The Joy (and Frustration) of Weeding

pile of clothing discardsNo, not in the garden, though yanking botanical interlopers out of the flower beds does have its therapeutic value. The type of weeding I’ve been doing lately involves clothing, magazines, books and other flotsam from corners of my home. Since moving into my current home and combining household stuff with my wonderful mate, I have given away a dozen large trash bags stuffed with clothing and shoes. A few of these were filled with my daughter’s cast-offs from earlier years, held onto for sentimental reasons. But most if it was mine, and that bothers me, dear reader – it bothers me a lot.

            When my two siblings and I were children, there wasn’t much money to spend on clothing. We were living on my dad’s public-school-teacher salary, which doesn’t go far in a family of five. So every summer ended with back-to-school shopping from the sale rack at Sears, J.C. Penney and Montgomery Ward. My mother did an outstanding job of making those few dollars stretch to clothe three kids in the basics, plus a few well-chosen items in the latest styles – just a few, but enough to keep us from feeling like total dorks, fashion-wise. Under Mom’s tutelage, I developed a good eye for bargains. Only $4.99 for this top? And it’s so cute! Please, Mom? Pleasepleaseplease?

            The trouble is that the gravitational pull of the sales racks has not diminished over the years, even though I now make enough money to pay full price for a modest but good-quality wardrobe. I still feel the thrill of pulling a cute top out of a pile of schlock, and several times per year I make spontaneous purchases of cute but not really needed items of clothing. This blouse may not match anything I already own, but it’s cute and flattering; it only cost me 9.99 Euros, and don’t I deserve a treat?

            Of course, some of the seasonal wardrobe weeding has to do with changing sizes. Over the past ten years my weight has fluctuated up and down a good twenty pounds. Lately, my weight is easing downward (Huzzah!), and that’s a wonderful reason to weed through my Schränke (wardrobe cabinets – German homes don’t have closets) and bins. Some of the too-tight items I put away with a sigh last August fit again! But many of the rejects are seldom-worn impulse purchases that simply don’t go with my basic pants and skirts, with my most frequent color choices, or with my lifestyle. That red Chanel-style jacket that was on super-sale? I’ve never worn it. That long, camel-tan cardigan? It just looks odd and lumpy over all my blouses and slacks. That schmexy, clingy dress in the bright pink print? It looks great, but how often would I wear something that clingy? Certainly not to work, and I just don’t go to that many fancy brunches or summer weddings. At 50, a grand age to be, I don’t have the elegant, well-put-together wardrobe I deserve. Instead, I have cabinets and storage bins bulging with ill-matched single garments from which I can only pull together a few decent outfits. What a waste of money and time!

            And so, after over-spending on “bargains” from my teens through my forties, I’m turning my back on the sale rack. It’s hard, dear reader – so very hard, especially now, in the summer, when the pedestrian shopping zones of European cities are filled with rack upon rack of darling, inexpensive summer fashions. Cute, colorful tops call to me, the cheap little teases, “Take me home! I’m fun! I’m frivolous! You know you want me!”

            But slowly, oh so slowly, I find that I am actually developing sales resistance. Is this one of the gifts of age that we’re promised: the wisdom to see all that schlock for what it is? A new blouse will not give me a new attitude, a new confidence, or a new je ne sais quoi – especially if it hangs unworn in my wardrobe because it doesn’t go with anything else I own.

            This summer I’m paring my wardrobe down to the bone, and then adding in a few basic, combinable items purchased from a good clothing shop at full price. My theory is that if, say, a blouse costs me forty or fifty Euros, it’ll have to be really flattering and combinable with several other items before my cheap self will plunk down that sum. It’ll be hard, since my bargain-rack mentality recoils at such a high price for one item – but it helps to add up the cost of a dozen trash bags full of discarded ten-Euro tops – ouch! I’ll even go shopping with a list, and stick to it! White blouse means white blouse, not sparkly silver tank top, not powder-blue cropped cardigan, not flowered sundress. Basta! (Wish me luck.)

            How about you? Have you found a way to cultivate sales resistance and good discipline when it comes to buying clothing? Do you shop with a plan? If so, please share your wisdom here.

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