Help me figure out how to build an idle life.
December 8, 2013 11:34 AM   Subscribe

I've recently become unemployed and am taking this opportunity to rethink my lifestyle. Help me figure out how to build an idle life.

I had been working in retail for a few years before eventually getting a promotion which brought in more money (only £20k though) but at the cost of being much, much busier (taking work home, working all hours, huge pressure, corporate environment). I tried the new job for a couple of months and then quit as I felt I was on the verge of having a meltdown, didn't really need the extra money anyway, and hated my boss and the work itself. I'm much, much happier for having left. I'm taking this gap in employment as an opportunity to re-assess and plan for the future. Having turned 30 this year I feel I've got a reasonable handle on what I want from life, what makes me happy, and what makes me miserable.

So, as I said, I'm 30 years old, I'm also male, British, single, and have no desire to ever have kids. I own my house (with an affordable mortgage) and car (paid off), and have no debt, so I'm in good shape financially. I don't have expensive taste or big dreams, and am relatively content at home with my books and computer games, and beyond a certain level I'm just not financially motivated at all. I would like to get married and settle down someday but as I said, I'm not planning on having kids.

As for work I have experience in retail, giving training, and have a couple of unrelated degrees under my belt too, so I'm fairly able academically. I absolutely want out of retail and customer service. I'm burned out and I can't stand the thought of going back to it. I'm sick and tired of the fake smiles, white lies, and emotional labour of retail, and I'm done with the financially-motivated, driven corporate environment and its lunatic work-ethic. And I'm not sure what to do next.

In an ideal world I'd like to work 30 (or less) hours per week (4 working days per week maximum) doing something not terribly demanding but somewhat fulfilling (and which doesn't require me to get my hands dirty), then go home to my lovely wife (who doesn't exist yet) and our nice house (which does) where I pursue my hobbies (currently reading novels and playing videogames but I think I need more hobbies, maybe writing one day, maybe further study) and live in modest, unambitious comfort. If I had to summarise my personality I'd perhaps say I'm an optimistic nihilist who is prone to bouts of depression (nihilistic in that I don't see very much point in anything, and optimistic in the sense that I'm quite content to fart around anyway most of the time).

I've kind of meandered away from what I originally meant to ask - which was something about building up an idle or chilled-out life, and something about what sort of job I ought to pursue next. Anyway, I hope there's enough here to constitute a 'question' and look forward to hearing your 'answers', however meandering they might also be.

Thank you.
posted by 1d2d3 to Work & Money (11 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: -- Eyebrows McGee

Can you tell us what your unrelated degrees are in? I realise you may not want to put those to work directly but they may (or may not) open the door to a path you've not considered.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:48 AM on December 8, 2013

This is the life most people want - jobs that are not terrible demanding, somewhat fulfilling, short workweek and also pay well but minus white lies, fake smiles, and lunatic work-ethics. Everyone wants this. You have to figure out what you can provide that others can't that would make you deserving of a very nice set-up.

That being said if you have the tolerance for it, freelance work like software/website/app development might work.
posted by bleep at 12:08 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

There are books you might be interested in; I particularly enjoyed How to Be Idle and
How to Survive Without a Salary -- do check out the related books that come up when you look at those ones, too.
posted by kmennie at 12:09 PM on December 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: DarlingBri - I have a degree in Psychology and a masters in the visual arts (that was purely for enjoyment though). I have no work experience relating to my degrees.

bleep - I take your point. Two things - first, yes a lot of people would aspire to this lifestyle. However, not everyone can afford to live on a 4 day week of relatively low-paying work. I'm fortunate in that I can because my bills are low, I have no dependants, and my idea of a "very nice set-up" isn't ostentatious. Second thing - how would I "figure out what [I] can provide that others can't"? I'm average in most respects with no particular skills nor a particularly strong work-ethic. This is really the crux of my post - figuring out where to go from here.

kmennie - Thanks for the book recommendations. I haven't heard of the one about surviving without a salary. I did read "How to be idle" and while it was entertaining I didn't really draw much from it but thanks anyway.
posted by 1d2d3 at 12:41 PM on December 8, 2013

Best answer: Start budgeting and identify any overspends (eg huge grocery spend).
Should you become self-employed, or even a combo of self employment and work adding up to 35 hrs a week, you may qualify for housing benefit and working tax credits. I used to know a lot of people getting by with a few shifts somewhere disposable (hello call centers) and that. Maybe that's from a pre austerity era though. And they went dumpster diving.
If you have the aptitude, care work can be easy to break into (high demand), better paid, more flexible and a lot more honest and rewarding than retail / customer service.
The "Poorcraft" book seems to get mentioned in these threads a lot.
Sounds almost like you're on a mission to take some time out (and the next career will appear when the burnout goes away). I would recommend one thing which is knowing in advance how long you got left at the current income/spend/savings before money runs out, so you won't at some point be finding yourself having to make money fast.
Sadly, none of this takes into account any pension money or anything like that which I wouldn't know how to sort out with an idle life.
posted by yoHighness at 12:52 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Most work that has shift style work, often has the opportunity to work more or less hours if you are available.
If you want to do less hours, you kind of have to be a little bit more awesome for them to feel like it is worth it, but it is often doable.

Look at one of Barbara Sher's books to really narrow down what it is that feels 'fulfilling' for you, without being too demanding, because that really varies from person to person.

Like, for me, doing basic IT Helpdesk is pretty fine for that, because while the problems don't change too much, and it can be a bit boring, I like helping people with their problems, so I still find that somewhat fulfilling. For other people, that would be hell.

Track down what aspects of a job feel fulfilling to you, to figure out what options you have available.
posted by Elysum at 1:52 PM on December 8, 2013

Yes, yoHighness makes a very important point. You need to plan for retirement while you're planning your comfortable life. Lots can change between now and then if you're only 30, so make sure that you earn not just enough to get by now, but enough to save a little each week toward retirement. Whatever you would get for a retirement benefit (I'm American and have no idea how retirement works in Britain) you should plan on having something set aside beyond that.

Customer service is easier if you aren't doing it F2F. Call centers are ideal for leaving work at work: at the end of the day you stand up, walk out the door, and live your life. Perhaps a high tech "help desk" kind of position, where you solve intriguing puzzles and then go home? To work part time and earn enough to live, you need a skill. Get one.
posted by clone boulevard at 2:19 PM on December 8, 2013

Have you thought about something like emergency response call centre work or ambulance/EMT certification? Nursing also allows you to pick shifts if you do cover or agency work.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:27 PM on December 8, 2013

What I did was move out to the countryside and found employment with a small but successful family-run business.
posted by wats at 4:09 PM on December 8, 2013

I have a degree in Psychology and a masters in the visual arts (that was purely for enjoyment though). I have no work experience relating to my degrees.

User Experience Designer, freelance style. Done and done.

Okay, more seriously, look into some training, some self study via websites and books.. Take a couple courses. Spend a couple years at a company doing this entry level to learn the ropes, then either move to freelancing, or find the company that will let you work your ideal hours. A lot of ux types freelance, and ux designers are in pretty high demand right now.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:16 PM on December 8, 2013

Have you considered manual labour? I know you say you don't want to get your hands dirty, but do you mean "covered in dirt" or "not too much responsibility please"?

I was thinking about your situation and priorities, and it made me think of the time I spent working as a gardener. It was a lot of fun. Fresh air, exercise, nice camaraderie between the lads on the van, and a great deal of satisfaction from the sense of doing something tangible and useful. "Fake smiles, white lies, and emotional labour" factor: zero.

If this idea appeals at all (not necessarily gardening; any manual trade might fit the bill), there's a book that might lead you in the right direction: The Case for Working with Your Hands: Or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good.

An aside:

"A masters in the visual arts (that was purely for enjoyment though)"

Is this really as throwaway as you make it sound? Why not follow your enjoyment and see where it leads?

Good luck! I hope you find what you're looking for.
posted by ZipRibbons at 3:16 AM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

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