Pandemic Project: Scrapbooking
Since we are in Lockdown, and since March when the pandemic hit and the world stopped travelling, I have not been able to give tours. Lockdown has given me time on my hands, which I have tried to fill in many ways. In the beginning, I used the time to clean the house. That lead to decluttering the house. I have also been cooking, trying new foods, and of course doing lots of research that I can use for new tours or to enhance my current tours.
The decluttering project is an ongoing one, with many different levels. From simply “getting rid of stuff I don’t want or need” to ”reorganising to enhance the efficiency of my home”, I have reached a point where I am now working on scrapbooks and photo albums. Do you scrapbook? I used to do this religiously! For a short time, I was a Creative Memories seller — one of those terrible MLM companies where you have to buy more in order to reach the levels you need to sell and make any profit. Creative Memories touted the joys of “acid-free” archival supplies, where they claimed that chemicals would leach out of your photos and deteriorate them unless you bought all of their certified and marked-up products. I was totally sold!
Somewhere in 2008, I stopped scrapbooking. I know because I have stacks of photos from 2008 until now of “scrapbooking to-do”. My decluttering has reached the “now what do we do with all of these photos stage”. There are piles of photos, airline stubs, restaurant menus, and other keepsakes from trips that are taking up precious space in my bookshelves. I also seem to have boxes of photos, which are just duplicates of the photos I have already put into safe acid-free albums.
In April, like everyone else, I watched Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up and learned the process of thanking the item for serving its purpose and getting rid of it when it doesn’t “spark joy”. These boxes of photos didn’t spark joy. Kondo’s series covers getting rid of papers and sentimental items, but what about when the sentimental item is in fact made of paper? I decided to shred! I know what you are thinking — “don’t shred photos!” My husband couldn’t believe it when he saw me shredding some wedding photos. “Don’t worry!”, I said. “These are just doubles! We have all of these photos in the wedding album and we have the negatives and the CDs to make more copies if we want them.”
I chose to work on the wedding album first, and I am happy to say that now, the job is complete. All photos and paperwork from our wedding planning notebook have been carefully selected and archived. The rest went to shred. As I felt total relief and accomplishment, I turned to see these three large, bulky scrapbooks engorged with keepsakes and taking up way too much space. After flipping through all three, I realised that there are some items I definitely want to keep, but had no connection with the majority of it. Little Me seemed to think that keeping every birthday card from every person was a requirement. So I did. Looking through these cards, I didn’t know anyone beyond my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Who were these people? So, I tossed them! Actually — I shredded! It felt great! I kept the items that sparked joy, and shredded the rest.
One of the scrapbooks was extra special to me. It was my first scrapbook and had alot of memories that I wanted to keep, but it was falling apart and bulging too much. On review, I had placed two or three items on each page, which was inefficient use of those 20 x 15 sized pages. I decided to take everything out and place them in a new scrapbook that was smaller and could be more compact with my memories. I also found a few piles of photographs from my school days and took the time to place them in chronological order and add to this new scrapbook. The project has been in the back of my mind for years, and thanks to Lockdown, I have been able to get the job done. Slowly. Between migraines.
I love scrapbooking time. I listen to podcasts or audible books as I tape down my memories and handwrite captions to recall the time. I have been doing this once or twice a week, but each walk down memory lane leaves me with a terrible migraine. At first, I thought it was the smell. My spare room has lots of piles and boxes of old papers and photos everywhere and there is a hint of smell lingering in the room. It’s like when you walk into an old library in a grand estate. It smells like the old archival library at St Paul’s Cathedral (that isn’t on the main public tour, but has tons of old books dating back to the 1600s). My archives from the 1980’s certainly have their own aroma! However, as I started to work my way through my school photos, I realised that the migraines were caused by stress. Or trauma.
On each page, I have used alphabet stickers to spell out the grade that I was in. I have my class photos, my school photo, and a few items like report cards or other memorabilia. Yet, on almost every page, I also have spelled out “moved to….” because we moved almost every year. In some strange way, the stress of moving to a new school every year and recalling these life changes stirs up a little bit of tension and by the end of the two hours, my head is pounding!
I have tried to lighten the mood by listening to music or an audible book. I am currently listening to “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah, and it is kind of interesting to listen to this book about his childhood while I make a scrapbook of my own life. Still, the migraines come. When I got to 10th grade, I stopped. In fact, that was on a Sunday. I finished the 9th grade page, and my head was throbbing. I piled the book and the next photos onto a small table in the room and thought, “Maybe I can finish next weekend.” I went back to working on getting rid of more items that I have found in my massive declutter.
While doing this, I have been listening to “Gurdjieff: A Beginner’s Guide” by Gil Friedman. Why am I listening to this? It’s kind of a long story. As you may know (or have seen from the photos on my website and social media), I do a tour about the life and writings of PL Travers. She wrote Mary Poppins. My tour does touch on her character, but at each stop, I talk about this author in detail. I have done quite a bit of research on her. She was a very interesting lady. Interesting isn’t the right word. She was eclectic? strange? weird? difficult? Again, I can’t pin down the right word because she was all of those things, and more! And I love that about her!
One of the things she was into was the Gurdjieff method. George Gurdjieff was a Russian philosopher and spiritual teacher. Some call it a cult. He had some strange and interesting ideas and teachings that were very appealing to PL Travers, and she followed his method. Being interested in Travers, I have tried to learn more about this method so that I can understand her a little better. When I first downloaded this audio book, I was overwhelmed. It was 69 chapters and running over 11 hours in length. It is quite an earful! At first, it was just weird to listen too. There was method jargon and the narrator spoke in a monotone voice that didn’t intrigue me. Most of the time I have been listening, I have been thinking, “Well, if this is a cult, that’s fine. It certainly hasn’t roped me in, but I need to listen to this to better understand Pamela.”
Somewhere around Chapter 50, I have finally heard something that resonates. According to Friedmann (or Gurdjieff, it is really hard to keep up in this book), the experiences that we go through are necessary in order to make the person that we are. I am totally paraphrasing here, but he was talking about having to go through some life event or trauma in order for it to mould and make the person that we are. This isn’t really a new concept, I have heard this before many times. Yet somehow, I needed to hear it at this moment when I am scrapbooking all of these life events. Yes! It is necessary that I moved around so many times (almost annually) in order to be the person that I am!
It was an excellent reminder that I had to bounce from school to school, town to town, in order to be the adaptable, flexible, adventurous person I am today! I have the courage to speak in public to total strangers on a daily basis because I had to make friends quickly at each school every year. I have the skills to learn new things quickly because I was always playing catch up at my new school. I know how to pack boxes and move to a new country because I had to pack boxes and move to a new town without fear. Everything I had to go through as a child, albeit remembering it can feel a bit traumatic, was part of the process to make me who I am today.
So, I’m going to easily finish this scrapbook of my childhood and place it on the shelf with heaps of accomplishment and satisfaction. And next, I’ll tackle the many vacation photos that will most likely make me feel sad that we cannot go anywhere, but fortunate that we have been somewhere already. And when I am finally done with all of this scrapbooking — this project that I always said “Oh when I have time” — I hope that it is a new year and I will be more busy with tours than ever before and have no time for silly declutter projects!