New Uses for Old Clothes

Posted by admin on

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Like a lot of you probably are, I've been using my stay at home time to Marie Kondo parts of my house. (I've also been using the time to obsessively play Ultimate Jewel and eat miniature Snickers bars, but we're not going to talk about that.) I had effectively empty nested for over a year when first the Maine Millennial came home with half an apartment's worth of stuff. Okay, I figured, we'll shove things any which way until after Christmas, and then we can work on finding more permanent storage.

In March, of course, Youngest came home from U Maine, bringing with her Guest Son. He traveled pretty light, but she somehow seemed to have MORE clothing, bedding and knick-knacks than she had at the beginning of the year. 

This old house began to feel claustrophobic. Any closets we have were added in sometime around WWII, and the combination of carving out space from preexisting rooms and the fact people simply didn't own as much clothing at that time means you could fit ALL six closets (yes, that's right, six closets for 3000 square feet) into the average modern-build walk-in master closet.

But! What we lack in closets, we make up for with an attic. It's a full, pull down the stairs and walk around over the entire second floor attic, complete with ominous single lightbulb, mice, and unfashionable (in 1820) floorboards that are, no lie, close to two feet wide in places.

The problem is, after living here for twenty-six years, the attic is full to bursting. So in the domino logic of storage, getting stuff out of the living room and library and parlour meant heading up to the bedrooms, and making space in the bedrooms meant removing out-of-season and seldom-used items to the attic, and finding space for them meant getting rid of at least 30% of what had been stored over the years.

It's a work very much in progress, but we're getting there. We brought down and donated luggage we have no use for anymore, boxes of Ross's old papers (The Maine Millennial wrote about them) and my fave, the "boxes full of odds and ends we threw in during a pre-holiday cleaning frenzy," which of course were meant to have been retrieved and sorted right away, but instead languished for years unattended.

What is this? Why did we keep it in the first place?

Then of course, there were the boxes of clothing. Not the many, many tubs full of children's clothes we haven't gotten to yet. These are my clothes, neatly labeled in order of ascending size, dating back to the early 1980s. Many of you reading this are at or close to the same weight you were in 1985. I am not (cf, mini Snickers, above.) I tend to be pretty rigorous about tossing clothing that doesn't fit anymore, but there are always some pieces that are either too nice, or too sentimental to toss - and besides, I could always go back down to a size 12 again, right?

Wrong. The first thing I discovered going through my old clothes is dress size inflation - my size 12s are the same dimensions as today's size 10. I've always had an image of myself as being, well, on the plump side, so imagine my shock at seeing my willowy Youngest daughter fitting perfectly into outfits I remember wearing to work in DC. Readers, I was svelte and never even knew it.

The second thing I've discovered is that it pays to buy classics. Youngest snatched up multiple skirts, blouses and sweaters, which she proclaimed "back in style - as long as we get rid of the shoulder pads." A lot of snipping later, and she has a new wardrobe of silk, linen and 100% cotton.

The third thing I noticed, while laundering everything, was how many items of clothing I had that had been made in the USA. By members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union! Honestly, that made me kind of sad. We could use those kind of good union jobs again.

The fourth thing I realized was that even well-made clothing needs to be given away when your lifestyle has changed. Those small sizes that look so chic on Youngest will be perfect for her, a young woman heading for a career in international affairs or politics. Even if they fit me, I have no need for linen skirts, silk blouses or structured sweater jackets any more. Nor will I ever wear the clothes that are very close to my current size that I picked up during an inexplicable boho phase in my forties. What was I thinking of? Lacy knits and fringe are SO not me.

At the end, we have three boxes of clothing to donate, a bunch more in Youngest's room (still not enough closet space...) and a few sentimental pieces that are going back up in new, sturdier polyprophelene bins. Stay tuned for my next JRW week, dear readers, when I will have made it around to 26 years worth of Christmas decorations...

Related Posts

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →