Unstuffing My Clothes

There’s a lot to this stuff thing. I took to my wardrobe this morning because it is something I can tackle without my husbands input. I started culling the stuff in the front room, but that really takes both of us being here and I hate to spring what is proving to be an emotional and burdensome task on Mark after a long day of work. Today, I decided to focus on my stuff and went after my closet.

I didn’t have any ground rules about what would stay and what had to go except for socks with holes or no partners were out. Other than that, I pulled a shelf, or a pile from the floor at a time and made new piles: “Keep,” “Donate,” “Sell,” and “Ouch.”

The keep pile was pretty easy – I like bohemian things and stretchy, comfy things and things that fit really well.

The donate and sell piles were mostly easy. The dresses and chinos, reminders of an office life I never want to return to: donate. The well-intended but ill-fitting dresses purchased on sale at the end of last season or the season before that? Sell, a buck a piece.

But the Ouch pile. This is the pile that no one wants to deal with. Its the pile of things that we believe are necessary to have, to keep to define our identity and our story.

I’m convinced that in this neurosis is some lack of spiritual self and therefore an enormous fear of death. If I just hold on to this t-shit:


The one I’m wearing in the last picture that was taken of me and Grandpa Plaid before he died, a picture that I couldn’t tell you where is, if I just keep this tshirt, then… what? He won’t be any more gone? I won’t be any more old myself? I’ll stay that much closer to the people in the picture that is lost in my stuff?

There’s funny stuff too. Take this skirt for example:

I LOVE this skirt because it fill all the basic requirements that I have for clothes; well-fitted, bohemian, throw into the wash a million times and it will go from grocery shopping to Gramercy Tavern thus eliminating the need for too many other skirts.

Until the day that a gaping hole forms, right where my ass is and I don’t notice until I get home from grocery shopping and Mark points out that at some point, I began walking around with my moon on full, public display. I’ve held on to this for months now, determined to sew it back together again but I don’t own so much as a sewing needle, let alone the thread or the patience necessary to sew organza back together again. I think a funny story about my butt is a good legacy.

Speaking of funny stories, did you hear the one about our camping trip to Jost Van Dyke, the one where our luggage never arrived and we survived on the kindness of strangers? These are the two shirts I had for 7 days. The one on the left was what I arrived in, the one on the right is the one I was given from the only hotel on the island’s gift shop.

But what to do with them now? They have yellow armpits and I’m not a huge fan of wearing white to begin with and that story isn’t going anywhere. I don’t need to keep these tshirts in a box to keep that memory.

The same is true for old friends and old friendships.

Or my old boyfriends and their old stuff that I’ve carted around like talismans.

Or my old combat boots that weight close to 5 pounds each.

Or the tshirt I was wearing on the night I met my husband.

What is need? What do I need this things to provide me? They’re just stuff and stories and those two things exist without each other. Yet each thing is a link to an old self, a past time, a look back to something I’m scared I’ll someday forget.

When I sat down to start writing this, I wanted to put in a part about how I was scared that wanting to rid my self of stuff by selling it, donating it or possibly giving it back (particularly in the case of stuff that belongs to other people) and was haunted by hearing that that’s what people do who are about to die.

But now that I’ve gotten through writing this, and in some way memorialized these things and held them up for their curtain call, I feel lighter and more alive, less tethered to all this stuff and calmly in the present moment, evolving towards being a person without too much baggage getting ready for a fantastic trip to destination unknown.


  • CoCoYoYo

    I’m chuckling — I have that SAME pair of Vans. They’ve held up rather well over the last (gasp!) 15 years but I know when the soles fall apart I’ll have a difficult time letting go.

    I’ve done rather well in reducing my clothing clutter, donating several large garbage bags in the last year or two. But there are always the stragglers: the shirt that’s a bit too snug and you hope will one day fit, the pricy shoes that you’ve worn down to nothing but can’t bare to part with, the sweet little clutch that you love the look of but loathe actually using… you get the idea.

    • http://www.thegourmandandthepeasant.com Emily

      @CoCoYoYo – My vans are so fallen apart, my socks get wet. That’s when I knew it was time to say goodbye. Then, I carried them around for another 3 YEARS. Now its really time! Also, I’m migrating my stuff stuff to unstuff.com. I hope you’ll come along! and enjoy the food stuff here too. xo ep

  • JDP sr

    This post has made me think SO much. On reflection, I think it may be the visual impact of something that triggers a memory… and that is why pictures work, or a scrap of fabric. At age 62, I am not over/above this stuff yet…. so I continue to be inspired, and continue to puzzle at why things seem to be memories, or why I have no faith in my own ability to remember the memories themselves. The combat boots are especially evocative of a time period and a particular kind of statement. Like Doc Martins were.
    If Mark won’t sew the skirt, I will. It is so much a part of MY early memories of you, that I can’t stand it not in life anymore.
    OK, off to yard work.

  • Heather VR

    Keep going – it’s a great cleansing process! I read somewhere that if you don’t want to keep the item, but want the memory – take a picture and print out a hard copy. Keep the picture as a sweet reminder. The shirts that you met your husband in and the one with your grandpa, I might keep. Even though we are “grown ups” — don’t we all need an emotional blankie every now and then?

    • http://www.thegourmandandthepeasant.com Emily

      Hi Heather! I like the idea of the pictures – I can print out hard copies from here when I need them. And I totally agree with you about the emotional blankie, except tat it isn’t these two tshirts that I turn to when I need that comfort. Honestly, I usually turn to my cat, or to my actual husband. That’s what makes unstuffing so hard: having to confront the whys behind the choice to keep something.

  • JDP sr

    Not the skirt… give it to me and I will make sofa cushions out of it!!!! Or if you want, I will cut out the important part of the T shirts and make another picnic cloth for you for X-mas…. since I am going for home-made this year….
    I admire your process!!!!!!

    • http://www.thegourmandandthepeasant.com Emily

      Thanks for the offer! Mark said he’s going to sew it back together. As it turns out, he likes to sew. It would be no good for couch cushions, the fabric is really delicate. Besides, those are next on the list to go! As for process, its way more emotional than I thought – and I think that’s a good thing. I’m confronting all the stuff I thought I was over/above.