My wardrobe does not have a lot of variety. I wear the same clothes over and over again. Jeans, of course, and a brown shirt, a red shirt, a coral-colored shirt, and oh, yeah, another brown shirt. Anyone who reads my blog knows what items of clothing I have purchased in the last two years because I have blogged every shopping trip, on the theory that painful experiences often lead to great writing; it adds up to three pairs of jeans, one pair of black pants, and one red sweater.
Why then was my closet so filled with clothing that the shirts were all jammed together and it was hard to pull one out?
I could argue that it's because my bedroom is small, with no room for a chest of drawers, which means that every single t-shirt and pair of jeans gets hung in the closet. I could argue that it's because I have to share the closet with my husband, who has a million cheap t-shirts he's gotten from charity fund-raising efforts. I could argue that it has to do with the climate I live in, so that I have summer clothes and warm winter clothes and everything in between all hanging in my closet all at once. I am far too lazy to pack up clothes and put them away every season. Those thing are all true, but the real problem is simply this: I am a pack rat. It's hard for me to part with an item of clothing. I'll look at that shirt I wore back in 1986, the year my daughter was born, and I'll remember what a nice color it used to be, and how comfy and convenient it was for breastfeeding, and how disloyal would I have to be to turn it away now just because it's all stretched out and faded and two sizes too big?
I am no good at cleaning out my half of the closet. No matter which item of clothing I look at, I can think of a time when it might come in handy. What if I am painting the living room? What if I am gardening in the rain? What if I decide to be Andy Gibb for Halloween? I hung onto some of my favorite maternity clothes for years after my husband had a vasectomy. Well, you just never know.
I have inherited pack rat tendencies from an aunt on my mother's side of the family, which means, for instance, I will happily take bags of hand-me-down clothes from sisters and hang onto them forever – but I am also like my father's mother. I don't like clutter. Yes, that is a bad combination of traits to inherit, enough to make a person crazy. I hate a crowded closet, and yet I cannot bear to get rid of those shirts I wore back in 1988, the ones I bought at that great garage sale.
So yesterday, I cleaned my closet the only way that would work: I made a deal with the devil. I told my daughter that if she helped, she could make all the decisions about my clothes. I would try on every item of clothing in my closet, and she would tell me if I could keep it – or she could put the item in the bag for the Rescue Mission. She would have the ultimate say. I knew she would jump at the chance. She is a woman who loves power.
So that's what we did. I tried on every single item of clothing I own (well, she drew the line at lingerie) and modeled it for my daughter. Then she made the call.
Half the time, she didn't have to even say anything. I'd pull on a shirt or baggy pair of pants, and she'd be rolling on the bed laughing. I kept trying to defend my clothing. I had a whole bunch of shirts and pants that were a size too big, clothes that always came in handy right after I'd just had a baby. I figured I should hang onto them in case I ever gained any weight and needed some faded, stained, out-of-style clothes. But my daughter thought differently. She was ruthless.
"What about this pair of black pants?" I'd say, "Shouldn't I keep them?"
"Why? I already let you keep two pairs of black pants that actually fit you. Those are baggy. And shapeless. And kind of ugly. Why would you keep them?"
"What if I have to go to a funeral? What if I get fat and someone dies?"
"If you wear those, I'm sure your dead friend will be rolling in her grave. She'd probably rather you go naked."
She would grab the pants from me and stick them into the bag while I was still talking. I'd try on a lovely turtleneck sweater, one that I have never actually worn.
"Get rid of it. You don't wear turtlenecks."
"But it looks good on me."
"Yeah, but you don't wear turtlenecks. They make you feel claustrophobic."
"Yeah, but it's a perfectly good sweater. It fits me."
"But you would never wear it."
"Well, yeah, that's because I don't wear turtlenecks."
"Exactly! That's what I'm saying! If you're not gonna wear it, I'm not letting you keep it."
She kept using that logic over and over again. Why keep clothes that you intend never to wear? After a while, I gave up. I'd put a shirt on, look in the mirror, and then strip it off and throw it over to my daughter before she even said a word. She eliminated about half the clothes hanging in my closet. And we had three garbage bags of clothes to take to the Rescue Mission.
Of course, the best part was getting to spend time alone with my daughter. One of my sons would try barging into the bedroom, and she'd yell, "Mom's got no pants on!" Nothing gets rid of a teenage boy faster than the prospect of seeing his mother in her underwear. So we had time to ourselves, drinking juice and eating snacks, while I pulled cherished clothes over my head and she screamed in horror. "Good God. You paid money for that?"