I have a button box in which I save all of those extra buttons that come with clothing… just in case. I also have a box filled with many tiny spools of thread in every shade imaginable, shoe boxes marked “cards to save,” and a drawer labeled “things to save.” Currently, that drawer holds another shoe box filled with cards from my wedding 51 years ago, my peignoir set from my honeymoon, and, for reasons unknown, a piece of coral.
My husband has shirts and sweatshirts hanging in this closet that fit into the category of “I thought I had a shirt that I used to wear with this sweater but it’s gone.”
I was having lunch with a group of friends I have known for over 40 years, all of whom keep talking about organizing and downsizing. Thus far, only one of us has actually done it, and she shared what she had learned from the process in three simple words: throw it out. Your kids don’t want the photo collage poster from a special birthday. You won’t be able to sell your grandmother’s silver tray or your mother’s cut glass bowl. Give it away if you can, although sometimes you just have to toss it.
Her advice: start with one closet at a time. That seemed reasonable to me, so I took a look at the one in my youngest daughter’s former bedroom. Well, this is going to be a challenge. My daughter has a family and home of her own, but her adolescence still lives in my house. Plus, my husband and I just stick things into our kids’ closets that don’t fit in ours.
The shelving that runs along the top of her closet is filled with bedding that might be useful someday. Right. When I offered her sister the matching pink floral comforters and pillow shams from her childhood bedroom for her twin girls, she turned me down flat. They languish in the closet next to a torn throw pillow I might fix one day. And then there are the extra hangers (you never know). Despite taking loads of them back to the cleaners to be recycled, they seem to reproduce like bunnies.
I’m guessing my daughter no longer needs her middle and high school graduation gowns, her skating team jacket covered by award patches, or her skating dresses. But I paid good money for those dresses and when I look at them, I’m filled with happy memories. So I took pictures of my favorites and donated them to the rink. There is also the scribe leaning against a corner. No, that’s not a little guy taking notes about the state of this closet. It’s an instrument used to scratch figure eights unto the surface of the ice so she could practice her edges. Do skaters even do that anymore? I don’t think so. That will need to land in the scrap metal pile.
I finally find something that could be useful. She has fifty special t-shirts in there with logos depicting important things in her life like the Bulls victories, college hangouts, shirts from her friends’ colleges, an Alanis Morissette concert, a state track meet, the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and Earth Day 1999. I plan to donate a few obvious rejects but will give her the rest to distribute to her kids or make a memory quilt.
But that only makes a small dent in the stash of far too much stuff crammed into that closet because I’m the anti-Marie Kondo. I can’t part with things that once gave me pleasure but now hang unused. Like my dress up clothing. I rarely have to dress up these days, and I have photos of myself wearing these things that date back more than twenty years. Resolved: I will donate anything that appears in a picture prior to 2010 or doesn’t fit but might someday if I lose weight.
My husband has shirts and sweatshirts hanging in this closet that fit into the category of “I thought I had a shirt that I used to wear with this sweater but it’s gone.” Or “I don’t have a sweatshirt to wear” if the weather calls for layering. Maybe he could find these things if we removed the empty hangers and the ironing board gathering cobwebs in the corner. Sigh. It’s just too much. We planned to get rid of stuff last winter, and we did clean out part of the basement. But here we are, one winter later, with little to show for that effort.
My friend is right. Start with this one closet. Or maybe a shelf or corner of the closet. After my father died, I helped my mother “edit” her belongings to move into a senior living apartment. That was tough, but after she died, it was even harder for my brothers and me to figure out what to do with her stuff.
I vow not to put my own kids through that experience. Today, I’m throwing out my peignoir set, my wedding cards from people I don’t remember, and that button box. I’ll get to that closet another day.
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.