Cleaning Out the Closet

Now that we’re done cleaning out our kitchen cabinets for Passover and we’re back to eating chocolate chip cookies, we have turned our attention to the upstairs closets. Spring is here, which means it’s time to bring down the boxes of summer clothes from the attic and buy some mothballs to dump into the box with the winter sweaters. We had the feeling that putting out-of-season clothes away is sort of old-fashioned thing to do….until we asked around our friends and found that “everyone” does it. We assume that if you’re a twenty something who lives in a tiny studio apartment, who barely manages to do your laundry, buys clothes on-line and has no attic or basement, this does not pertain to you.

For us, the real dilemma is what to keep and what to give away, and we’re not very good at it. Did you give away that black sequined sweater you thought would be perfect for New Year’s Eve 2008, or are you a hoarder? We don’t have to make a path through the old magazines to get to the kitchen, yet but Joyce does have a drawer full of souvenir t-shirts ­– from walkathons, concerts and Bar Mitzvahs ­– that she can’t bear to part with.

As spring approaches each year, Joyce observes that she has only wore a fraction of her wardrobe. In the last few days before the closet cleaning, she wears the items that didn’t get any play over the past winter, to give them a shot at the regular rotation and so she doesn’t have to throw them out. She still believes in the rule that “if you didn’t wear it in the last year, you should give it away.”

If you can’t decide what looks good enough to keep, you could rent a daughter. We could lend you ours, but we need their advice. We try on, hold up, or even text photos to get their opinion. And with just one look at their faces, we know the verdict.

They do have a way with words. When Joyce was in her multicolored print ethnic phase and she put on an outfit for Samantha’s appraisal, Samantha said, “That would be perfect if you were an overweight African woman.”

Ellen was on a cheap sweatpants website looking for exercise gear when she gave into the lure of a $32.99 dress. When it arrived in the mail, she was surprised that it fit. It was clingy and sexy. Jessie looked at it and said, “Oh dear, you’ve never worn anything that short before.” Ellen looked down and noticed that the dress had a hemline fit for Kim Kardashian. (Both of these items are still in our closets, waiting for the perfect occasion.)

More than a few years ago, Ellen finally threw out her large collection of button-down polyester “work blouses” with bows at the neck, but she couldn’t get rid of two pairs of high-heeled boots that would be great in a boardroom.  If she ever went to a boardroom. Or an office.

Joyce has bought a few of those long, flowy, open sweaters, but they weren’t a good choice for a woman who is barely 5’2”. The longest ones make her look like she doesn’t have legs. And speaking of legs, she also got rid of the capris she bought that were long pants on her. They never looked right.

When we can’t decide which of our own things to discard, we turn our attention to our family’s drawers. Ellen refuses to buy her son any more shorts until he sorts through the 19 pair of identical basketball shorts he already owns. When she buys clothes for her sons that they didn’t like, they insist on giving it to their dad, who now has a whole collection of too-short shorts and golf shirts in questionable colors.

Joyce yearns to clean out her husband’s and son’s drawers, but they immediately sense when anything has been touched or moved in their space. When Joyce’s husband went off to college, his mom threw out his beloved stamp and record collections, and it has scarred him for life. Son Ben must have inherited the do-not-touch-my-stuff gene. Although he lives in Denver, his room at home still holds his collections of soccer jerseys, meteorites, baseball cards and more, and Joyce wouldn’t dare touch it. But luckily, Samantha – the aforementioned fashion maven ­– loves to clean out her drawers and sometimes she invites Joyce to help.

This year, it’s been spring since February. The azaleas bloomed two weeks early. The fruit trees are confused. But this week, when the temperature dipped, we were freezing, because our winter sweaters are already stashed away.

Next week: Who got the donations? Why do we have so much stuff? Will we ever shop again?

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3 Responses to Cleaning Out the Closet

  1. The (not) Prodigal Son says:

    Don’t worry those of us with our small New York 1 br who can’t afford storage will be sending home a donation to andy hopefully next week


  2. Lisa Marks says:

    I can relate to this problem. Occasionally I get the bug to clean out and organize my closet, and, when I get in the closet I just take a look around, feel overwhelmed, and leave. I then turn my attention to my husbands closet. So easy for me to fix his closet and his life!
    (please do not tell him, he does not know about this)


  3. Hanna says:

    I like this post, it talks to me particularly. I have so long practiced the casting errors in buying clothes with abundance and application …
    I do not give the things we do not want to wear more, I think if I find them ugly or outdated they are not good either for another person. So I put them neatly in a closed bag that I put above or beside the outside trash bin.
    This year I’m lucky because I almost recover my size S (36 in France) … Eh-eh, I’ll borrow a few things in the dressing room of my daughter that will be suitable for a worn mom like me 🙂


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