I no longer count how many pairs of shoes I own or for that matter, how many dresses or skirts I own either. I couldn’t tell you why I have dozens of shirts and bras, but I could tell you why I’ve kept them for so long. I’m not by any means a shopaholic, but certainly do land somewhere on the spectrum, but at least I could tell you why.
I keep clothes in the way that others keep ticket stubs or hotel key cards: as memories of things I once did.
Getting rid of clothes has always been difficult for me. When I was little I would try to keep wearing clothing that was too small and growing up I held onto my favorite items far longer than rationally necessary. Now, as an adult, I take such pride in my appearance and have a large amount of care for the clothing that I own. And yet, my stubbornness to let things go is just as strong as it was when I was five. Cleaning out my closet yesterday, I stubbled across many items of clothing that I had forgotten I owned, but seeing them again, I realized why I had held onto them to begin with. I remembered dates and meetings and events. I remembered hiking with my best friend and getting coffee with the guy I would later fall in love with and attending an impromptu wedding at which I was told I was the maid of honor. I remembered years of my life.
In case anyone is wondering, I did finally give them away. I thanked the shirts and dresses and scarves and pants and jackets for their service to me and for once bringing me so much joy, and then I packed them in bags and gave them away. My memories of joy do not arrive and leave with the things that I wear, and yet that is certainly where they feel the most accessible.
I believe that we all carry things with us. Whether those things be broken watches or playbills or out-of-date train cards or one’s entire wardrobe, we all carry things with us that remind us how we got where we are. And yesterday, I carried my things, relived my life, thanked my clothes for their joy, and gave them away. I still carry my things, my memories, my baggage, and I doubt I will ever stop.