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A key step in our plan to Retire at 45 was…

  1. We figured out what really mattered to us.

We made lots of steps along the way to figure out what really mattered to us:

  • We knew our son Tom was of utmost importance so getting married to give him security was a first step; Dan’s adoption of him was the second, making what we’d already given credence a legalized entity.
  • We agreed to quit smoking before we got married. (Danny says I had to be sure he could do it before taking the plunge.  It was the hardest time I’d ever had of it.)
  • We agreed to vote, every year (otherwise, there would be no basis for complaining).
  • We strove to be happy and to help others be happy along our way.
  • We realized the planet was kind of falling apart so we might want to find an alternate plan for living more simply, healthy and still happy.

The more we read, the more we realized other things:

  • How poison our food system is ~ Eating more local and organic was going to be key.
  • How poorly designed our homes are ~ Finding ways to build efficiently and with less (size/materials/poisons) was important.
  • How dependent we are on big systems ~ Water companies, electrical, phone and computer networks, the food and clothing industry overwhelmed us. Was there a way we could find more self-sufficiency?
  • How busy life is ~ Determining what is really crucial to our happiness would likely involve a more simple life, a more slow life, a life less focused on stuff and doing and more focused on just being.

Meanwhile, life was happening…

We’ve come a little way from the days when it seemed we constantly figured out things a minute too late… though we still have some face palm moments. When we built the house in Indy in 2002, we bought a stick built house in a subdivision with an HOA.  Never Again.  What a mistake this was… for so many reasons.  We did some things right.  We put a basement on the smallest home they offered so kept the initial investment low while maximizing space.  We also added a screened-in back porch which became the favorite room in the house, especially for our cat Lucky.  But a couple years later as we learned more about green building, we realized we were not oriented for solar gain and we had poor window placement for energy efficiency.  We found out that the HOA didn’t allow solar panels of any kind and we couldn’t even have a clothesline.  Lucky for us, we had that screened in porch where we put up two clothes lines – they can’t tell you what you can do inside your own home.  During a power outage, we saw how helpless and useless our home truly would be without electricity, water and sewage systems. Needless to say, our goal to reduce our impact on the planet, which we realized was high on our list of important things, was going to be an uphill battle at this location.

Side story: We had a big realization in how poison our homes can be when we moved into the new house and, within a few months, I was having recurring dizzy spells.  Turned out, the outgassing of all the new carpet, cabinets, paint, etc. was overloading my system with allergens.  This turned into an almost year long process which included me being on disability for my job.  My company actually told ME that I had to go on leave, after I’d been working for months with pretty serious vertigo.  I had been having Dan drive me to customer visits as driving was no longer possible but it was the company that realized I was also probably not safe walking plant floors at our customer locations. I wanted to stay on, at least continuing with e-mails and claim resolution as best I could but they put me on an indefinite leave of absence. At one point I was sure I was going to have a new disease named after me, but in the end, it turned out to be only allergies. But that’s a longer story for another day.

So how did we figure out what was important?  Dan and I are big believers in talking, about everything.  As we talked more and more in getting to know each other, we found lots of synergies in our belief systems.  There were four tenets that helped us get to figuring out what was most important to us:

  • Communication
  • Compromise
  • Cooperation
  • Conservation

We knew that Communication was key in staying on track as a couple and to accomplish whatever goals we would have in our marriage and as parents. As long as we keep talking, we can work through anything, and we’ve walked through some struggles. This focus adheres to our son as well, who probably wishes we didn’t talk quite so openly about EVERYTHING.  But he does appreciate that we were and continue to be open with him.  We don’t lie to him (well, except for that one Santa Claus incident…) and it’s served us well.  I’ll share another time on my ideas for successful parenting.

Dan and I agree that neither of us should have to sacrifice but that we can Compromise.  There are things that I don’t agree with or enjoy but that aren’t important to me, so it’s fine if Dan wants to make decisions on things like watching NASCAR or listening to the Indy 500 (yep, there is a trend there).  I did go to the Brickyard 400 with him once and it was an amazing experience of a sea of humanity, but not something I care to repeat.  He pretty much stays out of craft world, allowing me to have space I need and to organize it however I want.  But in order to live together peaceably, we either need to agree on things or be able to find Compromise.  Luckily, we agree on much.  I will say Danny is pretty great about letting me do things the way I want most days. Though I have come to realize as I age that there is more than one way to do things, and that my way doesn’t always work best for everyone.

A big part of our success is being able to Cooperate.  This is similar to Compromise but more focused on action.  Our Cooperation takes many forms but definitely involves both of us doing our fair share.  There have been times when I felt like I was doing the lion’s share or when Danny has taken this role.  But usually, this is short-lived and often occurs when one or the other of us is feeling low on resources, so it is more the result of grumpiness or self-pity than a true reflection of reality.  We worked together on getting to this place where I could leave the full-time workforce.  We saved money, built for our future and planned for my escape.  Dan has done much more of the work on the Harn development while I have done more of the money-making in the last couple years.  We both have done work in housekeeping over the years (Dan is a better housekeeper than me, much better).  The running joke when I was working full-time and he was home-making, was that I FINALLY got the “wife” I always needed.  He’s quite secure in his masculinity even going so far as to put “Housewife” on his tax returns.  He really is a wonderful housekeeper and I’m struggling with being able to transition into this role as he’s moved into the workforce.

Conservation is something that we both agree is critical to a sustainable future.  With the poison in our food system, the consumption and destruction of our planet, the desperation in our consumer economy, it’s important to us to focus on reducing, reusing, recycling and just plain not wasting (time, money or resources).  A key goal in the plan to Retire at 45 was to move to a more Conserving way of life.  Dan achieved his Permaculture Design Certification in 2011 and our plan for the future is largely focused on moving toward a Permaculture Homestead with a more self-supplied food base that is rooted in Conservation.  The overlying principle of Permaculture is “Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share” (though there are lots of variations on this wording) which means that we care for our planet and the people on it while allowing for fair use of the available resources and yields.  I’ll be sharing more about Permaculture in later posts.  Until then, here are a couple links for your edification:  http://www.patternliteracy.com/resources/ethics-and-principles   http://www.permacultureactivist.net/intro/PcIntro.htm

Next week I’ll talk more about how we planned for and made happen the Dream to Retire at 45.