My mother and I had a tradition when I was a girl that happened every Spring and every Fall. She would painstakingly help me sort through my clothing, in preparation for the change of seasons or school year, to determine what I had grown out of, and what needed replacing. We made three piles: clothing to be kept and hung up in the closet for the season, clothing to be donated, and clothing that was just too worn out to be good for anything other than being recycled into dust rags.
Although I was too cool to tell her, I enjoyed this time with her, even if we had differing opinions of what should be kept. In her truly organized manner, she would make a shopping list for necessary items. If it was practical and necessary (ie: pants for school that were not high-waters, or a nice dress for holiday family dinners), it went on the must-have shopping list. If it was something she deemed unnecessary and I simply just wanted it, it was up to me to save my own money to purchase it. I’m sure there were a number of items she hoped I would no longer want by the time I had saved the money (like my beloved wooden Dr. Scholl’s sandals or my brightly colored 80’s overalls).
Flash forward to today, and I still sort through closets twice a year. Going through my son’s closet has become remarkably easy. He’s a teenage boy, so the needs vs. wants are fairly simple. But my closet – well, that remains a challenge.
The decision to keep, toss, or donate is not as easy as it was when I was young. When I was 12, it was exciting to find out how much I’d grown, and to find cool new styles to pine away for. Now the excitement has faded and it has become more of a chore. Some of the decisions involve just plain letting go, after coming to the “it’s just not gonna happen” realization. I finally came to the decision that it is time to pass along my four or five beautiful suits that have hung in my spare storage space for…. well, let’s see…. Probably 10 – 15 years? I kept them all this time because I liked them, and thought that “someday I may have a job again where I’ll need these.” Guess what, that’s not happening. Time for those suits to go to someone who could really use them. Then there’s the super sexy or fancy dresses that hang forlornly in the back of the closet, taunting me with “you have no appropriate occasions to wear me” and “you’d have to wear spanx under me now and go without breathing all night anyway.” Keep or donate? The jury is still out.
The rest of the decisions take less deliberation, but are more depressing. I no longer find clothing that I’ve outgrown because I’ve added three inches to my height, or because I’ve moved from skinny stick girl to having grown boobs. Nope, now I find clothing that I’ve grown out of thanks to maturity, menopause, gravitational pull, weight gain, or just mood swings and taste. It amazes me that in just one year, or even just a matter of a few months, things could change so drastically. I know I’m not alone here, because my BFF and I text each other during this process — because misery loves company. Pants that previously fit well are now battling to button over my muffin top. Styles that looked cute and trendy now drape oddly and unflatteringly. And speaking of draping. Holy flowy, Batman. It appears that for many months I had gravitated toward a closet full of loose flowing styles. You know the type, designed for us middle-aged women who want forgiving clothes that hide stuff. I apparently took a step too far down Unstructured Alley. I literally stood in my closet the other day and said “would it have killed me to keep ONE tailored button-down blouse?” Last, of course, are the items that have been so darn practical and well-fitting that I’ve had them forever and I am just. plain. sick. of. them. Yeah, I know mom, they are still useful. Sigh.
I’m happy to report I’m nearing the end of this season’s sorting challenge. I’ve hung up or packed away the keepers, and I have a large pile ready to be donated. Last night I sat back and admired my somewhat organized closet, and reprimanded myself for complaining about my First World Problem of having clothes I don’t need. I allowed myself to feel my seasonal sense of accomplishment.
Until I realized I still need to sort through my shoes.