you through this blog to come on our journey to achieve our goal to live better by embracing a simpler, slower lifestyle.

* Creatures of habit tend to overthink things I believe and I certainly do

Blog at

Up ↑