birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Yessir, Yessir, Zero Bags Full

If I were to be honest, I‘m not sure I am qualified to give advice on any topic other than cooking. And even there, it’s really just my opinion, not concrete information. It’s based on years of experience, not schooling. And, not baking. That’s a whole other thing. Any instruction from me on baking is wholly guesswork.

I’ve heard it said that when people ask for advice, they don’t really want it. What they really want is someone to listen to their concerns and then validate their already formed ideas of what should be done. I confess that I fall into this category myself when it comes to the problem of cleaning out the ever growing collection of ‘stuff’ around the house.

The entire family is of the same mind regarding the topic of clearing out the closets and boxes tucked around the house. Everyone is in agreement that we need to purge. But when it gets down to the crux of it, they all want to reduce, just not their own stuff.

Personally, I like cleaning out my closet. At least, in theory. In practice, I am a sentimental hoarder. I know there is too much in there because I can barely wedge a hanging garment onto the sagging closet rod. Piles of shoes and bags line the walls, reducing the floor space. I keep things even if I never wear them. They may remind me of an earlier time, or maybe it was a gift and I feel terrible about giving it away. Or it cost a bundle and guilt washes over me. Too wasteful to jettison it just yet.

Last year, as a birthday gift, my sister asked me to come over and provide advice to help her weed out the unnecessary clutter in her enormous closet. I tried to use diplomacy when commenting. I like my sister.

“That one is not my favorite” was uttered a number of times, and “I don’t know if that is your best color” was offered. I was careful not to say things like, “Seriously? You need to ask?” and “Oh god, why did you even you buy that?”, even if the thoughts passed through my mind. We ended up with eight bags of clothing to take to the homeless shelter.

Years ago, I helped a famous and glamorous movie star go through her closet too. She wanted my advice and council about what to keep, what to pitch. (Why?) And, she offered me the discards. Everything was very expensive and barely worn, some still had price tags on them, but if I showed the slightest interest in taking them home, she thought maybe she should keep them herself. Ha! The only things that were available for me to take home at the end of the day were the things I couldn’t use.

Recently, I thought it would be a good idea to invite a friend to come over and advise me about what to keep and what to give away. A disinterested party could make the cruel choices I was too fearful to make myself. I chose a friend whose taste in clothing I like, hoping she would steer me to keep the more attractive and useful items and get rid of the things that I was too blinded by sentiment to notice that they were now too short, too tight, too revealing, generally unflattering and the new one….no longer age appropriate.

She kindly agreed to do it and on the appointed day, parked herself in the only comfortable place to sit in the bedroom while I tried on garment after garment awaiting her fateful pronouncements. I had a stack of shopping bags ready for the outgoing goods.

It was not as successful as I had hoped. Damn it, she liked everything I pulled out of the closet and even spent a large portion of the time searching on her phone for identical items to purchase. Where did that sweater come from? Do you think they still have that jacket? My first bag of giveaway items was not even half full, and the closet was still bursting. I even slipped in a couple of things when she wasn’t looking just to get some sense of accomplishment. 

We don’t share sizes or I would have given her a pile of the items she liked but I thought should go. 

The next day I went through the closet again on my own and made it all the way to one full bag. Sigh.
 

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