Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Swedish Death Cleaning

Image result for swedish death cleaning
For the past decade, I've helped my husband's parents with all manner of things. I'm a great daughter-in-law, if I may say so, and love my married-into family. I think with my parents already gone, I have a bit more emotional space than folks who still have their parents, so it's a win-win for everyone involved.

My husband's mother, an avid collector, has amassed a layered and rich collection of objects, all displayed in lovely ways. She has been super creative her entire life, mostly in the domestic arts, and her work has brought the family much joy. Every holiday involved a dinner with spectacular centerpieces. We're talking Easter, 4th of July, St. Patty's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Halloween, Robert Burns supper, and everyone's birthday, celebrations of promotions, dinners to nurse those not feeling well, and more -- I'm sure I'm missing something.

Over her lifetime, she taught classes in teddy bear making, how to do general embroidery, and also Shisha embroidery. Much of her work is now with many of us; my husband has three brothers. She is still with us, though not living in the home I'm describing - it's round the clock care time. It's hard to grasp that she is not the ruler of her little castle any longer, but time stops for no woman.

But back to this topic of cleaning, and Mom's vast collection. Where to begin? She collected teddy bears, many of them vintage Steiff, and by "collect" I mean hundreds. Some bears are so small they fit in your palm. There's also miniature furniture, to go in the beautiful doll houses. Sets and sets of china and glasses, and embroidery supplies -- so much thread you can't imagine, coupled with so many scissors. As a calligraphy artist, she had pens galore in a rainbow of colors, all stored in English crocks. The teddy bears have complete wardrobes, including glasses and passports and tiny notebooks and cutlery of their own, with table cloths and luggage it all fits into. There are chocolate molds, and handmade decor for every holiday, and Pendleton blankets in so many patterns, and a miniature pen collection, and Limoges boxes, and garden rabbits that hold succulents, and a dozen military macaws hanging along the backyard fence keeping watch. There are dainty handkerchiefs and lace doilies, carefully stored with tissue. There are scores of cookbooks and herb books and art books. She loves Brighton handbags and Indian jewelry. She loves Laura Ashley and Mary Engelbreit and Martha Stewart and McKenzie-Childs. She always had an ikebana arrangement on display when you came in the front door, and she took classes at the Athenaem to get even better at it; though she was a natural in floral arrangement. She and her husband held years and years of mystery dinner theaters with a small group of friends, who all traveled to London for more mystery dinnering, with some of the group still faithful friends to this day. What a rich life. What a beautiful life, full of all the things she loved. Oh, and Dad collects fountain pens. If you're getting a picture of a packed house, albeit a beautifully arranged one, you are getting the right idea.

For the last many years, during our daily call to Mom we'd ask what's going on?, and the answer among other things was: "oh, clearing things out. Sorting things. Getting rid of things." From where I sit today, in the midst of these collections and trying to figure destinations for everything, it's obvious that maybe things were moved from here to there, but out the door they did not go!

So recently, the topic of Swedish Death Cleaning has emerged, and I am fascinated by it along with all things minimalism, which for me includes Marie Kondo and The Minimalists and Live Planted and The Mustards and many others trying to live with less clutter and less work, so they can have more time, more experiences, and more life. "Things" own us they say, and they do, because they require us to manage them, sort them, pay rent on them, keep them clean and organized -- all things that cost us something whether time or money or mind space.

At this point in my life, I'm not a good, or even okay, minimalism example, though my goal is to whittle it down to the essentials. May each essential be the most beautiful essential, but by god let there be few of them. Without children, who will have to deal with this if I leave a mess behind? One of my nieces? Our only nephew? My husband, if I go first? A friend? I don't want that for anyone.

I just ordered The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning for a friend and me; we talk almost daily and lately our chatter has been on this topic, and it's pertinent because I am in the throes of cleaning out said collection above. It's been real motivation to not leave my "collection" to anyone. For one reason, it's draining work, full of memories that you can't help but relive. I feel like each item deserves its honoring, as its fate is determined.

So to all those with hoards, maybe get this book, too, and do your döstädning before someone else has to do it for you. 






Saturday, October 12, 2019

Favorites List - October


Favorites List (09.08.18)
(c) Heidi Swanson

































One of my favorite 'Favorites Lists' is published by Heidi Swanson, an LA-based cookbook author, occasional designer, shop owner and creator of 101 Cookbooks. Here are all her favorites lists; literally months worth of exploring. Years?
Lately I've enjoyed:

Alison Roman's chickpea stew - So, I made it the other night and it is delicious. I did not add the greens, but I covered it with avocado and tons of cilantro. It was even better the next day. One tip: when she says salt and pepper it three times, I forget the stages, do that.  

The Slow Home podcast - This couple has great guests and I love the cadence of their talks. Brooke McAlary and her husband Ben have a really sweet, nurturing and non-interrupting communication style. Just listened to the interview with Joshua Becker, one of the first minimalists I learned about. It was Episode 7; I have started at the beginning of their 3 seasons of podcasts, so working my way through.

This makeup tutorial by Liv Tyler - not only because her voice lulls me to sleep, but because she goes through such an interesting array of serums and potions; French, Korean, clean beauty and otherwise. She clearly has, or makes, the luxury of time. Funnily, she gets her beauty tips from her Dad

End of day de-cluttering. A favorite activity lately: I've been ending the workday with a bag-fill of items for donation or throwing out. It could be just 5 small items, but I always find something. I'm going through files and purging paper, collecting things that I know certain people would like, etc. With the end of the remodel in sight, I'm looking forward to doing this even more intentionally. The Courtney Carver workshop is a great motivator. 

And with that, happy weekend all.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Where did my interest in Minimalism begin?

Image result for helen and scott nearing
Helen and Scott Nearing

I’m always learning as much as I can about simple living. It appeals in so many ways. I’m even taking a course right now called Soulful Simplicity. Here’s a link to the course, which is closed now but reopens in 2020.  It was created by Courtney Carver, the inventor of Project 333; also worth a Google.

But today I was wondering where this fascination began. Sure, I got on board with TheMinimalists guys early on and probably listened to 100 or so of their podcasts. I still dip in occasionally for a listen. But it really started with Scott and Helen Nearing, in my mind, the OGs of simple living. Their foundation website is here.  Scott and Helen were homesteaders, and I mean hardcore: root cellars, canning, popcorn for dinner, cold winters, simple Thoreau-style living quarters. Serious about it. And now as I look back, this is where the early concepts of minimalism entered my mind. I was younger when I read their books, and it appealed to me because I had the strength to have maybe pulled it off. Finding a willing partner, now that’s another story. But at my age now it sounds like a cold winter I’d never make it out alive from. Heavens to Betsy, turn on that heater!

I don’t know where this path leads, but it resonates so deeply with me. And with that, good night and sweet dreams to all.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Build in buffers

two red cushions near body of water
Last week, I went to lunch at a favorite spot, got a veggie sandwich on olive oil bread and sat in my car parked in the shade in front of a large green plot of grass. Trees swaying, cool breeze and the dulcet tones of one of my fave podcasts: The Slow Home Podcast https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-slow-home-podcast-with-brooke-mcalary/id985005895
It's run by a couple who shares interesting updates and advice on living slower in a fast paced world; they also host guests. I loved a concept they shared about building buffers into your days. Little breaks from the busy life agenda - always a good thing.
In other news, we recently saw Downton Abbey and Ad Astra. Both great.
Better still, I'm enrolled in Courney Carver's Soulful Simplicity course based on her book https://bemorewithless.com/soulful-simplicity/ and it's very helpful. If you have any desire to simplify your life, check her out.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

New Film: by the National and Mike Mills - I Am Easy to Find

The new film by Mike Mills with music by The National tells a story of a woman's life from birth to the end of her life. It stars Alicia Vikander who plays the role to perfection. It's a winding, emotion-filled and beautifully shot story that is made more intriguing by A.V. playing the part in her current age, though the story begins with her as an infant. Her movements change as her age changes, and the nuance of those movements I think is what makes the film so great especially at the beginning. I was glued to it from the first moments, and of course as a big fan of The National, I loved every note of the soundtrack. I had to watch it again - no less compelling the second time.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Brian Eno - Workday soundtrack

Brian Eno-Discreet Music
Always a mainstay for the workday. Ambient, not particularly melancholy, nuanced, flowing. No words, so it doesn't distract from writing. I was introduced to Brian E. by a friend, Lee, many years ago and never looked back. It does make you feel like you should be wearing Vikander's suit from Ex Machina. Or Cameron's from Continuum.

Image result for ex machina

Image result for continuum cameron

You can listen to the full "Discreet Music" album on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jl_z5JvrKlc
MFA's album cover:
Image result for music for airports




Sunday, September 08, 2019

Article: How to land your kid in therapy

I am not a parent, albeit of a dog and a cat, but this article is full of wisdom. If you have nieces or nephews, you may be able to consider all the ways your brother or sister did or did not prep their kids for a future spot on a therapist's couch.

The author, Lori Gottlieb, did a great interview recently on the Rich Roll podcast. He's a wonderful conduit of thoughtful content. It's nice to be able to turn to people who know how to filter all the bullshit out there in the world and just deliver the good stuff.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

On Being podcast, Japanese cherry blossoms, talking to loved ones

Listening to the On Being podcast - the episode called "Becoming Wise" with Tools for the Art of Living. Guests include Desmond Tutu, astronomer Natalie Batalha, and spiritual teacher Eckart Tolle.

It's a peaceful caturday here. James is showing a property and I just made a simple breakfast. Drinking a cup of decaf with a dog and a cat sleeping nearby. Feeling thankful today. Had a chat with my mom, across the ether, letting her know I miss her and love her. I hope she heard me.


Last weekend's cherry blossom festival was a zoo. Better to go enjoy those blossoms after the actual event and avoid the annoying crowds. Adding to the mania, there was a super loud music show going on at the international houses. So as we tried to commune with nature, we were serenaded by the boom of bad music.  

Got these fun pictures as the bonus.



Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Blog more #goal

Waves along the coastline of the Maldives
A newly acquired full time gig has me so busy with technospeak writing that I haven't been able to make time to blog. My intention from last year remains unfulfilled, so far. 
In other news, I changed my diet over the past 16 months and lowered my cholesterol by 65 points. I am as proud of myself as I can possibly be. For anyone who knows how hard this is, I know you're shaking your head yes and thinking I'm a rock star. The method is easy, unless you have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol - just don't eat animal products. I feel lighter without meat. I eat the rare piece of fish, usually salmon, and I cheat with a cheese plate at Le Bonne Table, but mostly it's nearly vegan for me. I just got a bottle of Just Egg and can't wait to try it - fake eggs made from mung beans! Update on Just Egg - this sadly does not do the trick. Doesn't work texture wise, or taste wise. Too bad.


Friday, July 20, 2018

Waving a flag to my "followers"

If you'd like to follow my blog, click subscribe then be sure to ACTIVATE your subscription when you receive the email. You'll get updates when I publish a post. I have no intention of using your email for anything else. Okay! That's all I have for today.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@rawpixel 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Surprising Win

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, defeated political veteran Joe Crowley, 56, on Tuesday night in their party's congressional primary in New York City.
Mr Crowley, a 10-term Democrat, had been tipped as a future party leader or even Speaker of the House.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez, a former Bernie Sanders volunteer from a Puerto Rican family, won with 57.5% of the vote.
Read it here: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44625617  

And then you have Ben Jealous' win. Change is afoot. https://www.thenation.com/article/ben-jealous-shakes-maryland-politics/ 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Day interrupted: Dies intermissus

How many times a day are you notified and alerted? Phone banners, texts, incoming emails, news feeds. So much click bait vying for our attention, and so many tragic headlines. Do you drop it all and swim into the chaotic flow? Or choose  something non-electric like nature. Supposedly just breathing in a forest that has fern growing strengths your microbial makeup, because ferns are some of the most prehistoric plants out there and they offer healthy soil microbes that we need. So go snort some fern air, and do it today.

To change your alert functions: go to Settings, then Notifications (on an iPhone,) and turn off as many notifications as possible. Silence the demons of solace. 💗


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hi, 2017

What a whirlwind we live in. So much change and upset, wrapped in apps and snaps. It's a time for looking ahead, moving forward, finding and doing things that make you happy.
What brings you calm? I like to...

1. Photograph daily life on my Insta page: https://www.instagram.com/p/BPObt3rgYQq/?taken-by=robinwrites

3. Make good food: https://www.instagram.com/p/BK1OQZmj0IX/?taken-by=robinwrites
4. Spend time with family and friends: https://www.instagram.com/p/BNOYFH5jXyv/?taken-by=robinwrites - This was from Thanksgiving at our house.