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Donating my clothes reveals my history

If clothes really do make the man, then I am seedy, oversized, threadbare, out-of-date and need to be replaced.

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I have a massive wardrobe. Not a great one, just a massive one. Massive, in part, because my weight has been as high as 320 pounds in the past, and it has fluctuated, requiring the purchase of a lot of clothes.

Add to that my single years when I had a somewhat cavalier attitude toward laundry and sometimes just bought new clothes rather than washing the old ones.

And, before someone else points it out, I have a serious T-shirt addiction that I am trying to wean myself from, but I still have about a six-shirt-per-year habit.

I decided a couple of years ago that I had way too many clothes, helped to that realization by my wife beginning to assert her rights to equal closet space and leaving me with a situation where I needed the Jaws of Life just to a hang up a pair of slacks.

Hating to throw anything away, I decided to let the collection shrink by attrition, but it takes a long time to wear out clothes.

But recent weight loss made it impractical (and unnecessarily tempting) to continue to let pants with 48- and 50-inch waistlines and shirts ranging from Extra-Large to 3X take up space, so I decided to start donating what I hope to never need again.

I can't donate the belts, because some of the larger ones have enough extra holes that the end of the belt reaches clear around my left side and is angling toward the center of my back.

But jeans? I counted 31 pairs of jeans, three of which I can wear now and another five or six of which I will be able to wear in a few months. The rest went into the pile.

I almost gave up at one point, but watching a couple of episodes of the reality television series Hoarders gave me new spirit. Who really needs 12 pairs of cutoffs?

The one area where I don't need to worry a lot is dressy clothes. Those who know me well can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times they have seen me in a suit or even wearing a tie, and if you subtract weddings and funerals, the number dwindles even further.

The real problem areas are Hawaiian shirts and tie-dye shirts and tie-dye bib overalls.

My fellow Deadheads will back me up on this: Tie-dye isn't just a fashion statement (or extreme lack thereof). It is also an art form. I can identify some of my pieces by the artists who made them or the concerts at which I purchased them. When one of my favorite artists became gravely ill, I began buying extra stuff from him as a hedge against the day he would no longer be able to work. He died one night a few years ago at a campsite in the Withlacoochee State Forest with the beginnings of his last creation knotted on his chest and, I like to think, a few of my dollars in his pocket. My theory in hanging on to the entire collection is that some of the bigger shirts, eventually, will serve as nightshirts.

I began collecting Hawaiian shirts years ago with the only requirement being that they be as garish and ugly as possible. Again those who know me well will attest to my success. Some of the 3X's are now starting to swallow me and will, eventually, have to go. The only advantage there is that they are cheap and I can have fun looking for uglier replacements.

In the end I also will have to purchase one suit, one sport coat and a couple of white shirts.

Am I making a clean break?


The Banana Republic Journalist's Vest that I wore one day in Mexico more than 20 years ago before taking it off because it was too hot, still hangs in the back of the closet awaiting the day that somebody hires me to cover some story somewhere that I feel like I have to look cool.

And the T-shirt collection remains in the vacuum-packed bags under the bed(s) because someday I will want to prove that I took the Suicide Wing Challenge at a now-defunct chain of sports bars and because it is not entirely impossible that John Kerry will run again for president some day.

As for replacement plans, I will wait until I see how the size thing finally shakes out.

There should be enough smaller sizes in my closet to outfit me. Especially if corduroy bell-bottoms and polyester shirts with flowers the size of hubcaps ever come back in style.

The whole idea is to practice restraint and, as much as possible, deal with what I already have.

Although when I walk by the junk-mail pile in our dining room I can hear a paisley shirt from Pakistan, ever so faintly, calling my name.

I think it wants to live next to the Journalist's Vest.

Donating my clothes reveals my history 11/06/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 6, 2010 1:56pm]
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