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Cleaning Out My Closet

11-16-2007  |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
I was cleaning out my closet today, shifting the summer clothes into the closet in the library and bringing out the winter ones, moving them into the closets in my bedroom.  Yes, it is a ritual, done more or less twice a year.  It is a big job and takes hours - usually over several days.  I get allergies now from the dust, my back usually aches from shlepping too much at a time, the winter stuff always striking me as remarkably heavy. (Why should clothes weigh that much?) Of course, it should be noted that I live in sunny southern California, and have lived here for many years.  The ritual of shifting clothes for seasonal use is a Midwestern and Eastern one, maybe a Southern one as well.  Most native southern Californians that I know find this ritual completely foreign to them - their closets are filled with the continuum of clothing that responds to the not very large swing in season or temperature, compared to other regions.  For me, the change of season needs to be acknowledged in a concrete way - one that I find keeps me connected to my childhood and to my awareness of the passing of time. For me personally, the Fall is a particularly challenging time.  I hate the loss of warm, sunlit days and the advance of darker, colder shorter days which always foreshadow the imminent approach of my birthday in November.  Damn, another year older. I change our blankets to warmer ones, and get out the space heater for the bathroom.  I shift the lightweight jackets to one side of the closet that's less convenient, move my sandals and flip flops out, move closed-toed shoes, half boots (no full boots for me, it's southern California, after all) and suede shoes in.  Straw purses put in bags, patents and leathers moved closer.  Lightweight workout clothes and sleep wear moved out, velour and sweatshirts moved in.  Sweaters and leather pants, suede skirts and jackets moved to prominence; shorts, capris, see-through skirts crammed into the back of the walk in closet that my father refers to as "The Tunnel."  Why "The Tunnel?'' Mainly because I have become ingenious at filling this walk-in closet with a very full assortment of clothes that often make the rotation with no use in between and because I hide presents there which I may purchase days, weeks, months or years before I need them.  Also, I must confess, since I have been the same size for most of my adult life, I still have some things that I can't yet part with from days long gone, including some dating back to college.  So this is part of the subject of this post.  Not that I have a hard time giving things away, because I have actually gotten much better at it over the years.  No, the subject is my consternation at how little room there is left for the wardrobe that I am shifting back, necessitating me to examine the real nature of my life at present and my activities and what I should reasonably expect my wardrobe to be, both now and in the near future.  Ah, this is a heavy subject. And it will most surely lead to other, heavier subjects. And I'm not quite sure that I will be able to consider all of its portent in one sitting.  The symbolism of the closet and its contents bears careful scrutiny and consideration.  There is really so much to consider. The first point that I mentioned, how little room there is left for the newly rotating clothes, is truly irritating.  I don't recall adding that significantly to my "base."  Also, I know that I did quite a bit of pruning on the last go round, so there really ought to be room for everything to fit quite readily - and yet, late this afternoon, it became quite clear that radical action needed to be taken if I was to make the shift completely into the other closet.  I stopped work when this radical action became abundantly evident to me and sought refuge in the darkness that was falling in the library and dampening my spirits by 5pm tonight.  What will I need to give away?  What should I shift into under the bed chests (which I recently checked, not remembering what was in them) for use later on? (who knows when?) How should I prioritize?    These are all questions that need immediate answers, if I am to get all of the clothes off the chairs and into some secure dark place soon, before my family arrives for the holidays.  I went back to the Tunnel this afternoon to try to evaluate the potential damage and do some problem solving - to little avail.  I put a bunch of things in, filling up virtually the rest of the closet. Yet, there was still a very large amount of stuff still laying on one big chair, not to mention a whole other chair filled with the "maybe this needs to go" stuff.  Problems, problems.  I unloaded the long sleeved blouses and button down sweaters and moved them into a staging area on a chair in the bedroom.  Before putting them away, I first needed to unload the sleeveless and short sleeved tops and shirts in my bedroom closet.  Eyeballing the two different sets of clothes and the spaces they were bound for, it seemed like there would be challenges in this area as well.  Crap. Again, it started to get dark, leaving me with little alternative than to delay this transfer yet another day.  Tomorrow morning, early, I will tackle the heart of this.  In order to complete the full transition,  I must next go into my daughter's bedroom, to her second closet, where there may be some additional space to offload some of the indecisions until next year.  Lately, I notice that my husband has discovered this available open space, and has been secreting his sportscoats there.  I noticed last night that he had snuck in two sportcoats into my Tunnel, knowing full well that they had no right there and I would be forced to scout a new location for them.  Right now, however, they are only removed and parked in the library on one of the stools, with the jacket arms dangling in a sort of dead, disembodied way.  They will have to sleep there until tomorrow, when I can have the daylight to create some more daylight - in my closet that is. Of course, I really don't want to make any rash decisions about my wardrobe, save for the obvious ones.  You know, the things that you wore out or wore only once (or not at all).  It's good to get rid of those.  And the receipts I was saving in my bathroom drawer, just in case.  (some are probably yellow by now.) Right now, the questionable pile is filled with a couple suits and about 10 pairs of pants, jeans, etc.  Should I take the cuffs off the black and white herringbone pants and let them live another season?  Or, should I chuck 'em and all of those memories that went with them?  I will sleep on it tonight and decide in the morning.  My car trunk is already full of about 5 bags of stuff left from the summer switch.  After this go around, Goodwill will be high on list.

Prioritizing Your Life

11-16-2007  |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
This past Sunday, in the New York Times, I read a review of a guy who has become popular with the techies in northern California.  His popularity stems from his notion that people nowadays spend too much time with their email and techie toys and don't prioritize enough in their everyday life.  I know I said the very same thing a number of posts ago.  But he wrote a book about it that has become a bestseller, so he wins. Book or no book, it is still a subject worth revisiting often, since life can be nasty, brutish and short.  His contention is that too much time is spent doing things that essentially waste time or can be delegated.  He recommends conducting more business over the phone which is more direct and faster, as opposed to by email, which can be tremendously iterative and time consuming.  Duh.  He conducts his business in four hours per week and has a lot of time to spend traveling and promoting his new book and theories on how not to waste time.  Good for him. My question is, why has so many people fallen in love with communication tools that by their nature, are more distancing?  For me, I grew up on the wonders of the telephone and the human voice and I wouldn't trade that for anything.  I like the immediacy, the sound of the other person's voice.  I feel like I can read between the pauses and sighs, the deep breaths.  You can't get those in email.  The interactive humanness is wrung out and replaced by intentionality and careful thought.  Not really the same as conversation. But back to prioritizing.  The point he is making is that at the very end of the day, (or at the very end of your life) what do you really have to show for all that time spent emailing and fucking around webspace??  Probably not much, when you consider that all of that time might have been used to engage in other more fulfilling activities, whatever they might be.  Problem is, blackberries are addicting, iphones are addicting, being needed by someone who is urgently emailing or IM'ing you is addicting.  His solution is simply not to respond.  Unless it's urgent, that is.  Ooops, there's my phone.  I need to answer it.  More later.    

Location, Location, Location

11-09-2007  |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
I just got back today from a short trip to Memphis, Tennessee.  The air was crisp and at times blustery, but being there for the first time and looking around, I had such an immediate sense of things familiar and things foreign, all at the same time.  I have traveled to many places in the South, both recently and over many years, yet I couldn't quite put my finger on the familiarity aspect - the vegetation, the brick and stone used extensively there, reminiscent of my childhood in the midwest, the trees changing color.  The old buildings, homes, downtown area a bit dilapidated but showing signs of coming around - all familiar to me, all like or at least similar to home in Chicago.  Of course, I just said home in Chicago, right?  Interesting slip of the type, since I haven't lived there in over 20 years.  There were aspects of the city that were foreign - how the city is laid out, for example, encircled by highways.  How many of the buldings and roads were named after people famous in the city.  Danny Thomas is everywhere in Memphis, on buildings (St. Jude) and others, on roads, at the airport, to name a few.  And then there is the "small time" celebrity of Elvis (he doesn't need a last name) where almost every store you walk into has a picture on the wall with him and the owner or other celebrities.  In certain parts of the city, it really feels like Elvis is still there, since his name and image are plastered all over. One store I happened into was a famous men's store called Lansky's, downtown.  In addition to a major guitar collection (BTW, Memphis is the home of Gibson guitar - tours available) of famous performers, there are blown up pictures of Elvis being fitted by the much younger version of the owner with some new duds.  I asked the owner, Bernard Jo, about the pics.  "Oh", he said, "Elvis came in all the time before he was famous" - real nonchalant.  "He was a good boy."  In a soft southern accent, of course. I was there with my brother and my parents for a business event and so together we were able to compare and to contrast our experience of a new city with the one we knew closest and best.  It's funny how all of us had these resurgent feelings of Chicago - maybe it was the change of seasons that was informing our perceptions.  Whatever. It was clear that being together as a family, without spouses and unfortunately, sans our sister, who lives far, far away, the soothing experience of what is familiar combined with the stimulation of what is foreign engendered that long ago but not forgotten feeling of being a family for the first time, as kids. Discovering the city for the first time together.  You never know what things bring you back - smells, fall leaves, old red brick houses.  But it all comes rushing back, just like it was yesterday.  Of course, it was many yesterday's ago.  But for a moment or two, there is that memory and illusion of how it all was.  In Chicago.  I mean, in Memphis.   

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