In our home, the “commemorative” t-shirt has become the symbol for the large amount of unnecessary clutter we have accumulated. I knew we had a lot of t-shirts; that became apparent when I did the clothing purge at the very beginning. They took up two full dresser drawers – and these were just MY t-shirts. There was a fair number hanging in the closet as well. I was just unprepared for exactly how many there were; and I’m just talking right now about the ones in current circulation:
These are just the ones from the University of OKlahoma where my daughter attended college. I have worn every single one of them, several multiple times. But here’s a fact – she has graduated now, and while I’d still like to have a couple to wear while I’m rooting them on during football season, I was able to let go of more than half. Also in current circulation are a couple of concert tees, a few from my college alma mater, my favorite professional sports teams, the university where my daughter now works, one from a local eatery that closed down after decades…you get the picture. And keep in mind that I was a teacher – at multiple campuses. So there’s the official t-shirt for the current school year, plus any other events we chose to celebrate with commemorative clothing – times two.
Purging the work tees was easy after I retired. I kept a few to have made into a quilt and the rest were bagged up. Piece of cake. Used the KonMari folding on the remaining ones any my drawers actually have breathing room. Sounds like a success, but wait! There’s more…
Down from the attic come boxes and boxes of stuff we haven’t looked at for years. Some still in old cardboard boxes that are crumbling in our hands, others in plastic tubs that have seen better days. In addition to typical attic detritus, we find a couple of tubs of t-shirts, which wouldn’t seem to unusual I guess, until you realize the time period they are from…
Some of these shirts are close to, if not 40 years old. My dad built the rides at the Adventurer’s Inn Amusement Parks – when i was in elementary school. I worked at the Dilly Dally Nursery School in the summer when I was 14. I wore the Budweiser and Mission Impossible shirts in junior high school. The yellow one was given to me by one of the kids as a thank you gift for being their camp counselor; I was 16. (Remember when going to the mall and having a custom t-shirt made was all the rage?) Yes, these shirts all date back to the 70s – and this is just a sampling of what was in that box. But it didn’t stop there; open more tubs, find more t-shirts.
Why? Well, my husband worked for Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper so there was no shortage of promotional tees from them – which we felt the need to save…and store. Brilliant. And my daughter was in band starting in middle school and we were on PTA, and if you are going to sell a t-shirt as a fund raiser, you of course have to buy one…EVERY YEAR. And starting in 7th grade she became a member of an educational group that spent a week travelling each summer, and they were given a t-shirt for each day of the trip. That’s five t-shirts every year…for six years. You do the math. And she was in band in high school, which meant so were we, so we all had new band shirts each year. And of course she got tees for honor society and student council, etc. Going on vacation to the beach in Florida? Well, you must stop at a Wings souvenir store and get a t-shirt to remember the trip each time you go…for several years. Visiting a potential college? Of course you buy a t-shirt. Going to a concert? Your team made the championship? Won the championship? They’re going to Disney, you’re buying a t-shirt. That’s all well and good, but here’s the real question…why are we KEEPING them???
Off to the storage unit at U-haul to start clearing out; tired of paying to store our excess stuff. And what do we find? You guessed it – more bleeping t-shirts. I said a lot of ugly words, but I only have myself to blame, because evidently, this t-shirt addiction started when I was a pre-teen! How on earth can I judge my family when I’m holding on to t-shirts that are 40 years old?
My husband and I had no trouble parting with the vast majority of the promotional tees and those affiliated with whatever organization, team, or school our daughter was a part of. I did a couple of video chats with our daughter so she could yea or nay her tees, and amazingly, she let go about 90% of hers.
This is just what came out of the storage unit. After I chatted with my daughter, she informed me that there was another tub in her closet…and then we found two more in the garage. In all, we had ten tubs, each holding roughly 30-40 shirts. Close to 400 t-shirts in all…can that be right? And we were paying to have some of these stored.
If you treat these as clothing in the KonMari world, it is a no-brainer, and nearly all of them get discarded in some form or fashion. But what’s left now fall into the very difficult category of sentimental items and mementos. When I pulled out those shirts that I’ve had since childhood, I was able to tell my husband a story with each one. That is where the joy comes from. I can’t keep hanging on to them; they are yellowed and threadbare – the attic was unkind. I’ve been given lots of great suggestions for what to do with them and how to keep the memory, I just haven’t made a final decision yet.
So my words of advice for today are these – don’t buy the t-shirt. But if you do, know when to let it go.