No doubt, Oprah would have called me a shameless hoarder and sent a camera crew to document my humiliation. I prefer to think I was thrifty, stable, sensible, and sentimental. I didn’t replace what worked, change sizes, want what I didn’t need, or desert the faithful. But, as I slid into my fiftieth birthday, reality smacked. I had outgrown the sevens that crowded my closets and drawers and my work clothes would either be out of style or dry-rotted if I ever returned to work. It was time to let go.
I gathered the nicer things, pushed off what they would take on friends and family, and delivered the rest to the shelter. The worn items became a windfall to the persistent DAV caller. After years of refusing to remove me from her rotation, I finally agreed to leave a clearly marked box for the truck that--according to her programmed spiel--stayed on my block just waiting for this day. The only items I could not part with were things like the Paul Newman tee shirt, the blue and silver dress, the purple bikini, and the ten-dollar jeans. I had bought the tee shirt with babysitting money while still in high school and, like Jimmy Buffet’s hotel bed, it had stories to tell. After more years than I cared to count, the dress still defied its dry-clean-only tag and came out of the dryer looking new. For reasons no one would appreciate as much as I did, the bikini and jeans owned pieces of my heart.
None of the things I continued to hoard served the purposes for which intended but tossing them didn’t feel right. I moved them from closet to closet, drawer to drawer, and house to apartment. Only the over-sized You’ve Come a Long Way Baby tee shirt touched flesh and saw the light of day.
As difficult as parting with my wardrobe might have seemed, it wasn’t even a decent warm up for weeding out the people I had outgrown but continued to carry. Sticking them in closets and drawers where I could forget them for long periods wasn’t an option. This took more time and – well, it also required consciously accomplishing less thought.
The loose friends, much like fad clothing, eventually fell away on their own when poor health prevented me from being the one who always planned and drove. But the process became more difficult after that.
After a period of adjustment, I pried the needy, tight fitters loose, mourning their loss during the process but later realizing the relief of not being smothered any longer. A steady departure of the unfaithful followed, led by people who lived vicariously through my anything-but-boring life as soon as they were certain my life had become totally boring. People who would rather never see me than actually try to locate my home or phone number followed.
Still, I was reluctant to let go of the loose ends that I had moved from one drawer to another, real life to disabled, recklessly accepting to wiser and discerning. Like You’ve Come a Long Way Baby, they were full of holes and fading quickly, but unlike the faithful shirt they never saw the light of day. They never even came out of their drawers to tempt me with comfort. Oprah would have advised the trash pile and cheered me as I watched them disintegrate.
Finally able to admit that I had no patience left for anything or anyone that made me uncomfortable, and no desire to replace broken zippers and lost buttons or to correct misinformation and provide facts that would be ignored, I was able to box up much of what remained. I passed off what I had outgrown to friends and family who hadn’t grown with me and matched up the needy with the martyrs. Everyone would be healthier this way.
When I open my closets now, it’s a relief to see only what serves me, and to know that people won’t point and laugh at my ill-fitting, tattered wardrobe or relationships. This is my time to wear clothes and enjoy friendships that fit me well.
(Please don’t laugh if you drop by and catch me in my ten-dollar jeans or purple bikini. I won’t give up sentimental even if threatened with camera crews.)
The ten-dollar jeans, purple bikini, and You’ve Come a Long Way Baby tee shirt are gone now. And, I’ve done another purge of friends who turned out not to be who I thought they were. But I slept in my twenty-five+-year-old sMiles Across the Bedroom night shirt last night. As you can see, Gary's autograph has faded and the shirt doesn’t have many nights left. But I will not give it up until it gives up on me.
I noticed a few days ago that I have developed a new form of hoarding that I don’t quite understand. I hoard internet game energy. This concerns me more than my hoarding of pens and notebooks. Maybe I am afraid there will come a day when there are no free internet games to play?
(For the record, I seldom actually clean closets anymore.)