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.
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.
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.
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.
The Wild West is alive and well / In case you wondered / Men of Iron / Moving East / One Last Time.
Gerontologists call it the “material convoy”: the stuff we collect that defines our lives. Professional organizers, move managers, and the like might, when no one is within earshot, in a moment of professional weakness, call it “junk.” Everyone has it, but older folks tend to have more of it, if for no other reason than having been on this earth for a longer time. The myriad attachments and related aspects of the self can be carefully delineated, if need be, and include status, sentiment, security, fear, self-image, and hopes for the future. In short, identity. Whether it be furniture, size 4 jeans, shoes, cars, newspapers from the 1980s, or, in my case, a Saf-T-Pop sucker, sitting in my kitchen cupboard for the past five years. I can’t remember how I got it. What I can remember is that when I was a child (in Ye Olden Tymes) my father would bring me one when he returned from work in the afternoon. So, when I acquired this particular Saf-T-Pop I did not consume it immediately. I set it aside. Five years ago. Today, in a fit of whimsy, I ate it. It was a little stale, but I’ve eaten worse. As move managers, we do well to ease our clients away from the tangible relics of memory, reaffirming that what is most dear is stored within. No small stuff.