Joe Lavin

February 2, 2004

From The Montreal Gazette

An Embarrassment of Pants


Shortly after Christmas, I noticed that I was the proud owner of thirty dress shirts. I'm not entirely sure how I became the Imelda Marcos of menswear. I don't even like to shop, but somehow my closet suddenly contained enough shirts to get me through six weeks without doing laundry.

Laziness is mostly to blame. It's always easier just to push old clothes and unwanted gifts to the back of your closet than to clean out the damn thing. And when you hate shopping and laundry as much as I do, every item of clothing that you own -- no matter how ugly it might be -- represents an afternoon that you don't have to spend at the mall or laundromat.

I don't normally make New Year's resolutions, but with that many shirts I had to do something. I really should have come to this conclusion in the summer when my closet rod almost collapsed under the weight of all my clothes, but then it was easier just to use some extra space in my roommate's closet. Now, with even more clothes from Christmas and the rod sinking dangerously low yet again, it was time to do something drastic. It was time to give away some clothes.

I'm certainly not the only one donating clothes at this time of year. According to one survey, getting organized is the fourth most popular New Year's resolution. Luckily, exercise is on the list as well, and, considering all the clothes I have to lug down to my neighborhood Good Will store, I'll be getting plenty of that as well.

Unfortunately, dress shirts were just the start of my problem. I also found a massive number of pants in my closet. The pants situation hadn't been so serious at first, but then for some reason my mother gave me seven pairs for Christmas. "Thanks, Mom. You shouldn't have."

My girlfriend suggests that this is what is meant by the phrase "embarrassment of riches," but she's wrong. It's not an embarrassment of riches. It's simply an embarrassment of pants. In most years, embarrassments like this would go to the back of my closet, but not this year I vowed.

Once I had made the decision to pare down my clothes, the real problem was deciding what to give away. Even when you don't care much about clothes, it isn't easy to throw them out. There's always that voice in the back of your head saying, "Well, what if I can't do laundry for 29 days straight and need a 30th shirt?" or "Maybe that dress shirt with green stripes doesn't look so bad on me after all."

While I didn't enjoy spending all this time with my clothes, there was a small part of me -- the same part that enjoys watching playoff races between any two teams in any sport -- that was excited to see what shirts would make the cut and what shirts would be let go. Somehow, I had turned it into some sort of competition to go along with the football game I was watching in the background.

In the end, the final tally for the weekend was four sweaters, seventeen dress shirts, and six pairs of pants given away. I even managed to give away a few things I liked. Here's the trick. If there's ever any doubt about whether you really need an item, just get rid of it anyway. And once it goes into the bag of discarded clothes, don't take it back it out. Don't even look in there.

I'm not sure if others will really like my hand-me-downs, but there is a certain thrill you get when you donate a big pile of clothes and realize that you're actually helping others just by cleaning out your closet. It's not quite as good as the thrill you get when you realize that Land's End will give you a big fat check just for returning pants your mother bought for you there, but it's still good to know that someone might be able to use what was previously just taking up space. I do feel much better. Now that it's no longer sagging, my closet rod seems pleased as well.


©2004 Joe Lavin

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