Closet case

NO! WIRE! HANGERS! One battalion, having been recently divested of garments, stands empty and ready for redeployment elsewhere.

(Or: How I finally let go of the clothing that I never had any occasion to wear — and some that I shouldn’t have been wearing anyway — and then seethed quietly about it for hours afterward.)

This weekend I went a little nuts and really cleaned out my closet. I go through mini-purges now and again, but this time was fairly relentless; I got rid of about one-fifth of the clothing that was nice enough to go on hangers, and one-third of the folded stuff (jeans, T-shirts, crewnecks).

Most of the time, it was easy to make rational decisions.

  • “You only get to keep 10 pairs of jeans. Which 10 are they?” Lay them all out on the bed, sort by preference, and keep tossing the lowest ranking ones until 10 are left.
  • Added to the pile: Any shirt that pulled tight across the chest, which (cough, cough) is now larger thanks to weight training.
  • Also tossed: Almost all clothing that had overt brand-centered printing, such as Abercrombie, and “ironic” tees. (Goodbye, “Property of Chaparral High Swimming and Diving” T-shirt! Goodbye, crewneck with image of a rooster and “Free Ride” emblazoned across it!) I saved a few shirts, but relegated them to the gym-clothing pile.

Mannequins from a recent ACI exhibit

It was a little tougher to cull some of the really nice items that I just never wore — stuff by Hugo Boss, the dusty-rose tux shirt I’d picked up at the John Varvatos outlet store in Palm Springs, a frighteningly bright shirt by Versace Jeans Couture, the borderline-satin champagne-colored shirt by Miu Miu, even the relatively tame Lancaster pants I just picked up last fall at Ben Sherman. I fantasized that instead of donating that intricately, permanently creased Issey Miyake Men shirt that I had never worn in 7 years, maybe I could donate it to the Arizona Costume Institute at Phoenix Art Museum, and one day it would appear on a mannequin in an exhibit called “Pleats, Please,” and there would be a little card next to the mannequin that said, “Gift of Mr. Sam Mittelsteadt,” and visitors would gasp at my generous gift.

“Yes,” my rational self said. “That is exactly the important sort of sartorial choice that [curator] Dennita Sewell is starving for — a men’s shirt that apparently was so in demand, so groundbreaking, that you were able to buy it at Neiman Marcus Last Call in Tempe at a marked-down price. While it is interesting, it is also billowy, and you have never worn it because you were always afraid that people would constantly be asking you why your shirt is so wrinkled. Put it in the damn pile and shut up.”

So I did. I ended up with four giant bags of clothing (nicely folded, of course, and divided by category: pants, polos, long-sleeved tees, short-sleeved tees, dress shirts, and “the nice stuff”).

Opportunistic me wondered if I could at least make some money off it, and decided that I would take most of the clothing to Buffalo Exchange, and take the more high-dollar brands to Well Suited, the men’s resale shop run by the same folks who own My Sister’s Closet. But then I got lazy, and it was raining, and Well Suited is a consignment store, which means they pay you only if your stuff sells, which means a return trip to get your money each time someone buys something. Buffalo Exchange, meanwhile, pays you right away for the stuff they like, and offer you the option of donating the leftovers to a charity recipient (which changes regularly, so they can spread the love around).

The good news is I made more than a hundred bucks (mostly off the jeans, I think). The bad news is that, unlike previous visits, when I had told them “just go ahead and donate anything you don’t want to buy” and never had to see the rejects, this time I showed up to reclaim my canvas bags and was confronted with all the clothing they didn’t want. (I think they might not be able to do the “donation” discard any more.) And included in it were the Varvatos shirt, the BCBG brown leather jeans, the awesome but too bright red Hugo Boss cotton linen shirt …

The decision was a smart business one; the people who frequent Buffalo Exchange aren’t looking for Scottsdale-ish apparel, they’re looking for jeans and tees and funky plaid shirts. And I knew that the clothing would go to a charity shop where some shopper would marvel at their find, and the resulting sale would fund their programs. But it still smarted. A lot. In the car, driving home, I muttered to myself: “You totally should have taken those pieces back and gone to Well Suited.” I theorized how much more money I could make — could I double my haul?

But I reminded myself that the bigger goal wasn’t to make money, it was to clean out my closet. (Plus, going back into Buffalo Exchange and saying, “Uh, I decided I want some of this back” would have been kind of embarrassing after I’d already done the dumping.)

So, the good news is, my closet is back to a tidy state — well, except for the shoes, which are still abundant. (Do I really need that pair of hemp Adidas taekwondo sneakers?) And I’ve got an extra $100 in the bank.

And the better news is, if you head out to a Phoenix charity shop soon, you might find some screaming deals on some really nice clothing.

WHAT SAM WORE: 03-09-10
The shirt: Long-sleeved cotton sweatshirt from Old Navy.
The pants: Jeans by Five Four, from the now-defunct Vivi’s Boutique in Chandler.
The shoes: Leather open-heeled slip-ons by Bacco Bucci, from Last Chance.
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