I knew I was in trouble when my house painter announced my bedroom closets would be the final stop in my four-month renovation. I haven’t moved in 34 years. My closets were “occasionally” edited but loaded with “back up for back up.” Multiples of tee shirts, leggings, blouses, tunics, and dresses from long ago lives.
I just never did the Andy Warhol wardrobe edit of “if you haven’t worn it in a year, you never will, so toss it.” He believed clothes should be dated like the grocery’s dairy section. I just pushed it all to the back of the rack. And I had 60 racks and four closets to hide in!
I wasn’t a hoarder or a clothes horse. I just loved the joy of shopping — just the escapism of it all. I was a believer in retail therapy from life’s roller coaster. I shopped when I was sad, I shopped when I was glad. Some people loved museums as a browsing outlet. I loved stores. I could get lost.
But when I was asked to take it all off the hangers and shelves and stack it on my bed, chairs, bathtub, and shower stall, I was horrified — there were Kilimanjaro mountains of stuff everywhere. I realized my renovation was the wake-up call of over consumption that I needed.
My friend Lateash who helped me “smash and grab” my own closets was shocked at all the items she never saw me wear. I was embarrassed by her observance. I prided myself on closets that were color coded and organized. But now I had to face the fact that I was drowning. This had nothing to do with “buyer’s remorse” — I was past that.
It’s not just Covid and the recent “lean and mean” era we are all about to enter. It was the realization that I had reached the “rock bottom” moment that I simply had to shed and shred. I turned 75 and who was I kidding keeping a box of skinny jeans and tight cardigan sweaters? What was I thinking with the collection of sleeveless blouses (my arms are now corrugated cardboard) and “sun and fun” sundresses? For what?
Friends told me that moving makes discarding imperative and guilt free. Renovating is moving without the cartons. Now was the time for me to slash and burn. I finally had the rage (or disgust) and the age to put a machete to my wardrobe and not look back. Letting go is hard to do but not when time is of the essence. Renovation was the wake-up call. As I kept hearing people say, “Now you will start a whole new life.” How about just a LIFE will do — forget new or old.
Still… editing your belongings is very emotional. Especially when I looked at my shopping experience as such memorable and joyful occasions. I knew where I was and why I bought everything I owned. It was very personal history on a hanger.
But now, things have changed. Nothing looks or feels right. The act of shopping gives me no thrill. The closet earthquake has happened, and I am ready to say “Everything Must Go.” This is way past closet guru Marie Kondo’s theory of asking each item “what joy it gives you.” WHO CARES — I am into a radical TAKEDOWN. Don’t ask — don’t tell!
I realized that whenever I traveled, I could survive on a limited wardrobe of two pants, three tops, and frequent laundry. That gave me a potential clue as to my future. Hotel closet space was limited. I had too much real estate to fill at home. It became an excuse to load up. Lately life dictated that heavy tote bags were NOT good for my deteriorating shoulder joints. Pockets were fine for just my cell phone and wallet. High heels were tossed because my planter fasciitis ruled in favor of flat footwear.
Covid gave me nowhere to go and nothing to get dressed up for. And it was a teaching. Like the Zen kōan of owning only “one knife, one bowl, one spoon — oh, what a complete life.”
Then again, you have fashionista Iris Apfel who believes “More is More. Less is a bore.” She is now 100 years old and is layered in baubles, bangles, and beads. Good for her. She also has warehouses full of her “stuff.” I don’t envy her ever purging.
Last week I had to move into my mom’s bedroom while mine was being painted. My mom died in our house last September and wanted me to redo the place. I designated her room to be a guest room and redid it early on with all of her art collection left on the walls and massive library back on the shelves. She was a true-blue Zen JewBu (Jew Buddhist). She insisted on moving on with less all her life. She got rid of most everything the month before she died. She was cremated dressed in her one string of pearls, trademark thick round glasses, simple shirt, and pants, and Allbirds sneakers.
When I moved into her room, it was the first “trip” I had taken in three years. I felt like I had landed in India. I would look at her wall of mementos every night and her big sign of her favorite quote: “What for I need this?” I knew she was talking to me!
Before I moved into her “sanctuary,” I left a pile of Hefty bags filled with my visual history in front of my neighborhood Goodwill. No RealReal chic consignment store for me. My bags were in the same bin as someone’s old fashion popcorn machine and model airplane collection. Goodwill is all about donating past lives for others to enjoy or destroy. Especially when your own relatives or gardeners don’t want any of it.
I have now been living with empty closets but hopefully not an empty life — although maybe that would be a perfect intermission. It all feels right; not barren or lost. So far, my dog Sunshine has been using my closet as his get-away “man cave.” He now has enough leashes and collars to hang on a wall or two.
I hear pets are the new fashion hoarders. They deserve it!