Monday, October 5, 2009

Out of the closet

posted Mon, 13 Sep 2004

I’m not sure if it’s good or bad that because of the limited storage space in my house (a 1922 bungalow, built before people really wore clothes), I cannot accumulate lots of clothes. Or things, for that matter. I guess I could if I didn’t mind sticking it all in the attic, but that would require creating some sort of cataloguing system so I would know what I actually had up there and I would rather not do that.

Actually, I am a very tidy person. My closets might have looked this bad in college, but I got over that ridiculous little rebellion against my home training.

So when I get a bunch of new clothes, I have to get rid of a bunch, too. This is not as easy as it might sound. Yes, there are blouses hanging in my closet that I have not worn for years – or ever, even. But they are wardrobe basics! And I got such a good deal on those two linen shirts at the YWCA resale shop in Cedar Rapids, which is where all the society ladies (yes, there are society ladies in Cedar Rapids – it is a VERY nice place to live and I would go back in a second) donated their old clothes. Old clothes to a society lady are things that have been worn more than once.

It’s hard to put a nice white linen shirt that you paid only one dollar for in your Goodwill pile. But I’ve had it for almost five years and have never worn it. That’s right. Never.

Now, my understanding of probability and statistics is probably a little better than that of the average American. My favorite line from The Simpsons is when Homer gets sick and moans, “Sick on a Saturday! What are the odds of that happening? Like one in a thousand?” I’m not saying the average American is as bad as Homer, but I did get an ‘A’ in a graduate-level P&S class. (Interestingly – or not – I just remembered that professor was from Iowa. Coincidence?)

Given that in the five years I have owned the shirt that I have never worn it and given that it is a color (white) that really doesn’t look good on me anyhow and given that it is really a little bit too big and that I don’t have anything to wear it with, what are the odds that I would ever wear the shirt in my lifetime? Yes, this is a word problem. Ha. You DO use algebra in real life. Deal with it.

Hence my little closet-purging exercise Saturday night. (Party!) I was ruthless. (“Ruth,” by the way, actually is a word on its own. It means "compassion or pity for another," and comes from Old Norse via Middle English.* Hence “ruthless” and “ruthful.”)

Yes, I was pitiless in my quest to clean those closets. I had just taken about five bags of stuff to Goodwill earlier in the week, yet I managed to find another three bags of surplus clothing on the second go-round. I had to admit to myself that that cute sundress with the lycra was never meant to be worn by someone of my shape and body fat level. It was designed for a taut teenager whose parents didn’t see her before she left the house.

You see, it’s not the actual discarding of the clothes that’s hard. It’s the discarding of the dream. By giving away that dress, I was acknowledging that I do not now nor will I ever have the right body for it. It’s like when you finally give away the thin jeans. You accept that they are never going to fit again. It’s a hard thing to face for most of us, or at least for me.

So I end up with relatively lean closets without a lot of baggage, either physical or emotional. I guess some people might think that’s good.

* Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

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