To the Closet!

“Women usually love what they buy, yet hate two-thirds of what is in their closets.”
~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook

Some of you may still be a bit battered by our last exercise, but grudging health commitments have taught me that the only cure for soreness is the hair of the dog and so back into the fray!  This time we’re tackling your wardrobe, what are the chances we’ll find Narnia?

Moving is always an excellent excuse to go through your closet because there is generally quite a bit of stuff in it that you don’t wear, doesn’t fit, no longer reflects your style or taste, has started to wear out, or that you are ready to let go of.  There is no better excuse for an honest examination (or in the case of some, an archeological expedition) of one’s closet than the knowledge that if you are keeping something you will have to find room for it in two suitcases.  And if you aren’t taking it, that you will have to find a place to store it while you are out of the country or gird your loins and get rid of it.

Now I’m not one of those ogresses that demand you chuck everything dear to you (am I, ducklings?), I know that in every closet their lurks some treasures that it simply wouldn’t be feasible to transport but you can’t get rid of.  All I’m saying is that you should be honest about what constitutes real treasure.  A couple of contrasting examples:

Freshman year some friends of mine had t-shirts made for our group.  I’ve carefully preserved that shirt for the memories but haven’t worn it once in nearly 6 years.  When I pulled it out of my closet, I grinned a bit remembering some of the scrapes we got into, thought of friends I haven’t seen in a while, and generally reminisced about the four years I spent at university.  And then I put it in the donate pile.  Hanging onto a shirt that only takes up room in storage when I already don’t wear it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  And of course I realized that I don’t necessarily need a shirt to remember people and good times anymore.

Alternatively, in my closet also resides my wedding dress.  It too represents memories but the difference between it and a t-shirt (besides price) is not lost on me.  If  I have a daughter she may want to wear it for her own wedding, or perhaps my sister would like to borrow it for her nuptials – giving my parents a sigh of relief and Snickers more coin to drop on the party itself.  Or perhaps someday I’ll donate it to another good cause.  But until then, I’m much less willing to part with it rather than an old, never worn t-shirt.

I WISH. Mine is nothing so organized.

And in between these two extremes is most of what I own.  I have pretty dresses and skirts that I spent good money on, are in excellent shape, and that I quite like, that won’t be necessary to me overseas.  I have tops that I haven’t worn for a long time and won’t miss.  I have any number of shoes, including a few pairs from Italy and Paris that I love but won’t stand up to cobbled streets or inclimate weather.

And so, armed with a ruthless will and clear vision of what I intend to hold precious, I fling open the doors and survey everything I own and start asking the practical and philosophical questions about individual items:

  1. Does it follow the Cardinal Rule of dressing abroad?
  2. Is it in good shape?  Are hems fraying, seams ripping, or is it generally falling apart?  Is the answer is yes, donate or chuck it.
  3. If it isn’t in good shape, can you get it back into working order?  If all that’s wrong with a perfectly good jacket or cardigan is a missing button, it’s beyond foolish to chuck it for a easily repairable flaw.
  4. Have I worn this item in the last six months?  If not, you can probably get rid of it without qualm.
  5. Do I still like it?  In every closet there resides at least one lapse in sartorial judgment, and if you don’t like it now, you won’t like it later.
  6. Does it still fit properly?  There’s no reason to hang on to something that doesn’t.
  7. Will I wear it (which is an entirely different question than “Have I worn it?”  I wear lots of things here in the States during summer that might not be so practical for a Fall/Winter school year in Europe)?
  8. If I leave it behind, will I wear it when I get back or will it be too dated, out of style, or no longer practical for my situation in life?
  9. Do I have multiple items that serve the same functions?  If so, which one would be more practical to take and would give me the most and best wear?

Any clothing that doesn’t pass muster gets tossed into bin liners to be donated, offered to friends, given to Snickers, or is set aside to be stored.  What’s does is what’s coming with you.  The next step is make sure you have the necessary items to make it through a calendar year abroad, and we’ll start exploring that in future posts.

So, sound off!  What categories of things does an enterprising globe hopper need for a jaunt abroad?

2 thoughts on “To the Closet!”

  1. SEND ME EVERYTHING YOU DON’T WANT, 10-inch height difference be damned! I love reworking things and still regularly wear (and am complimented on) reinvisioned items from middle school. Seriously, though, if there’s anything your sister doesn’t want, toss it in a box and send it cheap-rate to NY!

  2. Be sure to have an outfit for the major occasions of life: 1) a wedding, 2) a funeral, 3) a job interview, 4) a public appearance/event. They come up rarely but not necessarily when you have the time, funds, inclination or access to a great store to find something fab and fast. Once you’ve got these in hand, I’d take whatever makes you feel your very best…it’s a big transition and you’ll want some old favorites for comfort, no?

    I’d also take one or two pairs of your pretty shoes as your every day won’t be treading cobblestones and it sounds like you won’t be able to splurge much replacing them.

    When I moved to Paris for a year when I was 25, i took very little (even on a tight budget) and did some shopping there. What would be the point of ignoring Parisian style?! But everyone’s different.

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