Things I Learned from Cleaning Out My Closet

I put away the shorts and sandals this week and replaced them with corduroy pants, sweaters and, ugh, shoes that require socks. I’m a neat freak who needs her clothing organized—solid or print tops, dress slacks or jeans, shoes grouped by color, etc. When I do this in the spring, it’s with joyful anticipation of outdoor swimming and deck-sitting at Ocean Pines, but the fall changeover tends to depress me, because holidays aside, I’m not a big fan of the dark months.

Like many of us, I don’t wear a lot of what’s in my closet because there’s no place to go. Not that my husband and I were living a high-end social life, but at least there were concerts and theater, dinners at nice restaurants, and the occasional party. But now, it’s mostly just jeans and tops for puttering around the house and watching Netflix at night. However, you will never, ever find me in pj’s after 8 AM, wearing sweats in public, or appearing on a zoom meeting without at least a touch of make-up.

Memories cling to our clothing like lint. I got rid of both the shirt I wore when we had to put Vinnie down in June and the one I had on when we found a friend in a serious medical crisis. The fuzzy purple robe from when I had my back surgery ten years ago still hangs in my closet, but I haven’t worn it since. On the flip side, I keep and still wear an ancient sweatshirt that was one of my last pieces of Dallastown swag and a pair of boots permanently stained with candlewax from a wonderful holiday dinner party with friends.

Clothing purchased at outlets tends to have a short shelf-life. Cutting corners never really pays in the long run.

Plain, boring, Land’s End squall coats and jackets literally last forever. I open the closet and think, “You’re still here after how many trips through the washer?” There’s something to be said for being a plugger, for just getting a job done without a lot of bells and whistles.

Clothing from a store that went out of business in 2014 (or before) needs to go. Now. No questions asked, no Marie Kondo does-it-bring-me-joy-stuff. Sometimes we have to move on and accept that what worked in the past no longer does.

Know thyself. I dressed casually when I was teaching because I was on the floor adjusting cello endpins or schlepping instruments from one school to another. Heels and dresses weren’t practical for my job or my body. I have a friend who can perfectly style an outfit and wear linen without it wrinkling. I admire her fashion gifts just like I do someone who can paint pictures or design cars, but that’s not who I am, and that’s okay.

You can never have enough good quality solid cotton tee-shirts and colorful scarves, (although Dr. Birx almost ruined me on scarves.) I also recommend those Skechers that you can wear without socks which will ease the transition from your beloved sandals to the rigid confines of winter shoes and boots.

Do not let well-meaning friends talk you into clothing you’ll never wear. I finally got rid of a wool jacket purchased on a shopping trip with friends who ooh-ed and aah-ed when I tried it on. Just looking at it makes me itch and the thing generates so much heat, I can’t imagine wearing it in above-freezing temperatures.

Most importantly, take stock every now and then. Examine what still works and what doesn’t. Get rid of the excess, the worn-out, the no-longer-fits. Perhaps give something you bought and never wore, another chance. Accept the current reality of your life and plan how you’re going to dress for it. Weigh what you want against what you already have, although the occasional splurge on something new feels so good and is absolutely necessary. And remember that in six months, the light will return and, once again, it will be time for flip-flops.

3 thoughts on “Things I Learned from Cleaning Out My Closet

  1. This was the first story I read of yours- love the way you write. You seem to say what I think and feel and I love your topics!! I have since read all of your stories from 2020 and most of 2019.i had to pause my reading to write this note to you. I loved each and every story! I met with my book club this morning and I now have them hooked on reading your stories. Thanks Anne- much needed!!!


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