Cleaning Out Our Closets Cleans Out Our Souls

What is it with cleaning out our closets?

At the beginning of every season, I do it. But I dread it. At first I feel so great, weeding out all the size 14s – and size 8s – so that I can finally see into the very back of my very tiny closet. I pack them in shopping bags and take them to a charitable donation spot but carrying them in, something else sweeps over me.

I leave, feeling hollow.

Granted, getting rid of baby clothes is very hard. Who doesn't remember when that little head fit inside that bunny hood, instead of headphones now?

But it's not just that. I see slices of my life peeling away, ones that will never come back. His favorite striped shirt I had to cut a hole in so he could fit his head through it in preschool. (My husband's family is known for their big heads.) The shoes he wore when he first started walking (thankfully, I knew enough to grab them back from the garbage when we bought him new sneakers.) And his ghost Halloween costumes. I'll never forget those soulful little eyes peeking out of the white sheets!

I did keep the baptism gown, the fuzzy yellow chick pajamas and the blanket I carried him home from the hospital in (they somehow forgot to take it; I wouldn't part with it now for a million bucks.) It does help that he's 5'7” and just barely 100 pounds so he doesn't grow out of his clothes that often. But taking them to the drop-off is still a little hard.

As for me, I'm a shopaholic, ashamed to say I give away clothes with the price tags still on them. I figure someone else can use them, so I don't feel too bad. But my clothes, too, I have feelings for, like the (size 8) slip dress I didn't have to squeeze into, years ago when doctors thought I had kidney cancer (I didn't, but what a way to drop 20 pounds in a week). I did however give away the pant suit I was wearing when I met my husband (ok, so it was the '80s!).

I guess it makes sense to feel sad about the lives we lived, in the clothes we give away. I'm feeling a lot of loss these days as my son is now in high school (how did this happen?!) and liking it. And I have to admit I like this a whole lot better than the days I had to get to Newfield a half-hour early to get a good parking space to pick him up.

A lot has changed since Phillip was a baby and giving away his clothes reminds me. But I also know that a child somewhere needs them. I just hope that mom doesn't feel as sad as me if she goes to give them away, too.

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