One evening, as we were getting ready to go out to dinner, my seven-year-old granddaughter said, “Let’s go upstairs and look for something a little more colorful for you to wear, Grandma.”
I thought I looked fine in my black ensemble, but went along with her just for the fun of playing dress-up.
She pulled out a red blouse. “How about this one?”
“No; that doesn’t fit me anymore.”
“This is pretty!” she said, holding up a purple sweater.
“Nah; I don’t really like that sweater. Besides, it’s too tight on me.”
“This one?” she asked, holding up a white top with horizontal stripes.
“Oh, no! I can’t wear that; it makes me look too fat.”
She pushed the remaining hangers around, muttering under her breath, “black, black, black, everything is black…” Then turning to look at me dressed in my black pants, black sweater and black loafers, she said, “OK; I guess you can wear that. But let’s see if you have some prettier shoes.”
Crawling around in the closet she pushed aside my fuzzy slippers, a pair of brown crocs, my old sneakers and a flattened pair of summer flip-flops.
“Hmm,” she mused. “There isn’t much to work with here.”
It’s true. I’m forever complaining that, “I have nothing to wear!” even though I have a closet full of clothes. Most of them don’t fit me anymore or they are out of style. Shoved in the back and wrapped in plastic drycleaner bags are suits and dresses I will never wear again. The other day I found a tan suit in my closet that I had bought on sale three years ago. It is still hanging in the Macy’s garment bag – never worn – with the price tag attached. I remember the day I tried it on in the dressing room, thinking: I only have to lose five pounds to fit into this. But instead of losing five pounds, I gained fifteen. So why is that suit still hanging in my closet?
Every year I dread that seasonal change of clothing, and almost wish winter would go on forever, just so I wouldn’t have to put away my bulky cover-up winter sweaters and unpack boxes of revealing summer clothes that don’t fit me anymore. I wash and iron them every spring and hang them in my closet, determined, and vowing, this summer I will fit into these clothes. I never do, and in the fall, I repeat the seasonal ritual of repacking nicely pressed unworn summer clothing and storing them back in the attic, promising myself: next year I will fit into those clothes.
This year will be different, as I plan to follow the directions in Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Kondo suggests that clutter is a symptom of our inability to let go of the past, or a fear of moving forward into the future. Well, that explains a lot.
Is my inability to let go of my smaller sized clothing analogous to my inability to accept my age – or my current body type? The occasional peek under those plastic storage bags makes me feel worse, not better, when I tell myself, I used to fit into those small clothes. It’s like telling myself, “I used to be 40 years old – 20 years ago.”
It’s time to let go of the clothes, along with the false hopes they carry of returning to my youth. It’s time to move forward to the woman I am today.
The art of decluttering begins with the gathering of all clothing. Starting with the closets, and including any out of season clothes that are packed away in boxes in the attic or basement, you make a huge pile on the living room floor. One by one, hold up each item and say to yourself: does this piece of clothing bring me joy? If the answer is no, toss it.
And where am I supposed to toss the clothing that no longer brings me joy, I wonder? I usually pack my worn old clothes in opaque bags and wait for nightfall to drive them over to the next town where I can inconspicuously dump them in those metal clothes bins hidden on the edge of grocery store parking lots. I’m too embarrassed to hand them over – in broad daylight! – to the church ladies. They would probably reject my joyless clothing – it being too threadbare and shabby for resale in their thrift shop.
As far as shoes go, I’m normally a black shoe, black sneakers person – as you must have guessed by now. My granddaughter’s attempt to find a prettier shoe for me was a futile one. My priority these days is comfort first, color second. That rules out toeless, backless, and high-heeled shoes. Black is my color of choice since black will go with every piece of joyless black clothing in my closet.
Recently my podiatrist sent me to a runners’ specialty store to purchase a pair of running sneakers for my plantar fasciitis pain. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a black sneaker in the store, so I bought the only ones that felt comfortable – a neon orange-pink pair with bright lime green accents. I walked around the house for two weeks before I gathered enough courage to go out in public with them.
The first time my two-year-old grandson saw me wearing those neon colored sneakers his eyes popped and he pointed to my feet, shouting, “What’s dat? What’s dat?”
“What’s what?” I asked, looking down at my feet. “Oh; these are my new sneakers.”
He ran over to me, squatted in front of my feet and gently poked the bright orange tops of the sneakers, letting out a longwinded “Ohhhhhh…”
That’s the feeling of joy I’m looking for when I assemble my pile of clothing and hold up each piece to ask myself, “Does this bring me joy?” If my answer isn’t a longwinded “Ohhhhhh,” I’ll toss it in an opaque bag and wait for nightfall.
Something tells me, by the time I’m done sorting my joyless clothing, my closet will be empty. But, for the first time in twenty years, I will be telling the truth when I say, “I have nothing to wear!”