Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Question #8: Clinging to Clothing-Ghosts?

(This post is part of a series for July 2013 entitled “Question Month.” Read the intro to the series here.)

My Facebook post earlier today:

“Question No. 8: Why is clothing so difficult to part with, especially if our children once wore it?”

We are purging, Thor and I.

Or, at least we are trying.

This means we think, talk, and strategize regularly about making all extraneous belongings depart, but only manage to do so in the fits and spurts our children will allow.

It also means taking carloads to donation centers rather than trying to earn anything by selling the small-beans stuff (clothing, toys, miscellaneous junk) because even though we could use the cash we could never find that much time.

We chose to make one such car trip recently while bustling the whole family out for dinner. So of course the items for donation had to both fit in the car around four people (including two rear-facing car seats) and also not be spotted by hawk-eyed Owlet, since she might not agree about what should stay or go.

[As she gets older, I hope she will help with the decision making process, but for now I can’t imagine it working. Of course, we are careful not to get rid of anything she loves, and have never had her ask about an item even though we usually keep them in a temporary holding pen in the garage for awhile.]

So the kids are buckled in and Thor is loading the last of the rejected loot. I catch sight of several of Thor’s shirts. Shirts that he set aside in a box for donation. Shirts that I removed from said box and hid placed elsewhere in the garage.

Hey, I mean, I love the guy who used to wear those.

I called him out. Or tried to. He called me out right back for failing at purging.

I reluctantly parted with half of the shirts, clutching three to my chest as though they were… well, my precious comes to mind, if you are familiar with The Lord of the Rings.

I have also been quite ruthlessly reducing the amount of baby and toddler clothes we are keeping. I thought it wouldn’t be too bad, but I will be holding up a pair of stupid baby stretch pants that I don’t even like and wouldn’t buy again and thinking how much Owlet loved them. And it rips jaggedy edges somewhere inside me just to put them in the donation box. But I do. So them I am weepy-eyed prey for all of the many items that I absolutely do adore. And still, heroically, I put some in the box.

And a few weeks later I cull through them again.

The plastic bin of “keeps” for year one will not yet close. I thought I had it, but then I added Platypup’s recent castoffs.

Damn and blast. I am going to have to go through it again.

Never mind that Thor thinks I am loony. Never mind that Owlet likes to “help” by rearranging all of my piles or declaring that she still fits into that dress (size six months). Never mind that Platypup doesn’t even pretend to help and instead throws all his weight in for absolute maximum destruction.

Year one will fit in that bin. I swear to you.

Even if I have to pull all the cloth diapers out and box them separately in order to do so.

Why? Why is it so hard?

A lot of things I have managed to part with by making a list (books) or taking pictures (knickknacks). Clothing is just different.

Commenters focused on the memory aspect. I totally agree. A tangible, hold-in-your-hands memory of someone you love is hard to part with.

Except those people who wore those clothes? They’re still here.

It’s one thing to have a hard time getting rid of anything my mother owned. I totally call immunity on purging her things… They are her imprint on this world.

But Thor, Owlet, and Platypup? They’re here, now, wearing clothes that will become just as dear the second they discard them.

What pulls my focus away from treasuring them now and onto a bunch of stupid garments? It has to be more than just memory. Sure, of course there’s a strong, wistful, intoxicatingly dreamy memory side to it, but also something more desperately clutching.

I don’t know what it is, but it is one of the reasons I feel so strongly about decluttering. This vain grasping does not become me.

And I know it matters much more to love these people in this moment than to cling to their castaway clothing-ghosts.

Wish me luck.




I cannot believe this outfit transpired the other day. Pirate ship shirt, cow print training pants, and flame leggings. I am so never going to be able to say goodbye to any of those.


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One thought on “Question #8: Clinging to Clothing-Ghosts?

  1. Even before C died, I had a heck of a time parting with favorite articles of clothing–things that I thought looked good on him, things I waited for him to grow into, things I just loved and would have worn myself were I two again. There’s something so intimate about clothing, and maybe it’s because we don’t walk around naked that our clothing is in some ways who we are to the world. It smells like us, feels like us. And I keep things that remind me of places I’ve gone, things I’ve done because what I wore was maybe who I was, and maybe if I put it on again, I’ll feel like I did then. I think as we get further away from the times when our kids wore the clothes, it sometimes gets easier–maybe we forget why the clothes were special–but for the most part, clothes maintain that sacred energy of our children, and why not hold onto them if they give us a little comfort in their growing up?

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