Friday, June 28, 2013

The Wisdom Of Nail Art

Photo courtesy Flickr
I have not felt the need to do anything with my nails except clean them, file from the sides to the center, keep them even with the tips of my fingers, and buff with a multi-grit stick. The buffing protects the integrity of the cuticles and bars microorganisms from entering the bloodstream by way of a hangnail. I appreciate a grooming routine that decays slowly instead of into the manual version of dark roots.

Several years ago, I mentioned to a psych professional that the Dutch design firm Droog had bought an auction lot of folding wooden chairs (the kind that punish the behind of an attentive listener) and jobbed them out to a group of nail artists for each to decorate. The chairs then went up for sale. Psych guy shared his assumption that the immigrant females would be working to rigid art direction. He could not credit that the firm gave the women creative control.

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know a nail artist in a support group I attend weekly. The group centers on a dread disease, which fortunately I have escaped. Hanging around Tess’s wit and fearless sense of innovation whetted my curiosity about nail art materials, and when I ran across a collection of nail pens at a drugstore, I picked up a couple. They expanded the range of no-brush paint applicators I’ve been toying with.

The nail pens are cool and lively to work with and seem to generate no toxic fumes. As ever, the formidable nail gloss I picked up to try on paper graphics emits fumes so evil I dare not use it in a public place. I understand that nail polish is a by-product of the automobile industry. Special paint was developed for cars and adapted later to the human hand. I question the wisdom of using industrial paint on one’s pinkies, and conservative women have avoided nail polish all along.

The first pair of nail pens proved so obliging that I pulled a package of pre-painted nail coverings out of a sale bin. I couldn’t resist the little ovals of leopardskin. By the time I got home, my bag reeked of hot solvents, and those few grams of plastic membrane filled the whole house with fumes. Nail pens, gloss, and sassy-colored polish are a hoot to work with. It’s like small-scale kustom kar phun, but I have a creeping hunch that Tess has paid for the eye candy with her health.

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Clear-cutting The House

Photo courtesy Flickr

When I moved from six hundred square feet of starter cottage into four stories of small 1890 footprint, I realized that when I left a room, I would have to leave it for real. Unfinished business in a given space generated so much altitude gained and lost over the course of a day that I couldn’t manage at all.

Shortly before we took on this place, my grandmother’s retirement home had advised her to carry a purse around the building so she wouldn’t have to go back to her room when she needed something. My ever-present side bag is the high-tech version. With daily necessities at hand, it’s a small matter to close out one room when it’s time to do something else in another. Laundry moves closer to the washing machine, coffee cup closer to the sink, textiles are folded, books reshelved, the whole litany recited. It’s a bother to turn my head to inspect a space before exiting, but the overall velocity of life increases noticeably if I do.

In a good year, I spend less than half an hour looking for things that have been misplaced.

-30- More after the jump.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Muslin Laundry Bag

Photo courtesy Flickr
In the mid-Sixties, I was as new to laundromats as to married life. It felt extravagant to buy a special-purpose laundry bag, but my home training had taught me that it is bad practice to use good bed linen as a tote.

Numerous road trips proved the worth of the laundry bag as a transport pillow-case, and I have learned to love the ‘umble laundry bag for its many uses. It stores woolens in archival safety, corrals bulky down garments into manageable bundles, and in a casual pinch, makes an adequate cover for a sofa cushion.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Knot The Corners

Photo courtesy Flickr
Turn any sheet into a fitted sheet by tying a knot in the corner. Do so with each corner or just a couple to create the necessary and useful tension to hold the thing in place.

Flat sheets are easy to fold, compact to store, economical to recycle, and can be fitted to beds of various sizes. It’s trivial to recut a sheet for a crib, pillowcase, or liner for a tufted quilt.

-30- More after the jump.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sudden Moves: How To Clear The Decks In An Emergency

Photo courtesy Flickr

I’ve been talking with caregivers about how best to make their job easier. One recurring topic has been the trouble clutter brings to an urgent situation. I like this. I can’t do much medically except wash my hands, but I can wrangle a tablescape with the best of them.

A cancer patient “in intermission” agreed wholeheartedly that his course of treatment would have been much easier had his living quarters been set up to support disability. He’s no hoarder, and he managed much of his caregiving on his own. The mere question of what would have been helpful turned his voice grey.

Here’s the short version of how to set up to make life easy under the best as well as the worst circumstances: keep things where you use them first. Set up so you don’t have to stretch, stoop, or lean to grab something that you want. When you finish using something, leave it ready to use again. Keep the things you use often front and center. If a storage space fills up, displace the things at the back. Move seldom-used items ever closer to the exit. 

I’ve heard quite a few stories from caregivers and patients about the grief of clutter. I think it’s important to respect the boundaries of a person who has already been assaulted and invaded by an illness. The following procedures worked with my young child even before he could talk: throw nothing away without written permission of the owner, no matter how old she is. Making a mark makes a difference. Stow discards in transparent plastic bags to prevent inadvertent donations. Store excess in bins and review the contents every quarter until they have “cooled off” enough to be unwanted, i.e. ready to be shared with others.

If I suddenly had to sort and clear someone else’s inventory, this is what I’d do:
buy a sheaf of self-adhesive labels from an office supply. Add a bold marker and two colors of the largest brightly colored stick-on dots (I use green and red, for go and stay.)

I’d photograph each room as I found it, recording each layer of stuff (or horizon, as the archaeologists call it) as I worked my way through a space,
separating obvious waste paper and recycling into transparent bags. I’d
label and photograph the bags, ask the owner to initial the label as OK to discard, and I’d set the bags close to the exit with green dots on them, to make it easy for helpers to know how to handle the bundles. I’d post a boldly written sign by the exit so helpers would know what to do. If the owner couldn’t supervise, I’d store anything that wouldn’t rot. I learned this caution from military movers, who could and did move everything including the contents of the garbage can during Viet Nam. I’d do the really hard work-making decisions-and ask other people to do the physical work. 

I’d clear a room and set it up for easy caregiving. This is as valid for healthy, active people as it is for someone who is ill. Working with someone else’s possessions, I’d sweep things into stacking flap-lid storage bins of a size to handle safely, all of one size. As I filled a bin, I’d photograph the contents layer by layer, numbering the bin and numbering the photo file. It would not be necessary to sort most things. I’d store the bins on an epoxy-coated or chrome-plated wire storage rack, the kind developed for the food industry and sold at a national big box storage specialty outlet. I’d buy heavy-duty wheels for the rack and park it out of the way in habitable space so the contents wouldn’t deteriorate.  A flap bin can be padlocked or zip-tied shut. Store papers in a conventional or fireproof filing cabinet.

The storage gear ain’t cheap, but it’s a labor cost with decent resale value. I find it helpful to think of the work areas in the house as keyboards. The many little changes outlined above will transform a demanding household into an effective support space that can be maintained with minimum effort by people unfamiliar with the specifics of the place. This efficiency is independent of architecture, income, or style. Once the crisis has passed, all involved can sort through the stuff with a new sense of priorities, knowing that no energy has been wasted on the inevitable soap opera that accompanies possessions.

-30-  More after the jump.