Monday, May 17, 2010

Ditching the threads

Here's half the clothes I threw away. Today I threw away about half my clothes. What's pictured above is half of what I threw away. Most of what I got rid of were shirts, but I also tossed out other articles. Basically, for Round 1 of what my friend Erika calls my closet exorcism, I threw out anything that I determined was:

1. Worn whatsoever. This includes socks with holes, T-shirts with frayed collars, anything with stains and dress shirts with deodorant traces.

2. Outdated. If I can remember wearing it more than 5 years ago, it's gone, with limited exceptions, like a magnificently durable heavy blue sweater I've had for 13 years that looks exactly as it did when it was given to me.

3. Ill-fitting/uncomfortable. It's very hard to let go of things that are in many ways nice but are simply ill-fitting, because you always imagine you can lose 15 pounds and suddenly look stunning in it. But my theory is that if you're keeping clothes because you may look good in them after 3 months of intense exercise, you will necessarily look better in all your clothes after these hypothetical 3 months anyway. So if you're not thrilled with how you look in the tight T-shirt today, away it goes.

4. Age inappropriate. There are some things I have that are too 20-something, and about an equal number of things I have that are too 40-something. Goodbye.

Using these criteria I quickly filled two garbage bags, and out they went. Then I went further and created a fifth, far more brutal category:

5. If I try it on and don't think I look cute, it's gone. This is a very subjective and murky criterion, but at the end of the day it's the most important. Maybe I can't quite explain *why* that semi-new shirt that fits fine and is age appropriate doesn't look cute, but if it doesn't look cute, it doesn't look cute. And I must look cute because I'm gay, and everyone knows gay men care only about appearance.

I have done essentially this same process once before, in 2005. I went totally crazy over the summer, after months and months of slowly building hatred for my wardrobe. Finally I spontaneously screamed "ENOUGH!" and went to town, throwing away probably 90% of my clothes. It was one of the most liberating domestic experiences of my life. That day seems recent, but it was five years ago, so I'm long overdue to do it again.

You may be thinking that this is very weird behavior, and perhaps it is, but it's just how I operate. I really don't like shopping, and I have a rather amazing talent for blocking important personal obligations from my mind for months or even years on end. I consider clothes-shopping one such obligation. Being in school, of course, makes it all the easier to pay no attention whatsoever to your appearance. Aside from a couple suits and some shoes, I don't recall buying much of anything in the way of new clothes this year.

And that brings me to the tough part -- replacing these clothes. Even tougher, I have absolutely no money. But I think that even though this isn't the most economically prudent time to spend mad cash on clothes, it's the most personally important time to do so, because I have two free weeks during which I'd like to spend ample time getting my act together before I move to New York for my 12-week internship. And I'd like to be able to walk the streets of New York City not looking like a frumpy, pathetic embarrassment.

Not coincidentally, I spent much of the rest of the afternoon working out.

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