Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Closet Purging Project


before photos of my overstuffed, L-shaped closet

crazy about my Crocs


I think I’ve gone over the edge. Yesterday I was reading Bella Rum’s blog about longing to update her wardrobe and since I have lusted after the same goal since leaving my caregiver years behind, I decided to research the topic. (I’ve been such failure in this department and at purging my closet.) I truly do want to do the purge and update, but I have too many stops and starts with no finish line in sight. So for additional inspiration I found some dollar books at Amazon, downloaded them to my Kindle and began reading. I started with a book titled, Ten Steps to Declutter Your Closet. Short and sweet. Twenty-five pages of standard stuff: haul everything out of the closet, try on everything and purge the stuff that doesn’t fit, is stained or needs repairs or that you haven’t worn in the last year. One Year! I’ve got  nearly three feet worth of closet rod taken up with vintage clothing from as far back to the Kennedy administration. Clearly, I need an intervention or I’m going to have to sit down and watch a marathon of the TV show Hoarders before I can take those vintage ‘memory clothes’ to a consignment shop and be a successful purger with the rest. When I watch a Hoarders episode on Monday you can usually find me cleaning on Tuesday.

After purging the author says I need color coded hangers. All the problems in the world of fashion and closet organization can be solved with color coding. Wow, you learn something new every day. (I need an eyes-rolling icon here to go along with that statement.) What is color coded hangers going to do about my waste-not hang-ups, those habits ingrained in me from early childhood? Back then it was my job to remove zippers and buttons off from worn-out clothing to save for sewing projects and to cut the serviceable parts of a garment away from the worn-out parts to use to make doll clothes, rags or quilts? Can you believe it, I still have a doll dressed in clothe made from my mother’s wedding suit? And do I dare to admit that she kept a pair of silk and lace panties from her honeymoon in 1937 and I have them tucked away in a box of vintage linen? How bizarre is that? Oh, but are they cute! ---the palest pink handmade panties you ever saw, boy-cut style with five tiny buttons on each sides. Can you image unbuttoning those panties if you were in a hurry to pee?

Mom was a product of hard times and never wasted a thing when it came to clothing. But I didn’t grow up dirt poor without a mother and with an unstable father, like she did. I didn’t have to quit school and get farmed out to work at age nine-ten so my father could have drinking money. And I didn’t have to watch as my younger siblings were sent off to be adopted by other families the way Mom did. I know I’m not my mother but her voice rings in my head when I look at my overstuffed closet. Okay, crack out the psych books and help me figure how color coded hangers is going to erase a lifetime of feeling guilty for wasting money on clothing I don’t need, like and/or wear anymore? If I hold on to stuff in the closet, pretending one day I’ll wear it again, it’s easier in my twisted sense of logic not to feel the guilt.

The second book I bought to inspire my closet purging project I’m half way through reading. It was written by woman you might have run across on the internet. She writes a blog called the Minimalist: Living a Beautiful Life with Less Stuff. I’m actually enjoying her views on purging and organizing closets and other parts of the house. I could never live like she does with only four tumblers in the house to drink from or with the concept of only having one Buddha bowl per household member to eat all their meals from---she got rid of all her glassware and china. However, the concept of less is more is appealing and I admire her dedication to saving the planet but I would hate being her neighbor! If they do household repair projects or throw a party they borrow everything. Ya, sure you can borrow my floor scrubber. Again. So it wears out twice as fast.

In the closet Ms. Minimalist says you need to pick a base color like black, navy or brown for all your pants, skirts, jackets, purse and shoes and purge everything else. Then she goes on to talk about limiting shirts, blouses and sweaters to three color that blend together, then having an array of colorful accessories. Her color palette and mine aren't far apart but Ohmygod, she pared down her closet items to less than two dozen garments, where I have---drum roll please---210 things hanging in my closet plus thirteen pairs of shoes. The folded clothes in my closet include: ten pairs of jeans, eight nightgowns and twelve sweatshirts plus container boxes for bras, slips, underpants and Red Hat society stuff. Did I mention the boxes of clothing that doesn't fit? Where did I find room for all of Don’s clothes that got purged shortly after he died? I know, some of my 210 things were stored in boxes before his passing. I couldn’t stand looking at the empty space where his things once hung.

The third book I bought for inspiration was on how to dress for your body shape. If and when---no, WHEN I get my closet purged I will read that book before buying more things---I really do want an updated wardrobe! In the meantime I have set Valentine’s Day as the goal for completing the closet purging.

The minimalist had a great tip that I started doing yesterday and I think it will be easy to maintain. She calls it the One-a-Day Declutter. You commit to getting rid of one thing a day be it a worn out bra, a mismatched sock or whatever---even a piece of paper counts---and by the end of the year your space is 365 items lighter. I’m planning to document my One-a-Day Declutter items on my day planner because, well, I’m just a list kind of person. Yesterday I threw out an old pair of Crocs that I still wore every day even though they are so worn out they weren’t comfortable anymore. But I have a confession to make. Before throwing out my Crocs I cut off the button that holds the strap so I can repair another pair of Crocs that has a broken button. Mom would be proud. ©

Just to prove I don’t hoard in the rest of the house, here are pictures of my dining area with Levi watching the action at the bird feed and a photo of one of my two desks…the clean and orderly one where I park my lap top when not in use. If anyone who has been to my house is reading this, stop laughing because you know my library and garage are more cluttered than the parts of the house I’m sharing here.




12 comments:

  1. If you purge your closet of all "un-needies", then it will be empty again and it will make you sad again--like when you rid it of Don's stuff. Then, because you are sad, you are going to go on a "retail binge" and that is going to cost a lot of money. I say--leave it alone and go declutter the garage, LOL

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    1. Interesting logic, Judy, and probably more truth than fiction. But if I want to buy anything new to fit my x-caregiver life I have to get rid of some things because there isn't a square inch of space left.

      Too cold to declutter the garage. I'll get back at that in the spring. LOL

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  2. What a GREAT project. Here in Maui, not so much of a problem. When I return to Portland, this will be a necessity. We downsized a LOT when we sold the house and moved to the condo. When we decided to LIVE on Maui and visit Portland, we put everything in storage and rented out the condo. After Mr. Ralph died, I knew I would want a different condo style. Slowly but surely I have been gifting furniture out of the storage unit. And I'm going to take my time putting together the box for my gift of a new life!

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    1. Been there, done that on the downsizing and storage unit. It sure takes a lot of time to empty one out. If you ever need a kick in the pants, watch the TV show Storage Wars a few times. LOL

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  3. P.S. I think your BEFORE closet looks amazing!

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    1. Thanks. I really do have a lot of stuff hanging in there that I don't wear which makes it harder to grab something and put it on.

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  4. Good luck with purging! Don't all women hold memories in their clothes? Wish I could be of help. My Mom sewed our clothes, too, and trimmed buttons and usable pieces off clothes too worn to wear. I just brought her sewing boxes home from my Dad's house, and see loads of buttons and belt loops and what not in there. Help!

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    1. Not surprising, I used to collect/buy buttons and studied their history. I also have my mother's button jars and a few cards of handmade metal buttons from the 1700's. They don't take up much room and I'll probably keep them until I died and my great-niece claims them. I keep debating in my head if I want to make a collage of buttons to frame...might be the best way to keep the super-valuable ones from ending up in a craft project. I've seen lamps made with large jars of buttons, too, and that is something I definitely want to do.

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  5. I have a small fascination with The Vivienne Files. For trips or for periods of time, she makes a bunch of outfits out of a core of pieces.....I'm not explaining it well. See for yourself. Even if you don't adopt her practices, it's fun to read if you're on a minimalist streak. http://theviviennefiles.blogspot.com/

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    1. Very cool site! I like the idea of having less pieces that all work together but what bothers me about that is how often you'd have to do laundry! For vacations, though, when you want to pack light she as some great concepts. I like the idea of picking a scarf and working outfit pieces around it, rather than having the pieces and going out shopping for an accessory scarf.

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  6. Boy, do I 'get' the sentiments in this post. I'm in the same place as you. I still have my caregiver clothes. As I'm writing this, I realize that it's kind of like my maternity closet. I needed new clothes after my son was born. We need to shed the old role of caregiver - mentally as well as physically. I think changing our wardrobe will give us an emotional lift. What better time to let our insides come out. It's now or never. Loved this post.

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    1. I knew you'd "get" the whole caregiver wardrobe/uniform and wanting to change. I'm still working on my closet, been trying on clothes every afternoon and making some headway. I still have all the "sentimental" stuff to go through next, then the boxes of clothes up above. I hope to be done by Sunday night.

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