Everything old is new again. That’s what I have to tell myself at the end of each winter as I march forth — garbage bag in one hand, box in the other. The truth is, though, I have that garbage bag in my left hand because everything old is not supposed to make a second appearance. Some things, like those curly bangs I sported in 2008, aren’t meant for a comeback. Living in New York means that trends fade fast. By the time you’ve decided to make the chop, everyone else is growing their bangs out again already. It also means that you have to part with things you otherwise might hang on to simply because they won’t fit in your closet, or on your shelf or in those neat little rolling plastic drawers you bought from Target that never seem to actually roll when you have them under your bed.
I need to clean out my closet — emotionally and materially purge. Standing on top of my dining room chair and reaching into the clutter of my top shelf is the best way to do so. This winter, I’d like to toss my lame ex-fling, my shitty work schedule, that “frienemy” I loved to hate and the heartbreaking leak in my ceiling. If only I could literally rip those things from my emotional closet like the “baroque” — also known as broke — polyester shirts I bought or those very cute, almost stripper-like, combat booties I invested in. Anyone who makes the mistake of thinking that wearing old, thoughtless outfits doesn’t have an effect on her psyche is wrong — it does. Clothes are undeniably important to us. Being cloaked in personal expression is the reason we wear suits to interviews or why, when given the chance, we buy items for multiple outfits. It’s why I remember the ensembles I wore on my first, second and third dates with Mr. Wrong and the cute little red top I wore to that ex-buddy’s 25th birthday bash.
“Enough!” I say to myself, as I start rummaging through the closet.
The tacky combat booties go into the trash bag first. At one point I loved those things but, just like the company I wore them in and the fiesta-themed bars I wore them to, they were really trendy and incredibly superficial. Trendy things, like trendy people and places are generally no good for the long haul. Only the rich and famous can afford to be surrounded by style without substance all the time. I’ll remind myself of this the next time I choose to splurge on the “real leather,” spend more than $20 on a drink or tell some corny dude my secrets.
At least I can sell the booties. While I’m down here rummaging through shoes, I might as well toss my old, smelly moccasins. This winter seemed to be the season of contradictions. I was either donning high, trendy heels to head to the Lower East Side for some happy hour sloppiness or I was wearing the same funky pair of struggle moccasins as I literally jogged to my multiple places of employment. A fly girl can only last so long working over 40 hours a week. That type of schedule, like a beat-up pair of slipper-shoes, is supposed to be temporary. Perhaps now it’s time to upgrade to some grown-woman work flats.
Moving up to the items worthy of hangers, I’m putting almost everything away but my favorite vintage silk shirt. It’s not baroque, someone had money when they bought this and gave it to me. That shirt is timeless. It’s vintage and it was my night-out uniform all year — my go-to for a lot of good times, much like the former buddy whose birthday I wore it to. Perhaps I won’t wear it like I wore it before, but I’m definitely not going to toss it. I think it might work with jean shorts.
The last item to go into the box is my good ol’ sweatshirt. Just as winter looked like it was starting to go smoothly — after I’d decided to can the dude, cut down on my hours and finally start making some new friends — my bathroom ceiling sprung a leak. It wasn’t a laughable, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days leak. It was a disgusting brown water leak, drizzling down over the light fixture, making me afraid to turn the light on and leave my toothbrush near the sink. Of course it also came with a shouting downstairs neighbor, who only seemed to be available to yell at 7:30 a.m. on weekends and insisted that I left my tub running when I can guarantee I was sleeping.
I could toss those memories into the dumpster and forget about them easily. Just like the ratty “lifeguard” sweatshirt I was often wearing when I opened the door for plumbers and angry neighbors, though, I’ve got to put it away for another time. You never know when you’ll need a comfortable, faded sweatshirt to wear on a trip out of town or inspire some memories of gumption to curse out an unruly neighbor.
Being a single 25-year-old writer, living paycheck to paycheck in New York, can be rough. It can be easy to drown yourself in hundreds of dollars of rayon and pleather, but that doesn’t solve anything. There are some things you can just forget about, like running from train to train to train again to get to a second job. Nobody needs a permanent mental picture of the asshole who got in your way when you were trying to make your last connection. Yet, there are other things you should remember, like the feeling of paying your own bills after working that hard.
Cleaning my closet reminds me to spend my money and time on quality things. Everything else doesn’t matter.