Jekyll and Hyde – Learning to let go of Things

Recently my friend sent me a picture of her bed loaded up with clothes that she was donating. This sparked me to do the same. I try to purge my closets every so often, but it’s been several years since I did it, and I knew it was time, so I went about it in ruthless Mr.-Hyde fashion.

“I haven’t worn this in years. Get rid of it,” I told myself. We all know the rule: If you haven’t worn it in over a year, get rid of it! But I always tell myself that it will come back in style—and it always does. Whoever thought elephant pants or hip-huggers would come back? But they did. Damn, I wish I’d kept those old Coca-Cola elephant pants I had when I was ten.

There are some things, though, that you just know you will never wear again regardless of style. I know at my age I will never wear a skirt that ends more than about a half-inch above my knees. Out! I know I will never again wear a halter-top. Out! Short-shorts. Out! Most of these clothes are still in good shape, so I make piles: summer consignment, winter consignment, Goodwill. I place the piles neatly on the futon in my den and label them so I can continue to add to them. After spotting a stain or two on some of the consignment things, I throw them into the wash. The next day I wake up and continue, only now I am not so ruthless.

“Oh, I really like this. I remember buying it in Chicago back in the nineties,” I say, as I pull my old Buddy Guy Legend T-shirt from the Goodwill pile. “What was I thinking? I love this hat,” I say, pulling out a hat from the winery I visited nine years ago. I’ve never worn it. And suddenly I’ve turned into Dr. Jekyll, and I begin to rummage through my pile.

“No, I can’t do this,” I say, and I force myself to walk away from the temptation. “I can’t look at them anymore, I have to let go.” So I get some bags and quickly pack up my piles to avoid the temptation.

Why is it so hard to part with our things? I don’t think it’s just me. I’m not a hoarder, although my daughter thinks I am! She won’t even allow me to look in her Goodwill bags because she knows I’ll take everything! And why not? I say. Her things are all new to me, and they are always so nice.

“Mum, you don’t need any more clothes,” she scolds.

“Why do you care? I like getting your hand-me-downs!” I tell her. Every so often she will relent, and bring me a bag of her giveaways. Invariably I keep most of them, but I make a silent vow to myself to get rid of something of mine in return. Of course, I often don’t, and then I end up in the predicament I now find myself.

I know the best way to get rid of things is not to make piles. I should decide right away where something is going and place it directly into a designated bag so I will never look at it again. Do not under any circumstance, ever look in that bag, I tell myself, or you’re doomed. It’s an endless loop.

I think about my kids going though my things after I’m gone, shaking their heads about all the stupid things I saved. I know it won’t be my problem then, but I know I need to clean out the crap I no longer need, little by little. It’s a process, and someday I’ll get there!