The closet purge

I’m cleaning out my closet this week. It’s long overdue.

I’ve been ignoring the warning signs: My shoe rack bent the nails holding it to the wall and came crashing down, I can’t shut one of my closet doors, and I can’t find my favorite black tank top anywhere. That last one really clinched it. If all the clothes that I don’t wear are obscuring the one item I want to wear all the time, it’s time to get rid of some stuff.

I set up my camera this weekend and got to work, photographing, measuring and putting stuff on eBay. By the time I’m done, I will hopefully have gotten rid of at least a third of my stuff. Maybe half.

My husband, who was out fishing when I finally snapped, came back home to find me under a mountain of clothes I never wear. He’s a little concerned about this purge. He knows I love clothing and worries that I’m tormenting myself by cleaning the closet. He’s afraid that what I’m engaged in is a sort of Sophie’s Choice for clotheshorses. The first time I cleaned out my closets, just before we were married,  he offered to bring garbage bags of clothing down to the basement and store them there.

“You might need them later,” he told me.

I knew I would not need a floor-length bedazzled cotton hippie-inspired skirt from the sales rack at Bob’s. Not later. Not ever. I didn’t need it to begin with.

I tried to reassure him, but he still looked concerned. I think part of the problem is that my husband doesn’t understand my relationship with clothing. I relate to clothing the way a cad relates to women. I’m happy when I buy it, I’m happy when I use it, and I’m happy when it walks out of my life and stops blowing up my cell phone 24-7.

And like a cad, I don’t really mind sharing. My feeling is this: I like my clothes. I think some other people probably like my clothes as well. So if I’m not wearing an item, and it’s languishing at the back of my closet when someone else could be rockin’ it on the street, what’s the point in my hanging onto it?

Still, to abandon the cad metaphor, there are some things I’ll never part with. My wedding dress. And that black tank top that I got at a consignment shop for a few bucks, but which fits so well and looks good with everything. Or the white hippie shirt I bought from a vendor at the student center in college. Or the silver brocade dress that I bought on the first day of our honeymoon because I felt that, as a married woman, I needed some “grown-up” clothes. Or the 30-year-old “Shazbot” tee shirt that my dad bought when Mork & Mindy was popular in the ’70s and which was passed from me to my brother until I finally stole it and ran off to college. (I think every member of my immediate family has had it in their wardrobe at some point. It’s got some holes now, and the fabric is more or less transparent but I still wear it under a sweatshirt when I walk the dog.) Or the mint-green sweater my mom got as a present when she was expecting. Or the green faux leather jacket that my great aunt Rita had in the ’40s, which my mom “borrowed” in the ’70s and I took over in the ’90s. I have a bunch of things like this; items that came from family members who borrowed from family members. I love that.

All of these sort of come together in a cohesive way for me. It’ s my life story, told in clothing. If my closet were a museum, this would be the permanent collection. The other things are just on loan.

But I don’t know; maybe the “permanent collection” isn’t so permanent. It may be that in a few years it will make sense for me to get rid of all of it  in order to make room for other things. If we have children I’m certainly not going to be able to monopolize every closet in the house. So I may get rid of almost everything, even the good stuff. And that will be okay.

But here’s what I’m hoping for: maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to keep the good stuff and someday – when all I can wear are sweatsuits and the other practical clothes of old age, some granddaughter or niece or young cousin or neighbor will be able to come over and raid my carefully curated collection.

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