Clean Sweep

The Red Sox did it in four games. I did it in 4 hours. It took some pitching skills, some teamwork and lots of guts, but I did it. Last Sunday I cleaned out my closets. So what's the big deal? Well, if you're a woman you wouldn't be asking that question. And if you're a guy, even a Yankees fan, you'd still understand the thrill of reversing the curse and overcoming all those emotional barriers to come out on top of the heap.literally. I mean one minute I was laying on top of a jumble of jeans, jackets, suits, scarves, sweaters and sneakers emptied out of my closet and strewn on my bed, and four hours later the heap was reduced to a streamlined silhouette. It's like, now I'm free to move on with my life. Sounds crazy, but that's what this rite of spring does for almost every woman I know; even the ones who won't admit it.

Closet cleaning is a ritual. I approach it once a year with reverence, trepidation and just a bit of awe. I never know what I'm going to find. I never know what emotions it will trigger. I just go with the flow.

Now the way I figure it, there are two types of people in this world: there are hoarders and there are throwers. It's best, of course, if they're not married to each other. I'm basically a throw-away junkie. I keep most of my memories in my mind, not in my closet. Okay, so how come I'm looking at three big, black, garbage bags headed the way of my favorite charity? Reality check. Just hours ago my closet was filled with clothes I don't wear, clothes that don't fit, clothes I can't figure out why for the life of me I ever bought, and clothes I once wore and hope to wear again.someday.

It's amazing what we keep: unmatched mittens, hippie headbands from 11th grade, and three-tiered peasant skirts. I found stuff at the bottom of my closet I don't remember having much less wearing. I'm not even sure it belongs to me.

Most of us wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. So why's it so tough to part with the stuff we've obviously rejected ourselves? I mean, I couldn't do enough lunges to get that dress with the bow on my butt looking the way it looked when I first bought it. Come to think of it, I never even wore it out of my closet. But it's there.

I don't know about your closet, but my closet has all these little people living in it with little voices that chime in just when I want to shut them out. Oh Puleese! When will you ever wear that white gauze Egyptian cotton galabiyah tunic that fitted just so in the dry heat of the pyramids at Giza in 1979? And those black leather Italian pants with the 23 inch waist from your Easy Rider days are so over! Why even waste the hanging bag? But I left them in my closet again this year. Even a throw-away junkie needs to cut herself some slack.

Compared with my friends though, I have it easy. They're on the other end of the spectrum. Call them pack rats, clutter queens, or hoarders, you just have to love them. Every time they see a space, they have to fill it. I know there's some law of physics that says two things can't occupy the same space at the same time, but tell that to my friend Carolyn. Her closet is living proof that the universe will not allow a void to exist. She accumulates clothes and shoes faster than the Salvation Army store. She says she finds comfort in chaos. What I can't quite figure out is, even though we're on opposite ends of the spectrum, every time we open our closets we have the same reaction. "I have nothing to wear."

Then there's Gale. She's into Feng Shui-that ancient Chinese tradition of how to find harmony in arranging your space. She folds her underwear in her underwear drawer. I'm talking about little string things that probably shouldn't even exist, much less be folded. I didn't even think the Chinese wore underwear! I don't know if it's the Feng-Shui or just Gale but she is very serene about the whole clothes thing. The first time I peeked into her closet I was blinded by the spectrum of color. Blouses color coordinated and arranged from lighter hues to darker tones with accessories on matching hangers. She even points all her shoes in the same direction. Says it makes her feel more "together." "Together" is the operative word here.

Rule #1. Make sure you're feeling pretty "together" before you begin closet cleaning. It gets worse before it gets better.

Rule #2. Walk into this with your eyes wide open. And I mean open. Take a good look at what you have in there. Take it all out and throw it on your bed. To be successful at this you have to really be committed and ruthless. (Think Trump boardroom with Apprentice Closet Organizer job up for grabs in The Donald's empire.)

Rule #3. Clear your calendar. The worst thing about this ritual is starting to clean your closets and not having enough time to finish. So you sit with piles that you keep moving from your bed to your floor every evening, and then from your floor to your bed the next day hoping to finally finish up. This ritual gets worse before it gets better so if you don't want to go around depressed for days, block out a few hours and take on one closet at a time.

Rule #4. Trust your friends. If "vanity thy name is woman," invite a friend to help you out. Believe me, it will be the most humbling experience of your life. If your friend is subtle, she might just give your Alpaca sweater a once over with, "I don't really think that's YOU anymore." If she's like my friend Carolyn she'll stand there choking with laughter and come out with some line like, "You're kidding aren't you? You'd actually wear that? I wouldn't give that to my mother-in-law!"

Which brings me to my mother-in-law. A real charmer in her youth, at 92 her life is arranged down to the last detail. She has two dressy outfits. One fabulously chic scarf she drapes over one of three cashmere sweaters and some sensible shoes. Her life is good, uncomplicated and uncluttered, much like her closet.

Okay, I'm not there yet, but there is something liberating about paring down your life. There's light now when I open my closet doors. I can see everything. My clothes have room to breathe. I really think they're smiling. Sale, anyone?


What event in the Annapolis area are you most looking forward to in 2006?

Powerboat Show
Sailboat Show
Renaissance Festival
Seafood Festival
County Fair

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