New Year / New Closet

Yesterday I cleaned out my closet.

People tell me that I bring stillness and calm and that is the image I try to bring. Nothing dramatic, a peaceful presence, neat and organized. I wrote recently about how I cultivate a calm, peaceful space in my office.

Yet every one of my closets is overflowing with junk that I don’t want or need. Every time I open a closet door, things fall out on me. I dread opening the closets so much that I avoid opening them: coats are hung on the backs of chairs; my husband hangs his work wardrobe on the door of one closet. I hang my workout clothes on the door of another closet. And all the doors are askew, making it a struggle to open or closet them. What does that say about me? [I am as messy on the inside as my closets are.]

So I tackled the bedroom closet yesterday. I didn’t Marie Kondo it, though I would have dearly loved to; I just didn’t have the strength. But I did take every single piece of my clothing out of the closet and piled it on the bed, and made some hard decisions. And surprised myself with my predictability.

Ok, anyone – anyone in New York anyway – can own 8-10 black t-shirts. That’s not unusual. And I did give up some of those. But there were other surprises.

When I started a new job this year, I bought the most beautiful blue dress at Ann Taylor. I liked the cut, the fabric. And the shade of blue was perfect – you never see this shade of blue.

Except that I found another one just like it when I cleaned out the closet. It was in a smaller size but, BUT, it looks like it’s a staple for Ann Taylor and, when I get to be that size again, I will either be over that dress – it will be a memory of my larger size – or I can pick it up again in the smaller size. I found the same thing with several Talbots dresses. Talbots is nothing if not predictable and I owned the same dress in several different colors and sizes, fabrics, and seasons. None of them current. And none of them I loved.

There were a few that were different, also in smaller sizes. I thought about what someone told me the last time I lost weight: when you are a smaller size, you won’t want to wear the things that you wore the last time you were that size; you’ll be so excited that you’ll want to buy new clothes. So yesterday, I tried to picture what it would feel like to put that dress on again – and out it went.

Some decisions were easy – a dress I bought that was really too young for me went to my niece. Another dress, that will look stunning on her in about 10 years, also went in the pile for her. If she doesn’t want it now, she can trade it in at a consignment shop and get something she does want. Jeans, t-shirts, turtlenecks, shorts are all going to her.

There were other surprises. One dress I remember wearing and was hoping to hold onto – it was a 4! A 4?!? When I lost weight before, I thought I got down to an 8. 4 seems unattainable at this point. Out it went with the beautiful jacket that went with it. [The recipients of these donations – an organization that helps abused women get jobs – is getting a lot of good things.]

And then there were the realizations: how many dresses I’ve bought for some occasion and then wore exactly once and never again: A white linen suit. A Tahari blue dress that I made a special trip to buy. The sexy black DKNY that I saved up for and wouldn’t let myself buy until I had hit my target weight and then was too chicken to wear more than once. [The two dresses went to a friend who I think will enjoy them.]

This wasn’t Marie Kondo by any means. I held onto more than I would have, under her method. I held onto the sassy black suit I bought, also to celebrate hitting my target weight — that one, I hadn’t worn even once and, if I ever need a suit again, that’s the one I want to wear. And I held onto the two absolutely identical Ann Taylor dress suits – I can’t believe I bought them twice. What’s even worse: they’re basically the same size. One is a 12P and one is a 10. And three, three Talbots suits: two with skirts, one with pants [the pants suit fits]. I hate suits. I never wear suits. Why am I holding onto FIVE suits, only one of which fits me? So definitely not MK.

When I was done, I ended up with a giant bag of things to send my niece. Two huge bags to go to the non-profit. A tiny bag to go to Goodwill (jeans and t-shirts), and another tiny bag to go to clothing recycling. I’m giving away more than I’m keeping.

I read online about how some women do this as a party: you invite your friends over and pull out all your clothes, get your friends’ opinions about which ones to keep [probably hearing some hard truths in the process] and then your friends shop the ones you’re letting go of. I just don’t have a group of friends that I’m that close to. I’ve always longed to have friends like this (longing again) but haven’t run in a pack like that since high school. Maybe it’s me; maybe it’s New York City – or some combination thereof.

I was so proud of my work when I was done. I was ready to rush out and do my donating that same day, completing the process. But the non-profit is only open M-F 9-5:30, which means I’ll have to call in an hour late to work one morning to drop off my donations. And I didn’t have a box big enough to ship all the things for my niece. And the recycler is only on duty on Saturdays. So now my clothing racks are empty enough that, if I removed all the empty hangers, I could finger-space my clothes. And the floor of my closet is piled high with bags.

Which will, of course, threaten to fall out and crush me when I open the door.


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