One Woman's Attempt At A Simpler Life

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I keep a suitcase in the basement that I fill with clothes that are headed to resale.  With as much closet purging and as little clothes buying as I’ve done in the past year, I have been consistently convinced that each trip to resale will be my last for at least the next 6 months, if not a year.  Because if I’m adding very few new clothes, and each time I’ve purged my closet I’ve gotten it down to just my favorites, how is it possible I could still have more stuff to get rid of so quickly?  Well, apparently, it is possible, because look:

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I sold back clothing about two months ago, so this new pile-up was a surprise.  The suitcase was so full of clothes that I felt compelled to take a look at what I was getting rid of and why, since obviously a mere two months ago I loved these very items too much to part with them.  Here’s is a brief sampling of some things that went from my love it list to my loathe it list in just a few weeks.

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Three pairs of jeans.  I wear jeans most days of the week, so I’ve always kept a lot of them in my closet – like up to 12 pairs at times.  But I’ve been steadily decreasing that number, because I’ve noticed that while yes, I always want to wear jeans, I also always want to wear the SAME jeans over and over again.  So why should I keep so many?  These three did not make the cut.

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Two summer dresses.  The striped on on the left is very cute and I did wear it a lot, but I got it at Target so it wasn’t the most well-made garment I’ve ever bought, and after being repeatedly laundered it’s starting to look a little shabby and slightly shrunken.  I definitely got my use out of it though, so I feel good about letting it go.  The pink dress is an inexpensive one I bought at Gap, and I wore it a few times, but it fell victim to the “one in one out” rule (I talk about letting it go in more detail over on the Tiny Homes site).  I was very tempted to say screw the one in/one out rule and keep both dresses, but I’m very happy with my new dress, and in just a month I have already worn the new one more than this old one, which has been hanging in my closet for nearly three years.  

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These shorts make me feel fat. Therefore, I feel irritable every time I put them on and end up taking them right back off. I have another pair of green shorts that don’t make me feel fat, but I kept these because….yeah, I don’t know.

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This shirt, cardigan, and blazer are all from Anthropologie.  I kid you not when I say that close to 70% of my wardrobe used to be comprised of items from Anthropologie.  I haven’t been able to afford to shop there in the past year, and cutting my Anthro habit made a big impact in stemming the flow of clothes into my wardrobe, since I rarely walked out of that store without buying something.  I currently have about 10 items from Anthropologie left in my possession, which for me is a little weird.  I think I hung onto to these three more out of nostalgia for my favorite store than any real desire to wear them.  But a whole spring/summer went by without me wearing the shirt or cardigan, and while I still like the blazer well enough, I’ve slowly gotten rid of most of the other items that I used to wear it with, so now it feels like odd man out.  It was time for all of them to go.

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I actually wore this halter top from the Banana Republic outlet store a lot, and I remember buying it on a whim and it being on such a great sale I thought “If I wear this five times I’ll get my money’s worth out of it.”  I definitely got my money’s worth, but the last couple times I tried it on I felt like it looked too boxy and ended up changing into something else, so I feel like my infatuation has ended.  But no guilt on this purchase at all!

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I do, however, have guilt over this black Diane Von Furstenburg dress which I held on to for YEARS, because it was very expensive, and well, because it was DVF.  But I rarely wore it.  I’ve never been a big fan of shirt dresses, but I’ve tried valiantly over the years to try to like them by purchasing various incarnations of the style.  I saw a picture of myself wearing this dress shortly after I’d worn it to our Godson’s christening, and I looked like a total frump.  After that, I never really wanted to wear it again.  My Godson is now seven years old.  Time to let it go.

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I have a LOT of guilt for getting rid of these boots.  Not because I like them, but because a) I spent waaaay too much money on them, and b) I purchased them while on vacation in Vienna, and made poor Ron go into store after store one day for HOURS while I searched for the perfect black boot (important side note:  I already had three pairs of black boots at home, and was wearing a fourth pair that I really liked while I was on this stupid quest).  I wore them only a handful of times, because holyhelllookattheheelsonthosethings – I’m lucky I didn’t fall down and break/sprain something/everything.  Every time I wore them I was worried I would catch that open heel on something and trip, so needless to say, I was not the epitome of graceful when I wore them.  And therefore, I never wanted to wear them.  And every time I looked at them in the closet, I was reminded of my bad judgement.  It will be nice to be free from their mockery.

I could go on with more pictures and stories, but it’d be more of the same, and this post would take an hour to read.  In addition to the items I’ve specifically shown here, I also sold a bunch of t-shirts, sweaters, work out clothes, and a few more pairs of shoes – and walked out of resale with $204.  If I had any nostalgia about letting these items go when I went in, I can assure you I didn’t have any left when they handed me the money.

And here is the pile of stuff that didn’t sell that I will be taking to Goodwill:

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I guess the lesson I learned from this little exercise, and will probably still be learning for a while to come, is that I still have a lot more than I actually need, and much of what I am still clinging to is for reasons other than “I love it”.  I’m still finding my lagom.  

 

 


The first Christmas that I knew Ron, I think we exchanged gifts, but I have no memory of what we gave each other.  The following Christmas, we were living together, and while I don’t specifically remember what I gave him, I do remember some of his gifts to me – mostly, because I did not like them. None of the gifts were truly awful per se – in fact some of them were quite nice.  The problem was that they were not really for “me.”  They were items for our home – a home, I might add, that was already full of stuff since we had combined households.

For instance, he bought me a set of coffee mugs that were lovely, but our cupboards were already bursting with mugs, not only with the ones that matched our dishes, but with a dozen random ones I had bought or received as gifts over the years, along with ones Ron had brought into the relationship.  He bought me a single pillow sham that was very pretty, but an odd item to have only one of, and didn’t match the bedding we already had.  He spent a lot of money to have a print I already owned custom framed, without realizing the reason it wasn’t framed was because I didn’t like it anymore and was considering getting rid of it – and I definitely didn’t like the frame he had picked.  It was clear to me as I opened the various items that he had honestly chosen things that HE liked and wanted to own, but I didn’t see myself in any of it, and in a weird way that hurt my feelings, because it made me feel like he didn’t really know or understand me.  I don’t hide disappointment well, and I was way too blunt about not liking what he had given me – Ron is one of the most unselfish people I know, and I can guarantee his heart was in the right place.  But as I continued to open packages and find things that felt more like gifts for him than me, I started to get mad – especially when he would excitedly take the item out of my hands and say, “Isn’t this cool?  I really like this!”  I think I finally said something really snotty like, “WHY DON’T I JUST LET YOU OPEN THEM SINCE THEY ARE CLEARLY THINGS YOU BOUGHT FOR YOURSELF?”  And then I gave him a mini lecture about how you are supposed to buy the recipient something THEY want, not what YOU want.

Yep, nothing like a little Christmas morning bitchiness to make the holiday really special and memorable.

(Did I mention that I am not going to look good in this story?  I’m not.  It is not one of my finer moments, but I feel compelled to tell it anyway.)

When Valentine’s Day came around, I decided to circumvent any more household gifts by being very direct about what I wanted.  I made him a specific list, and then very sternly said, “NO household items of any kind.  NO artwork.  ONLY GET THINGS THAT APPEAR ON THIS LIST.”  He took the list and nodded silently.

A few days later, we were in Nordstrom’s together, and  I saw a pair of shoes that I absolutely loved.  They were little kitten heel sling backs – red fabric with orange leather trim, and dainty little orange leather flowers.  I tried them on and went all swoony with desire.  “THESE would make a great Valentine’s Day gift,” I declared, prancing around the shoe department in them while Ron sat on one of the couches and watched.  I couldn’t read his expression, so I decided to hint heavily.  “I LOVE these.  Something like this would be GREAT.  I would be SO HAPPY to receive a pair of these shoes in a size 6.5.  They would just make a PERECT gift.  Waiting around to buy them would probably be a mistake, because then my size might be sold out, and I would be VERY disappointed not to get them, since they are something I REALLY REALLY want.  Because I LOVE THESE SHOES AND I WANT THEM FOR VALENTINE’S DAY.”  Again, Ron was silent, and just nodded.

On the morning of Valentine’s Day, Ron set out some wrapped packages for me in the living room, to be opened later that night after dinner.  My eyes lit up at the sight of packages, but on closer inspection, I started to seethe.  I am a very good gift guesser – it drives  people crazy.  If I have an opportunity to touch and shake a package, I am right about what’s inside of it probably 98% of the time, unless it’s something totally random.  And I could tell from the packages, that not one of them was shoes – in fact, two of them were from categories I had specifically forbid – artwork and household items.  I could tell the big tissue wrapped package was a large basket full of bottles – I figured alcohol or maybe Torani syrups, and then there was a long tube that held a rolled up piece of artwork of some kind.  There was also a smaller box that I knew held perfume, which was on my list, so that was fine.  But I became quietly furious that a) Ron had defied me and gotten more household/artwork stuff, and b) he had ignored my blatant hints for the shoes.

I am not even going to try to defend my bad behavior in this situation, or rationalize why I was so ungracious and materialistic at this point in my life.  It’s just where I was at.  I’m not proud of it, and in retrospect I know it was an ugly way to behave.  It’s kind of hard for me to imagine being that upset about a gift at this point in my life, but I know at the time, it felt like a big deal.  And so I spent the entire day sulking and being mad at Ron.  I even remember vacuuming the living room and purposely ramming the vacuum into the side of the wrapped basket with violent, vengeful jabs to make myself feel better.

When it came time to open our gifts, I was sullen and listless.  “Can you tell what I got you?” Ron asked.

“I have a pretty good guess,” I snarled.  “Some kind of alcohol or syrups or something in the basket, which I might add is FOR THE HOUSE, and then some piece of artwork I’ll probably hate, which is also FOR THE STUPID HOUSE.  Oh, and perfume.  Which I did ask for.  Am I right?”  Ron just shrugged and kind of smiled, but didn’t meet my eyes.

He handed me the small box to open first.  I was right, it was the perfume.

Next he gave me the basket.  I was right about that one too — stupid Torani syrups for making flavored coffees.  I got free coffee at work at that point in my life, and was perpetually late every day with no time to make a coffee in the morning, so the sight of the bottles totally annoyed me.  I muttered a lackluster thank you and shoved the basket aside.

Then he handed me the tube.  I glared at him.  “I TOLD you didn’t want any artwork,” I said icily, ripping off the paper.  I tipped the tube to shake out whatever hateful print lay inside, and was shocked as the red and orange shoes slid neatly into my lap.

I was speechless.  And embarrassed.  And ashamed of myself.  I peeked at Ron, who looked downright smug about the whole thing.  He had totally tricked me, and I had behaved like a mean, spoiled brat.  It was one of those awkward moments where you have to say, “I’m sorry” before you can say, “thank you.”  Very humbling and humiliating.

But here was my real punishment – for the way I had acted, I really didn’t deserve the shoes, and I knew it.  I had gotten my heart’s desire, but in such a disgraceful way, I was never able to look at the shoes without being reminded of what a bitch I can be.  They came with a heavy price tag of guilt, and as a result, I never wore them as much as I should have – especially considering the fuss I made about wanting them.

That Valentine’s Day was almost ten years ago.  But every day, I have seen the shoes in my closet and felt a little cringe of embarrassment.  I can’t remember the last time I wore them – they don’t really go with my lifestyle anymore.  So I decided to part with not only the shoes, but the feelings attached to them as well.  The work I’ve done around my relationship with possessions this past year has caused me to do a lot of self-reflection and has changed me a lot, and I think it’s time to stop feeling bad about my past mistakes.  I don’t need a daily reminder of what a bitch I can be – I am well aware.  And any items I own that carry the stink of that phase need to be set free.

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Bitch Shoes


I haven’t posted in a while – not because I’ve been procrastinating, as I admitted in my last post, but for the exact opposite reason – I have been getting a ton of stuff done!  Writing that last entry put a fire under me, and I managed to complete several things on my list, including the audiobook I was working on.  It is a huge relief to have it done, and a week before the deadline.  It left me with no time to write or clean house, though.  And I still need to order my new head shots.  But I did sneak in a few loads of laundry between chapters, so all in all,  I feel pretty good.

I took Thanksgiving as my one day off, and we went down to my parent’s house and had a lovely time – probably because I didn’t have to do anything.  I’ve never cooked a Thanksgiving dinner – I’ve always gone to someone else’s house for the feast, and I can’t say I feel any regret about it.  I show up with a couple bottles of wine, help with some table setting, enjoy the food and the company, and then do a lot of dishes as my contribution to the event.  Total win.

Thanksgiving night, while  driving back home, we saw throngs of cars and a bunch of police directing traffic near a big outlet mall, hours before the stores were destined to open.  I can’t think of a less pleasant way to spend a holiday night – or anything I would want badly enough to warrant sitting in a cold parking lot for five hours.  I hope those people got what they wanted, but I have to say, I am glad I was not among them.  I’ve never been a big Black Friday shopper – mostly, because I DETEST crowds.  Especially crowds of people behaving in a competitive, greedy, myopic way.

I did consider going shopping this weekend- there are actually things I need at this point, and I would only consider buying them if they were in a really good sale.  And I do have some Christmas shopping to do, though thankfully, not all that much.  But here is the difference between this year and all previous years – for the most part, I actually know EXACTLY what I want this year, whether it’s for myself, or someone else.  This whole lagom thing has made me excruciatingly specific, because it’s not allowing me to entertain things “I kinda sorta like.”  My new rule is I have to LOVE it, because it’s going to be only one of a few things I own.  I have a list of things I plan to buy when I have the finances to do so, and when I think about shopping now, I  look at the items on that list, check online to see if any of those things are on sale, and if they aren’t, I take a pass.  This is very, very different behavior for me.

I actually do want a new pair of shoes from Ron for Christmas, but I’m not 100% sure what I want them to be yet – I’m wavering between a pair of boots or a pair of flats.  I considered going shopping for them, because I thought I might come across a great sale.  But then I started thinking about it, and decided not to go.  Because for me to feel good about the purchase, I would need to do a lot of research, trying on, and comparison shopping to make sure I was getting what I really wanted.  And the busiest shopping weekend of the year didn’t seem like the best time to do that.  I also know I only WANT the shoes, and don’t NEED them – I have plenty of others to wear even if I don’t get a new pair at all.  As a result, I feel like I can take a ton of time to find some that I really love, for a reasonable price.

So I didn’t buy anything on this shop-tastic weekend.   Instead, I stayed home.  I saw my family.  I finished the audiobook.  I had a lovely coffee date with my friend Nikki.  I did a second purge of my closet, where I pulled a bunch of items I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep, and set them aside to be decided on later this week.  I cooked for Ron (who has been sick with a miserable cold all weekend), and I did some laundry.  It was a happy, productive Thanksgiving weekend.  And I don’t have any carrier bags sitting in my house making me feel guilty and uncertain.  For that, I definitely give thanks.

English: DC USA, Target, Black Friday

This way to HELL. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


When I lived in an apartment, I stuffed my one small closet so full of clothes I could barely get anything in or out of it.  I also jam packed a chest of drawers with clothes, and had piles and piles of laundry all over my room.  I only had access to shared laundry in the basement of my building, and since the laundry hours weren’t compatible with my schedule, I frequently used that as an excuse to go out and buy more clothes – especially underwear (at one point I probably owned close to 5o pairs of underwear, but never seemed to have any clean ones in my drawer so once a month I’d hit the Victoria’s Secret “5 pair for $25” sale they always had going).  I also had a small front hall closet that was overflowing with coats and theatrical costumes, and on any given day I probably had about 10 items hanging out at the drycleaner’s as well.

When I bought my first house, I immediately spread my wardrobe out in my much bigger bedroom closet thinking, “Finally, I have some ROOM!”  And for a couple months I did.  But since my shopping was particularly out of control at that point, I quickly filled that closet too, and added a large armoire that was soon bursting with clothing, along with the aforementioned dresser.  It was a two bedroom house, and because there wasn’t a front hall closet, I put all my coats and costumes in the closet of the second bedroom, along with any clothes I couldn’t fit in the master bedroom.

When Ron moved in, I had to make room for his stuff.  It was not an easy process. I was not ready to part with what I had, and I was still buying things at an alarming rate.  The poor guy had almost no room for his clothes in a house that was positively overrun with my wardrobe.  If the roles had been reversed, and I had walked into a house like that, I don’t know if I would have stuck around.  When we moved, I saw that I had permanently bent the closet rod with the weight of all I had hanging in there.  Awesome.

Our current house has  built in closet/shelving cupboards in the master bedroom, and we still use the armoire as well (I ultimately pared down my clothes enough to get rid of the dresser).  Ron’s shelves all have some spare room in them, but mine are packed full–even though I have the lion’s share of the space in both the closets and the armoire.  Ron even built me a closet in the basement to house all my costumes, and we have a dedicated coat closet in our home office for coats/scarves/umbrellas.  The guest room was the only room in the house that wasn’t holding some of my clothes- and so of course, I took pity on it and filled it with sundresses, my purse collection, and some evening wear.

And once again, all closets in the house were full.

But as I’ve previously mentioned, my friend Kelley was staying with me for a while.  A lot of people have stayed in our guest room, but usually for only one or two nights at a time.  Kelley was here for about three weeks, so I took a look at the room with new eyes to see how I might make her more comfortable.  And of course, I realized that she would have nowhere to put her clothes.  So I emptied the closet and put all my stuff in suitcases down in the basement, leaving her with shelf space, hanging space, and floor space.

Kelley’s rehearsals have started, so she has left to stay in actor housing, and my first impulse was to refill the closet with everything I’d removed.  But then it occurred to me -what if I didn’t?  What if I took Peter Walsh’s sage advice and limited the amount of clothing I owned to what would fit in the space I had to store it?  And what if “the space I had to store” my personal wardrobe was limited to my bedroom closet/armoire?  Would that really be so terrible?  Wouldn’t it be nice to always be “guest ready”, and have that closet only hold items meant to make guests more comfortable?  And wouldn’t it be nice to have all my clothes consolidated on one floor, instead of spread out over three?

I decided to leave it empty.  I took the suitcases with my excess stuff up to our bedroom, and left the guest room…a guest room.  Minus all my crap.

Ready for guests!

Ready for guests!

I have no idea how I’m going to incorporate all those items into my bedroom storage, and I can guarantee it will involve some serious clothes/shoes/purse purging.  Today, I can’t even face it.  But I’m determined to do it.  I’ll post about it once I figure it out, but for now…well, wish me luck.  Ugh.

Ready to make me cry

Ready to make me cry



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