Jo’s Pick of the Week: Two Books with Contrasting Messages

This month I picked up two delightful nonfiction books by elderly women with vastly different lifestyle choices. While one woman thinks more is more, the other thinks less is more.

The first book is Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon, Musings of a Geriatric Starlet. You have probably seen pictures of Iris with her oversized glasses and larger-than-life fashion. She is in her 90s and dresses as if she is going to her next photo shoot (perhaps she is!). She loves red lipstick, flamboyant colors, feathers and layers of baubles. She wears what makes her happy: “You have to look in the mirror and see yourself. If it feels good, then I know it’s for me. I don’t dress to be stared at, I dress for myself.”

Apfel’s fashion was honored when the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City did an exhibit featuring her wardrobe. In her book she shares fun photographs and thoughts about how she became a style icon. I then watched the documentary Iris, made a few years ago when her beloved husband was still alive. The film, which the library has on DVD and in Hoopla, gives you a sense of how much stuff she has collected.

After enjoying Apfel’s story and her love for life and fashion, I picked up The Gentle Art of Swedish Art of Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson. The author, who says she is somewhere “between 80 and 100’’, offers wise tips on how to downsize and get rid of clutter with her Scandinavian sense of humor. A retired artist, she adds cute little drawings to go with the text. Magnusson strongly feels that we should not leave our lifetime of clutter for loved ones to go through when we are gone. My husband and I downsized a year ago, moving out of our house of 24 years into a smaller townhome. The house sold fast so we frantically went through all our stuff. What to keep? What to donate? What to trash? It was so stressful. I wish I had followed Magnusson’s advice to go through our possessions during our lives rather than letting them pile up. Now I need to tackle the boxes of photographs, many from my mom.

I really enjoyed the musings of both these women. Iris Apfel reminds me that growing older does not have to be a bore, and that we should dress to please ourselves. I find her attitude so admirable. I appreciate Margareta Magnusson’s Scandinavian common sense, which reminds me that I need to keep culling through all my stuff. I wonder what she would think about Apfel’s massive collections.

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