Decluttering clothes and memories

It is complex

Decluttering: Clothes and Memories (c)
Decluttering: Clothes and Memories (c)

When I saw my old clothes in the second-hand charity shop my heart cried. Old memories and feelings started flooding back, and I even felt disloyal. Had the decluttering gone too far?

Are you good at decluttering or do you loath it?  What do you do with all your clothes and stuff?

You, like me, may buy from and donate regularly to second-hand charity shops. Our reasons can vary from financial, to ethical, leisure, liking the thrill of a bargain and the unexpected surprise. The same may go for car boot sales and online auctions.

While prices in charity shops have also gone up, they are still cheaper than elsewhere, which makes it easier to take a chance on clothing and knick-knacks, which we would not spend more money on elsewhere.

I am happy to take a risk, when the financial penalty is not that high. Equally, it is easier to argue for the need of a treat or an impulse buy, when the financial cost is relatively low.

Now this all may sound self indulging, especially if we may shop second-hand because our budget does not allow for other kinds of shopping, that we would prefer to do.

Some people may find the idea of second-hand clothing unacceptable, dirty or demeaning. Poverty is real, and it can hurt our pride having to buy second or third best. I know.

I tend to have a clear out at home and do my bit of decluttering every spring, summer and autumn. I have to. I do not have the space.

I tend to accumulate too many things, which may “come in handy one day”, and I cannot let go of things which may “come in handy again one day”.

Sometimes, enough is enough and I go into decluttering mode. I can separate myself from clutter, stay strong and carry it all down to my local charity shop.

After a recent clear out, I started taking several bags of clothes, shoes and knick-knacks, one bag a day. Entering the shop with my last bag, I was welcomed by the sight of my blue striped scarf on the centre table display, to my right in the green section was my wool jacket, and a pair of my shoes near the till.

It rarely happens that I find my own clothes displayed. When I drop things off, I avoid browsing then or in the near future to avoid returning home with yet more stuff.

I was intrigued and went over to check out the price tags – reasonable, a bargain… I had bought the green jacket in 2008 from another charity shop for £15 ($19.50, €16.40). Today it fetches £9 ($11.70, €9.80), still in good condition, I hasten to add.

But the main point is the feeling of sadness that started to come over me:

  • I started to feel disloyal towards the clothes I had ‘chucked out’. Had I gone decluttering mad?
  • Memories started filling my mind and heart: the times in my life when I had bought them, occasions when I had worn them.
  • Sadness, resignation and some acceptance of the fact, that I will never fit into some of the clothes ever again. I am done with dieting (I think…). I might lose weight again if I fall ill again, if the cancer returns.

And perhaps it is because of the experience of a life changing and potentially life shortening illness and recent deaths in the family, that I am extra finely tuned to separations, transitions, letting go, endings and memories.

Equally, you might also wonder where the items and clothes we buy second hand come from; other peoples’ decluttering success, the stories, memories, feelings and energies they might carry. Just like the stories carried by our own donations to charity shops.

You might be inclined to dismiss that thought; then again you might not. You might agree or not, that such items need cleansing, physically and spiritually.

The more I think about it, the more I realise just how profound and complex decluttering, buying from and giving to charity shops can be.

For now, I will wait a while before I return, and in the meantime hope that ‘my’ things will find a good home.


Childhood memories that still hurt today.

Living in peace: why and how?

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