June 09, 2010

Mapping the Future of my Closet; Anthropologie Cartography Cardigan

My grandmother was a "collector," to put it gently. While she was still alive she would watch me after school, as both my parents worked and kindergarten was only a half day. Being one neighborhood away from my folks meant I spent a lot of time with her, in her amply (though not expensively) furnished and stocked home. Her unwillingness to part with materiality left an impression on me as well as my mother before me. Stuff was everywhere, and a sense of organization was lacking, but it felt extremely cozy and mysterious to a child. I remember the piles of stuff in her basement reaching as tall as she was (which, to be fair was probably not that tall, but seemed so from my childhood vantage). In some ways my mother was less wedded to stuff than her mom. But like my grandmother strong sentimentality was imbued onto things. I too have this tendency. I remember too well how stuff connects to segments or moments of my life, making the weeding process that much more overwhelming.

Cartography Cardigan from Anthropologie (similar here, here, and here)
Bold Boutonnière dress by Burlapp from Anthropologie (similar here, here, and here; similar plus here)
Chloé Edith pumps (similar here and here)

When I was preparing for the flea market last week, and in preparation for previous moves and flea markets, I had to consciously remind myself that things are not memories. The stuff might provoke a pang of nostalgia but giving stuff up will not erase the emotion or memory itself. I have a few pieces of clothing that connect closely with travels, event memories, and people and I try to police myself from gathering many more. The above dress will be forever remembered as what I wore to try on wedding dresses with my mom and sister. And it will likely be hard to part with it, if the day comes that I should. The cardigan is new and has no such memories yet. But controlling whether or not a thing becomes part of a narrative memory seems unrealistic. And determining what to keep should rarely be based on memories alone.
Sometimes the process of deciding to say goodbye is simple. I am re-homing my first pair of Marc by Marc Jacobs shoes because the only memory I have from them is that I ordered too small and they didn't fit. That was an easy decision and it is embarrassing that it took so long. But the choice to re-home my first A.P.C. piece, purchased during my first research summer in DC, and worn throughout my first visit to the Bay Area with Chris for the wedding of our dear friends, was much more fraught. Although I cannot wear it without tights due to length (and my own sense of modesty), I have fond memories and so many vacation photos of me in it. It is such a charming little dress that I feel conflicted about parting with it. Still, the photographs should be enough to jolt my nostalgic feelings. And I haven't worn it much since that trip.
How do you decide what stays or what goes? The conventional wisdom and magazine tips don't work unless one adopts a more stoic approach to material life. Instead I am plagued by rationale to the contrary of the practical. "Sure I haven't worn it in 3 years but it was my outfit for New Years Eve in 2007/08." "Sure I don't very much like this particular style dress anymore but it was my go-to in the summer of ____." "Sure I haven't reached for this bracelet since I moved into my new house but my mom bought it for me when we were antiquing the Mon Valley that day." I could go on with these justifications. But they only enable me to keep what I don't need.


Dorky Medievalist said...

I read somewhere--maybe on a blog--that you should move items you don't wear to the front of your closet and if you still haven't worn them within the next two months, then you should forward it along. I haven't tried this, but it seems like good advice.

I do know what you mean about memories and material objects though and I find some things very hard to part with. Luckily, I have a lot of closet space for now.

jcrewphd said...

I feel the same way about letting things go trying to rationalize why it should stay. My hubby tells me I have a hoarding tendency but he also has trouble finding stuff he needs later on cause he has simply thrown it away without much thought. :-P

These days I'm beginning to realize to keep what is truly my style and what works for me than to keep stuff that hasn't been worn in months or even years. I think it's easier said than done for me.

I love how you paired that Burlapp dress with the cardigan. Lovely outfit!

Raquelita said...

I love the cardi!

I too empathize about the difficulty with getting rid of material objects that have fond memories associated with them, but at some point you have to ask yourself if the memories you associate with a particular item of clothing (or furniture or whatever) would not be better honored if the piece belonged to someone who would give it more use.

Kim said...

I love your outfit so much. I would never have thought to pair the Cartography Cardi with the Boutonierre dress, but it looks simply amazing!!!
I have the same issue when it comes with deciding what to keep and what to get rid of when it comes to shoes and clothes particularly. There are some that are obvious, but in other cases, I can't follow the "if you haven't worn it in xx amount of time" rule because the other day I broke out a dress that I haven't worn for 4 years and now I LOVE it. Same with shoes I wore yesterday. Sigh. I feel your pain!

A Stylized Hysteria said...

You look really cute and your hair looks really awesome!

Okay, so closet purging. I am really good at this- too good, in fact. Both my mother and grandmother are like yours- they like to "collect" things. I find the older I get, the more I want to simplify and not keep things I don't need around me. Like last night, I went to my parents for dinner and my mom kept complaining about having to clean the house for guests. I don't like that feeling of stress that stems from having more than you can manage. Okay, therapy session over.

Get rid of your stuff. I find photos create better memories anyway :)

Academic Writer (a.k.a. A-Dubs) said...

I want to comment about closet purges, but I'm too distracted by the awesomeness of this ensemble. And the Edith pumps. . . ah, where was I?

It sounds like you're working out some strategies for letting things go. My own strategies currently centre on the "One in, One Out" rule. But it's getting more difficult to enforce as I get better quality things in.

I allow myself to keep one very small stash of completely unreasonable items in the very bottom corner of a cedar storage chest. They're things I should not - and some that I physically cannot - wear ever again. But on the rare occasion I drag them out (to look at, but never to wear - not anymore), it still feels like I'm holding important pieces of my life. It's silly, I know. But I swear a picture could not cultivate this deep nostalgia.

In short, sometimes things are worth keeping, even if they're not photographs. However, as an academic, I suppose you have to decide whether it's worth moving all of your things around if/when you change universities, cities, abodes, etc.

tm said...

I've kept a few items for nostalgic reasons, but I have tried to purge some of them. a pair of red velvet pants, for example, that I wanted for so long and only wore twice. While blogging can increase consumption, perhaps it can also help to let go of or make better use of lesser worn items (dedicate a post to it, snap some pictures, and either find a way to restyle it or kiss it goodbye).

oh hey, CMU LCS alum here. (MA, '05).

Carole said...

Jess, I love how you styled your Cartography cardigan AND I'm glad you found one for yourself (as you mentioned in a comment to me). I'd love to offer helpful purging hints, but I can't. Almost always, I really, really adore the items I pick up, so I keep them and wear them pretty much forever. I understand the challenges of clutter, but that (still) doesn't encourage me to purge. *blush*

SunnyDay said...

The cardigan with that dress is amazing. I also loved it on Sasy (Sasy, I checked your blog yesterday and didn't have time to comment!) I think it is more versatile than I imagined.

I'm such a ruthless purger. I am trying very hard to be more careful with purchases so I'm buying what I love. Too many of the pieces I purge do not meet that criteria and I realize I tend to buy things because of board frenzies or sales and end up not wearing them, or not wearing them often.

Kelly said...

this post really speaks to me because a) I looooove that cardigan so much and b) I tend to hoard stuff too. If something has any sort of use (even if *I* don't use it, like the bird cage in my basement that hasn't bad birds in it since 2006), or if it has any sort of memory attached to it, I just can't bear to let it go. But that means I have a bunch of STUFF everywhere that I really don't need. I know I got it from my parents, too - they have so much stuff and a TON of storage. And it's really convenient for them because my dad has a business and a big family and he finds a lot of great uses for his stuff (for example, last week my water heater broke. And my dad just had one laying around to give me!). I love other people's homes that have things everywhere. The cluttered feeling is really comforting to me - and that's probably why I've tended toward that in my own house. But I'm moving now and I'm making a real effort to pare it down to things that ACTUALLY are too sentimental to part with, and things that I will ACTUALLY use. I'm happy yet embarrassed to say that in packing, I've made a "goodwill" pile that's almost as big as my "moving" pile.

That was a huge comment considering I just found your blog and I haven't even said "hi!" yet, but like I said...it spoke to me ;-)

Jesspgh of Consume or Consumed said...

I love all these comments!

Dorky Medievalist, that is a smart suggestion but since I stock my closet seasonally, I'd have to do it seasonally. The one good thing about my rotation is that I am forced to decide if it is worth putting back into my closet, when the time comes. I do wish I had more space, but moving into one smaller closet (rather than the three I had spread across in the house I rented) was great for me, since I did so much weeding.

jcrewphd, thank you for the compliment! I definitely think my partner would say I have occasional hoarding tendencies when it comes to clothes, too. But determining what my style is (and presumably what it will continue to be) was great because it meant I could take bags of stuff to swaps, thrift stores, and consignment shops. I parred down significantly before the last move.

La Historiadora de Moda, that is very wise and very true. Part of why I'd rather view the things I am weeding from my closet as re-homing is to remind myself that they will have a life beyond me. And memories should be much more treasured than any object.

Kim, thank you for the compliment! I feel similarly about breathing new life into old staples. Who knows what possibilities a garment might have... and I've weeded quite a few items I regret. Particularly when they came back into style... It's so complicated!

A Stylized Hysteria, Thank you! I felt it was a good hair day, too. Simplification has become a priority in my life. I think moving periodically really helped because it forced me to interrogate whether something was worth boxing and unpacking into new abodes. That is something my parents and my grandmother have never done/never did in my lifetime.

A-Dubs, Thank you for the kind words! One in, one out with a small window for sentimentality is another great suggestion. It allows the space to keep very special pieces while clearly designating boundaries regarding any new acquisitions.

tastymoog, hello to a former pittsburgh'er from a current one!! Blogging definitely has a way of normalizing the idea of "more, newer, better." I even wrote about it when I was deciding on my resolution for this year.

Carole, thank you! I adored it on you so much and was thrilled to find one myself. It is smart to be strict about what you keep. I am learning that. Sometimes the power of a deep discount can induce influential sale goggles that bring me eventual buyer's remorse.

Desert Flower, I am only ruthless in preparation for a yard sale/flea market, or move. I need to learn to be more ruthless. Carole of Sasy.com blog is amazing! It is one of my daily reads.

Kelly, Welcome! Thank you so much for commenting in such a thoughtful way. I do think that because I also have a big family nearby (between my partner and I, the majority of our relatives are only an hour away at most) we have so many excuses to keep things, "just in case so and so moves and needs it" or "just in case someone's x breaks." And it has come in handy on more than one occasion. But it fosters further justification for clutter. Clutter comforts me too! I am glad to read I am not alone in that regard... A move is a GREAT reason to seriously sort and get rid of stuff. I made so many Goodwill runs leading up to every move I've done. I didn't have a lot of time the last time I moved, but despite that, I have since tried to find reasons to purge stuff in order to stay on top of my newer tiny closet.


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