Clearing my (psychic) clutter, Day 2: Out of the closet


This is Day 2 of a 21-Day Saluteâ„¢ devoted to addressing the physical (and attendant intangible) clutter in my life. To read the entire series in reverse chronological order, click here. To read about this 21-Day Saluteâ„¢ thing, click here.

A very wise fellow you’ll be hearing a lot more about over the course of this little Saluteâ„¢ gave me a great piece of advice for reframing my clothes closet quandary: if you were in a store today and came across this item, would you purchase it?

Bam. Straight to the heart of the matter, that goes, barreling through the familiar and venerable barriers of “…but I’ll wear it someday” and “…but it’s still perfectly good” and “…but I paid so much for it.”

Or maybe it neatly sidesteps them, which is really the point of reframing. You don’t exactly win by arguing with the Great and Powerful Oz; you can, however, really shift things around by sending old Toto around back to draw open the curtain for the big reveal. How you like them apples, Naked Emperor?

If there are two types of people, those for whom dressing is a burden and those for whom it is an everlasting delight, I fall firmly in the latter camp. I’m a performer and a rag-picker and a seer-of-potential: few things ring my bell like unearthing an expertly home-sewn, fitted denim duster with frog closures and passimenterie (for 12 bucks American!) that I can throw over a crisp white shirt and, well, anything but jeans, and look fan-fucking-tabulous with hand-sewn bells on. Except maybe my Kelly green, wide-wale dandy suitcoat (purchased new at a sample sale). Or any one of the six vintage leather jackets I seem to attract like other lucky folk do Kojak parking (mint & <$40 is to vintage leather jackets as pull-in at the door of the gig is to Kojak parking).

The problem, like anything else in this great world made up both of intangibles that really matter (love and ideas) and stuff that really doesn’t (food and clothes are nice, but you get my drift) is in what constitutes enough. Or, as the alcoholic answered when asked, “How much did you drink?”, all of it. If some great old stuff from a thrift store is good, more must be better. Plus, it’s not like I’m breaking the bank, here: it’s $5.99 for this shirt; if it doesn’t quite work, I’ll dump it back into the stream.

Which is great, we love renting and recycling, but even if you are the holiest of holies and put that sucka right back in the giveaway pile (and I have), there is still the little issue of time cost. What opportunities have I lost by spending this time dealing with a $5.99 shirt that may or may not work with those pants and that scarf, but that absolutely has just required a non-returnable measure of my attention.

Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

Clutter has a weird gravitational pull to it. It pulls us to it and pulls itself to walls and floors and then the very piles it is made of. I’ve addressed my clutter time and time again, and it is only on this last go-’round that I feel like perhaps, perhaps, a corner has been turned.

Here is the one thing I can say with absolute certitude about things and my attachment to them: for as painful as the letting go can be (and boy, can it ever), the release that I feel just after, the opening in my heart that opening in my closet creates, is as close to the sitting-in-the-hand-of-God-0r-whomever that was the brief, temporary gift of my epiphany.

What one thing will I let go of today? What one thing will you?



  1. Shit. Having read this, I now feel like I owe the universe some manner of psychic- and/or physical- decluttering chore, which state leads immediately to the paralysis of “OMG where do I begin.” Thanks a LOT. (This grumpy-thanks likely to be followed by sincere-thanks once some actual decluttering has been conducted.)

  2. T-shirts, that’s my problem.

    Every one comes loaded with baggage: where I got it, what it says, what it says about where I got it. All that. And they never wear out. So a couple of years ago I bundled all except about half a dozen into a big box and stuck them on top of the wardrobe, with the other boxes of seasonal stuff, aiming to wear out the half dozen and then replace them with six more from the box, vowing never to buy another T shirt until I’m down to less than six, total. The downside is that people buy me T shirts and so the total number cannot shrink. Unless I recycle etc a large number of them. Which hurts.

    What to do?

  3. Awesome insights, Colleen. I tell ya: that ability to see potential in just about everything is really more of a curse than a blessing. (I’m thinking about some previous relationships of mine in particular ;-).) I’ll be reading this series faithfully. Good luck!

  4. Victoria – You owe the universe nothing but to work toward giving as fully of your unique fabulosity as you can. (Which I know you know, but I figure we can all use reminding now and again, myself first and foremost.)

    However, if you’re feeling a little stuck-ish, by all means: spend five minutes of quality time with the junk drawer. And report back, pleeze!

    Jeremy – You and The BF both. It’s a guy thing, I guess. Only he never seems to wear them out, no matter how great the proportion of holes to actual fabric gets.

    Catherine – Thank you! And yes, it’s a blessing/curse, just like the “interesting times” one. Man-oh-man (or girl-oh-girl) can it blind one. At least as much as it can show you the way.

  5. We are moving house, so clutter-busting is on the agenda. With me it’s books. Clothes-wise I have the opposite problem to you – I only buy clothes when people start telling me I really ought to. It’s a weak spot :)

    Anything masculine in your wardrobe to throw my way?!

  6. “…if you were in a store today and came across this item, would you purchase it?”

    Holy cow. What a great line. Thanks for sharing this. My wife and I were just talking about decluttering this evening, and this is some great ammunition to take with us into the closet.

  7. Colleen, this is a great salute topic. For 21 whole days!

    I think I’ll join you. I mean, in my own apartment, of course.

    My problem is largely: art supplies. Mixed media collage and painting stuff. How to keep it all organized and sorted and in use?

    I’ve made a pact to buy no new supplies until I use all that I have up, but that’s a little impractical.

    But a good creative challenge. I’m in!

  8. Colleen, Jason: What if the thing is a gift that I wouldn’t have bought in the first place anyway? Does politeness require me to retain it? Or does honesty compel me to junk it?

    I’m leaning to the latter, and hang the consequences.

  9. Reporting back!

    The bad news: I still haven’t slept since I posted the above comment. (I do this not-sleeping thing about once per week. It’s totally stupid.)

    The good news! I got rid of 4-5 boxes of crap in my office. (Dual inspirations: 1) yer blog and 2) panic attack on not being able to find my medication, so after tearing the house apart to no avail, I figured I’d just start cleaning until it turned up. Which it did, kinda. E.g. my husband woke up and said ‘Oh look, there it is.’)

    Kinda sleepy now! Best – V.

  10. Day 2 for me: Your post made me reconsider my of-late food purchasing. You’re a clothes horse? I’m a foodie freak. So what does it mean that I’ve gained 15 pounds since I decluttered 6 months ago with the intention of joining the Peace Corps? Some people like retail therapy…I like a nice warm pesto napolitano. And it shows.

    Your question: what will you release today? Made me stop to think about what it is I haven’t yet let go of…my appetite for comfort food?

    Are we just all finding comfort in the stuff outside of us? Whether it’s pink shoes or Cherry Garcia? Hmmm. Thanks Colleen!

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