I Went Home for Thanksgiving and My Mom Made Me Clean Out My Closet

I understand why you should give clothes away. I mean, I understand the logical reasoning behind it.
Publish date:
December 7, 2012
memories, nostalgia, organization, closets

I went back to childhood home for Thanksgiving and while I was there my mom made me clean out of my closet. This is something she’s been trying to do for years. She always presents it like it’s the greatest activity in the world and that I should be thrilled to be sorting through my T-shirt drawer.

I understand why you should give clothes away. I mean, I understand the logical reasoning behind it. You don’t wear that dress anymore. Someone else could wear that dress. You should give that dress away.

That makes perfect sense to me, but I still have difficulty giving away my clothes. I know I’ll never wear these pieces that I find so hard to give away. Many of them don’t even fit me anymore. The ones that do aren’t really my style. So, then what’s the problem?

An old boyfriend of mine once told me I “exist almost entirely in the past.” I said, “No, I don’t,” in a defensive tone, but his words sliced me in a way that only the truth can.

It’s true, yeah. I do exist almost entirely in the past, rehashing conversations in my head instead of looking at what’s around me. Reading old journals like there is some hidden thesis between the lines. I remember everything, even after it seems everyone else has let go of anything. I remember what we talked about, how your voice sounded shaky when you told me stories. I remember ordering angel food cake. I remember which seat we sat in. I remember what I wore. I always remember what I wore.

There are a select number of moments in my life that feel so pivotal, I honestly believe they rewired my brain and fundamentally changed the person I am now. Those are the ones I have difficulty letting go of, allowing them to just sit on the shelf and collect dust.

The blue thermal Abercrombie and Fitch size extra small shirt I wore during the kiss I shared with the first guy I loved (albeit in a very young and almost pathological way) has sat in my drawer for about 7 years. It’s the only tangible evidence I have of that relationship and to give it away feels like a betrayal. Not to this guy I don’t care about anymore, but to a version of myself that was a bit less callous, a bit more wide-eyed, a lot more naïve.

I don’t want to give away that shirt, or the dress I got my semester abroad in Amsterdam, even though I now think it’s tacky and unflattering. I don’t want to give away the jean shorts I wore when I moved into my apartment in New York, even though I know someone else could get better use out of them. Mostly, I don’t want to admit that these memories are just memories and that they can’t really be tied together to form anything even resembling a narrative.

Here are some tips for actually cleaning out your closet (but just know that I won’t judge you if you keep a few pieces around):

  • If you’re skeptical about a piece, ask yourself if you can make three outfits with it using pieces you already know you have and like and wear on the regular. Can’t do that? Give ‘er away.
  • I’m a big advocate for giving away clothing to charity, but I’m also an advocate for selling some of your nicer pieces to places like Buffalo Exchange. If you aren’t in a place that has a Buffalo Exchange or a Plato’s Closet or, well, any consignment store (or if you just don’t want to leave your house, which is totally legitimate), Copious is a great online option.
  • If you are going to sell your clothes, try and make ‘em as presentable as possible, will you? That means removing any makeup stains, ironing out any major wrinkles, and making sure there are no deodorant streaks. I say this because 1) no one wants your disgusting Secret-soaked T-shirt, and 2) it will make your clothes more likely to be bought.
  • Try things on. I recently had to give away a dress I love because I realized it wasn’t really flattering anymore. Your body changes (ew, I sound like "The Care and Keeping of Being You," ew), duh, but your knowledge of what’s flattering also changes. In high school, I thought empire waists were so my thing. I looked horrible.

Tweet at me @michellelynking!

Photo by the lovely Kait Robinson.