I can't look at my closet. When I do, it's almost too much for me to bear -- I need to physically look away to save myself from the emotional intensity. No, this is not because I color-coordinate my closet so well that it causes a swelling of pride within me that I can't quite withstand. Nor is it because my clothes are so expensive that the sight of them makes me want to snatch my credit card and stash it under lock and key. The reason I cannot look at my closet is because certain outfits -- that skirt, that dress -- hold too many memories.
I look at one particular black and gray dress and have to physically move it out of the way. Every time I see it I'm reminded of the last time I wore it. I was in Paris, out with a man who drew me in by discussing politics. I fell for him quickly, but while the discussion that night ended wonderfully, the same cannot be said for our relationship.
My closet is a visual representation of my dating history, but only a few items grab me in such a way. Clothes are not like photographs that you can simply discard or never look at again; you have to wear clothes every day, and they are physical reminders of a person you cannot ignore. I can't help but wonder how other women who fall in and out of love deal with their closets afterwards: Do they sit and stare at the red dress from their one-year anniversary? Do they burn it instead? What about something truly intimate, like lingerie?
The lingerie market is a $2.6 billion a year industry. After spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on lace and silk, do women then just discard it? Is it a form of betrayal of an ex's memory if a woman wears what she wore for one man with another? Can you wear the same lingerie with the next man you fall in love with and grow emotionally detached from the item? Is there something shallow about investing emotions in a piece of fabric? Do you just have to wait for the right amount of time to pass before wearing it again, or is it better to just get rid of it or send it to The Salvation Army accept it?
Upon further research, I've found many thrift store fashionistas who flock to Goodwill for their vintage slips, which can date all the way back to the 1940's. Goodwill offers to take your undergarments -- even your thongs -- off your hands. Your bras, too, can be given away and the proceeds can go to breast cancer survivors and survivors of domestic violence. A service has also been created for women who can no longer look at their jewelry box, Ex-Boyfriend Jewelry, where women can sell and trade those earrings, bracelets and necklaces their boyfriends once gave them. As the website states, "you get it off your chest and out of your sight. Just because you don't want it, doesn't mean somebody else isn't dying for it. Everyone's a winner!"
The question becomes this: Would you rather donate items that remind you of your ex, swapping those emotion-tinged items for new memories? Or can your clothes take on the memories of new people, new experiences?
For now, I will have to settle for being uncomfortable around my closet until my heart and my brain come to a decision. It's nice to know I have options.