Stop the first dozen women you see on the street and ask them if they’ve ever thrown out anything from their Hub’s closet that he continued to wear 5+ years after it died. Ratty t-shirts, saggy sweatpants, pilled sweaters, stained sweatshirts. Nine women will admit that, yes, they’ve secretly tossed an item or two into the alley dumpster while Hubs was at work. And of the three that deny it, one of them is lying. It appears that we are much better at keeping his closet free of clutter than we are our own.
For many years, I was a freelance public speaker for women’s groups in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, I’ve given dozens of humorous after-lunch or dinner talks on confidence crises, weight struggles, beauty angst, marriage etiquette, and how to avoid embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions. I loved it (and still do). I spoke to cooking groups, book clubs, equestrian clubs, professional organizations, craft circles, and an entire female branch of traditional men’s groups, all ending in “-ettes.” (Remember, this was circa 1980. Kiwanettes and Lionettes did, in fact, exist.)
The most frequently requested topic was “Declutter Your Closet & Simplify Your Life.” Apparently closet streamlining was an issue for women everywhere, with no respect for age, income, or job status. Our bond of sisterhood was firmly grounded in a universal inability to get in there and start tossing crap out. “I don’t know where to start!” was the lament I heard from women in two countries and three states.
So for those of you who ever feel frustrated, depressed, or lost, standing in front of a overstuffed, “can’t cram one more thing in there, but still don’t have anything to wear” closet, here are some guidelines to get you started. Grab a bottle of wine (trust me, it will help smooth things along), and say “Buh-bye, baby” to the following:
1. Anything that used to fit or might fit at some undetermined time in the future, but doesn’t fit now. Especially if it requires losing the same number of pounds you’ve been working on since 1984. This includes pieces that you tell yourself will look great again after you “lose the pregnancy weight.” And your kid is 27.
2. Anything for a life you no longer have. Yes, 15 years ago, you and Hubs were the hottest couple on the dance floor. You love that dress almost as much as you love Hubs. But three kids and a couple of decades later, “going out” means the 4:00 movie, Papa Murphy’s pizza, and bed by 8:30. Even if you could still get into it, it won’t look the same. Gravity, age, menopause, and questionable lifestyle choices change our bodies, if not in size, in shape. If that LBD “fits,” but requires full-body Spanx that compress you like a cocktail weinie to zip it up, and a full-coverage, Kevlar underwire granny bra to get your breasts back up off your waist, it’s time for it to go.
3. Period pieces or fads. Prairie skirts, acid-wash jeans, or shimmery spandex leotards with leg warmers. Anything that sets your adult offspring into fits of uncontrolled hilarity when they see your college photo albums. And people who tell you “everything comes back into style eventually” were not talking about acid-wash jeans.
4. Event-specific items. Cheerleading skirts, bridesmaid’s dresses, costume parties, old wedding dresses (particularly to a man to whom you are not currently married. That’s just tacky). If the sentimental value is so overwhelming that you need to keep it forever, box it up and put it in the attic with all the other junk your kids are going to throw out shortly after your unfortunate demise.
5. Anything your 22-year-old DIL wants to borrow. If she’s all “It’s, like, OMG, like, fabulous,” it fits her, and it suits her age, YOU shouldn’t be wearing it. Period.
6. Styles you love, but in colors that don’t work for you. Hint: If every time you wear that mauve sweater, four people tell you that you look tired or ask if you’re feeling well, the color is wrong. You can’t fix it. Women tell me, “I’ll get a different lipstick.” Or “I’ll wear it with a scarf.” Now you’ve made it worse. If the color washes you out, makeup or another piece of clothing that blends with the sweater is just adding insult to injury.
7. Anything you have to fuss with. If you’re constantly adjusting the waistband, pulling up the shoulder strap, or unwedgie-ing the fabric up your butt, it doesn’t fit. And it can be awkward trying to explain your hand down your pants when running into your ex at the liquor store.
8. More than one outfit for cleaning the basement or planting the garden. Oversized, faded, ratty clothes are comfy, but an entire wardrobe of these t-shirts makes it too tempting to live in them on days you’re not planting the back 40.
9. Anything torn or dirty that needs repairs, alterations, or cleaning, but will never get any of those things. If it’s been in disrepair for eight years, you’re not going to fix it. Give it to someone who will, or who doesn’t care if the hem is held up by masking tape.
10. Anything someone else bought you (Hubs, MIL, sister) that you hate and will never wear, ever. If you just can’t toss it because you’ll be struck by lightening on the spot and go to bad-wife hell, box it up and put it in the attic with the dress from your wedding to Thor during your WWE Raw groupie phase in college. If anyone asks, just say “It’s at the dry cleaners.” That’ll give you time to drag it out in a panic.
And now, as you’re standing in front of your empty closet, buck naked, wailing ”I have nothing to wear,” you may be right. So slip on your favorite of t-shirt and yoga pants (c’mon, we all keep those), and gas up the car. Shopping road trip? Oh, yeah.
How to navigate midlife with a little common sense and a booty-load of laughter! Who Left the Cork Out of My Lunch? is packed with irreverent advice on making marriage work, How–To lists galore, and humorous anecdotes about living young when you’re…well…not.
The Big Girl Panties Society, Rules for Membership;
Good Morning, Mom. Now for the Love of God, Put Some Clothes On;
Nine Ways to Light Up Your Man (or not).
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