Dress Relief

There are two types of people in this world: those who think cleaning out closets is a chore, and those who consider this project one of life’s most satisfying events. I’m in the latter camp. I live in an older home built in the 1960s and to say my closet is the size of a shoebox isn’t as much hyperbole as it is slight exaggeration. So, I keep out-of-season clothes stored in the basement, and seasonally, I switch things around.

Everything I know about the art of organizing a clothes closet, I learned from my mom. For as long as I can remember, Mom has rolled up her sleeves and offered her advice. Together, we empty the closet and then I try everything on. But where Marie Kondo asks, “Does it spark joy?” Mom doesn’t stop there. She is more ruthless in her interrogations.

“Is it in good condition?”

“Nope.” Goodbye sweaters with pills clinging like unwanted hitchhikers.

“Does it fit?”

“Nope.” Goodbye heels that pinch and that little black skirt. Anything too tight.

“But maybe if I lose five pounds…”

“No.” Mom says if I can’t or don’t wear clothing for whatever reason, it only adds stress. “Say goodbye to that shirt you ‘keep meaning to’ iron. And you know you don’t iron, Allison. So please stop buying clothes that need to be ironed.”

Every year, I swear I’m going to start ironing.

And so, we toss clothes into the donation bag. Goodbye suede boots that slump and slouch by mid-afternoon like my posture. Goodbye cute dress that would be perfect for cocktail parties I never actually attend.

“Get rid of your mistakes,” Mom says. “So what if they were expensive? Or gifts? Or if the tags are still on them? Give them away. Give them the opportunity to be someone else’s treasure.”

After clearing the unwanted items out of my closet, the fun part begins. I like to look “pulled together” as Mom says, “When you look good, you feel good.” Mom is a genius when it comes to putting clothes together in new or unexpected ways.

“Oh, those pants, that deep cabernet color is gorgeous! Try those with the black and white loafers–so sharp!”

As I hang the last few items in my now organized closet, it occurs to me that this process is a metaphor for life. We must edit out things that don’t suit us anymore, let go of the things we’ve outgrown, and find the things that are important to keep.

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