A year and a half ago, I retired. As a result, I didn’t need most of my good clothes any more. Over the year after I retired, I also lost weight, and had to turn over my closet several times, sometimes having to buy the same inexpensive item over and over.*
I ended up with a neat array of bags of clean, folded clothing in my basement. It is nice clothing, without holes, without pulls or tears, not expensive but still wearable.**
I set out to take care of the problem.
The local consignment/thrift shop gave me a list of what they were looking for, and nothing on the list matched what I had to offer.
Tag sales aren’t an option, either. I had a tag sale once. People bought some things. But after they rummaged through my possessions, insulted my taste, and tried to bargain me down on things I had already priced at the bottom, they walked away with only a few of my items. I ended up with a sordid pile I still had to get rid of, and though I had a small wad of useful cash, I also had a sunburn and a nasty opinion of humanity.
The nearby charity drop box offered a solution, but so many other people are in my position that the lid was always jammed and the area around it was piled with bags, boxes, and loose clothing sodden with rain. Someone came and hauled the drop box away because it was an eyesore.***
The donation center, when I drove some bags over to donate, informed me that I was supposed to have everything in plastic bags, not paper, and the attendant made it clear I was interrupting his routine and bringing him garbage as well. One charity offers to pick up your things if you leave them on your doorstep in plastic bags, neatly labeled. The last time I tried, the bags were still there when I got back and I had to take them back down into the basement.
Nobody wants my stuff.
Yes, there have been hurricanes lately, and people have fires and other disasters. But the first impulse of nice people everywhere is to bundle up their used, discarded, unwanted clothing, bring it over, and dump it. At the collection point, other nice people sort through, and they throw half of it out and arrange to ship the rest. It gets taken to the disaster victims, who sort through it and don’t want most of it either, and the rest still has to be discarded. Charities regularly inform would-be donors to please give money instead, so I do.‡
I still have all those bags of clothes I can’t wear, sitting in my basement.
I surrendered. I compromised my principles. I started putting out a bag of clothes with every week’s trash.
The bags vanish. Before the trash trucks come, those bags disappear. They melt into nothingness.
Thursday morning early, I put out a bag with my old bathrobe folded in it, and went inside to get ready for the day. I tried on one pair of red jeans I bought a while ago to go with a Halloween costume. They looked awful on me. I went out to put them with the bathrobe, but the bathrobe was already gone. Someone had taken it. I folded my red jeans neatly and put them on top of my trash can.
Later, my husband and I went out for a walk. Coming the other way was a dignified-looking white man with grizzled hair, wearing a blanket like a cloak, walking slowly. We nodded at him, as one does in our city neighborhood, and went on. I glanced back, and he was holding the red jeans up to himself, measuring them for size. He didn’t catch me looking.
Take them away, old white man wearing a blanket. Retain your dignity, your blanket, and those jeans. May you enjoy my red jeans, which look as if they will fit you just fine. Oh, world, you don’t want my old things, unless you can find them and take them away from me when I’m not looking. I respect that.
*I lost it on purpose with Weight Watchers, because my knees and feet were really hurting, and because when I retired I stopped eating for stress. My knees feel fine now. Thank you for asking.
**Clothing is ridiculously cheap in the US because it is manufactured by people in other countries who are willing to work long hours for next to nothing.
***I live in an urban neighborhood that over the past eleven years I’ve been there has been changing, but which is still primarily the home of people of limited income. They too (I have learned from talking to neighbors) have too much stuff and are trying to get someone else to take it away.
‡This article has a good list of organizations accepting money for Puerto.