Now that the world is purging itself of corrupt and bloated people and institutions, I’ve felt a need to get rid of everything that no longer served me well. First I went through my kitchen cabinets and disposed of all the spices that should have been thrown out eons ago. Then all the half-empty boxes of bread crumbs and cereal that had been there so long I’d quit seeing them. I don’t know how that stuff accumulates so slyly, but it does.
Then I tackled the shelves of everyday dishes, and I was stern. Out went the soup bowls that had only tiny little nicks in them that you really couldn’t see unless you looked closely. Same with the plates with little chips on the undersides of the rims that I liked to think didn’t matter. Drinking glasses that had got that dull look from the dishwasher’s scouring went next. When I looked at the few things that were left, I felt silly to save any of them just because they were the survivors of a matched set, so they went too. I felt sad, as if I were being disloyal to dishes that had been faithful for so long, so I gave them a little ceremony in which I thanked them for their service, and then consigned them to the trash. Well, actually, I packed them neatly in a box and put it beside the garbage in case some passerby might want them.
I quit feeling nostalgic when I got replacements. Clear, shiny glasses to line up in the cabinet. New dishes with no chips or nicks anywhere. Inexpensive stuff from WalMart, so I didn’t feel too frivolous, but new and fresh.
Next I went through an armoire where I keep linens, good dinnerware, and company stuff. Didn’t throw away much there, but reorganized it. Discovered things I’d forgotten I had because they had been hidden behind something else, and got everything neatly rearranged.
I saved my clothes closet for last. I asked a friend to help me because I knew I needed somebody who would be ruthless, and she was. She went through my closet like Sherman through Atlanta, flinging sweaters and coats on a growing pile. All the old jackets with big shoulder pads got tossed. Coats that I haven’t worn since I moved to Florida, slacks with pleats, jeans with tapered legs, anything that had pilled fabric. I would yell, “I wear that all the time!” and she would say, “I can tell,” and toss it. Like I said, she was ruthless. When she had pulled out all the discards, they filled three big black garbage bags that she carted off to Goodwill. I whimpered a little bit when the wonderful coat with the fringed collar went into the bag, and I had to restrain myself when the beloved suede skirt left. But I hadn’t worn either of those things in over a decade, and somebody else could be enjoying them now.
I know that old clothes and dishes have to be replaced every now and then no matter what’s going on in the world, but I also think it’s good to consider the symbolism when we do the replacement. We can hang on to old outworn beliefs the same way I had held on to my old chipped soup bowls. And we can let loyalty to old unworkable ideas clutter our lives the same way my loyalty to old cold-weather clothes cluttered my closet. Whether it’s clothing or ideas, the labels that once meant quality may now be tacky. If we’re going to move forward, we have to be sure we don’t drag around a lot of old weight that no longer works for us.