Have You Thanked Your Stuff Today?

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Marie Kondo is a supreme delight. The Container Store is Quaking in its Boots

See her in action:

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Gently Fold

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It isn’t often that we are able to step outside of ourselves and see the smallest bit of this world passing us by, unconcerned with our curious gaze. As someone whose work involves sorting through all the stuff your mom and dad have in the garage, or the office, or the kitchen, I can tell you that it is often best to half close the eyes, in the interest of moving forward. There is dust. There is junk. There is too much of too much.

Every so often a scrap of paper hits me in the face. Not literally, although that happens, too. But a page torn from an old cookbook, a formerly blank page with a handwritten recipe for some sort of cake, deserves some thought. This woman made a cake, in her kitchen, for the people she loved. There was an occasion, a birthday, a holiday, or maybe she was the sort of woman who made cakes just because. A small affirmation, here in her own handwriting—the kind of handwriting of the generation now dying off: the rhythmic, steady Palmer Method, carefully studied and practiced until calluses formed on the fingers. The writing is just the kind that you want your mom to have: stable, steady, and dependable. It is beautiful.

I sometimes feel like an archaeologist bearing witness to a lost world: no one uses the Palmer Method anymore; the teaching of cursive is not coming back. The same feeling emerges when I find an old Monopoly set, with a cloth board and wooden houses. The pieces of our lives. The matchbook collections. Matchbooks were colorful reminders of where we’d been: stylish and useful for lighting all those glamorous cigarettes that people smoked for their health (that was a long time ago). Most places don’t have them anymore.

I can’t lament the passing of time: it’s bigger than me. It’s terrifying, and oddly comforting. Every day, our lives connect through the procession of trivia and significance that surrounds us. If we find ourselves mired in a wish for the past it could be because we fail to see it surrounding us still. Every day connects to the one before, and to the one that follows. If time were a string I could find my way back to the day that woman made a cake. I could touch her flour-dusted cheek and tell her not to be afraid. I could tell her.

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Aging Right Before Your Eyes. . . .Time is but a Stream

imagesIn the spirit of Halloween, take a look at how quickly we age. In geologic time, you are not even the gnat on the hide of a buffalo. It’s ok. Cheers.

Time is but a stream I go a-fishing in. . .

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The Art of Aging

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Let’s face it: getting old is scary.

Richard and Alice Matkin had the same fears about aging that many others share: loss of independence, physical strength and beauty, identity itself. As artists, they used their creative strengths to explore the topic of aging, and found a sense of beauty, strength, and joy not typically championed in our culture. The power of art works to diminish our fears, and connects us to one another as we make our way into the future.

Richard and Alice Matkin: Celebrating the Authentic Aging Self

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Open Eyes, Open Heart

houses.flat.torn  About one-quarter of Americans currently engage in some sort of volunteer work. Almost all of them will tell you that they “get more than they give” in return for their time. When it comes to helping older adults, the time spent to ease someone’s isolation is invaluable for everyone involved. Watch this young man become great friends with this old man: open your eyes, open your heart.

This brief clip details the beauty of a simple act of volunteerism.

Give for Life: Tom’s Story

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Moving Forward: Clear the Clutter, Cut the Dead Sharks

This room is not that cluttered.

This room is not that cluttered.

Let’s face it: we’re obsessed with clutter.

It defines us, mystifies us, and embarrasses us all at once (sort of like first husbands and toddlers). In fact, the Professional Organizer Ladies* (Hi NAPO!) have completely cluttered up The Internets with advice about “getting rid of clutter,” as if it were as easy as ordering neatness up from a catalog (helpful hint #325: stop ordering stuff from catalogs. In fact, go right now and throw away those catalogs on the dining table. I’ll wait. . . . ). Better? Yes. Maybe dust the table? (it never ends. . . .).

In fact, clutter is easy, but you first have to swallow a bitter bitter pill: the change comes from within. The problem, as they say, is in your mirror. So, in addition to realizing you need to clean the mirror, you also need to recognize the one true, oft-repeated wise-advice of anti-clutter gurus: every piece of clutter is a decision deferred. When you hear that little voice that says you’ll do it later, pay attention. That’s your weak link. Habit is all.

Of course, clutter is an emotional minefield: it’s connected to our past, our identity, our grief, our dreams, our loves. But in the end, our relationship with clutter keeps us from moving forward. And if we can’t move forward. . .How Many Dead Sharks Does it Take to Throw Away Those Old Birthday Cards? If we can’t move forward, we die. Or we live in a messy room, which is even worse.

Fortunately, one of the most useful lists ever created about clearing some space in head and home is below. So don’t go to The Container Store. You don’t need anything that you won’t get here:  25 Things to Throw Out Today! (Because yesterday is gone. . .). You’re welcome.

*ok, some NAPO folks are men. But most are ladies.

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Donner, Party of .875

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I recently traveled to the frozen hinterland of Colorado. It was May, thirty degrees Fahrenheit, snowing. The clerk at the rental car window had the worst cold I’ve ever seen. I could feel his germs compromising my immune system. It would only be a matter of minutes until my reasoning ability would be detrimentally affected. Driving from Denver to Colorado Springs, I could sense the real possibility of a modern day Donner party (“Donner, party of nine, uh, eight, no wait, seven. . . .?“) coming my way. True, I was alone, but hunger is a powerful force (“Donner, party of one, uh, no, 7/8ths. . .?”). Snow is terrifying. I live where, at times, planes cannot land because the tarmac is melting. A place where I cover the cacti in shade cloth this time of year. For their own good.

About my stunningly poor sense of direction. Yes, it is a straight shot from Denver to Colorado Springs. South, I think. Yes, I had MapQuest telling me exactly what to do. Yes, NPR kept me company and provided the illusion of civilization. And yes, I recently got lost –I prefer momentarily misdirectioned– driving through the neighborhood where I went to high school (see: Ye Olden Tymes).

The point of my visit was to earn my designation as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Apparently, finding Colorado Springs on a map is the first part of this intensive process. My experience only underscored the comfort we derive from our familiar surroundings. Want to age in place until “A Rose for Emily” seems like a reasonable plan? I get it. Just don’t go outside. It’s cold out there.

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