Closet Depression

Shopping for clothes has never been an easy thing for me.  Even when I was a teenager and thought that a trip to the mall with my friends was great fun, I still struggled when it came to actually buying the clothes.  Back then, I was frustrated by styles that didn’t match my figure and/or prices that didn’t match my budget.  The fifty cents an hour I earned from babysitting didn’t stretch very far, even in the Seventies. These days, my budget isn’t quite so tight, but I still rarely find something that’s comfortable, looks good, fits properly, and reasonably priced.  Which is why I still hate to shop.

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Unfortunately, my closet is small, so with each changing season, I find myself sorting through the clothes I keep stored in big plastic bins in the basement, and bringing them up to replace the clothes from the previous season. This process forces me to evaluate my wardrobe four times a year, and means I can’t ignore the stains on my summer blouses, the fact that half my sweaters have snags or pills,  and that another couple of pairs of pants have mysteriously shrunk.  So I fill a bag or two to take to the local donation center, make a list of what needs to be bought, and head off to the nearest mall.

Sometimes I’m silly enough to think my trip will be successful, at least until I enter the first store and am met with clothes that must have been designed by people who were either drunk, high, or have serious anger issues with women.  There are blouses with “peek-a-boo” shoulders, for what purpose I can’t begin to imagine.  Normal, button-down cardigans are conspicuous by their absence, and have been replaced with sweaters sporting tassels, ruffles and armholes halfway down the sleeves.  Pants are either wide enough to share with a baby elephant or so skinny that I would have had trouble fitting into them when I was ten.  And do you know what happens to a pair of chubby legs stuffed into tight jeans?  The fat puffs out, in places that you’d least expect and can’t possibly hide.

Fall and winter are the worst, because not only do I have to find pieces of clothing that I like and can afford, but I also have to match the layers.  This is not my strong point.  My closet tends to be full of jackets that don’t match any of my blouses, jeans in colors that clash with all my sweaters, and tops that are either too long are too bulky to wear underneath anything.  Traditionally, I tend to solve this problem by buying a lot of black or white items, which means that I have a lot of black pants and black and white tops, often striped.  Once I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realized that if I added a pair of tennis shoes and a whistle to my ensemble, I’d look exactly like a matronly referee who got lost on her way to the big game.  So now I try to branch out a little, color-wise.

Still, I do have the occasional success.  Yesterday I went to the mall in search of a pair of shoes to wear to my son’s wedding, and while I didn’t find those, I did manage to find a nice green sweater and a matching top to wear underneath.  On sale.  And they didn’t even come from the same store.  Walking out of the mall, I was so excited that it was all I could do not to stop random strangers and proudly show off my purchases.  When it comes to fashion, I’ve learned to take my victories where I can.

But I May Wear That Someday…..

IMG_0150I admit to being one those people who still believes in giving her house a good, old-fashioned spring cleaning each year.  I wash windows, paint baseboards, clean out junk drawers, etc., and then turn my attention to my closet.  Cleaning my closet means packing away my winter clothes, and then hauling the bins filled with my spring and summer clothes out of the basement to place in my closet and dresser.   As I do, I try to look at each piece of clothing and make sure it’s something I actually still want, and the clothes that don’t make the cut get placed in the donation bag.  In theory, it’s a rather efficient system designed to keep only the clothes that fit, are flattering, and that I actually intend to wear.  And the key words in that sentence are “in theory.”

Because the reality is that I have lots of clothes in my closet that I don’t need or particularly want.  It’s completely against my character, as in all other areas of my life, I have no problems getting rid of things.  I can fill a donation bag, or even a trash bag, in record time and without a second thought.  But for some reason, I’m still hanging onto that pink t-shirt I bought at the outlet mall four years ago, which I’ve worn exactly once.  I also still have the tank top I wore to a neighborhood reunion in 2005, and the sweater that I am wearing in the photo of my husband’s 43rd birthday dinner is still in my dresser.  My husband will be 60 this year.

It’s not that I have these clothes stashed away, where they can be “out of sight and out of mind.” (That’s how we managed to keep my husband’s green leisure suit for the first ten years of our marriage.  It was in a bag of his old clothes which he moved from house to house, but never actually opened.)  My closet is a bit small, so I store out-of-season clothes in bins and I actually go through them each spring and fall, and I do designate several items each time for the Goodwill.  Yet I still manage to keep far too many tops, sweaters and dresses that I don’t wear, or at least that I haven’t worn in the past decade.

Maybe the problem is that I didn’t have very many clothes during my teenage years, when I was very self-conscious about such things.  Or maybe it’s that I believe in reusing and recycling things whenever possible, as I am all too aware of the growing problem of too much trash in our local landfills.  But I have to remember that clothes can’t be kept forever, even if I am still wearing them.  I should have figured that out after the time I wore a pair of jeans to the point where they were so frayed that they ripped right up the back seam.  I didn’t know the rip was there until my son pointed it out at dinner time, and I had worn those jeans all day.

I just have to let go of the idea that I may actually want to wear that black velvet jacket to a party someday, or that I am going to look at a blouse that I haven’t worn in six years and suddenly think, “That’s exactly what I want to wear today!” It seems that my wardrobe is my personal and final hurdle in my goal to living a simplified and clutter-free existence. And it’s way past time to clean out that closet, once and for all.IMG_0148