Journals and Memoir

The bulk of my decluttering is done over the winter months. I put everything into a spare room upstairs. In the spring, I go about donating everything in the spare room. I emptied the spare room early this spring, as I had a week off from work in March. This year I also had that one-time junk truck come to get rid of all the items that had been left in this house when I bought it that were not able to be donated.

Anything that goes into the spare room now will be leaving and donated in the spring of 2023. It is possible that some things may be donated this fall. We will see how life goes. 

I am trying to get as ruthless as possible with my decluttering as my ultimate goal is to leave the country. Of course, when you are planning a major move, you want to travel as lightly as possible. 

The most difficult items to declutter are always sentimental items. I have one box from childhood I am hanging onto. I am going to put a note on it that says it can be donated or junked after my death. I’m trying to make things as easy for whomever has to clean this house out after I die as possible. If I do manage to live long enough to leave the country, then I will personally take the entire box of childhood items to be donated or junked, as appropriate.

I have a small box of all of my running logs spanning well over a decade of my running career. I also have a small box of journals and scrapbooks from well over a decade. I’m quite sure that when I’m dead, no one will care to read either the running logs or the journals. I also know that if I leave the country, running logs and old journals are not going to be going with me. I’m not paying for a box of that dead weight to be shipped overseas.

The running logs have been useful to me in planning my training for races. I will look at training for prior races to see what I did or how I adjusted for certain situations. I am currently in the process of gleaning as much information as I can from these running logs and consolidating everything into one three-ring binder. My goal is to recycle all the running logs next spring. I will have one three-ring binder that contains training plans and tips.

My journals and scrapbooks are a little harder.  I do revisit my journals alongside my running logs to read about certain races. I like to read how I was feeling for the race and what I was thinking. Was I feeling well for that race? What adjustments did I make? Did anything unexpected happen? I also enjoy revisiting some of my camping memories that are in my journals. Now that I have lost so many people to COVID, they are nice to re-read to remember memories with loved ones. Sometimes I worry that I will forget those I love because they have died.

I am currently using both my running logs and my journals to work on my memoir. Once my memoir is complete, my goal is to recycle/shred all of my journals and scrapbooks. My goal is to complete my memoir by the end of this calendar year. I want to be able to shred all of my journals next spring.

I’m not going to lie. Decluttering sentimental items is hard. They should be left to the last thing, once you have had time to flex your decluttering muscles. 

I will say that to this day, I do not have any regrets over anything I have decluttered. I do not miss a single item. I can’t even begin to tell you all of the items I have decluttered over the years. As soon as they are gone, I forget about them. Not once have I thought, “now where is …” and have it become something I miss because I decluttered it. Typically, I can’t find something. It is in the house, not decluttered, and I find it later. All is well.

Sentimental items are hard to declutter and nothing is more personal than your own thoughts and memories. Well, I like to think I will keep the memories. I certainly have photos. Last year, I created my “greatest hits” photo album with my favorite memories and highlights of my life.

While the idea of shredding my journals and scrapbooks is hard, it is a necessary step for 3 reasons.

First, my journals and scrapbooks are reminiscent of my past. I’m not going there. I live in the here and now. I am moving forward. They say that living in the past causes depression, living in the future causes anxiety, and to live in the now, that’s why it is called the present. 

Second, I don’t want people reading my innermost thoughts from my journals after I’m dead. I’m pretty sure no one wants to read them anyways. Who cares what I thought on June 28, 2008? I’m pretty sure if someone were to pick up, say 2011, to read after I’m dead, they would think I was crazy. 

Third, if I leave the country, they are not coming with me. I’m trying to think positive here. When I leave the country, I will have to get rid of a lot of large items like furniture and my house. Why make my life more difficult by trying to clean out an entire house? I can get rid of the journals now. I may as well declutter as much as I can before I move internationally. 

I am currently about halfway through the writing of my memoir. Shredding all of my journals will be contingent upon completing my memoir. Once my memoir is complete, then I will shred my journals. The goal is to complete my memoir this year and shred the journals in spring 2023.

How are you with decluttering sentimental items? Do you keep journals or immediately get rid of them once you have filled the book? 

I am currently putting everything in the spare bedroom upstairs that will be leaving spring 2023. Every year, I declutter just a little bit more. I am hoping to make my international move as easy as possible when the time comes. If I do not make it to an international move, then at least this house will be easy for someone to empty after my death. 

My Quarantine Life: Week 110

It is week 110 and I am still in medical isolation. At this point, I do not think the pandemic will end. We will not achieve herd immunity. It is survival of the fittest. Being a person with a compromised immune system who is at high risk of death if I catch COVID, at this point my only wish is to outlive my cats.

The most difficult challenge in all of this is lack of healthcare. Routine healthcare is not available as the health system is too overwhelmed with COVID. When you do go to a medical office, you are exposed to COVID by COVID-positive staff. It is a game of how much pain can you handle and how long can you go without access to healthcare. Even emergency healthcare has a wait that is weeks long. Last fall, I had to wait 3 weeks for emergency surgery. Of course, once I had the surgery after the 3 week wait, things were more dire than they would have been if I had received same day surgery. They did tell me that if we were not in a pandemic, the surgery would have been same day and it would not have been as big of a deal as it was after the 3 week wait.

This time last year, I lost my job. I am so grateful that I have a job now that is 100% remote. Even though the job I have now is very stressful, I cannot tell you how grateful I am to be a completely remote worker. My medical isolation is only broken for medical care for me and for the cats. It is broken when I have work done on the car (twice a year) and when I need to have workers in the house.

Last year shortly after I lost my job, my hot water heater went. I was able to get workers in the house to install a new hot water heater.

About two weeks ago, the new hot water heater broke. I have no idea what is wrong with it. We have no hot water. Plumbers and other service people are only able to respond to emergency calls right now, as everyone is so overwhelmed with COVID. Hot water is not an emergency, so we have no hot water. We are hoping that we will be able to have a worker come this fall to fix the hot water heater before the winter. Hot water is not an emergency, but heating is an emergency. We will have to have the furnace maintained this fall. I am hoping to have someone come to the house who can service the furnace and fix the hot water heater both. For now, we are on a waiting list for plumbing service to fix the hot water heater.

I have been heating water on my stove to use for bathing and washing dishes. Thankfully, I do not need to shower every day. I have been using my shower chair and taking bucket baths. They are very soothing and I have actually been sleeping better at night. I don’t mind, really. Hopefully I am using less water by taking bucket baths instead of taking a shower. I just cannot bring myself to take a shower in cold water. I heat water on the stove, and that is the amount of water I have for bathing.

Thankfully, I am still shaving my head in year 3 of the pandemic. Of course, I don’t have access to anyone to be able to cut it for me. It’s just easier for me to shave it myself. It is easier for me to maintain. A shaved head is also easier for me to maintain personal hygiene. Now being without hot water, a shaved head is easier for bathing.

When I filed my taxes this year, I had to return the $1400 “stimulus” the government gave us last year under Biden. That hurt. No, I did not pay taxes on it. The IRS actually made me return the entire $1400 amount. Apparently, if you make less than $40,000 per year, that “stimulus” was a loan and not a gift. I got a letter from the IRS stating that my refund was reduced by $1400 because I was required to pay back the stimulus to the government. My tax refund this year was $187. That was enough to cover my birthday splurge of purchasing the robot vacuum cleaner.

This week I received a notice that I will be losing my health insurance soon. Biden has decided the pandemic is over, so they are canceling the health insurance for over 15 million Americans who have disabilities and/or are low-income. I am one of them. 

I’m not sure what I am going to do without health insurance. There is a health plan offered through my new job, but it is very expensive and the deductible is equivalent to half my annual income. I cannot afford to pay 75% of my income in healthcare. 

I am good about pinching pennies, but there is no way I can afford to live off of only 25% of my income and have no savings. Our student loans are due to enter repayment as well. I did receive a letter from the government stating that I am one of the people whose student loan forgiveness is messed up. 

I will be entering year 26 of student loan repayment. I am in the low-income repayment plan and also the public service repayment plans. For some reason, I don’t qualify for forgiveness so I am required to continue to pay until I die. It’s indentured servitude. Even a mortgage payment ends after 30 years. Student loan payments have no end. Entering year 26 of student loan payments, I am expecting to continue to pay on these for 40 or even 50 years or more. I will just keep paying until I die because there is no forgiveness.

Many people point fingers and say it is my own fault for taking out the student loans. I took out student loans because I was promised that a good education would enable me to get a good paying job to pay back the student loans. Wages are low in America. I’m not sure how anyone pays back their student loans unless they are living rent-free in their parent’s basement or come from a background of wealth.

I am still alive. I am still surviving. My only objective is to outlive the cats. I am struggling to come up with a plan to care for them in the event that I die first. That is my greatest worry. 

We are all together. We are happy and healthy. That is what is most important in life. We are truly blessed. 

Signature Scent

Some people have a signature scent – that one smell that defines them. Marilyn Monroe was said to have worn Chanel no 5. Chanel no 5 is a signature scent for many. I have never had a signature scent per se. I have scents that remind me of certain life events.

As a child growing up in the 1980s, many of the scents of my childhood come from Avon.  In addition to Avon, I remember scents such as Revlon’s Fire & Ice, Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth, and Exclamation. I specifically remember my grandmother wearing Avon’s Far Away perfume.  I wore it to my grandfather’s funeral.

When I started college in the mid-1990s, I remember receiving a box of promotional toiletry items. They were trying to market directly to college students. In the box was a tiny, tiny bottle of Tommy Girl perfume. The sample size of the perfume was maybe .03 oz. Tommy Girl was my “going out” perfume. I only wore it when we went dancing at the club or out to a party. 

Tommy Girl was a perfume that was way out of my price range, so I cherished that small sample as long as it lasted. Scents that were more in my price range, although still expensive splurges was the Victoria’s Secret line of fragrances. Victoria’s Secret Angel perfume was my race weekend perfume. It reminds me of Philly and of other big cities. I wore it whenever I went out in the cities. After Angel, the scent was Bombshell. Bombshell felt a little more risqué than Angel. Most recently, my scent was Aqua Kiss. Aqua Kiss was the perfume I would wear to church on Sundays. It is a crisp, clean scent that felt perfect for church on a respectable, clean Sunday. 

While all of these scents remind me of certain events, I did not get much use out of them. Many of the places I have worked over the years have scent-free policies due to people’s allergies. As someone with multiple food, medication and vaccine allergies myself, I am more than happy to comply with requirements that reduce people’s exposures to their allergens. With that, perfume is something that has always been worn for a special occasion. Not to mention, perfume is expensive. I simply did not have the funds to wear perfume every day and to buy it continuously.

Flash forward to a global pandemic. I still had all three Victoria’s Secret perfumes – Angel, Bombshell and Aqua Kiss. They were all smelling pretty putrid at this point due to age. Yes, perfumes do expire and get to a point when they no longer smell pleasant. Due to the global pandemic, I no longer travel or go out. What is the point in having a marathon perfume if I cannot travel to a large city to run a marathon?

Many people with COVID experience loss of smell and/or taste. I know someone who has lost their sense of smell due to COVID. This person was lamenting the fact that they can no longer smell their favorite perfume. 

That got me to thinking about signature scents. While I have a rather long list of perfumes that evoke memories of places, people and times, I do not have one signature scent that defines my life. In addition, perfume has always been a luxury item for me. Even with the Victoria’s Secret scents, I have never had the actual perfume. I have always had the spritzers that are a watered down version of the actual perfume that often go on sale such as two for $20 or something like that.

Life is short. Life is even shorter when you are living in a global pandemic. I decided if I did get COVID and survive, I would not want to be like the person lamenting their loss of smell that they could no longer smell their perfume. I want to have a signature scent that defines me. I want to be able to smell that scent now before I either die or lose my sense of smell.

Last fall when I ran my two half marathons, I decided to do something I have never done before. I purchased perfume. I’m talking actual perfume, not a spritzer and not some designer imposters knock off. I researched scents to see which one I thought I wanted to smell like. 

I ordered one. I have never paid so much for perfume in my life. I will admit that the price was completely ridiculous. However, I decided I want the experience of a signature perfume once before I die. Gone are the old Victoria’s Secret spritzers that now smell putrid due to old age. I am not going to have 3 or 4 spritzers lying around.

The signature scent I chose is Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle. I bought the smallest size bottle of the actual perfume. I love it. I wear it everyday. I’m still in medical isolation, so no one else smells me. That’s okay. I smell it. I enjoy it. I can now say I have a signature scent. I have one bottle of perfume. That is my scent. 

When I was little, I remember sitting in front of my grandmother’s dresser in her trailer and it was littered with perfume bottles. She often had 3-4 different scents from Avon. Every time a new scent came out from Avon, she had to have it. As she got older, I tend to think of Far Away as her signature scent, as that was the one she used most often. However, I do not want to be like my grandmother and have a dresser littered with perfume bottles that may evoke a memory here and there, but essentially mean nothing. Truly, they were just clutter in pretty bottles. 

I want to have one scent that I remember and that people remember me by. Yes, I paid a fortune for a tiny bottle. When you think about it, buying 3-4 knock off spritzers probably equal the price I paid for one small bottle of genuine perfume. Technically, the perfume I chose is marketed to women much younger than me. I don’t care. I enjoy the scent. So even though I may be too old for Coco Mademoiselle, that is the scent I have chosen to be mine.

Do you have a signature scent? Do you prefer to have an array of scents from which to choose? I chose to have one signature scent from now until when I die. I no longer want to have 3-4 spritzers floating around as clutter that have no meaning. I will use this one perfume until the bottle is empty, and then I will buy another bottle. I am not going to just buy another or a different perfume due to whimsy. I have one perfume I am going to use until it is gone. 

Using a perfume until it is gone is a novel idea as well. I have always had to throw perfume spritzers away because they went putrid from old age. I have never had a perfume where I used the entire thing until it was gone. The only exception is that tiny .03 oz sample of Tommy Girl perfume sample. 

Chanel Coco Mademoiselle is my scent now and I love it. I can now say I have the experience of having a signature scent. I may still be working class, but I smell like something more. It was my one big splurge last fall.