You have them, don’t you?

Those articles of clothing that are old, beat up, and beyond being seen by the public eye. They’re ratty around the edges with hems that are frayed, cuffs that have a rip or two, and maybe a button has gone missing, replaced with a tiny gold safety pin. Still they hang in your closet. After a hard day, you open those doors, rifle through the hangers and say, Ah, as you slip into that particular garment.

Aside from the chambray shirt I wish I’d been relentless about holding onto, for me, it was a pair of sweat pants, purchased circa 2001. They came from the junior department at J.C. Penney’s back when I still easily fit junior-sized clothes. By 2013, they were the faded blue of often-washed Levis. The small gold football and number seven on one hip became crinkled and strips of color disappeared. The wide elastic waist band stretched to so that they rode low on my hips, which made them two inches too long for my short legs. When I began tripping over the excess fabric, I realized it was time to let them go. 

I may have wept.

Creating a Vacuum in Our Lives so New Can Enter

No, I’m not suggestion a competition with Sir Dyson. I’m referring to deliberating creating emptiness in your life so that you can fill the vacated space with the new. Or nowadays, of course, you can keep everything you ever get and become a hoarder and get on TV.

Last weekend we cleaned the carpeting in the entire upstairs. It’s carpeting we inherited with the house and it isn’t the greatest, but we aren’t ready to replace it yet. Mostly because it is the ongoing debate between us: hardwood—me—versus carpeting—Alex. Wood floors are safer for she-who-drops-staining-foods.

Next, I tore the kitchen apart. It was time to see what might be lurking in the top rear of the snack cupboard. I packed unused dishes and cups into a donation box. I moved Alex’s mother’s dishes from cardboard boxes to the cupboard for every day meals. I don’t believe in saving items for the sake of saving them. Use them! Especially pretty dishes that won’t have sentimental value to anyone after us. With my rearranging, room opened in drawers and in cupboards.

You have to eliminate stuff—sometimes inanimate, sometimes the dead plant you keep trying to revive, and sometimes a person who is simply no longer good for you to have in your life. I surprised a friend I’ve had for five years when I told her that I have few qualms about purging people the same way that I purge belongings. For her, that discovery opened a new way of thinking about friendships—the ones that are good for you and the ones that are not so helpful.

But if you don’t clear out space, physical or mental, to create a vacuum, how will the fresh and new enter your world? It simply can’t.

Letting go…

Over the twelve years that I owned those sweats, I secretly carried on flings with other pants. When I was frequently traveling to Europe with Alex for his work, I bought a nice pair. You know, in case I ever had to dash out of our Milan hotel room at midnight. The jersey never quite conformed to my body, never fit well enough to have me look forward to putting them on in the evening after a day of sight-seeing. Somewhere along the way they disappeared … perhaps I left them behind in Florence. They were so forgettable that I no longer remember their color.

And I remember many things, like my favorite pre-adolescent summer outfit: pink and white gingham sleeveless shirt and solid pink shorts.

The keeping of the unnecessary boils down to not thinking about what you really want on that desert island with you and eliminating the rest. 

  • We have to allow holes in the days of our lives in order to fill them with new experiences, new people, new special mementos. 
  • We experience loss in our hearts to know how much those hearts can overflow with love. 
  • We dig up last year’s bulbs in order to spread them out and expand our glorious spring flowers.

Eliminating stuff…

I read this novel, well, I read many novels, and I didn’t finish the one I’m talking about because it was poorly written…. That aside, the character in this book kept 200 belongings at one time. That’s impossible for a working person living in a house, driving a car, who has friendships. Think about it—if she had plates, silverware and glasses for four people, she was pooched on only having 200 things, let alone five pairs of underwear and two bras. Add in the products most women have in our bathrooms and let’s get real. Heck, my sock collection alone would get me into trouble with that number.

I’ll give that character one thing, though, and that was the practice of buy-something, remove-something. If you keep collecting objects and you never get rid of any possessions, where does it all go? It becomes clutter in our lives, which leads to clutter in our minds, which leads to your feet freezing in place because of the chattel everywhere. I don’t know about you, but if I’m frozen in one spot unable to find a path forward—or wade through stuff—it’s pure agony. It’s stagnation, which I can’t abide. Don’t let me stagnate. Ever. That state of being is a form of death to me.

Trying to move on…

When Jackie and I took our famous trip to Italy in 2007 and our luggage was lost, I indulged in a pair of Italian sweats from Terra Nova. They are sky blue with two narrow white stripes running down the outside of each leg. The material is soft, the waistband fits right, the length is good, and while they aren’t as cozy as the other blue pair, I simply cannot seem to give them up. There is a whiff of sentimentality there—The Jaculyn and RoseMary Italian Road Show spring to mind each time I don them. I have them on now.

Ah yet…

The sweats from Penney’s haunts me … there was something about them that I still miss. Unlike my Italian sweats and Mary Chapin Carpenter’s great song, This Shirt, I don’t have any particular memories attached to the discarded pair. I couldn’t point to them and say, I was wearing these when such and such occurred. It was never that. It was, simply, that when I put them on, I relaxed. The work day was over, my chores were done, it was time to curl up with a good book. Wearing them signaled the time to wind down and maybe get my brain to stop going in 90 directions.

Those pants provided the kind of comfort you feel when your beloved parent, or grandparent, or great Aunt Edith hugs you. In those moments when their aged arms surround your body—at age 10, or 39 or 60—and you feel love seep from them to you. Theirs is a warm embrace that can bolster your spirit for days. Like comfortable clothes, keeping precious people in your life fills a place with the right emotions.

Yes, those favorite, frayed fabrics you slide into and think, life is pretty good, serve as a good reminder that life is a cycle and creating voids for your life to expand into is a necessity.

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Read another fun post about clothes: The Saga of the Impossibly Skinny Levi Jeans