These hoarders, the ones who never throw anything away, the ones who live amid their stacks of junkyard squalor and die beneath an avalanche of magazine back issues and TV dinner tins; I am not one of them. But I understand where they’re coming from. I get the motivation.
Letting go can be difficult. These things may come in handy some day. When the world melts down and zombies rule the streets, it’s unlikely that the publishers at Entertainment Weekly are going to continue mailing your subscription. In the eternal quest for reading material, you’ll be happy you kept those magazines. You’ll be the envy of all your non-zombified neighbors. And the TV dinner tins? With a little glue and gumption, they can be fashioned into a fine antenna for picking up signals from The Resistance.
My particular hang-up is clothing. I am constitutionally incapable of parting with any of it, even when it stops fitting (it may fit again one day), or is full of holes (darn those holes! No, seriously, get me some needle and thread. I’m going to darn them). My closet and bureau are a museum of sartorial history.
Take socks, for instance. The socks in the top dresser drawer are out of control. It won’t even shut, owing to the number of socks stuffed inside it. There are brown socks and gray socks, green socks and black socks, work socks and play socks, cotton socks and wools socks, thin socks and thick socks, argyle socks and striped socks. And socks with holes, lots and lots of holes. My wife has attempted to impose a sort of Marshall Law around the socks, an edict that goes roughly like this: "No new socks shall enter this house unless an old pair of socks is first surrendered." It’s a fair deal, net neutral. Regardless, the thought of giving up my socks makes me unreasonably anxious. How can I part with them? What if my feet get extremely cold? I skirted compliance of the Sock Law by culling out a number of long-neglected pairs (vintage 1990 - 1996, or thereabouts), stuffing them in a plastic grocery bag, and hiding it behind the mountain range of moth-eaten sweaters on the shelf in my closet.
I’ll spare you the details of my boxer short drawer; let’s just say that, of the forty-two pairs kept there, only seven or so are worn. It would seem like a trick of clown car physics that a drawer six inches deep could house so many pairs of shorts, but there’s an explanation. Sedimentation. The boxers at the bottom have been pressed to an impossibly thin stratum beneath the layers of cotton above them. Under such tremendous pressure, conditions are perfect for the spontaneous formation of diamonds.
Shirts, pants and shoes are not excluded from my compulsion. The shirts are roughly ordered in sequence of chronology; recently purchased are first and most frequently worn, followed by a succession of ever-older styles in passé colors with missing buttons and threadbare collars. In the trouser stacks are some contemporary models; newer denim that retains its indigo hue, classic twill and khaki for dressing up. But closer inspection reveals a stockpile of poorly weathered jeans and cargo pants and antique corduroy, in wales too wide and humiliating to mention. Of the 20-odd pairs of shoes only five are actually worn; the rest are jumble of worn out soles, leather dried and cracking, laces chewed by an orally fixated dog. I must keep them, though. We’re going to be doing a lot of running away in the future -- from zombies, from Tea-partying fascists, from the irreparable mistakes of our own sordid pasts. It’ll be wise to have some footwear in reserve.
So there it is. I have opened my wardrobe to you, and bared my fashion-forsaken soul. I find it difficult to get rid of these clothes because I suspect I’m going to need them again someday. Honestly, I have the most sincere intentions of rediscovering those Nantucket Red chinos with the tiny, embroidered Golden Retrievers or that overly large, awkwardly heavy lumberjack plaid flannel shirt and wearing them proudly once again. "When?" you ask, and by "you" I mean my irritated wife. I’ll tell you when. When the economy collapses and 1% of the population hold 99% of the wealth and the Confederation of Formerly Beleaguered Retail Employees burns down the shopping malls and The Eternal Light of Zappo’s is violently extinguished and we’re all living in shanty towns and changing our minds a little about the NRA as we train our crosshairs on the looters who’ve come to take our Entertainment Weeklys and our tin foil ham radios, that’s when. I’m going to be glad I kept these clothes when the revolution comes. Or the zombies.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some ironing to do.
There’s a pretty good chance that Sean Tabb resembles the guy your sister dated in college. He gets that a lot. There’s an almost equally good chance that he DID date your sister in college, and just doesn’t remember. He does his parenting, husbanding, living and writing from his home in Portland, Maine. Check out his website at http://punctuatedequilibriumblog.wordpress.com, or follow his drivel on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pithnvinegar.