I nearly gave away the sleeveless magenta blouse my Mom gave me, maybe in 2002, the year my dad died. I know I visited Mom in Wyoming often around then. For sure, it’s an old blouse, even if it looks about as good as new. I came to it while eliminating clothes I don’t like or don’t wear from my bedroom closet.
“I’ve worn this many years and it doesn’t owe me anything,” I reasoned, trying not to be swayed by sentiment— even though it was a favorite of Mom’s, and I remembered how happy I felt when she gave it to me.
Still, Marie Kondo, in her best-selling book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” is very clear: go through your possessions, and if an individual item doesn’t “spark joy,” get rid of it. I looked at the sleeveless blouse— was it slightly faded? Was it just too old to keep? Funny how getting rid of stuff can suddenly make you feel exhausted.
In the midst of my closet cleanse, I was losing my enthusiasm. “Be strong,” I reminded myself, and held the blouse out on its hanger for final consideration. No spark. No joy. “It’s time to move on,” I thought, as I tossed my mama’s blouse in a box marked “donation.” I was ready to quit for a while, knowing I’d add more stuff in my next round.
As fall gave way to winter, a conundrum occurred to me that had everything and nothing to do with my de-cluttering effort: shopping. The season of gift-giving was upon us, and along with it, the inherent pressure to buy stuff for people, as well as to receive all sorts of bounty, whether we want it or not. We all know what that’s like, and if there isn’t an opportunity to return or exchange them, what do we do? Often, with varying degrees of guilt, I end up donating clothing gifts, imagining that someone else— someone who is the right size or who can wear paisley leggings will get to enjoy them.
While decluttering has been a hot topic in America for a while, thanks to Ms. Kondo’s book and follow-up TV series, there’s another movement trending to approach the clutter problem from the other end, that is, to shop less. In her best-selling collection of essays, “These Precious Days,” Ann Patchett describes her “Year of Not Shopping,” a pledge that appeals to me and influenced my holiday buying choices in 2022.
When I did shop for my grandchildren, I made a concerted effort to find eco-friendly games and toys. For others, I gave services, such as restaurant gift cards, and to my daughter in Los Angeles, a Meyer lemon tree, my favorite gift of the season. When in doubt, I gave store gift cards, reasoning that whatever the recipients chose to buy, at least it would be something they wanted, something that would fit and be worn, not donated.
The effort to de-clutter has raised our consciousness. What better way to be pro-active when it comes to clutter than to buy smarter and acquire less?
Last week, I pulled out the box of donations, ready to add a few more items before taking it to Goodwill. I noticed the magenta blouse sitting on top. I thought of my Mom wearing it, her pretty freckled arms exposed from below the short sleeves. I remembered feeling grateful when she said, “Why don’t you keep that?” after I had borrowed it during a visit, and that’s what I decided to do.
I liked the way the buttons matched the fabric, a sign of a well-made garment, and I liked the clever tucks in the blouse that made me feel both slender and curvy. My Mom and I both looked darn good in that magenta blouse! I snatched it out of the box and hung it upstairs in my closet, where it belongs.
And so, my Mom’s and my magenta top isn’t destined for Goodwill, not yet, which makes my pledge to shop less, one blouse easier to keep. Having nearly parted with it has made Mama’s magenta blouse more precious, a touchstone of her love, which definitely sparks joy.