Mine For Good

“Here she comes… you’d better get your stuff!” I overheard that being said about me, in my house, and the worst part is, they were probably right to say it. If someone’s cup was half full, I filled it or removed it. I cleared tables, fluffed pillows, emptied the trash faster that my loved ones can stand up from where they’d been sitting. I couldn’t even go to sleep at night without picking up my house first. I’ve been working on not being that person, the ever-present butler.

It’s not that I meant to rush folks- I think I wanted to sit down, but couldn’t until everything was picked up. Everything.  Until I started to let that part of me go, I called myself Neat. I would even allow Neat Freak.


Then, I watched Marie Kondo, started emptying my closets out, and understood the problem with Neat

I found, when I looked at my clothes, that I have a ton of things I love to wear, with the tags still attached. All my favorite labels in my favorite colors and fit await me in the guest room closet. I rarely get dressed from that closet. These are things I’m saving For Good: an event, wedding, shower, a performance of some kind, date night.

The closet I get dressed from has clothes- random, paint stained, hand-me-down clothes. One favored pair of jeans just showed up here a couple of summers ago. I asked all the cousins who’d been around ‘hey, did you leave these jeans?’ for about a month, and then I just started wearing them. They fit me fine, but they are not mine.

I had about forty t-shirts. Most of them were grey, white, or black. If they had color, there was just one; a green t-shirt, a pink t-shirt, several red t-shirts, my butler uniform, probably. While sorting all of these things I uncovered the messages I’d been sending myself (beating myself up about) via my stuff and the storage of it all:

Rules For Being Neat

  • Keep it cotton, so you don’t have to worry about spills.

If you’re mad because you stained it, you had no business wearing it

  • Wear practical shoes

Stay ready to run

  • You’ll need pockets for your keys, cash, a lipstick, ID

Keep your hands free, don’t take up space, be helpful

  • You may have other things; soft things, pretty things, delicate things but they are only for a moment.

As soon as you have worn this for a couple of hours, take it off, clean it and put it away. Save That For Good.

Play clothes and school clothes. And I seemed to be for Play. I also seemed to be a nervous wreck, on top of it- do other women feel that they have to always be ready to defend themselves? I just wasn’t living a very trusting life.

I’d heard that people were selling their clothes, with the tags still on, in consignment shops but I couldn’t do it.  When it comes to my joy being sparked, the school clothes won hands down. Cashmere and angora and trousers and shirts with buttons and hats galore. That was where my joy was found, in the things I’d kept For Good. And so, I ditched everything else. My bags for charity, twelve of them to be exact, were shipped off. I was left with two pairs of new jeans, about a dozen t-shirts and maybe six sweaters in the closet in my room.

But the school clothes! I moved them down the hall and delight in them. I haven’t been this light since I went to that outlet mall and bought myself a maternity wardrobe – and now I know why I missed my maternity clothes after my baby was born, all those years ago. I got them thinking only of taking good care of my body, which was home to my girl. I picked them, I paid for them, I took care of them. Those things were mine.

And the unleashed school clothes are mine in that same way. They’re a random and quirky collection of stuff that makes me feel good, and I wear it no matter who will be around on that particular day. Mine.

And I am finished bursting at the seams with stuff I didn’t want, but felt obligated to keep, which leaves no room or time for the stuff I want to cherish.  This butler is permanently retired.


Thanks, amen.

About thanks amen

Michelle is an artist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin whose professional experience spans working as an educator, nonprofit executive, and consultant. She has a fear of clowns and pecans, and works every day to listen at least twice as much as she talks.
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