And in the beginning, there were clothes. And my god look at the sock drawer.
“I am 100% committed to this process,” I told my wife Thursday morning. “I have so many god damned clothes. It is overwhelming and embarrassing.”
“My fear is that you will get halfway done with the process and then just leave it,” she responded.
“Yes, because that’s what Mom is about. Doing things halfway.” I rolled my eyes even though I was at work and no one could see me do it. Facebook does not have a good eye roll emoticon. Fix this, Facebook. “I texted her because I couldn’t remember the name of the “organization guru” guy that she would inevitably leave Dad for. She texted me back within 30 seconds.”
“She probably let out a little ‘Squee!’ that you even asked.” I then sent Carrie the link to Peter Walsh’s organization blog. “I can’t even tell you how much I don’t care about the organization guru,” she responded.
“WHICH IS WHY OUR HOUSE LOOKS HOW IT DOES!” I stated emphatically. We are not a dirty people; we are a messy people. Whenever I come across any article that combines “hidden genius” with “organized messes,” I immediately bookmark it.
If this hypothesis is correct, Carrie and I are a collective Einstein.
Mom has been pursuing this event since approximately 1988. The great purge. The event for clearing of all things clutter. The deconstruction of a wardrobe that still contains a shirt I wore in high school, back when my boobs were not the focus of my being and I could run 800 meters in less than 12 minutes. Of all the things she has worried about, the lack of organization in my life ranks in the top 5. “How could I have failed,” she must wonder multiple times a day. (This reminds me of her visit to my college dorm room freshman year when she literally said, “Kelly – you don’t need to live like this. No one needs to live like this.” The horror is real.)
To wit, I am neither a hoarder nor suffering from any disorder unless you count the one that makes me keep multiple small piles of books scattered throughout the house so that wherever I am sitting at any given moment, I have something to read. I am more the “I was tired of wearing a bra so I took it off and flung it onto the chair in the office where it then gets thrown onto the floor of the spare room and lies there until I go on a cleaning spree and take it downstairs so it’s on the floor of the laundry room which then qualifies as “progress” to me. Make sense?
As Mom continued to send messages outlining what we would be engaging in, I asked, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how excited are you?” She replied, “It’s like getting 30% off at Kohl’s!” That is the epitome of MomJoy. I knew we were in for a day.
My parents arrived with an entire box of garbage bags intended to collect “The Purge” as we were calling it. I had taken Ava to the vet and instructed Carrie not to let my mom just start or I would be left with one of each piece of apparel. She grunted as though she did not care. Indeed, I began to suspect she did not.
The system in our house had always been to keep just enough clothes dirty so that we had room in our drawers and closets for the clean ones. But on Friday morning, all of mine were piled in the living room for judgment. “Where shall we start?” Mom asked without saying hello to me when I arrived home. “Oh you brought doughnuts!”
Yes. The expectation was that I would bring home doughnuts from Bloedow’s which was voted the best bakery in Minnesota. Oh and did no one mention that Friday was National Donut Day? So would you think that perhaps said bakery would be busy? The morning was already exhausting and we hadn’t touched an article of clothing.
We ate our doughnuts in the living room, looking at the amassed history of my apparel. “Okay,” Mom said, feeding part of her bismarck to the boys, “this is how Peter says to do it.” She then outlined for me the upcoming joy we would all be experiencing.
First came the clothes on hangers. These were my “dress clothes.” Perhaps you have these, too. These are the ones you keep in a closet so that when you suddenly out of nowhere have an orchestra concert or an impromptu wedding you must attend, you have options to choose from. These are the ones you stare at while declaring, “I have nothing to wear.”
The oldest winner in this pile was a button up shirt from a shopping trip in 2004. It went in the pile. Mom exhaled with pride. “Doesn’t that feel good?” she said holding up the next pair of pants for judgment. A lot of shirts went. “The key is to have no emotional attachment to them,” Mom guided me. “They are going to the depot where they will either be resold or recycled. You’re not throwing them out. You’re just… redirecting them.”
I own 15 hooded sweatshirts. I threw three of them out. “Do you seriously wear all of these?” Mom asked me gravely, sifting through the multiple colors and densities.
“Yes, I do,” I said back, somewhat snidely. “It gets cold in Minnesota in the winter.”
The underwear and sock drawers were next. These were obnoxious. I quickly realized that 82% of my underwear drawer was composed of garments I hadn’t worn in years. Not like two years. More like eight. Toss toss toss. The sock drawer was a little easier because I have a sock obsession and wear almost all of them. But I still had a pair from 2000 when I was at a freezing cold soccer tournament in Marshall, Minnesota, and I needed a warm pair of socks for being a spectator.
That pair of socks was when I really realized that my clothes led to memories and that perhaps that is why I kept them around for so long. I don’t know if other people have this with as many pieces as I do. All I knew is that while I came to realize this fact, I turned to face the biggest obstacle in my way: T-shirts.
My grandmother screen printed a Polaroid and sent me a t-shirt three years ago. Again: Screen. Printed. A. Polaroid.
Good god the t-shirts. Allow me to show you a few of the most special ones.
The first t-shirt Mom brutally tried to take away from me was the one on which my grandmother screen printed a Polaroid of a crying 2 or 3-year-old me with their old dog, Tuffy.
“What on earth is this?” Mom asked as she looked at it. “Seriously, Kelly. You hated that dog. Look how miserable you are! And Tuffy wasn’t exactly fond of you either. Is this a memory you really want?”
“Yes!” I exclaimed emphatically. “It’s a great shirt that I wear underneath other shirts.”
“We can buy you new white shirts,” Mom offered.
“Will they have a screen printed Polaroid on them?” I asked.
“Then we’re keeping it,” I responded.
T-shirt Purge Score: Kelly 1, Mom 0.
I stole this shirt at a softball tournament in Kentucky. 12 years ago.
Next came my Bluegrass Bombers t-shirt. I was never on the Bluegrass Bombers – a girl I was dating was. And I essentially stole this shirt at a tournament in Kentucky in 2003. It is a very comfortable softball shirt.
The problem is that I had eight (EIGHT) other softball t-shirts from teams I had actually played on. I had to have a softball shirt throwdown.
“I’m letting you keep six shirts because you claim to use them throughout the season,” Mom said. “That’s all. You were never a Bluegrass Bomber. You don’t need a shirt.”
“But I wear it underneath things!” I protested again.
“I’m onto your rouse,” she responded and it went in the bag.
T-shirt Purge Score: Kelly 1, Mom 1.
Remember when everyone lost their damned minds in 2004?
One of my favorite time periods for the Sharbies was 2004. We claim we went crazy that year – did everything we wanted to do, traveled all over, dug ourselves into the most fun debt we could imagine (and then spent six years trying to recover from it).
Also in 2004 was the presidential election from hell. I don’t know if everyone else feels that way about the Bush/Kerry era, but I can say that it was so hellishly contentious and angry… and so much of it was focused on gay issues… that it was an exceptionally annoying time to be alive.
Within that, the Vote for Change tour erupted with tons of musical acts gathering together to promote the liberal cause. We saw one show in Des Moines featuring Bonnie Raitt, Keb ‘Mo, John Prine, and Neil Young. It was a sweet concert in an absurd time.
And that t-shirt was uncomfortable as all get out. Mom won easily.
T-shirt Purge Score: Kelly 1, Mom 2.
If you can’t understand why I need both of these, we can’t be friends.
“These are the same shirt!” Mom exclaimed.
“They are not!” I exclaimed back. “I don’t have any other brown shirts!” Emphatically. Shouted.
“Fine. Keep the brown one.”
“I NEED A SMATTERING OF COLORS!”
“A smattering. Of colors. Of Coors t-shirts. Are you even listening to yourself?”
She was right. I may have, um, been peaking in my stress right about then. But I got to keep them both which just goes to show: People listen when you speak passionately.
T-Shirt Purge Score: Kelly 3, Mom 2.
The winner of oldest piece of clothing is…
There was a small contest going on to see just what would be the rattiest, tattered, oldest piece of clothing in my wardrobe. Now, technically, the oldest piece of clothing was a Beatles shirt that I wore on the first and last day of my senior year of high school. But I had kept that shirt in such pristine condition that it could hardly be considered the winner.
Which left my “Just Smash It” t-shirt as the winner. First off, I think the shirt itself is, like, a freaking size medium which I haven’t worn since I was probably 4 years old. It was a shirt I bought during my coaching career which started, peaked, and ended in 2000.
The fact that this was still in my collection is one of those flukes. It must have been hiding every other time I had tried to purge my clothing, tucking itself into a corner, begging me to remember that time they let me be in charge of a dozen 14-year-olds and I allowed them to use “The Thong Song” as our pregame inspirational music. I decided I didn’t need the t-shirt to remember such nonsense.
T-shirt Purge Score: Kelly 3, Mom 3
One of my top 5 favorite football memories was buying this jersey. Hi. I’m a Vikings fan.
I grew up hating one football player more than any other player for the continuous years of 1992-2009. It’s not hard to do. Putting a cocky, good, narcissistic ass on my least favorite team in professional sports causes this for most sports fans. Add to that the unadulterated worship that fan base showed that player and it makes for a chemical mix that causes so much disdain, it cannot be measured with any device.
We were at the cabin on vacation without television one morning when our neighbor, Bernie, wandered over to tell us that Brett Favre was on a plane heading to Minnesota. Sure, the Vikings needed a quarterback and sure, he was probably the best one available. And sure, the Packers had literally tried to pay him $20 million to simply not play anymore.
But the torture it was going to cause the worshiping nation of Wisconsin seemed too good to pass up. We got in the car and drove into Mankato (where the Vikings do their training) and sure enough, we actually found a Favre Vikings jersey already on sale. I bought it immediately. The joy was real.
As you know, making deals with the devil don’t work out very frequently so when he threw that dumbass interception to lose the NFC Championship game, I was not surprised. The memory will always be the day we found out he was coming. And Friday, I easily gave the shirt up.
T-Shirt Purge Score: Kelly 3, Mom 4
Notice the space between hangers. That didn’t exist before.
All in all, I gave up 31 t-shirts. And my closet looks like a closet now. I even got rid of three pairs of shoes and five hats. That is unheard of. No one believed it possible.
My mom danced around like a child at the end of a sugar overdose (which, really, the bismarck may have played a role in). “Don’t you just feel so … so … FREE!?!?”
The truth is that I did feel free. I don’t feel like I’m drowning in unnecessary items collected over a lifetime. It is a joy to have only clothes that fit, that I wear, and that I am able to comfortably store in my closet and drawers without managing the balance of having half of them in the laundry at all times.
My mother is an organizophile. And a damn good one. Feel free to hire her by calling 1-800-MOMWILLHAPPILYTAKEALLYOURCLOTHESAWAY.
My soul-cleansing Fridays have been wonderful so far. What shall I do next week?