Stop Making Sense: Spring Cleaning and Shoulder Pads
I’m a deadline kind of girl. Give me a deadline and I’ll get it done. Be it taxes, a story or paying bills.
The problem is, spring cleaning doesn’t really have a deadline unless it’s self imposed. I’m usually pretty good at those but there are times when I let things slide. I mean, spring cleaning is a nice idea and all but it doesn’t have to be done.
And really, when I refer to spring cleaning, I’m always pretty much talking about spring purging.
Cleaning is easy when you have an absence of clutter. And me? I tend to hang onto things. Way. Too. Long.
I cannot totally blame this on a lack of discipline. The thing is, I get attached to my stuff. I look at it and have trouble letting go, everything from stuffed animals to books to — the worst of it — clothes.
I mean, I still had my high school graduation dress until a couple years ago. Really.
Part of this is a sense of value. Some of the clothes I’m sorting through look like new. Yes, they may be 10, 15 years old but they look good. And most still fit. How wasteful to toss them out, even to donate. I feel I should have really used up these clothes that I put my hard earned money into.
Another part of this is an emotional attachment. In some way, I feel as if my soul inhabits these things. That to give them away is to let go of a piece of my life. And not have a clue where it went or how it’s being treated.
I know. Crazy.
I’ve even gone through these items over the years and, yes, decided it was not time to let them go, hung them back in a closet I never use or in boxes I rarely touch. Either they still had meaning or — foolishly — I imagined I’d wear them again because they were so fabulous once, of course they will come back in style.
What I don’t do often enough is actually try these clothes on. I’ve found that to be helpful this year.
It’s also helped that I have a deadline: the National Kidney Foundation was in my area and announced a pick-up of just about anything in decent condition, including household “bric-a-brac,” whatever that is. All I had to do was set it out by the curb.
I’d dug through a bunch of stuff just a few months ago for the 2008 tax donation deduction so had already been kind of on a roll.
So I found myself the last several days unloading the upstairs closet — four sets of hanging clothes, jackets, blouses, shirts — and putting them on. As I removed each item from its hanger, I’d relive the times I wore it as if I was in some movie watching that sappy montage sequence of happier times. Oh the great times I had and how terrific I thought I looked.
But that was then.
Gasp! Did I actually wear this with these huge David-Byrne-Stop-Making-Sense shoulder pads?
Or those silky blouses I wore so often a decade ago but now look shapeless? I can see how I liked them at the time because that was in fashion. But now? Everything is so much more… fitted.
I still had an ensemble, which I finally donated this time — with only a slight amount of donator’s remorse — a fabulous pale yellow linen sundress and jacket which for years I could rely on to look smashing in whatever the event, be it a fashion show or wedding.
In fact, a couple of years ago I had to go to an event and thought it would be perfect. Then I saw myself in the mirror. I couldn’t believe the hemline was as short as it was or the shoulders so wide. I simply could not wear it.
It was clear, no matter how wonderful it was, it was time to part. Don’t ask why I still had it. Either I decided to keep it in the last round of purges, hopeful something would change, or I hung it up and forgot about it.
The thing is, while some of these items are a little out of style, someone who needs clothing will be happy to have them. And how many sweatshirts and T-shirts can I possibly have? I can only wear so many, even though some I wore maybe once.
It’s a good lesson: Think twice next time before I buy. Ask: Do I need it? Will I wear it? Don’t I have enough?
There is also the lesson to share the usefulness. They are useless in my closet or in boxes.
I actually began to feel motivated knowing these nice pieces will look just fine on someone else. Maybe they won’t even care how they look. Maybe they just need something. Period.
Meanwhile, that upstairs closet space can be put to better use than warehousing memories.
Although I must confess. As I filled the garbage bags the other night to set out by the curb, I was stung with occasional feelings of remorse — that T-shirt from Bermuda, the sweatshirt from Australia, that oh-so-perfect-shade-of-pink silky blouse that still looks like new — and put them in another bag. By the end of the night, it was a whole damn bag.
I told myself, I can still give it away later. I even thought if the truck didn’t come first thing in the morning, I’d sneak more items out. Alas, the guy came by too early.
Now I have a giant bag of stuff I never wear. Sitting there.
That’s okay. I can still give it away. I’ll decide later.