Spotlights – The Stuff of Memories

I have a polygamist set of champagne flutes in a glass-paned cabinet in our kitchen.

One groom was gifted to me on my wedding day as part of a set. “He” was widowed before the nuptials took place, his bride- the victim of a tragic, glassware-slaughter incident at the scene of the bridal “getting-ready” brunch. “She” lay in glimmering shards in a pooling stain of mimosa on the carpet, having been caught up in the avalanche that followed the sudden collapse of the coffee table during the photography session. Her demise was deemed “good luck” by our officiant later that evening.

The groom was joined by a replacement set over a year later and his bachelorhood came to a plural end(s).

I keep a tiny, rubber elephant inside my handbag almost all the time. This companion is known as “tiny elephant” (all lowercase) and accompanies me on journeys near and far. tiny elephant is a security blanket smaller than a dime that I adopted from a toy store off of Pioneer Square in Seattle while buying some jigsaw puzzles as trip souvenirs in 2016. My tiny “world’s largest land mammal” makes me smile whenever I see it, providing me with the comfort of accessible joy when I feel anxious, all for the cost of 75 cents and a faint bruise to my self-respect by making the cashier wait for me to retrieve it from the display and gently place it on top of the puzzles with a matter of fact, “… and this too,” before she could complete the purchase.

One of these things is not like the others. My desk is topped with a second hand lamp, coaster, trinket box, and a mason jar containing two DIYed wizard wands. The wands, crafted out of wood dowels, drizzled hot glue, and brown paint by my cousin and her husband, came into my possession at my birthday celebration a few years back (maybe even more than a few; time flies faster than a Firebolt, I swear… ok I’ll stop…).

The celebration was one of multiple gatherings at my cousin Mo’s old apartment in Brooklyn, a place rich in my memory with family gatherings. The wands take me back to a time of home cooked feasts, gourmet Brooklyn pizza, plentiful drinks, game nights, movie nights, and walks past the home fronts along Washington Avenue, the luster of their time-full grandeur sheepish in shadow against the glittering backdrop of downtown Brooklyn.

These belongings are among the stuff of memories in our home – some of the un-minimize-able prizes- awards of time well spent- of milestone days and past adventures, of good company and smiles that make my cheeks hurt just thinking about them. Some things, while extraneous and meaningless to others, may be integral to the accessibility, reflection, and retention of your memories. The magnitude of their value may not have been recognized at the time they entered your life, but their presence sparks appreciation and joy now and reminds me that not everything must go.

Hard Learned Lessons: Clothing & Accessories

When I took the first step to removing my clutter in order to make room for the important things in my life, the most overwhelming question confronted me right from the get go as I looked around my seemingly never-ending, hopeless collection of things. Where do I start? As I have since learned that many new to the process of decluttering do, I began with my clothes and accessories.

I’ll try to draw up an image of my clothing and accessory collection prior to starting this journey. This is going to be a bit cringe-worthy for me, but it is important to lay it all out for this post, so here we go!

In our Williamsburg apartment, my husband and I shared a closet. The closet had a small organization system of racks and shelves built into it, though organized was far from how I would describe it. Mike had one neatly organized bar for his work clothes and I had two… and the shelves… for my closet collection. The weight capacity of each of my hangers was tested, some to the breaking point, almost each one holding two items (or more-yikes!).

My Hemnes dresser from Ikea (not a plug- just want to convey how large of a dresser it is) was packed, each drawer brimming over the top such that I had to squish down the contents to close the drawers. Countless shirts, sweaters, skirts, pants, jeans, leggings, scarves, hats, gloves, swimsuits, sweatshirts- some items folded, but most haplessly crumpled due to my having tried on multiple outfits in the morning to find something acceptable to put on my body.

Draped on the chair by my sewing table were usually the clean parts of my outfits from the previous few days along with other pieces from “tired frenzy – the morning collection” that didn’t make the cut.

In the corner of the room lurked my large storage bin filled with seasonal items and clothes that didn’t fit or that I did not enjoy wearing but had paid good money for and so needed to be kept (but kept hidden and unused), right? On top of the bin, as mentioned in my first post, Finding Minimalism, lived my extensive collection of handbags, totes, backpacks, and soft-sided luggage, an addiction born from working in the NYC Midtown sales world of handbags for nearly two years. Just now I tried to think of all the bags I used to own and came up with the list below and I know this is likely not even all of them…

5 totes: 1x leather, 3x faux leather, 1xcanvas/leather

6 backpacks: 2x nylon, 2x canvas, 1x faux leather, 1x cotton twill

8 crossbodies: 2x leather, 2x nylon, 3x faux leather, 1x suede

3 evening bags: blue, black, gray

5 wallets: 4x faux leather, 1x leather

That’s 27 handbags / wallets. Twenty-seven. Ugh. I did not even include grocery totes and canvas tote bags or the main bags that I use today which I purchased in my early days of minimalism, a black canvas and leather crossbody, and my black “ebags” travel backpack.

I’m a monster.

Okay, moving on.

In front of the bin were at least two white kitchen trash bags stretching at the seams with clothes I was silly enough to think I could sell at Buffalo Exchange, a trendy consignment store in my neighborhood. After my first humiliating attempt to sell my items at Buffalo Exchange, I learned that they only take really nice or really unique stuff and you stand there as the in-store buyer sorts through your prized junk that you paid good money for. It was lucky if they took one thing for a pittance of a price but usually they just pushed most of the hoard back across the counter for me to awkwardly stuff back into the trash bags in front of the line of hopeful fashionistas waiting behind me to sell their last-season designer items.

After lugging my un-sellable stuff to and from Buffalo Exchange and Beacon’s Closet (another consignment shop in Williamsburg) countless times, I always felt drained and a little embarrassed. After donating to Salvation Army and Goodwill or dropping off my textile recyclables in H&M’s recycling bins, I always felt lighter- a weight off my shoulders- the cycle complete.

This lesson was one that, oddly enough, took a couple of years for me to learn and one that led to me donating many of my clothes and recycling the worse for wear ones instead of trying to sell them because it made me feel happier to do it that way. My clothes no longer had the same value to me as the price I paid for them, but I wanted to send them off in a way that was positive for my own mental health.

The hard lesson was learning that getting rid of my clothing items did not mean that those items never provided me value. The value of those items was in the distraction from stress or impulsive joy of the shopping experience, even if those items hung in my closet for years with the tags on. Their value lay in teaching me what does not work with my body shape or the type of fabrics and cuts that make me self-conscious, itchy, or feel just generally uncomfortable in. You don’t need those uncomfortable reminders in your closet staring you in the face everyday as you go to choose an outfit. You are enough whether that skirt makes you look a little chubsy or whether that dress caused someone to offer you their seat on the subway (cough- just chubby-not pregnant- oh the shame).

I wish I had written down how I initially approached deciding what to part with from my clothing hoard as I am having trouble remembering. I definitely did not know at that time about the KonMari method of putting all of your clothing items on the bed and holding each item one by one to see if it sparked joy (though experimented with this sometime later). I know that however I did it, it was little by little, two plastic grocery bags at a time, and I know that if you want to and put your brave face on, you can do it too.