Sunday, May 24, 2009

Accomplishment #31: Learn Basic Clothes Maintenance (#85)

I'll admit -- this is something that I did not learn while I was in high school. My mom, bless her heart, did my laundry. But then college came, and armed with a roll of quarters, some Tide, and about a month's worth of dirty clothes in the new hamper purchased for my new dorm room, I went to the laundromat and... did my laundry. It came out fine. Hey, I was young and full of promise -- there was nothing I couldn't do, except math and time travel and get to class on time. (Some things never change.)

I actually like doing laundry. There is something so gratifying about sorting and measuring and pouring, and then the smell and warmth of clothes right out of the dryer. Granted, I do have a washer and dryer so that makes things easy, but I never even really minded going to the laundromat -- once I actually GOT there. (It's the motivation that's the hard part.) Where else can you sit and read and the people watching can't be beat? Granted, seeing your neighbor's chonies spinning in a dryer can be weird, but just don't look too hard.

So yes, I can do laundry. I can even sew buttons and seam splits (albeit not all that perfectly). I can maintain my clothes maintenance, but it's the actually clothes quantity maintenance that is a challenge.

You see, I have A LOT of clothes. A LOT. I worked in a vintage store for 8 years and have an addiction to thrift shopping and bargains. And I'm not exactly trendy -- I tend to wear what was "in" fifty years ago than the latest fashion, so basically I'm so out of style that I don't have to worry about keeping up with it. I'll wear something I bought 15 years ago with something I got last month. I had 4 HUGE closets in my old apartment, so it never felt like an issue. But then I moved into a house with tiny closets with a boyfriend who needs to shield his body from the elements (damn him), and two small children who need a place to put their tiny sweaters and toys. Needless to say, the closet real estate is a bit scarce and hard to come by. Where my closets were happily full before, now they are crammed and look like they're vomiting skirts and jackets all over the place.

Yes, I know I have too many clothes. WAY too many. While I have a small case of the guilts when I'm rifling through my closet, knowing that there are poor people out there who need clothes (but like they'd want a sweater with poodles on it or gold lame capri pants), it's also intermingled with a sense of joy (some of my stuff is, in my opinion, amazing) and sentiment (I have the memory of an elephant and can remember where I got almost everything, and what I was doing when I was wearing my plaid skirt or turquoise sweater). And I've gotten rid of so much stuff, and regretted it. That's the thing about vintage -- I will never find another circle skirt with windmills and kissing Dutch couples, nor will I ever find another 1950's rayon Japanese pagoda print dress. Sigh.

But in the past few years, despite the gluttonous abundance of goodness in my closet, I've been a total schlub. For one thing, I don't go out as much anymore, so all my dressy dresses are gathering shoulder dust. Granted, it's not like I was ever one of those girls who was all decked out with the right hairdo and heels and seamed stockings, but sometimes I was fancy. (At least when I started the night out.) Another thing -- since I no longer work in a vintage store, I wind up just wearing the same old jeans to work, day after day. It's easy to get complacent, especially when you're running late to work and would rather not think too hard and be comfortable. And another thing -- I had gained weight, so many of my favorites didn't zip or button and made me want to cry, even though I didn't want to get rid of them.

Happily, I did lose some weight this past year. Not a lot, but enough to make me want to ditch my schlubby jeans and go out and buy new clothes. (After all, isn't that your just reward, after depriving yourself of butter and bacon and 2 am greasy goodness?) But even better, some of the clothes I actually already own zip again. Of course, being a clothes whore I would love to go shopping and buy new things, but don't have the money or the room. And as I was digging in my closet looking for something, I came up with an idea.

I challenged myself: I would wear something different every day for thirty days, no repeats, and shop in my closet instead of a store. That way I would save money by not buying clothes in my "new" size, and I wouldn't have to cram more crap in my vomiting closet. And I could revisit my old clothes that I love and justify their existence as mine -- if I'm wearing them, I don't have to feel guilty about having them, right? And I would record it all in photos and post on Flickr, to keep myself honest.

So thus it began:

day 2 of 30 days...
Day 2

I missed the first day, so started on the second. My friend took this picture after work -- clearly I felt dumb. I think that was the hardest part, the posing for the pictures. (This was the only one someone took -- the rest were with the self timer. Believe me, I took a lot and kept the "best." I am a terrible subject and an even worse photographer.)

But it got kind of fun:

Day 16
Day 16

Day 24
Day 24

And ridiculous:
Day 40
Sick and sick of it

The rest of the photos are here.

And I did it. It was fun going through my closet and excavating old treasures, and wearing something different. (Everyone at work would ask, "What day is it?") It motivated me to get up in the morning and think about what to wear, and not go out looking like a troll that just rolled out of a moat. When I would explain to people about what I was doing, it inspired them to do the same thing, and I love that. And even though it was a silly experiment -- it's not like I'm Accomplishing world peace or feeding the hungry, I'm just wearing old clothes I haven't worn in years -- it did a few things. One -- I saved money by not buying anything new, even for my "new" waist size. That's awesome.

Also, and most importantly, I felt better about myself. Wearing old schlubby jeans makes me feel tired and faded and, well, like a schlub. I don't feel like me. Clothes have always been such a huge part of my identity, and to have just reverted to wearing the same boring thing everyday... yawn. While it has its merits (definitely -- carelessly comfortable topping that list!), it's good to break out of that every once in a while.

And another thing I did find some things don't fit, don't look good, and I'm not going to wear them again. So I can get rid of stuff, make more room, and buy more clothes that I don't need. Hooray! Sigh.

But I did reward myself with a treat after I was done with the thirty days. The economy needs stimulating, right? But instead of buying new clothes, I bought a new purse that matches EVERYTHING. And it's made from recycled barkcloth, so it's good for the environment!

My new purse!

Check out this seller on etsy -- her purses are the best! atomiclivin on etsy

What was scary was that I barely scratched the surface (or rather, the depths) of my overstuffed closets, so I'm still motivated to keep it going. My work schedule hasn't made it all that possible this month, but I'll be starting up again in June, adding pictures once again, and prompting my coworkers to ask, "Okay, now what day are you on?" I'll dig out my fabulous Pucci pants (75% markdown at a discount outlet!) and wear them to... um... somewhere. And even though I'm wearing ugly sweatpants as I write this, maybe, just maybe, after I take a shower I might put something nice on and take a picture. Maybe. It might just be a schlubby day after all, but it's nice to have a choice.

Thirty-one down, 66 to go.


Anonymous said...

Love what you did Karen, but I didn't see the Paris skirt or the Matador jacket in any of those fab picts so you'd better do it again!!!
Love Lara (the other one, with the BIG kids!)

Sparkleneely said...

Ha! I have a ways to go before fitting into the Paris skirt again, and wasn't invited to any new wave parties during the thirty days. Ahhh well. And I want YOU to do this with your crafts -- that was a brilliant idea!!! xoxo

Bea said...

awesome idea, and awesome clothes! i wish i had that many *sighs*. lol. you should try wearing different clothes for a year! that would be fun...

Anonymous said...

So fabulous, so inspirational! Like you, my closet is vomiting skirts and shoes. Sadly, however,despite the decade I spent at the vintage clothing store, I tend to look as if I've never set foot outside of the mall. All those vintage treasures must be stuffed way in the back, because the front is all Banana Republic, the store I have the misfortune of working across the street from. I seriously have this reoccurring nightmare that I'll open my closet one day and there will be nothing but rows and rows of "I'm 40 and I work in the financial district but I want to feel young and hip so I wear lots of rayon" Banana Republic clothes. Years and years of accumulated "lunch time dashes across the street." Blech. Time to dig farther down...

The Sardonicist said...

shouldn't there be a picture of you tossing a hat up in the air, mary tyler moore?

Sparkleneely said...

Me, Amplified -- thanks! The grass is always greener, I suppose... I wish I didn't have this many, but can't seem to part with them. And i would love to try for a year, but the lure of jeans and comfortable shoes is too strong. But I'll keep trying! :)

Caitlin -- ohhh, I hear you. (You KNOW I do.) And at least you work across the street from B.R. -- as you can tell, I seem to buy junk at Ross, and it's not across the street. But yet every time I see you, you look fabulous and stylish. You have that je ne sais quois (sp) and we all know that. You will ALWAYS be fabulously hip. Duh! xoxo

skorpeo -- I tend to go for the Laura Petrie MTM, instead of the Mary Richards. But I will try to turn the world on with my smile. HA HA!!!!

Kim @ The Girl Can't Help It said...

How cute are you?! I could just scoop you up and put you in my pocket! You know, if you were an inch tall, of course... and wanted to be stolen away from your inch tall family and put into a gross ol' scratchy know what? Forget the pocket. You're just cute! (Come on, you know I can't say anything in 4 words or less!)

Robin said...

Hi There!

One of your wonderful followers (and fabulous purse buyers!) was kind enough to share your blog link with me today and I
FINALLY found some time to check out your blog! I LOVED the piece on your clothes! (Great photos, too!!!) Then...SURPRISE, there was my purse!! Wheeee!~ :)

I'm hooked. Your blog is a must-read from here on out! Love the furniture in your home, love the dishes, love your glasses...!

I'm a child of the late 50s/60s/70s and I LOVE all things retro. What a great time to have grown up!
I got the best of 3 decades since I was the youngest and my sister 13years older with 2 brother in-between, I grew up on everything from my parents 40s music to my sisters 50s stuff and my brothers 60s and 70s rock.

You keep blogging (and posting great pics) and I'll make some more purses in more of the PILES of vintage fab fabs I've got here!

Robin :)

Robin said...

By the way...did someone say, Laura Petrie??

I make purses whilst listening to/sorta watching vintage TV shows on DVD. Mostly, the Dick Van Dyke Show! Though, Gidget, The Partridge Family and The Patty Duke Show have made the scene, too! :)

Dusty said...

I am another who loves this post (Accomplishment # 31). Yes, I raise my hand as another long time collector of vintage frocks and goodies I cannot or have never/rarely worn. Why is this? Why are some of us thrifters like this? U-g-g-h!
Anyhow, bravo.
I've been inspired even more.

Gabriella said...

Oooh! This is such a good idea and your pix are adorable. I just may try it myself!

Elizabeth said...

I've been loving seeing your outfits on flickr (haven't been commenting much because I've been "lame" too). You have some nice duds, girl!

Delinquent said...

You're cute.

alix said...

I loooooove this post sistah! And what a great idea. I might have to copy it (and give you full credit of course). Someone sent me a link to something like this that another girlie had done. So genius. And YOU are adorable. BTW, timer is the only way to go for me. If Greg takes pix they look all wonky and i get self conscious. With my timer I can dork out and look all serious or silly and its ok! (I'm also master of posing to disguise my belly and double chin....I have the same wardrobe problem. Most of my best vintage sadly no loner fits. Waaah!)

nora leona said...

What a great idea! I live in a small space (750 SF) and have just one tiny closet. I did two major things last year - I worked on the basement, making it dry and bright (painted the cinder block walls and added a ton of lighting). And I lost 25 pounds.

I put clothes racks, a big mirror and my ironing board down there. I was able to unpack all of my vintage clothes and have everything in one place. Now instead of co-workers asking if I have new clothes, they say "basement shopping?"

Bonus: walking up and down the stairs has helped keep the weight off.

I can't wait to explore the rest of your blog!

Susan Hult said...

LOVED the photos, not to mention the act itself. I did this myself a few years back. Folks at work still remember it. And, like you, I barely scratched the surface of my closet. But, you have WAY cooler stuff, natch. And you sold me every cute thing I have. Keep up the accomplishments (and photos). you continue to rock so hard. xoxoxo s

Sparkleneely said...

Kim -- If i were an inch tall, I would totally live in the spooky kitteh planter. (Which is beckoning you, BTW. I think it comes to life at night.) But I would vacation in your pocket. Ewww, that was supposed to sound cute and it just sounded gross. Bleeccchhh. (I can't say anything in 4 words or less, either -- 2 words: "thank you," would have sufficed.

Robin -- hooray! Thank you so much! I am so happy you saw this! And I have to tell you -- I carried this bag all over New York City this past week (which is why it's taken me so long to answer!) and it was a DREAM. I am so used to heavy leather bags and this one made traveling SO MUCH EASIER. I'm not kidding. And I got so many compliments -- you're the best! My birthday's in 2 weeks and I am dropping serious hints for another one!!!!

Sparkleneely said...

Dusty -- I am so honored you read this -- I LOVE your blog! And yeah, us vintage/ thrift hoarders... thank God for blogging. It gives more meaning to our crap, you know? I jest... sort of. And I'm glad it was an inspiration!

Gabriela -- ohhh, please do! And you have an extra fabulous facet -- you SEW your own clothes, so that's even better! And if you read this I must ask -- the "scooter" wedding -- was that Cathy's????? :)

Sparkleneely said...

Elizabeth -- thanks, honey! I have been so bad at commenting, but caught up with your blog recently, and it was like reading a lovely book as usual. Glad we're "lame" together. xoxo

Delinquent -- no, YOU'RE cute!

Alex -- ohhh, you MUST! I love seeing all your ensembles -- your eye is impeccable, and you're the most stylish girl I've never met...;) Which needs to be remedied, soon! Us Oakland girls need to get together!!!

Sparkleneely said...

Nora -- thank you! And congratulations on BOTH counts! Sounds like hard work paid off. Your "new" space sounds dreamy, and your "basement shopping" puts Filene's to shame, I'm sure. ;) Looking forward to hearing more about it!

Susan -- my all time favorite customer and my dear friend... you know, vintage clothing is what brought us together, and I LOVE that. (And you.) We should do this together sometime, but we need an excuse to wear things like floaty pink chiffon dresses. (Do you still have that? And checks with cows on them?) Speaking of pictures, your vacation looks like it was FANTASTIC. But I'm glad you're home, because we are overdue for dinner. xoxo

Robin said...

Well, Little Miss Sparkle, I just got done listing 9 new bag designs in my shop and am working on more! Sooo many more to choose from! ;)

I hope your trip to the Big Apple was as delightful as you are! I'm so pleased to hear that your bag was a good travel companion! :)