Don’t Buy the T-shirt

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:

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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…

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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.

 

 

 

 

The Art of Folding

I can’t talk about clothing and not address the KonMari folding method.  It is unlike anything you’ve probably ever seen, yet it makes perfect sense (for most items, anyway…) Kondo says, “The key is to store things standing up rather than laid flat”.  If you are like most people, you are thinking, “Um…what???”  But I promise you, it is the best decision you will make.  Your clothes fit better in the drawers and you can get more in them – which is one of the reasons I no longer need to store seasonal clothing elsewhere.  You can actually see all of your items at one time – no more digging to the bottom of the drawer to pull out that one shirt while you mess up all the rest.  And your clothes won’t wrinkle as badly because they are not stacked on top of each other.  Think of your drawers being file cabinets and your clothes as files – you’ll get the idea.  Here are some of my drawers:

As you can see, folding and stacking make a huge difference!  Both my socks and tank tops were able to be condensed down to one drawer each.  But the best part, for me, is that I can see everything at one time.  Now all of my drawers look like this – underwear, t-shirts, athletic wear, bathing suits.

So excited was I by this that I dragged my friends into my room and started opening drawers to show them!  I even gave them a folding lesson.  I’m not sure they shared my enthusiasm, but that’s okay because I found some folks who do.  I was having a hard time visualizing how to actually make the folds, so I Googled it.  During my search for how to fold KonMari style, I found something else – a Facebook group full of other like-minded folks.  I joined immediately and found myself among other women looking to simplify and declutter and keep the joy in their lives.  I posted my drawer photos and got immediate feedback and encouragement.  There are times when this feels like an impossible task, trying to discard and sort an entire house.  But it helps to be able to turn to the group to ask for ideas or support and to give that in return as well.

If you’re more of a visual learner, you might want Kondo’s second book, Spark Joy, also. There are illustrations on how to fold – I sure could have used that the first time around! And I will admit – I don’t fold everything this way.  My jeans hang in the closet, many sweaters have proven too bulky, and my scarves actually fit better rolled (my Navy dad would be proud). But the end result is the same; the clothes are stored in the best way for them and me.  It makes me feel good just to open a drawer and see them all lined up nice and neat.

 

Does this Spark Joy?

Time to get busy.  It is a full 65 pages into the book before you actually start doing anything, but there is a reason for that.  You have to understand the philosophy behind the KonMari Method. It would do you no good to start on page 66, because you would still be sorting your things the old way – and probably end up keeping way more than you need. So how do you decide what goes and what stays?  If you follow the KonMari Method, you will ask yourself one question while holding the item in your hand – “Does this spark joy?” Kondo’s rule is simple – if the answer is yes, keep it, but if the answer is no, to the discard pile it goes.  I will admit this sounded a little odd to me, as did thanking each item before I sent it on its way.  But I do believe her advice is sound and helps you to focus more on what you want to keep rather than what you want to get rid of.  I will admit, however, that just having that question in my head make it much easier when I began to go through my things.

20150902_104427Clothing is the first category Kondo tackles and here is her direction: Place every item of clothing in the house on the floor.  And she means everything.  Empty every closet, every drawer, tub, or bin that contains articles of clothing.  Hmmm… I liked this idea in theory, and if I lived alone or if Marie Kondo herself was sitting there with me, I might have done that.  Instead, I opted for a modified version.  I started with emptying my closet and after working through all of the items there, moved on to dressers and out of season tubs.  Did I hold each item in my hands?  You kind of have no choice.  Did I ask myself the joy question for each item?  I didn’t really have to; I had in my head if it didn’t spark joy it was going.  Did I thank the items for their service? No – but I did clear out a lot of stuff and did not feel the least bit guilty doing it.  And while it may sound odd to ask yourself if a pair of jeans or a scarf brings you joy, think about it for a minute.  Odds are you wear the same pieces over and over again.  Why?  Because you like the way they look and the way they make you feel.  You’ve likely been wearing only the clothing that brings you joy all along…

The closet was a piece of cake for me. Dressers, drawers, and tubs a little more daunting but it all got done and in relatively short order, too.  And I no longer need a place to store out of season items; discarding gave me more space. My donation pile was sizable; Goodwill was going to be getting a pretty good selection of items!  But beyond that, I truly did start to feel lighter.  Cleaning out, freeing up space in your environment really can have an impact on your physical and emotional self. Kondo describes this in her book as well.  I think it’s important to realize that this isn’t just about having organized closets and a neater home.  It is about finding the things that bring you joy in all aspects of life – this is just the first step of the journey.