Main image credit: Tomás Mondragón’s Alegoría de la Muerte (Allegory of Death), Mexico,1856. There is no question that my world is shrinking. Just this afternoon Peter and I were talking about how we go out less often. That is because Peter loves being home almost all the time, and the drive to go on an outing used to come from me. Some months ago I was insatiable—I felt almost every day that I would explode from anxiety if I did not get outside to some or another interesting place, for which a mall or antique store or some other enclosed space where I could walk freely on my own would qualify. The last week or three, though, I—like Peter—was perfectly happy to stay home most of the time.
Left: Gerda taking the air at Millcreek Gardens where we buy most of our plants. Right: Gerda used to go to Fashion Place Mall all the time, sometimes with Peter, sometimes with the bus or Uber.
I hope the only reason for my peaceful homebodiness is NOT mainly that I am 1), temporarily enjoying a quieter time after all the activity surrounding my book launch and 2) temporarily inspired with the remaining tasks of refurbishing our house after the painting.
Our Lazyboy BEFORE; it is up for re-upholstery as soon as we are on top of the list…
While awaiting our his-and-her Lazyboy to be reupholstered so we can get our living room up to date, I am continuing to declutter our house—mostly my personal possessions. Mostly clothing.
I used to think of my clothes as “my wardrobe.” These days, though, the ability to conceptualize a whole closet of clothes is too much for me. I now manage my clothes by thinking of them as “outfits.” I dare not mix and match as I used to, because if I do, I lose track of my favorite combinations and accessories for, say, a particular pair of pants. Accordingly, a major part of my declutttering constituted the project of arranging and documenting my outfits. It kept me busy for weeks—I actually started at the start of Spring.
Although the project frustrated me a lot on some days when I kept getting confused and could not locate objects even though they were in my field of vision, it was overall very pleasant. In retrospect I think of each the many steps (and sub-steps) of the project as a small pleasure.
Pleasure #1: With Peter’s help, but quite a bit on my own, I photographed all of my summer clothes and wrote the combination of tops, pants, shoes, and jewelry for each outfit down on a card to help me remember what goes with what. Given how many items I threw out in my purge, my outfits had changed enough that my previous photos and cards were no longer useful.
Step 1: Lay an outfit on the bed. Step 2: ask Peter to take a photo of me wearing it.
Step 3: Buy a photo album. Step 4: Arrange photos in the album by outfit.
Step 5: Hang all items of an outfit together in closet, complete with jewelry, belts, and any other accessories. And don’t forget the note cards!
Pleasure #2: As a reward for completing the sorting and organizing of my clothes that I keep on hangers, I bought matching containers for the items on my shelves that do not stack well—such as my knee-high (panty) hose—that I have always stored in shoeboxes or baskets formerly used by my grandchildren to gather easter eggs! I usually don’t like matching things, but for an orderly-looking closet these containers do work better.
Left: After using all the containers I had bought, one set of my non-stacking items was not yet accounted for: while my light-colored knee highs found a good home in the container on the left, the space on the right—where the second shoebox for my black hose used to fit—was now too small for any of the container sizes I had bought. Right: Imagine my pleasure when I returned to the Container Store and found a container of exactly the right width!
Pleasure #3: Having dealt with the “work” part of organizing my clothes, I indulged in the even larger pleasure of sorting through the file in my study where I keep magazine tear-outs of fashion items I like. I have long wanted to make a fashion “idea board.” I fetched from downstairs an Escher-inspired print by Irvine Peacock that I had bought for the space where our grandchildren play, and hung it in my study. With images from my folder that I like a lot, I started my idea board on top of the Castle of Illusions.
Left, the Escher-style print against my study wall, below a painting my mother had made during her last visit to us in America (aprox 1995). Right, Close-up of the magic castle.
Left and middle: Gucci ensembles that I would love if I had that kind of money—and were that skinny! Right, Etro pants and “cloak.”When I first saw the pants, I was willing to pay a big chunk of my yearly “allowance” if I could only find them. I think they made only one pair for the photo shoot…
While all this was going on, I actually did have “real”work to do, but I keep prioritizing the tasks that offered the most pleasure. Almost all my life my favorite activities were “in my head”—writing, reading, learning something new. One could call them intellectual pleasures. Today my biggest pleasures are more tactile and visual. I don’t think they are in any way “inferior” to my former pleasures, though my former activities were more exacting to my brain—a full cardio workout vs a leasurely stroll. However, my fleeting pleasures don’t contribute to my “legacy” goal of completing the family history books for my grandchildren that I started shortly after Kanye (now 10) was born.
With my clothing project done, I have actually resumed working on the kids’ books. My new calmness and more frequent periods during which my anxiety abates have made the research and writing of our family history a pleasure.
The most recent page I completed for my grandchildren’s family history books—and that was at least 18 months ago.
In the past I made 3 “originals” of each page, one for each grandchild. I printed and cut the illustrations out by hand, for example the image of Alexander the Great on his horse as well as the ancient Greek coins. The bottom of the page consists of a picture booklet thad the kids can open. I have completed at least one book for each grandhild, but I can no longer manage the fine paper cutting a scrapbook-style page requires. For now, therefore, I am working on just getting the story of the Saunderses and Steenekamps written (including illustrations)—maybe the next generation will put the story on paper. Even so, it sometimes gets difficult and exhausting and hard on my brain. However, I am determined to complete as much of it as I can in the relatively good brain time I have left.
How much good brain time do I have left? Illustration accompanying article titled “Alzheimer’s linked with cerebrovascular diseases.” Oh: so my macrovascular dementia makes me a candidate for Alzheimer’s too! Enough already 🙂
The picture reminds me: it’s a pity that fall and winter are already all over the Wasatch mountains and Salt Lake City clothing stores—soon I’ll have to organize my winter outfits as well….