This past weekend my daughter and I went through every closet in the house, as well as the attic over the garage, to find clothes to donate to the Lupus Foundation. I just did this sorting and giving away about two years ago, and low and behold there was probably triple the amount of clothes to be hauled away this time. How is that possible? Last time I did it alone—which may account for the smaller donation. This time, my daughter—the enforcer—stood beside me making sure I didn’t snatch something back out of the pile and return it to the closet or attic box.
My name is Barbara and I am a hoarder.
I never thought of myself as such. In fact, I have made fun of the old lady on the news that never threw a newspaper away in her lifetime and has to have her home condemned because it’s a fire hazard. Of course, I wouldn’t collect old newspapers. That’s just silly.
But I probably have every toy my children ever owned, resting comfortably in boxes in the attic just in case my futuristic grandchildren are too poor to have toys of their own or the government bans toys because they cause children to use their imaginations. I have boxes of empty frames of various sizes and shapes, also stored in the attic. And yet I can never find one I like when I have a photo to display. I have multiple boxes of children’s books packed and waiting for that library expansion I have planned if my husband ever lets me knock the wall out between my office and my daughter’s bedroom.
Mostly I had clothes. Clothes I wore when I first got married. Clothes I wore when I was pregnant. Clothes I wore after I had children. Clothes I wore after I lost weight. Clothes I wore after I gained back the weight. Clothes I wore after I lost weight again. Clothes I wore after I gained back weight again. Clothes I know I would once again fit into if I just lost a few pounds!
My daughter is much more no-nonsense than I am. She pried my fingers from the lapel of a 1980’s shoulder-padded, turquoise blue, two-piece suit and threw it into the pile of discarded items as though it were nothing more than lint from the dryer. And then did the same to a dozen others while I watched in shock and a little awe. I tried to tell her they would come back in style someday, retro is cool, but she just pursed her lips in that condescending way she has and told me to back away from the pile.
I’m confused by the clothes I see in stores today. So much appears to be castoffs from someone’s attic box of 1970’s fashion. And I need to throw my collection away?! Won’t we be hitting the 80’s again pretty soon? Those shoulder pads and pleats are sure to be some hot young designer’s ticket to fame any day now, and all my retro suits are gone with the wind. I hope they find an owner who will appreciate them and love them like I did.
Letting go of things is hard. At least for me. I remember the cost of the item and how long it was before we could afford such things. I associate a time and place, perhaps an occasion with the item. I make it personal. They’re not just a pair of pink cowboy boots my daughter wore when she was a toddler. They are pink boots she picked out herself when we took a trip to the Black Hills when she was fifteen months old. She pranced around in the hotel room in nothing but her boots, cowgirl hat, and diaper like she was a super model on a runway. It’s not just a box of old books. They’re books I read to my children every night before they went to sleep, books I read to them before naps in the afternoon, books I read to them in the car on trips, books I read to them when they were sick with Chicken pox or the flu, books I listened to them read word by word and helped them sound things out when they got stuck, books I read to them even when they knew how to read themselves because they begged me to.
The truck came and went, taking our clothes with them. I didn’t give them anything we couldn’t replace or live without. Just stuff we no longer wear. My attic is still filled with toys, books, frames, and memorabilia. Someday someone may have to go through it all and make the decision to keep it, give it away, or toss it—but I’m pretty sure it won’t be me.