Yesterday, my husband David went through his closet and managed to weed out some clothes to give away for the Holidays. I am taking them out to Out of the Closet as my Giveaway today. As a thank you to David, I am dedicating this Christmas verse to him. Everyone, please sing along!
Today was a lovely day for cycling along the Los Angeles River with friends, for enjoying a relaxing lunch at a café along the river afterwards, for playing with our friends’ new kitten, helping my friend choose an outfit to wear to a party tonight, and then for returning home, chatting over dinner and then slumping down on the couch to watch a couple more episodes of Glee with our son Theo.
It’s cardigan weather now. It’s LA so it may get warm again in a week or so, but for now, I’m enjoying eating soup and wearing my boots and cardigans. Because we have so little cool weather here in LA, I have considered giving away one of my five pairs of boots, but now that the temps are dropping, I may not be able to part with any of them. Unlike with many other belongings, I can justify owning and keeping each and every one of them. The brown riding boots were a miracle find at a sale at Macy’s two years ago – I was meant to own them, and they’re my favorite. The dark brown, faux suede fitted boots aren’t going anywhere – I always feel elegant when I wear those. Then there are the sexy, high black ones. I don’t wear them that often but when I do I feel tall, fancy and kind of powerful, so I’m definitely keeping them. Then there are the lower-healed, slightly frumpy black ones, which I wear more than the sexy ones. I don’t feel powerful in those but they’re more comfortable and practical, so I can’t really get rid of them. Finally, the thigh-length purple suede ones I found last winter in a resale store. I have only worn them once, but I’m not giving those away. They are too fun and haven’t realized their potential yet!
We got back in from an afternoon and evening out and all I wanted to do was to crash, but I still had to do my Giveaway, and it was my turn to put our exhausted and slightly under-the-weather son Theo to bed. He had begun the day before 7am, delighted to have his best friend Lucca still here with him after a spontaneous sleepover last night that kept them both up beyond their usual bed times. While they watched Dr. Who together, I went for a lovely walk round the lake and came back, chatted for a little while with Lucca’s parents, Suzette and Manuel, and then said goodbye to them. For much of the day, we puttered around the house, did some work in the garden, read and had lunch. In the afternoon we had plans with my sister and her daughter to see the musical Matilda and then have dinner together, so we headed off for that outing, and then had a rather dinner in one of our favorites eateries in Little Tokyo. I imagined somehow I would manage to give someone something over the course of the afternoon. However, at 9pm, when it came time to pay the bill, I looked through the emergency Giveaway goodies I keep in my purse to see if there was something appropriate to leave for a tip, but, alas, nothing seemed right, so we parted company and made our way home.
I felt a bit dejected because I knew it would be 10pm (on a Sunday night!) before I could focus on my Giveaway. After Theo was asleep, I sat down at my computer hoping that inspiration would somehow scream out at me from an email or someone’s Facebook post, but it didn’t. Instead, though, as I reflected on the day, I had the astonishing realization that I had actually done my Giveaway without even noticing. This morning, when Lucca’s parents were here, we had been talking about the boys and their upcoming week of golf camp. I had been rummaging through a box of hand-me-down clothes that are still too big for Theo and offered Suzette a golf shirt and a Hawaiian shirt for Lucca. She had been happy to take them, saying that once he’d outgrown them he could pass them back to Theo. This is the first time in over 150 days of this project that I have just given someone something without thinking of it as my Giveaway. The shirts themselves weren’t that exciting, but the fact that I had given something away without considering it as part of my project was fascinating to me. Does this mean that the act of giving is becoming less calculated and more natural? Or did I just space out? Either way, it’s a huge relief. And a chance to go to bed.
Bless me, readers, for today I acquired a lot of stuff – clothes, to be specific. It started off this morning at a yard sale, where I found a black, loose-weave silk sweater for a dollar. Who could say “no” to a deal like that? Then in the afternoon I drove to Highland Park to a sample sale organized by my lovely friend Karlee who is an amazing young designer (see Feb 7). I wanted to buy a pair of her baggy tie-dyed pants to help support her line – and because they are super cool and arty and the type of clothes I want to be seen wearing. Completely justifiable to want to support a friend, right? So two new pieces of clothing – not a crime or even a sin, even for someone who is trying to get rid of stuff. However, it didn’t stop there. After the sample sale, I joined a group of female friends for a clothes swap. I was really excited to go to this, as I thought it would fit my Giveaway perfectly. I didn’t have many items to swap (because I’ve been giving so much away this year!) but I figured that I would join in, give away 7 items of clothing and come back with 1 or 2. Ha! I only managed to give away 1 item and came back with 7! That meant I acquired 9 items of clothing today.
Now, that many new items in one day is a bit of a sin for someone like me who is professing to need less stuff and is almost religiously trying to give things away all of this year. Unfortunately, a hair shirt was not one of the items I came home with, so I had to find some other way to atone for today’s acquisitional frenzy. Though my friends and family told me it was fine to have a bit of a splurge and treat myself once and a while, and part of me wanted to believe that, I couldn’t let it rest. I had 9 new clothes, so in my mind I had to get rid of 10. I did what I have done before in weak moments like this. I went into my closet and pulled things off hangers, stuffed 10 pieces of clothing into a bag and rushed over to Out of the Closet just before it closed.
I sometimes wonder if I am going a bit too far with this Giveaway project, but today, I can’t help feeling pleased with the fact that I got some nice new things including some clothes that other people enjoyed giving to me, I was able to support a friend launching her business, and I still had one less item of clothing at the end of the day. I drove back from the thrift store feeling lighter not only physically and morally, maybe even spiritually too.
Hair Shirt, or Cilice, of St Louis at St. Aspais Church, Melun, France (!)
I’ve been doing this Giveaway for about 120 days now. I’m about a third of the way along now, so I’d expect to be a pro at planning and executing my gifts, but even this far on in the project, I still manage to get to dinner time without having given anything away, and I had no great ideas. I could have given something away at school in the morning when I was there for Theo’s 4th grade performance at assembly, or at yoga class, which I was trying for the first time since I became ill. (I didn’t make it to the end of the class, alas.) I could have given something a couple of good friends who I met during the course of the day, but somehow it didn’t happen. I forgot to focus on giving.
So dinnertime was a mess. I was upset with David and Theo for spending so much time on screens and leaving me to make dinner, and when I told them that, they became upset with me, and after dinner headed straight back to their screens. So I got huffy and decided I needed a time out. I texted my friend, Jane, to see if she was free for a quick chat. She was with her family and some friends having a picnic. She invited me to stop by but said to bring a sweater because it was cold. That was it! I had a couple of sweaters on a pile in the bedroom so I grabbed them and headed out the door, telling Jane I was bringing them along and letting David and Theo know I’d be back soon. When I got to the park where the group was picnicking, I spotted Jane and her husband Max sitting with two friends. Their kids were all running around playing with a friend’s pet rabbits that were hopping around in the clover. I joined them on their blanket and Jane introduced me to Zach and Sara, who I’d seen before but didn’t know. I explained that I was having a bit of a grumpy mum moment and needed a break, and Jane explained my Giveaway project. I brought out my sweaters and Jane, who was getting cold, tried on a brownish one. It fit well and looked nice, so she took that one. I offered Sara, who I’d just met, the green one, and she tried it on. It looked great. “You don’t know how happy I am right now!” she exclaimed, making me even happier. I stayed for a while longer until it was dark and it was time for us all to head home. By the time I got home, all three of us were in a much better mood. The sweaters were my Giveaway and I was glad they found good homes, but sometimes a bit of space can be a valuable gift too, for all concerned.
Since late last year, I’ve been aware of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which was released in the US in October 2014 and has become a huge best-seller here as people battle with their belongings. Kondo is a Japanese de-cluttering expert who has taken the world by storm with her almost mystical approach to organizing stuff and purging ourselves of things we don’t need in our lives. Her attitude is ruthless but kind at the same time. She believes that our belongings should “spark joy” in our lives, and each of them should have a place that they can call home. Without a home, an object sits on a surface and becomes clutter. If our belongings don’t make us happy – like that beige sweater that was never flattering or the books we know we’ll never actually read – we should get rid of them. But before that, we should thank them for their service. In her method, which involves getting rid of what we don’t need and then organizing what remains, she sees no place for storage bins or other organizing tools. If we only have what we need, we will have plenty of room to house it all.
One of her main rules is to purge in one go, and not create “maybe” piles for belongings that might be allowed to stay. She argues that once the purge has been done, good habits can take place. She might not approve of my daily giveaway approach, but then, my goal is not simply to get rid of stuff, but also to focus on the people in my life. However, because she has such a simple, respectful and magical approach to stuff, today, in her honor, I adopted her “organized purge” approach to some of my drawers, going through undergarments, socks and t-shirts and throwing away those items that always bother me a bit and those that I never seem to need. I filled a plastic bag full of these and headed for one of the yellow Planet Aid Clothes and Shoes bins close to our home (http://www.planetaid.org). Thanking the items I used for their service and the ones I hadn’t used for their patience, I dropped the bag into the bin and hoped that some of the items might “spark joy” in the lives of a recipient half way across the world.