You know the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”? Well, when it comes to retirement, you might be surprised at what even inanimate objects can teach us about this transition.

If you’re wondering when to retire, grappling with your post-career identity, trying to find a new sense of purpose, sussing out how to live life in a less-structured way, or figuring out how to feel comfortable in your retirement skin, there’s wisdom to be gleaned from everyday objects—if we just pay attention.

So, whether you’re on the road to retirement or already there, here’s a lighthearted lineup of life lessons we can learn from such ordinary items as a lamp, a chair, a corkscrew and more:


  • It’s not always necessary to go full steam ahead; sometimes operating at a lower setting is more appropriate.
  • In retirement, you get to determine which setting you’ll function at.


  • You have to be plugged in in order to shed light on things—in other words, even though you’re stepping away from work, it’s good to stay connected with the world around you.
  • You get to control how bright you shine.


  • Even if you’re sitting on a shelf, you still have wisdom to impart.
  • You don’t need a big title in order to have something of value to offer the world.
  • Your title doesn’t reflect everything that’s inside you.


  • If you get rusty, it’s harder to fulfill your purpose.
  • Getting bent out of shape makes it more difficult to achieve what you’re aiming for.


  • When you’re strong (on the job or in retirement), people rely on you to hold things together.
  • If it feels like you’re tearing off pieces of yourself in order to do your job, maybe it’s time to retire.
  • Stick-to-itiveness is an essential quality for succeeding at just about anything—including establishing new routines in retirement.


  • You have the ability to open up a whole new way of looking at things when you retire.
  • Screw-offs will never make you obsolete because there’s always a need for your capabilities (think of volunteer opportunities).


  • Taking a test drive before making a commitment to retirement can reveal important information about the journey you’re about to take.
  • While it can be helpful to understand where you’re coming from, it’s more important to look ahead at where you’re going.
  • If you don’t pay attention to where you’re going, you probably won’t end up where you want to be.


  • Sometimes just sitting there is the best thing you can do.
  • Providing support and comfort for others can be our best and highest purpose in retirement, especially if a loved one needs caregiving.

Cell phone

  • When we retire, sometimes our connection to people—like former coworkers—can break up.
  • If you focus only on what’s under your nose, you can miss the bigger picture of all that retirement has to offer.
  • Sometimes you just need to disconnect—or at least turn down the volume—in order to listen to your inner voice and determine your priorities in retirement.
  • If you try to do too much, you’ll run out of juice.

Dinner plate

  • If you load yourself up with junk, you won’t have room for the really good stuff.
  • If you pile on too much of anything, it will spill over and get messy.
  • Savor what retirement has to offer—you don’t have to devour everything all at once.


  • You often have to try different options (like various volunteer gigs) before you find the just-right level of comfort.


  • You may be older, but chances are you still have a lot of miles left in you—and ways to fulfill your purpose in retirement.
  • Comfort and support assume greater importance as you get older.
  • When something isn’t a good fit or rubs you the wrong way—and you can’t fix it—let it go.


  • How you see yourself isn’t necessarily how others see you.
  • Taking time for reflection is a critical component of building a satisfying retirement life.


  • When you get in the groove, life in retirement works much more efficiently.


  • It’s important to protect yourself from drips (pre- and post-retirement!).


  • This moment is all there is, and it won’t come again—so live life in retirement as fully as you can.
  • Each of us has 24 hours in a day—you get to choose how to spend them.


  • You don’t fit in everywhere, and that’s okay.
  • You know you’re in the right place when things just click.

Trash can 

  • People will fill you with all sorts of garbage if you let them.
  • It’s important to get rid of things (as well as some relationships) that no longer serve you.
  • Sometimes people toss good stuff your way without even knowing it.


  • If you just lie there, people will walk all over you.
  • It’s rejuvenating to periodically give ourselves a good shake and let go of any debris that’s cluttering up our lives.
  • You can fray at the edges if you don’t take care of yourself.

Picture/artwork on wall

  • If you’re a little off kilter, it can drive some people crazy and they’ll be forever trying to straighten you out.
  • Not everyone will appreciate you, but know that you have your own unique beauty.
  • Even if you’re just hanging around, you still have a purpose; in fact, sometimes just hanging around is the best thing you can do.


  • In retirement, you can tune in to what interests you.
  • You have more bandwidth to enjoy life when you’re not working.
  • There’s always music playing somewhere.

What do you think? What life lessons about retirement—from the ridiculous to the sublime—do you think inanimate objects can impart? Please share!