Getting Rid of Stuff and Finding Myself

Thursday, January 3, 2013

I took this photo of my closet after I'd organized some of my clothes

Have you ever tried to move from one place to another and not known where some of your stuff came from and why you were hanging onto it? That's the predicament I found myself in about a month ago when I decided to "declutter" my space and simplify my life. Please don't recoil in horror that I live like a hoarder or shopaholic who's so out of control she needs an intervention, because that's not the case. I'm what you might call a "collector". Some things I legitimately collect, such as vintage clothes and accessories, t-shirts, Hello Kitty collectibles and Japanese fashion magazines while others just accumulate over time. The problem with getting rid of my accumulations are the memories attached to them and re-living the issues that came up when I tried to throw them away. Believe me it was a heavy duty job, but it had to be done, so that I could make room for the future.

First I had to assess my current state of mind to determine whether or not I was ready to let go of the past and move forward. The four issues I'm dealing with right now are my health (i.e., post breast cancer treatments, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and depression), unemployment, living in a city that's becoming more complicated and exhausting every day and adjusting to a life that's changed significantly since I was diagnosed with Stage II A breast cancer in 2010.

To help motivate myself I signed up for a workshop on October 19 at Cancer Support Community-Benjamin Center, "Declutter 101", taught by Regina Lark owner of "A Clear Path" ("an L.A.-based professional organizing business"). To set us on the road to organization she required that we bring in a "junk drawer" to organize at the workshop.  I don't really have one so I brought a bunch of "junk" in a large ziploc bag—a heart-shaped lace potpourri sachet, pencils, pens, chopsticks from various Japanese restaurants I'd eaten at, a framed black-and-white photo of my first tap teacher Mark Mendonca, various Hello Kitty note pads, etc., etc.  

She then had everyone put their items on the table and walked by to examine a few. I'm happy to report that I passed the test by separating everything into categories. Unfortunately my euphoria was short-lived when she saw my "collection" of chop sticks. Without a second's remorse she gathered them up and threw them in the trash!  Bye-bye "Miyako"!  Adios "Sushi Cat"!  Later "Mitsuwa Marketplace"...

"Oh, so that's how it's done... You just toss everything you absolutely don't need and can't use.  I think I can do that," I thought to myself.

Overall the most important bit of advice I left the workshop with was "to get rid of things that have caused me pain and only surround myself with those that have a higher good".  When I actually started doing this, on my own, I found that it was easier said than done.  

It didn't help that I began with my closet and I'm a clothes horse with wearables everywhere. To try and make it easier for myself, I tried a little experiment by separating all of my black garments out from the rest of my wardrobe to coordinate together as if I were going to work at "Sear's", "Macy's" or "Bloomingdale's".  Whenever I've gone into those stores I've noticed all of the staff wears black head-to-toe.  Once I got so curious about this phenomenon I asked a salesperson at "Bloomingdale's" about it and she told me, "It's our dress code and a requirement." "Doesn't it bother you to be surrounded by so many different colors and styles and not be allowed to wear them?" I asked her. "Sometimes," she said, "that's why on my days off I wear the brightest colors and prints I can to balance everything out."

I guess I should tell you why I have such an aversion to all black.  After I was diagnosed, and I started chemotherapy, my skin changed color and I had dark bags under my eyes that the color black accentuated horribly.  Today, even though my hair's grown back, my face has returned to its rosy glow and I don't feel as sick.  Black represents that time so I stay away from it when it's not broken up with another color.  Getting back to my experiment . . .

After collecting all of my black dresses, jackets, skirts, blouses, pants and shoes I went through all of my "Vogue's", "Harper's Bazaar", "Elle's" and "Marie Claire's" and tore out fashion layouts and ads of swanky dark ensembles. Through hours of coordinating and translating them with my own clothes the only one that really spoke to me was a short, flirty black lace party dress in the "Mulberry" ad paired with black-and-white polka dotted flats and a big black leather bag. Fun, cute, and eternally young, it represents my philosophy about fashion.

In the end, I didn't get a job working at any of the stores I previously mentioned, which is just as well because my experiment with all-black failed and I reverted back to the eclectic blend I'm comfortable wearing.  I guess uniforms just aren't my thing, whether it's on a job, in a tap dance class or in everyday life.  For me fashion is meant to be enjoyed and shared and you can't do that if you're a conformist.

While I was working on my wardrobe I read a few fashion/style books—The Gospel According To Chanel,  Lloyd Boston's, The Style Checklist: The Ultimate Wardrobe Essentials For You, LAUREN CONRAD Style, and IN STYLE Instant Style—to help me bring order and cohesion. From the Chanel book I think I learned the most because I learned that the reason her look is still so iconic is that it's autobiographical. When I was asked to list my "all-time favorite pieces of clothing" in the "IN STYLE" book I was surprised that they were similar to Chanel's and included a black dress, a striped French sailor shirt, a white t-shirt, jeans and a white button-down shirt. It's funny, but from this small list, I visualized at least five different outfits.  Now that's organization that I can live with.

At this point in my journey I can only say that my "decluttering" project is still a work in progress, but now that I've taken the plunge, I will continue with a renewed sense of purpose.

Blog Author: Victoria Moore


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