Prompt #13:

I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Think of a time when you didn’t think you were capable of doing something, but then surprised yourself.  How will you surprise yourself this week?

(Prompt Author: Ashley Ambirge)


After my lame sauce and somewhat off-prompt response to yesterday’s topic, I decided to take this topic today a bit more seriously and actually tackle something that has seemed logistically and emotionally out of my capabilities this year: clean out my closet.

Long-time readers may recall that I last cleaned out my closet over two years ago, right before our move from Azalea House in Winchester to Hummingbird House in Temecula. I had done a fairly fierce job two years ago, but no where near what I could have done. Katie was patient in those days, and just like she did today, she enjoyed helping and trying on my shirts.

However, my present closet really needed attention. I had maternity clothes still interspersed among daily items, my shoes were all mixed up, a box from the move had never been fully unpacked, and the overall organization was in complete disarray. Add to that, I have now had a second child, and my body continues to change. It’s not all about weight gain, either, with a maternal body. It seems to me I have had actual structural shifts, and my weight, too, has redistributed itself. Even losing weight, my body is proportioned differently now. Certain clothes just don’t look natural anymore, even if they seem to fit.

Logistically, tackling this with two young children (3 years; 10 months) seemed something I was not capable of doing. How would I have the time? How would they fare? Would I be patient enough to take breaks (when I work on big projects, I can get single-minded and driven to efficiency)?

Emotionally, the questions were bigger: was I ready to let go of some of my teaching clothes? How about those blouses from high school (uh, over ten years ago now) that actually fit? What about that pair of pants I am THISCLOSE to fitting back into? How about some of those sweaters from those colder winters up north at Stanford? These clothes represent whole eras of my life. Then, there is the money issue. I have a difficult time relinquishing items that cost money that I could use/might be able to convert into other use/Katie might use when she is older/etc. If these clothes are in good condition, shouldn’t I be keeping them until I can find a use for them?

This hardly seemed like a project that I was capable of taking on, both logistically and emotionally.

Writing about something, though, is only part of our stories. We also have to live the words we write. I decided to use the prompt today to take a positive action in my life, to gain forward momentum.

I am very proud of the dent I made in my closet today. Two bags for donation, a throw-away-because-it-is-stained-or-worn-to-death bag, a handful of fun and different-enough clothes for Katie’s dress up box, and then a box of, “I really, really, really want to keep this if only I fit into it, so I will revisit these items in exactly ONE YEAR box.”

However, there is still more to do. I am inspired now to do the following:

1) Take a second pass around the closet, particularly with respect to my sweaters. Still keeping too many, especially for warm Temecula weather.

2) Be more vicious with my shoes. How many of them do I really, truly wear? I can name at least a few pair that I was too easy on today, including a pair that I had put out but saved at the last minute.

3) Work over my camisole collection. Some of them are very tired. Time to update.

4) Clean out my bureau. Something tells me I might be saving too many t-shirts…

5) Flag my “last chance” items. Certain blouses and sweaters that haven’t been worn in a couple of years have been getting second and third chances around here. If there is something “summery” that I don’t wear this summer, I think it needs to go. So maybe I need to commit to cleaning out my closet again at the end of every season.

I am extremely sentimental in my temperament. Letting go of some of these clothes was truly difficult today. “I wore this blouse on my first day of teaching the class of ’08 as juniors” or “I wore this outfit when Bill and I saw The Who” or “I wore this top during a romantic evening with Bill in Ashland, Oregon” or “I remember loving to wear this outfit to staff meetings” or “This was a skirt I picked out in college”—things like that were running through my head all day.

To counter this sentimentality, I tried to remember the advantages of my project:

1) A more organized closet with fewer things hidden by being too stuffed means that I can be more efficient getting dressed in the mornings with my children. If we have somewhere to be on time, hunting for my clothes and shoes won’t add to the stress.

2) Culling items that don’t fit means I won’t be disappointed by trying to put on something that doesn’t work for my body and/or taste anymore. Better self image? More authentic expression of self?

3) I remember that every single item in my home has a claim on my time. My precious time. I need to guard and defend that time. Those items become a burden on our time, the time we have to instead be living, creating, and producing. For every extra clothing item that I have to sort through to find something to wear each day, time is lost. This extends to other material objects as well: if we have to pick it up, put it away, dust it, move it to vacuum, etc., then it has a claim on our time. Hm. Maybe I need to go on a whittling-away-at-my-objects rampage this summer. A time reclamation project?

So this project did not really seem too plausible, but I surprised myself today by getting a big portion done. I am also relieved and surprised to feel lighter in spirit already. Tasks like this work against my sentimental nature, but then I find in the end that I still have my memories and I don’t need to fear the loss of these clothes. I am in a new phase and wonderful phase of my life journey, and I now I can focus on finding and wearing  the clothes that my authentic self as she is now.