I’m reading Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” which is coincidentally kind of magically changing my life. Sorting through all of my stuff has been eye-opening about my own habits and has required me to delve into my own memories. I couldn’t fully grasp what all was hidden in my closets literally and figuratively.
In 2010, my dad gave me a robe for Christmas. This particular gift was like that pink bunny costume from the movie, A Christmas Story. They even were the same color. Concerned about my reaction, my mother warned me beforehand, but advised that due to it’s large price tag, I should try to act as if I liked it. I remember thinking, “How bad can it be? What type of person would turn down an expensive heart-felt gift?” To my horror, this Pepto-Bismol-esque cashmere robe showed me that I was the exact type of person who would turn down a heart-felt expensive gift. Other than my wedding dress, this dang pink nightmare was the most expensive item of clothing I had ever worn. You would think that would endear me to it, but it seemed to add insult to injury. It wasn’t just the color that I didn’t like. The fit left something to be desired. In fact, the way the fabric fell on my body seemed to say, “This is a woman who has given up on ever having sex again.”
I hung onto that thing through Dad’s illness and death and through my moving in with and marrying my husband. I even moved that fluffy disaster to New England. Eventually, I gave up on trying to wear it. I just figured I would put it into my closet and save it for when the style would match my age. You know, when I was an actual grandmother. I mean how long could that take? Thirty years? I was willing to get over the color and the fit because CASHMERE. Right? It’s the ultimate luxury fabric. The downside to the magical heat-producing properties of cashmere made it impossible to wear it for more than five minutes without breaking into a sweat. I honestly can’t imagine why someone would need a robe this warm unless they needed to walk in the snow to get to their outhouse in winter, and seeing as it’s NOT 1865, I guess I don’t need a robe that warm.
I really felt bad for not liking it. I’ve spent almost six years weighing the pros and cons, criticizing myself for not liking my dead father’s Christmas gift, and judging my dislikes in clothing (if only I had the tastes of a 1950’s grandmother, my problems would be solved!) The robe didn’t just carry with it grief baggage. It had all my other baggage too. Am I good daughter? Am I selfish? Am I ungrateful? It’s a hell of a lot to put on a damn robe.
When I encountered that robe in my sorting process, I started making excuses for it. (Hey, I only have to store it for about twenty-five more years, right?) Then, I decided to put it on and look in the mirror. Depending on how I felt, I would keep it. To my surprise, I laughed. I laughed at my ridiculous, too dang hot, frumpy, granny-robe. I laughed at myself for having the delusion that I could try to make it work. I also laughed a little at my Dad. He was always buying me gifts that were probably better suited for his mother’s tastes, even when I was a girl. He was one of those guys that thought his mother was the best woman to have ever lived. While I think that probably felt great from a mother’s perspective, it was difficult for all the other women in his life who loved him. I no longer saw the robe as a reminder that my Dad had no clue who I was. It was a gift of major love and admiration. It was so great that his mother would have loved it. He wasn’t burdening me with bad taste. He was bestowing me with high praise. I, indeed, was a good woman. I knew I was ready to get rid of ol’ Pinky. I didn’t have to feel bad about sending her away. There’s someone out there who can get good use out of her. Her forever home can appreciate her instead of stuffing her in a box in the top corner of a closet like I did.
As I sorted through my clothes, I saw a pattern repeating a lot. I had numerous garments that weren’t my taste, but what I thought I should wear. I wore a lot of cardigans not because I like button up sweaters, but because I thought I should cover my body up. On a different day, I would buy a tight dress because I thought I should be more confident. I had a closet full of should’s. I should waste less money. I should have nicer things. I should appreciate what I have. I should hide my body. I should love my body more. I should be more sexy. I shouldn’t be sexy at all. I should be more feminine. I should wear what my husband likes to see me in. I should dress younger. I should dress my age.
When I noticed any should’s, guilt, or criticisms come up around my clothing, I tossed the garment I was holding. It’s pretty liberating to put all the physical manifestations of your garbage mind in trash bags and drop them off at Goodwill. Now, when I look in my closet, I know I love everything in it; whereas, before it was overflowing and I had “nothing to wear.” Now, there’s nothing in that space that makes me feel regret, judgment, or shame. There’s no, “Ugh. THAT doesn’t fit anymore.” or “That’s the frumpy sweater I wear when I’m having a fat day.” or “You spent way too much money on this dress you are never going to wear.” For the first time, I can stand in front of my closet and feel like, “I’m a neat person who makes pretty decent decisions, and I have a lot of clothes that celebrate how dang neat, decent, and cute I am.”
No more should-ing.
P.S. If you think you can be Pinky’s “forever home” check her out at the Goodwill store in Portsmouth, NH. She will keep you warm on these cold New England nights.