Remembering to Love What I Already Have

Today we have a guest post.  Cynthia is not only a fellow blogger but a neighbor and a friend.  If you haven’t already, check out her fabulous blog called Growing My Girls.  Today’s post explores the emotional side of spending, consuming and finding value in ‘things’.  It’s something Molly is always turning over and rethinking- What are the emotional triggers that push us to consume? 

When school started, I gave myself a never-before luxurious treat: uninterrupted immersion in my closet.

I did it before attacking the girls’ rooms, before touching the piles of laundry or the filthy floors, before looking at my desk, creating menus, or organizing carpools. Just me and my closet.

Because this year, this mom is running on empty even more than usual. And no matter how much I tried to delude my exhausted self in August that once school starts, life will be easier, It NEVER is!  There was no way I was going to make it on fumes through New Year’s.

And once again, this year, I couldn’t take my preferred route to solving almost any problem, which is to go shopping. What to do?

I came up with a no-wallet version of a personal rejuvenation plan. A central part of that plan was to free myself from that chaotic, grubby feeling of not actually knowing where any clothes are except for what’s in the last laundry load. That miserable sensation, like avoiding a smelly, pot-filled sink, comes from not maintaining things, be they the bathroom or the bank account.

So I went to the closet with two goals: to refill my “tank” by re-finding what I already have, and to deal with the nagging issue of not being willing to get rid of things.

Goal One:

I’ve noticed that half the pleasure of going shopping or cozying up to the Garnet Hill catalog is looking at beautiful things and imagining them in my life. While I don’t buy that often, knowing that I absolutely can’t makes me miserable. On the second day the kids were back in school, I went to my closet, put on music, and started sorting. It was lovely.

Colors and textures that soothe me right down when I walk in the closet.

When I saw, clearly and calmly – something which rarely happens in my daily life – what I actually have, my mind kind of went into a mushy love-trance. Pick up a shirt: hold it, refold it, smooth it out. Look at the pretty color. Think about when I’ve worn it, why I bought it in the first place. Look around like a kid in a candy store and think about what to wear it with.

Look! See the actual room at the top of the shelf!

By immersing myself in there for a whole day (or longer, in my case because I had to dig out last winter’s to-be-repaired pile and put away last spring’s Easter supplies), I ended up feeling like I’d spent a day at the mall or that I’d had a proper buying binge on the computer. No deprivation. All clothing-related rushes fulfilled.

And I was reminded that I actually had good taste two years ago, or ten years ago, and that those clothes, many of them, are still great. No need to panic about looking ok. The money I spent then is still paying off now. Basically I have enough – breathe…let it sink in…..I have enough! Well, actually, I could use a few more socks, but I think we can afford it.

Goal two:

Dealing specifically with the workout/gardening/dirtywork category. For years I’ve saved clothes that had stains, or bleach accidents (I hardly ever use bleach – how can I have ruined so many clothes?). That pile grows and grows, and I wear things from it, but I have about four times what I need – I mean how much gardening and working out does it take to shred a t-shirt? Whatever it is, I haven’t reached it.

No, the real reason these clothes were in the closet is because one day, I might not have any clothes at all and I’ll need them. The disaster might be personal – like my family thrown into abject poverty. Or it might be any one of several possible global crises that turns our world into a Mad-Max movie. There’s also the embarrassingly psychological: I never managed to pull off Patti Smith and maybe I should try again before I get too old?

Whatever – for years, it’s been enough of a weird area that I couldn’t see my way through. But this year, I tackled it. I made a decision – actually, it felt like the decision made me — that I will always have enough, plenty even, and I don’t need to hang on. Don’t tell my husband, but I actually threw away things. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t always feel secure. But now it’s done and there is, gasp, room on the shelves!

Space and organization in the closet with the wonderful shelves DH built for me last summer!

Now, I’m feeling pretty good. I’m feeling abundant, neat, prosperous and somewhat well dressed. I feel soothed when I walk into the haven of my pretty closet where things are still somewhat nicely folded. My bank balance is still intact. Not bad at all. That time in the closet has been a small but crucial part of staying sane now that I’m fully immersed in housecleaning, work, menus and carpools. Fingers crossed that it gets me though the holidays.

Molly:  The day Cynthia was tackling her closet her DH came by to tinker around with Mike.  When he walked in the door he exclaimed, “Cynthia is having so much fun in her closet today!!”


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  1. Posted September 18, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Love it! I think I need to plan a closet day myself. Sounds perfect. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Posted September 18, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Spelunking in the closet is like a treasure hunt. Good source of old photos, lost pocket knives, money, old/new shoes, sunglasses and soccer jerseys.  

    • Posted September 19, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Spelunking is perfect! That’s exactly what it is! I found a whole bunch of little notes and clay figurines that my kids had made (because the closet is where I had storage boxes for those things), old bills, old (but needed) glasses — lots of helpful treasures.

  3. Posted September 19, 2011 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    I just went through this myself. I moved my stuff to a new closet as we were swapping rooms with the kids.  We took the smaller room so they could be in our bigger room together.  I did get rid of lots of those “painting clothes” although they were covered in paint already and I had a new pile of unpainted on grubby stretched out clothes to put in it’s place.

    We did 4 bags to goodwill of clothes that didn’t fit anymore.  How is it that shirts get shorter and wider with use?   Anyway, I have never been a clothes hound and there were big gaps in some areas and overabundance in others. Particularly in the area of tops and pants.  I have 10 like new blazers but hardly anything to wear under them.  I had to go shopping and it felt great.  I did it to myself though. I bought hardly anything for myself for the last 3 years until all our debts were paid.  Now I feel like we’re finally adding to the me fund.  Hurray for pants that fit and are flattering.

    Great article.

    • Posted September 19, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      I love the vision of 10 blazers with nothing to go with them! And I agree, shopping for something that you really need feels the best. My mother used to do that — not shop very often, but when she did, she’d come home with something beautiful that lasted for a long time. Hurray to you for finally adding to the “me” fund!

  4. JK
    Posted September 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    I love, absolutely love, going though my closet.  Call me crazy, but I find it very grounding.  I loved and identified with so much of what you wrote.  At this point in my life, I find I’m weeding out all those buys I never should have gotten in the first place, only the truly beloved stay.

    I hope your excursion gets you through the holidays!

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