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Friday, April 21, 2006

Spring Cleaning

Clothes. Boxes and boxes of clothes. Dressers-full, left out in the garage, forgotten. Never let them tell me they have nothing to wear.

My kids do not have a problem with hand-me-downs. They think it's kind of exciting to wear their sister's former favorite outfit; sort of an honor. Clothing gets recycled from Sarabelle to Gracie to Elle, who then promptly renders most items unwearable. But that does not stop certain family members from buying them all new clothes all the time. No. Ignoring their Yankee sensibilities they insist, "Everyone should have a new shirt/skirt/pair of pants/sweater/shoes/dress of their own once in a while to feel good about themselves!" So despite my pleas to the contrary, we are bombarded on holidays and birthdays and just visiting days with new clothes for our desperately needy children. Apparently my preference for recycling is seen not as thriftiness or anti-materialism, but as poverty. I have been openly castigated for allowing my youngest, at five years of age, to wear a shirt labeled 2T. Good thing they didn't find the skort tagged 18 mos. Hey, if the shirt fits...

These certain family members are as unfamiliar with my reasoning as they are with the concept of Quality, Not Quantity. Instead of one nice classic shirt, we get two pairs of too big sweatpants and one matching skort all covered with logos and rainbow hearts and sparkles; a skimpy, thin knit top with giant flowers printed on it that are already flaking off where the knit ribbing stretches; three pairs of hideous knee socks; two pairs of tights, one pink with white pom poms, one red with white hearts (the whole lot obviously on clearance from a Valentine's Day sale); two not too terribly offensive long-sleeved knit shirts with only slightly annoying, cutesy animal characters on them; one plain white shirt that should fit in approximately three years, and one decent long-sleeved striped knit shirt. I thank them, and gently point out that if they are truly worried about their finances for the balance of their retirement, as they constantly remind me, maybe they should stop buying so much crap. "But they were on sale!" they insist. Then I tell them I hope they have saved the receipt and hand them back the bag minus the three long-sleeved knit shirts -- because the daughter who is the recipient of said gifts had already been shown all the items prior to my seeing them in an attempt to strongarm me into accepting them, and according to their plan, she loves the cutesy animal character shirts -- and thank them again. It's the thought that counts, right? Said recipient has been advised that the other outfits are way too big and will be put away until she is big enough and by then they will have been hopefully forgotten.

And in the meantime I wash and dry and sort and pack. This bag for Goodwill, that bag for the orphanage. One to the drycleaner, one to the tailor. A bin for clothes to be handed down, another for out of season outfits. There are baskets of clean laundry to be folded in my bedroom and more baskets in the living room. Piles of clothes on top of dressers already folded awaiting assignment to one of the aforementioned bags or bins, and piles on the dining room table being considered for the suitcases.

Several months back, a co-worker mentioned that she used to have the very same skirt I was wearing, a long time ago. This particular linen, designer, tropical print mock sarong has always been a favorite and after 15 years it can still be dressed up or down, looks good on, and is comfortable, so I let the remark pass with a laugh. I'll bet she thinks I bought her cast-off at Boca Bargains, the used goods fundraising shop on the island where she volunteers, and where I once snapped up a pair of black Irish linen Talbot's pants for one dollar when I was prodded to look inside by another co-worker and the only thing my wardrobe lacked was a pair of black pants. Then at the HOOT premiere, while I sat waiting for the show to start, looking very dressy casual in my old skirt, a tailored silk blouse, and pearls, I felt a poke in my butt. Seated behind me, an old Boca crow smiled, wagged one perfectly manicured talon, and told me in her my-family-came-over-on-the-Mayflower tone, "I love that skirt, dear. I used to have that. Exact. Same. One. Such a beautiful print. I wish I had kept it. It would have made lovely pillows."

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. Words to live by.

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