Sunday, March 30, 2014


Transformative is a lovely word. 

It pairs well with spring. Collins English Dictionary, the reference I consulted, appears to agree.

Collins gives as its first definition of transformative: “of or relating to the process of changing something into something else.”

The whole new season suits the online definition. We watch snow melt and listen to the songs of returning birds.

By personal inclination we step into or over puddles. We wait for the spring flowers, counting as a friend come back even the lowly dandelion with its sunny determination to brighten our lawns.

An adjective, transformative speaks to the makeover occurring in nature and in ourselves as spring gears up in our northern region.

There’s a lift that comes that can only be called transformative. We pull off winter like an outgrown protective shell that has formed and hardened around us like armor.

We’re stirred by the sensations of life reshaping at every level. We respond with fresh attitudes and revitalized energy. Intrinsic to spring is a desire to bestir ourselves, following nature who takes the lead on this.

Transformative comes to me as I survey my open closet. Rows of neatly folded sweaters, hangers with their tops in marching order according to color, denim jeans stacked for rotation (all given equal wear whether indigo blue, this season’s star, or the faded pair somewhat out of fashion favor) make not a bad first impression.

The grouping of clothing can suggest here is one who is organized and has her wardrobe at her beck and call.

Let this not fool you. Symmetrical stacks of sweaters, color-coded garments, all the tricks of the game, don’t always save me. The closet can daunt me as I pass my eye over it wondering what to pick out and put on.

Compound this by the fact that in the Midwest we ditch winter before we ditch winter clothes.

We navigate an obstacle course with weather at this time of year. It has us swerving back into chunky sweater terrain despite winter eroding from the calendar and the longer days declaring it spring.

Our winter wardrobes get extended life. Number of layers for comfort can vary distinctly from day to day. Winter and spring, by the reality of our mixed seasons, co-exist in our closet spaces.

What’s a stylish-worthy kind of gal to do? For starters let’s be done with the heavy sweaters. Hide them away. Get them out of sight. Resist the temptation to grab for one on a chilly day.

We need to brace for bare arms and legs. It’s been ages here since we’ve been at this brevity of apparel.

We can begin reaching for the tissue-thin fabrics that have current fashion sway. After the wool cardigans they're light and filmy against the skin.

Another practical step toward closet management between seasons is to clear out our closets. 

As I see it you can get closet-buffaloed in two ways. The first is being closet disorganized. This isn’t my main problem.  

My closet has a plan and format. Admittedly it could be better. No closet professional is on my speed dial waiting to bail me out. I’ll have to figure this part out myself.

More to the issue is the second point, to which we now come. Our closets, reflecting our houses, are filled. 

They bulge with clothing, accessories (think scarves, shoes, jewelry, handbags, totes) sunglasses, sports gear and hats.

We love our bling. We adore our dress-up shoes and comfy flats and modish sandals. Where would we be without all of that? We squish items down and move them to the back. We make room for more.

Before my closet becomes unwieldy it's my intention to  make sure it doesn’t get out of hand. The closet clean-up will be transformative. I think this in my head.

It’s supposed to act as a reassuring nod to my inner confusion. I cast about doubtfully for a place to start.

I read somewhere (and it strikes me as true), that we have a personal thing going on with our clothes.

Some items in our closet are with us longer than some of our relationships – both the good ones that endure and those that have a shorter run.

Some pieces were with us when we held our first child. We had them on when we held the hand of someone dear no longer with us. 

Individual pieces of clothing have memories. They’re tangible associations with events and things that evoke emotion in us.

Advancing through life we get considerably clearer about what has value and what doesn’t. 

For myself, I value the pieces that constitute my closet. They’ve accompanied me in a loyal decent sort of way.

They’ve proved reliable and trustworthy friends. It makes pointing a finger at any one of them and saying, “You – out!” very difficult to do.

With all this said it’s time for action on the venerable pieces in the closet. They’ve had their time.

To the discard pile add the items in the colors that don’t work on me.

Those colors never did work, never will, no matter the cost savings on that blouse or the wistful hope that a different shade of green (citrus green this spring) will somehow this time prevent looking washed out in it.

Let go of green my inner fashionista laments. Maybe her voice is getting to me at last. Not backtracking on determination the green items get yanked.  

Hangers are being emptied of their weight. Progress is being made. This is starting to feel good.

There’s a theory that if you unclutter your personal possessions you unclutter your life. Drawers and closets are natural places for getting the ball rolling on this. Space opens and has a changing effect on you.

Here’s where transformative comes in. You set up the change, follow through on it to allow it to happen, and the change changes you. 

It's remarkably like the definition of transformative, “of or relating to the process of changing something to something else.”

Clutter has many forms. Our closets certainly, but clutter can be the sprawl of stuff through our house, worries that clog our thinking or bad habits that choke the ability to do and be our best.

Clutter reduction reduces some of the strain that come with owning too much of anything. Uncluttering lets you wind up with less.This can be marvelously liberating.

The paradox is that reducing clutter can leave us with more. More peace of mind, for instance, and also more time for other things. This freedom of time is what many of us seek and think it's impossible to get.

Peace of mind and gained time are cool payoff for reducing what is often excess ownership. 

Our closets can be an example of the surfeit we've come to expect as our due. 

If our closets can’t keep up with what we put into them we’ll fare no better in managing those items. They take on a life of their own bigger than us.

A small pile on the chair is the sum total of the clothing for donation so far. I tell myself I won’t think of the stories I see in these pieces as they lie segregated from the rest.

I won’t let my mind dart to their past, which is their link with me. Instead it’s their future I'll imagine. They get the chance for doing good elsewhere by being useful to someone else.

The closet cleanup continues. More sorting will follow. A chunk of time could be expended on it and it isn’t going to happen.

The job will get done in bursts of concentrated energy. Items will be tried on (the part I dislike which is why the project often folds upon itself). 

Buttons will be checked (not excited to bring out the sewing kit and put my abysmal skills to the test). Everything gets put back but one at a time.

 A question I’ll ask this time with each piece, and which is new to the process:  Do you pay for your shelf space or hangar space by having significant purpose here, or are you only swallowing up the air in this closet?

Away from the donation pile are three other pieces. Two are white (Gap button-down shirt, dressy tee). One is green in color.

They’re good pieces. They’re for a friend. She wears white like a tennis pro whereas (like green) white is a color I’ve resolved to leave behind. I’m pretty sure she’ll find a place in her closet for them.

The two of us enjoy playing hand-along. We don’t do it often. Neither is able to readily part with items we like.

But once in awhile we drop off a bag for the other. “Here are some clothes to look at,” we say. “Maybe something will fit. Try them. Feel free to pass them on. They’re yours to do whatever you like.”

It’s like Christmas as we peer into the bag to see what’s been brought with us in mind. We both enjoy freebie clothing if only to imagine the piece as ours for a moment even if not eventually to our taste and fit.

It’s amazing how much most of us accumulate. Our houses are filled. 

Cleaning our closets, or minimizing clutter anywhere it accumulates, can be a solution to the prevalent glut of ownership. 

Clutter reduction is transformative by nature of the change it brings about. Let our closets speak of the  relief it brings.

Ro Giencke – March 30, 2014

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