By Cindy Phillips updated Thu, Jan 9, 2014 01:49 PM
I just moved into a new home. I did it two days after Christmas which was not the best timing, but it saved me a boatload of money that can go into my retirement account instead. These days, the main focus is the retirement account and how to catch up on 40 years of underfunding.
For Boomers, moving at this age is typically about downsizing – and I have succeeded on that front. It’s a studio apartment – all of 629 square feet. I had two friends come to see it and I worried that all three of us would not fit in here at the same time. We made it, but if one of us had sneezed there is no telling what damage might have been done.
I guess the last time I lived in a space this small was my dorm room in college. When my mom drove me the 90 miles from Long Island to New Paltz, NY, it was the first time I had ever been away from home. My new found freedom was both exhilarating and scary, but I got over the scary part in less than a week.
My roommate’s name was Holly, also a Long Island girl. She was an art major – along with the stereotypical artsy personality. Easy-going, cerebral and partaking of elixirs before breakfast. In the room across the hall was Lynn and her roommate, another art major. Lynn and I hit it off and suggested to the two artists that we switch roommates since they had so much in common. Though I think they saw right through our ruse, they agreed. Two weeks later Lynn’s former roommate got homesick and dropped out of school leaving Holly a room to herself for the rest of the semester.
But Lynn and I were happy as larks sharing that tiny box with two closets, two beds, two desks, two dressers and a window that overlooked the most beautiful maple tree on campus. We set about making our sterile dorm room feel more like home. First there was the area rug – a gold shag that I think was pulled up from my bedroom at home when mom immediately turned my room into a den upon my departure. It did the trick of covering the hospital-looking linoleum and it was much warmer on the feet during the cold winters. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a vacuum cleaner. So once a week we rolled up that carpet, dragged it down two flights of stairs and brought it outside to shake it out – a task that would have posed a struggle even for Hercules.
We also outfitted the room with a mini-fridge and an illegal hot plate. Discovering quickly that the college meal plan left a lot to be desired, we were determined to have home-cooked meals. It was a nightly occurrence for our wing to go dark when all the hot plates fired up at the same time and flipped the breakers. Our RA (resident assistant) was cool about it and would tell us to be more careful. But the resident fire marshall, a senior and “Big Man on Campus”, would read us the riot act and threaten expulsion.
Though the room was tiny and sparse, the memories created there were happy and long-lasting. To this day, Lynn and I can fondly recall our late-night chats, cramming for tests, listening to music and having one of our hall mates continually sneak in and put food coloring in our mashed potatoes and corn!
Many of us Boomers left college and started down the path of the ever-expanding digs. There was the after-college apartment in the city with friends, the luxury apartment as newlyweds and the starter house that signaled a foray into settling down and becoming responsible. The houses grew larger as the number of children, and the salaries, increased. Once grown, the children left home making way for the aging parents to move in, often physically or mentally unable to live on their own.
Eventually many of us reach the point where we are ready to come full circle. We purge the material things, simplify and move into a senior citizen version of our dorm room.
Though my apartment resembles the size of that dorm room in Bouton Hall at SUNY New Paltz, the similarities end there. Older, wiser and in better financial shape than a college student, I have earned the right to be a little picky and to treat myself to a few luxuries.
Though the apartment is small and cozy, the grounds are lush. I chose the building that overlooks an apple orchard as opposed to a parking lot. The pool area could pass for a tropical resort complete with cabana, big screen tv and an oversized gas grill. The clubhouse offers free coffee, bottled water and WiFi.
I also treated myself to a shopping spree for some furniture pieces, kitchen items and linens. My brand new set of stainless steel pots and pans is a welcome addition to the ultra-modern kitchen. The garden tub is deep and wide. Every appliance is high-efficiency and brand new.
So I came full circle the Boomer way – smaller but definitely better. The question is whether or not the memories will be as rich and vivid as those of the past. I’ve got wood floors, but maybe I’ll add a gold shag rug just for the fun of it. And Lynn Bauer – you’re invited to come sneak food coloring into my potatoes.
Cindy Phillips is a columnist for The Mountain Times. She can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.