As the weather outside lightens, many of us feel the need to lighten our indoor weather as well. We all know this as ‘Spring Cleaning’. While it is supposed to be a rejuvenating ritual of lifting the load of our material burdens by de-cluttering our closets, it often has the opposite affect.
Every year I hit The Container Store with the glowing internal mission of finally getting organized. Each closet cubby, file folder, and organizational item I discover on the store shelves renews in me a sense of determination that this year will be the year that finally I get organized. Yet, somehow, at the end of the day, I am always unable to lift that materialistic load. I find myself sitting on the floor surrounded my piles of my hoards, wondering, “Why do I have so much crap?” What is causing me to buy, and what is causing me to keep, all of this stuff?
Why do women buy? The answer to this question has multiple complicated layers, so in the interest of time I will attempt to compress these reasons into a simplified answer; women are the shoppers of the world. Not because they enjoy shopping any more or less then men, and not because they are any less frugal with their money than men, but because women are shopping for everyone else too.
“In virtually every society in the world, women have primary care-giving responsibilities for both children and the elderly (and often, just about everybody else in-between). In this primary care-giving role, women find themselves buying on behalf of everyone else in their lives.” –Bridget Brennon, Forbes Magazine.
When we shop, we are not only running through our personal mental shopping list, but the shopping lists of everyone else. Is your husband running low on shaving cream? Is a plant a good promotion gift for your co-worker? What does your mother want for her birthday? How often should you be replacing the shower curtain? The list goes on and on, and for the most part it’s us women who maintain this ever growing, every changing, shopping list. So, where as we may be frugal with our money, we are much less frugal with our time.
We spend so much time focusing on the people in our lives, that we seldom catch a chance to focus the attention on ourselves; making the process of wading through our own clutter all the more difficult. With the constant up-keep of making sure everyone else is taken care of, it’s easy to let the things in our personal lives fall by the wayside, or in my case, the bottom of my closet. So now, come this sunny day in Spring, I am facing a barrage of unfinished projects, half-asses hobbies, and a pair of roller skates that a year ago I swore I would learn to skate in, and I’m finding it hard to be objective on what I should abandon. What do I really need? Why do I have so much?
Why do women have more in their closets? Put simply, the social standards put on the female wardrobe are five-fold compared to the standards of the male wardrobe. For every item of the male wardrobe, five items are required in the female wardrobe to perform the same function. An individual sporting the quintessential male wardrobe can be prepared for any occasion with only a handful of clothing essentials that will last them through years of fashion trends.
The feminine wardrobe wearer on the other hand will have to consider that the simple black, past the knee, a-line skirt she wore to work will not translate into her after-work life, therefore, she must own a second simple black, above the knee, a-line skirt for going out, while also considering that neither said skirts would be appropriate to wear to an outdoor event, such as a picnic or going to the beach, so, she must also consider a simple, floor length, a-line skirt. Also, the woman who wishes to stay in style, in no less than six months time, will find herself replacing all of her black a-line skirts with floral straight-cut contouring skirts, depending on the mercies of current fashion. Thus, it is very easy to see where a man can be fashionable in all situations with a pair of jeans and a pair of slacks until they literally disintegrate off his body, a women is stuck with a half dozen skirts inside a single season.
So, considering this, let’s take a step back and evaluate the situation. One one hand we are accepting the unevenly weighted roll of ‘shopper’ for everyone in our lives, and on the other hand we held to much higher shopping standards. It’s starting to make to sense to me why I have several versions of the same pair of pants in varies lengths, yet, I never wear any of them. Why 150 pairs of shoes later, I still cannot find the right pair for my Friday night. All of this adds up, not just in our closets, but in our hearts. This ever-multiplying mountain of crap builds up and builds up until the Spring Cleaning avalanche comes crashing down on our heads.While our lives will always have aspects of chaos, there are things we can do to clear out the clutter at the bottom of our closets.
Stop wasting your time. I’m not implying that being the ‘care-giver’ of your family is a waste of time; on the contrary , it is time very wisely spent. Every relationship in your life is like a bank account. Both people in the relationship, be it significant other, relative, or friend, must make ‘deposits’ into this bank account. These deposits are in the currency of time and effort. If you invest a lot of time and effort in to the people in your life, you should expect a return on that investment. After all you would not continue to invest your hard-earned money in a falling stock. Moreover, you should be more frugal with your time than your money, because where as you can always earn more money, you can never earn more time. Your time is finite, and therefore you should treat it more preciously than any earthly gem. If you find that there are a lot of people making ‘withdrawals’ on your time without making ‘deposits’ you should reconsider how that time is being spent. If that relationship’s bank account is over-drafted, perhaps you should considering closing the account … at least until it is out of collections.
Find your own style. When we are young there is an exuberating thrill in keeping up with current trends. We walk down the street adorned in our finest, truly believing that all the world’s a stage and that we are its best-dressed players. We find a happy ritual in dressing in these fashions as we prepare for the day, and there is kind of confidence that comes along with putting that costume. But, somewhere along the way the new season’s line looses its shine. Where as we used to watch and wait for the trendsetters and throw-backers, we now only look on in dread at the new shoes we must fill; literally. And it rarely ever occurs to us to ask ourselves, “what do I like?” I warn you now that finding the answer to that question will be a long, adventurous journey, but it’s well worth the travel, for when you reach the end of that road you will never have to walk it again. You will find a different kind of confidence in your clothes as they will be a trend all your own, and being yourself will never go out of style.
As I carted off the innumerable bags of closet clutter to Value Village, I resolved to care less about what clothes I am spending my time in, but rather, who I am spending my time on. After all, when I am old and gray, what I will remember most are not the dozens of event-appropriate skirts, but the experiences I had and the people I had them with.